How do you keep your flock small?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by junglebird, Jan 14, 2011.

  1. junglebird

    junglebird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I currently have 7 chickens: an Australorp and a BO roo, and the hens are Marans, EE, New Hampshire, and Barred Rock. All the birds are about 8 months old and I'm getting about 2 1/2 dozen eggs per week. That's really the maximum number of eggs the humans in my family can use.

    I want to begin a breeding program to produce solid mutts that thrive in our particular microclimate. And, I'm going to get one or more of the heritage birds for meat production this spring, Dark Cornish, Sussex, or Dorkling.

    I want to keep enough chickens for a healthy breeding program, to generate layers and meat, but at the same time, I don't want to be overrun with eggs ... and I don't want to be selling extra eggs either, since I don't want to get into the liability, including insurance. If I feed extra eggs to the dog and back to the chickens, am I being very inefficient with my resources?

    I'd love to hear from people who have managed to keep small flocks ... small. How do you balance having enough chickens to reach your goals, without having more on your hands than you can handle?

    What's the trick ... being unsentimental about culling? What do you do with extra eggs (besides selling)?
     
  2. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

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    With all I hear about Chicken Math, I don't know that anyone has ever done this [​IMG]
     
  3. ruthless

    ruthless Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you really don't want to or can't sell the extra eggs, how about giving them away to friends and family? Can you donate them to a homeless shelter or church group that knows of people who need food?
     
  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Quote:There ya go.
     
  5. Delmar

    Delmar Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:I don't think there would be a lot of liability evolved with selling baby chicks.
     
  6. midget_farms

    midget_farms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2008
    Dunlap Illinois
    my flock is kept small by the local predators.

    extra eggs can be scrambled & frozen for later use. Especially for this time of year when they slow down production.

    You can compost them or cook the eggs & use as feed for the chickens & as you mentioned your dogs. Its very healthy for dogs to eat eggs.
     
  7. darkmatter

    darkmatter Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:My flock varies from year to year, a mixed chicken mutt and guinea flock. Age and predation is constantly reducing the overall numbers, eating our surplus Roos. Giving away our surplus eggs. I keep enough Roos to maintain the mutt traits I'm breeding for (a blend of Jersey Giants, Austrolops, and Easter Eggers). I usaully get enough broodys to slip my choice of eggs under to hatch, if not I fire up the old incubator, I usaully have to fire it up anyway to hatch replacement guineas---they have never been able to successfully raise keets here in the Midwest climate (Morning dew kills keets from hypothermia). I learned the hard way to keep at least 2 to 3 Roos----a predator took out my one Roo one year-----I immediately put all the eggs I had in the incubator and managed to hatch enough to maintain the traits I wanted. I initially saved only the gentle Roos and now save the gentle and appearance/size/color I want for my eventual mutt blend.
    So---no trick really----just set the goals and results you want and be flexible. See my BYC page for pic of the Coop/Run & methods.
     
  8. elizabethbinary

    elizabethbinary Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 22, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Don't buy your first chicken.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Actually the Australorp, BO, New Hampshire, Marans, and Barred Rock are all pretty good dual purpose breeds. The EE's are a type, not a breed, so they are not consistent in size. It just depends on what they have been crossed with. The ones I have are smaller than my others. The New Hampshire was developed from the Rhode Island Red specifically to be a meat bird. How good any of these or the others you mentioned are depends more on the strain rather than the breed. If they come from a hatchery, including Sussex, Dark Cornish, or Dorking, they are not going to be as good for meat as ones you could get from a breeder that has specialized in breeding for size, but they are likely to be better layers since hatcheries make money off of having eggs to hatch, not because of size of the chickens. The Dark Cornish has a body type that produces more breast meat compared to the others. Not to discourage you from getting more chickens, but you have a pretty good start on meat bird breeds.

    You are going to be overrun with eggs with these breeds. The Cornish are not known as good egg layers. With the EE's it depends on the individuals but they are not normally known to be great egg layers. If you have hatchery chickens, the rest should lay real well, probably five and usually six eggs a week during the season. A couple of options I can think of:

    1. Get breeds that are not know to be really good egg layers but that put on size, preferably from breeders that have not been culling for egg laying ability but for size. It sounds like you do not need dual purpose breeds but mainly meat breeds that lay some eggs. Broodiness may or may not be a trait you are looking for. If yours mainly free range, you can consider some of the slower maturing breeds that get large, but if you feed them all they eat, that might get a bit expensive for you. Tradeoffs, there are always tradeoffs.

    2. Find something to do with the eggs. Feeding extras back to the chickens or the dogs is one option. Since selling is out, find a way to give them away. I don't know which country you are in or what the local laws are, but see if you can donate them to an orphanage, a shelter for battered women or the homeless, maybe a food bank. We take them to church and people "buy" them for whatever they wish to give and the money goes straight into a specific donation. This year it is for the senior center here in town. Last year it was for Haiti relief.

    How to keep a small flock? Self-discipline. It will probably take a year or two of trial and error to get a system that works for you, but only hatch what you need. My basic laying/breeding flock consists of one rooster and seven hens, but right now I have 19 chickens. Some are butchering size and some are younger. I don't worry about butchering them all at a certain age but butcher a few at a time and keep the others fresh on the claw, so to speak, so if my power goes out I have not lost all the meat. That also gives me a chance to determine which ones I want to keep for my laying/breeding flock. I also free range so I don't have huge feed bills. That makes a difference to me.

    You will not be able to keep the genetics right without introducing outside blood with the size breeding flock you are talking about. To keep the genetics up, you need more than you or I will have. I solve that by getting hatching eggs every two or three years and select some of those for my breeding flock. I am pretty unsentimental about culling, which in my case means raising them to meat size and eating them, female as well as male.
     
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I just like having chickens, I have found through trial an error, 8 birds work in my set up.

    If they are younger and smaller, and it is summer, when they free range for long periods, more will fit in. However, as fall deepens, I need to get back to the 8 by butchering. When I have more than 8, my flock is more stressed. With 8 I don't have pecking issues.

    MrsK
     

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