How do you factor in new chicks being hatched when determining how big a coop/run you'll need

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by dorkingflock, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. dorkingflock

    dorkingflock New Egg

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    I'm still in the planning stages, but want to have 2 Dorking flocks so I can use the rolling method to keep new birds coming in. Assuming the majority of new chickens will be culled at seven months should I still allow 4 square feet per bird in the coops? I don't want to have too much space in winter and end up with cold birds or too little space while cockerels are growing out. I'm hoping to rely on broody hens to incubate the eggs and am unsure how prolific they'll be and what sort of timing they'll end up with for popping out chicks.
    Does anyone on here have experience with this and if so how much space are you allowing them and what sort of numbers are you ending up with?
    Thank you in advance for any help.
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Where are you located? This will let us know if cold is really going to be an issue. Personally, I think birds do fine in the winter with a large coop. Mine is a walk in greenhouse that got converted to a coop, and has less than 20 birds in it right now. I wouldn't worry about too few birds getting cold. Some of my birds have overwintered in a three sided shelter and they do just fine.

    If you're raising cockerels for meat, a grow-out pen is a great tool. Once they hit 4 months or so, I move them out and separate them. That way they don't harass the younger pullets, and their life is nicer cause the mature rooster isn't after them all the time.

    If you get broody hens, you won't have two separate flocks, you'll have one evolving flock. Broody hens raise the chicks right in the flock and you don't have to worry about integration or pecking order issues as the littles just grow up as part of the flock.
     
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  3. dorkingflock

    dorkingflock New Egg

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    Georgia- I keep forgettig our winters are considered wussy by Northerners=]=]=]

    I thought breeding programs were to avoid "bottle necking"? I'm trying to be responsible and read about the proper care of heritage breeds, but genetics makes my head hurt. Which is why I figured rolling was ideal.

    Keeping them all together doesn't result in focused inbreeding and chickens in need of "fresh blood"?

    I'm hoping to avoid purchasing new chickens after the first batch.

    If I have a grow-out pen then I only factor in the adult chickens to determine sizing? Or should I add an extra square foot or so per adult so the four month and under crowd doesn't make it too squashed?

    Thank you so much for your answer=]=]=]
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Will your flock be free ranging? What size run? These factors play a role. I think roost space plays a crucial role in your planning. My flock has recently moved to a new coop. 15 gals, and one roo. 10 x 12 coop with 2 perches 10' long each. Plenty of room for them. They all roost on the top perch. So, in theory, I could double my flock size, but won't, b/c I don't want to put that much stress on my land. My advice: build your coop and run bigger than you think you'll need. Start your flock increases slowly, and work into what seems to work best with what you have to work with, and based on how much work you want to do. chicken keeping should be fun, not a lot of work. The more crowded your flock is, the more work you'll end up doing.
     
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  5. dorkingflock

    dorkingflock New Egg

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    Thank you for your reply=]=] I'm uncomfortable with genuine free-range, but if I can get away with one flock and not need to seperate them into two they have just under an acre to roam.
    Slow increases are fine, but since we haven't moved yet and I have plenty of time to plan I want to have my initial setup as close to right as I can get it with zero experience=]
    I had read Dorkings are ecspecially fond of tall coops with plenty of room to roost.

    Do you hatch out new generations from yours or are you sticking to egg production?
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Decide how many birds you want to max out at, and plan for that many adult birds. Then start with a smaller flock, maybe half your max amount. There are several threads here about inbreeding/line breeding, but on average you're good to go with the same rooster for several generations before you need to bring in new blood. If you start with good stock, breeding father to daughter shouldn't be an issue. If your stock has problems, this breeding will highlight them and let you know who needs to be culled.

    So, say you want a dozen birds as your max flock size. Start with five pullets and a rooster in spring 15. Those birds will reach point of lay in fall 15. Depending on the birds, you may or may not hatch out chicks that fall. Say you wait until spring 16 and hatch a dozen chicks. Leave those dozen in the coop with momma for the first two-three months, until momma really weans them and you can easily tell pullets from cockerels. Then pull the cockerels to the grow-out pen, leave the pullets with the flock. Say you got a 50/50 split, you now have six new pullets in the flock and six cockerels for the table when they're about 6 months. Those pullets will start laying in the fall of 16, about the time the first hens quit laying for the winter. Lighting the coop is up to you to keep egg production up during the winter. Dorkings aren't production birds, esp if you're going with non-hatchery stock, so I'm not sure if lighting will keep production going or not. At that point you can decide if you want to keep any of your spring 15 hens and overwinter non-productive birds with the anticipation they'll start laying again in the spring 17. At that time you just start deciding who you want to keep, if you want to hatch out more chicks, etc. You may want to sell or butcher your older hens, you may want to keep them and not hatch as many replacements. You may want to hatch chicks and sell them straight run if you've got a local market. Starting with good stock, you shouldn't need a new rooster until probably 2019 or so, maybe later. By then, you may want another breed ,or you may have developed good contacts with another heritage breeder who would swap cockerels with you for new breeding stock.

    Good rule of thumb is go as large as you can on the coop and run. You'll never regret having more space, and uncrowded birds are happier, healthier, more productive birds.
     
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  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I don't know who you're talking to, so I'll answer, and hope others will throw in their experiences as well. I hatched chicks (home made incubator, fertile eggs from friends) in 2013 and 2014, and added hatchery chicks both years. My goal is to produce my own chicks, working towards a barn yard mix which will have a small comb, unfeathered legs, be a good forager, and produce a green/blue egg, with a possible future goal of having auto-sexing birds. I'm now set up to produce the first generation from my own flock. I do harvest the roosters for the freezer. My hope is that I will have a broody or two, but don't want to rely on having a broody when it is convenient for me. The incubator IMO is necessary, whether there is a broody or not. If I do have a spring broody, the plan will be to set eggs in the bator at the same time, so that if broody doesn't follow through, the eggs can go into the bator, and if she does a good job, she can foster a few more bator chicks with her natural brood. I would choose to bring in a new roo every 3 - 4 years, depending on how my flock is shaping up. I am only set up to have one roo at a time, which is not the best option when trying to develop a flock, but, I'll work with what I have, and be thankful for the opportunity!
     
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  8. dorkingflock

    dorkingflock New Egg

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    Thank you all for your answers, very helpful. I still have plenty of time before I start, I'm just getting antsy.
    Sounds like my biggest mistake would be starting with too many chickens, so if I build for the largest conceivable number and start with a small flock that doesn't affect the size at all I shouldn't have too much trouble.
    Thank you again=]%]=]=]
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Do you mean the hatched out cockerels will be culled at 7 months??

    Good advice in posts above.

    Yes, start with very large coop, think about being able to partition off parts of coop(with separate runs too) for successive generations and to isolate growing out cockerels for meat.

    I made a temporary wall in my coop, and a separate run, and it worked great for segregating a nasty cockerel last winter and raising new chicks this spring ....I wish I had 1 or 2 more partitioned areas.

    I started in fall 2013 with six 1 1/2 year olds(one rooster) and four 4 months olds(one cockerel, harvested spring 2014).
    Added 7 new birds spring 2014(1 cockerel kept, 1 rehomed, 1 harvested, old rooster rehomed).
    Will stew the oldest 5 hens spring 2015 as I hatch/buy the next group of chicks.
    Not sure how that will roll out year after year yet. Goal is to have enough eggs to cover feed costs and harvest excess and spent birds for meat.
     
  10. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I am a newbie at selling eggs. But, after my first winter with 5 gals, only one of whom chose to bless me with eggs (3/week), I decided that my girls would have a light this winter. I waited longer than I should have before giving them a light, because I was in the middle of a coop build this fall, but, after a month+, they are gearing up into good production now. So, I can start selling soon, and cover feed costs. Will also try my hand at selling chicks. 4 of my girls will produce walnut combed, green egg layer, sex linked chicks. The rest will be pea or walnut combed, green or blue egg layer, barn yard mixes. I expect that I will be harvesting my 2 y.o. hens this summer, unless they prove to be good layers in spite of advanced age.

    Aart: I like your idea of dividing your coop. Mine is not easily set up for that, but with addition of an other pop door and more roosts, it would be easily accomplished. The one thing I did put in my coop that I am hoping will prove to be beneficial is a closet with 2.5' x 4' space above it for a broody cage or chick brooder. I agree, when raising meat birds, especially cockrels, it's necessary to have a separate area for them. Unfortunately, they can get nasty before getting big enough to make a decent meal.
     

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