How to get the most out of your flock question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by homesteadmomma, Jun 10, 2011.

  1. homesteadmomma

    homesteadmomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 26, 2011
    Parke Co. Indiana
    I'm going to make this as short as possible. We started with (6) 3 week old chicks, and over the next few weeks added another, um.... 42. This week I am down to 16 after some losses and selling a good portion to make room for different breeds. Our oldest are now over 4 months old with the rest around 3 months old. We currrently have 3 roosters that will be butchered soon and the rest will be kept for eggs to eat, for our family of 5 and a few friends and family members. We have room in the coops for 80 chickens @ 4 sq. ft. per bird and enough enclosed run for about 20 birds. The birds now are allowed out during the day to free range supervised in an acre of fenced pasture, but most follow us up to the backyard and free range behind the house. We are enlarging the run every weekend to make more fully enclosed run as the predators are high in numbers (only 3 losses due to a coon and have fixed the point of entry). Now here comes the questions.

    When is the best time to buy more chicks? I'm finding it very hard to come by anything with any age whatsoever, and was thinking of ordering a mix from the hatchery. It seems logical that with the temps in the 90's that the brooder wouldn't need a light all day long and that they could be kept outside from the get go with little heat (just at night). However, my concerns are that they will be reaching hatching age in the middle of winter and I'm wondering if the amount of feed vs. the amount of eggs they will lay will be worth it. I've never had anything but laying hens before and never dealt with the chick stage, so I'm not sure how well they will lay in the early months.

    I'm wondering also if I should keep a rooster to keep the flock in line and pray that I get a broody to hatch out more babies next year to keep the flock ages stepped, so I will always have young ones to replace older ones year after year, or if I should just order new chicks every year or two. I'm all for mutt chickens as I have no plans for selling anything but eggs and maybe a few occasional chickens that I don't particularly like to the neighbor and a friend of mine that are always looking for additional egg layers.

    Then what do you do with the hens that are no longer laying well? Have they earned their keep and get to retire or do you get rid of anything that is no longer producing well? I have always said that they must earn their keep. I will not feed a chicken if they are not giving back to me when they should, however, I'm sure that I will get attached to a few along the way (I'm a softy at heart, but don't tell the hubby).

    In my head, I figure I need at least 12 chickens to feed my family (we go through 5 to 7 dozen eggs per week). Then we have friends and family that mostly want one to two dozen per week, so I figure around 40 laying hens will be sufficient. That could be poor math or just chicken math kicking in. Maybe someone has a good formula for the amount of laying hens you need for the amount of eggs you need produced. We have a mixture of barred rocks, buff orpingtons, red stars, RIR, and SLW. All should be fairly decent egg layers. And I would like to stick to breeds that lay on average 4+ large eggs per week and hubby says no white eggs (an egg is an egg when you're eating it, in my eyes anyways).

    And my final question is, what is the best way to keep track of costs/profits/losses? From the beginning I have started spreadsheet with cost of chicks, feed, equipment, etc. (that number got ugly real quick) and I plan on keeping track of how many eggs per day and sales, and if we ever have to buy anything to build coops or runs. Is there a line that you have to draw with numbers? Can I expect that one hen costs $X a year to keep and 80 hens costs $80x to keep? Or does it cost more per hen when the numbers are larger?

    I'm sorry for all of the questions, but I really would like to figure this out, and I'm sure someone else has already done the hard work for me and might be able to answer my questions. Thanks!
  2. ChicKat

    ChicKat Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Hi Homesteadmomma,

    What good questions!

    I stumbled across this site on the internet

    advertisement says:
    "Eggzy makes it easy:
    •Manage your egg production
    •Record your expenses
    •Calculate & project costs
    •Promote your flock
    •Feed your friends & neighbors"

    It seems like a really cool idea. I think I also saw the most adorable icons for eggs--clicking around there--- like brown-eggs for your brown egg layers, white for your white egg layers...etc. And I am a sucker for icons.

    I don't know if it is free or costs...and I think googling it may give you more information. I also think I saw something like "hen production days" and "eggs-per-week (epw) etc. That really would put a scientific and analytical bent on what you are doing. And it would give you the measurements that you are looking for, I belive. There is the old saying in business is "if you can measure it, you can manage it".

    For my part---I am not producing to sell--- and have 3-chickens and live far far out so it wouldn't work for me. But I would love that statistical analysis and the icons etc.

    I appreciate your foresight and future planning. I do know that for biosecurity and flock health they recommend an 'all in, all out' approach, so that you would eliminate all birds before getting new birds. Since you want a constant supply of eggs, this probably wouldn't work for you.... all in, all out with a possible break in having any chickens (it would allow for a nice vacation if you do any traveling) versus staging chickens so that when one group is hitting the sharp decline in production you would have another group of pullets at point of lay.

    As a hen ages her egg production declines---but by that time she is an old friend that you have greeted every morning... A tough call I am sure. You are taking the practical approach that you don't want free loaders.

    For me too, ideally I would want to know which hen is producing -- so I would have each of my three laying a different color egg. Right now, I have a golden comet that lays an-egg-a-day, and two pullets -- that I know I have a pullet egg, but I am not certain unless I am there when one exits the nest box who laid the pullet egg....... Maybe one pullet is laying all the pullet eggs... I have heard that there are 'trap nests' so the hen is trapped in the nest box until released and you could keep track that way----otherwise, it would be a difficult thing to do, unless you could spend a lot of time watching the nest boxes.

    Whew, keep us posted on this thread how you develop your solutions and best of luck to you.

    Good luck on your quest.
  3. ChicKat

    ChicKat Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    by the way,
    I have read too that there are specialists that do chicken processing. so if you wanted to have your chickens all removed at a certain age, and replace with new chickens, you wouldn't necessarialy have to do it yourself.

    It amazed me to find out that meat chickens are processed at something like 2-4 months, if I am recalling correctly. Layers are supposedly old stringy tough meat, even if they are 'dual purpose' they are good for soup type of thing.

    In our area, I believe that there is a man who focuses on major egg production, and then he sells chickens as laying hens to the public for something like $8 per bird when they reach a certain age like 18-months. They still have capacity to lay a number of eggs, but are beginning to decline (he uses hybrids). If you found a way to manage your flock like that, it may solve the mature chicken concern, that she could go to another family that isn't running their operation as a buisness. Older hens will still eradicate bugs from the yard and produce fertilizer for a gardener's compost, even if their laying is sparse.

    Hope that you post back with your findings, I think that this is an intersting topic.
  4. Niss

    Niss Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 29, 2011
    We were given some 2 year old birds by a neighbor and are curently get 7-11 eggs per day from 16 hens. I figure they are doing great for "old birds" but our pullets will be laying by fall and I am planning to only keep the old ones I like personally and can the others (litterally can, because I don't have a back up electric supply for freezer camp).

    I am new, but I would keep one roo. Pick one that isn't agressive with you but seems to look out for the gals. I can tell my boys watch out for the hens.

    As to buying replacement chick, I would really love to hear what like minded people have chosen to do. Our motivation to get poultry was self sufficancy (and bug control). We want to be prepared in case the day comes that you can't just go to walmart and buy anything your heart desires. So, it would make sence to hope for some broodies and hatch my own replacement chicks, and my original goal was to have a self replicating flock in two years. However, I am currently drooling over the poultry catalogs. We've also had some losses, thankfully not as bad at 48 down to 16!

    Having brooded 23 day old feed store chicks and nearly as many ducklings this spring I will say it is MUCH nicer when a few days in to it I felt comfortable moving them from tubs in the basement to a big cage inside my coop. The first bacth came in March and it was too cold and I had to keep them inside for over a month cleaning 3 rubbermade totes every day. The second time around it had warmed considerably and it wasn't long before they were out in the coop because the lamp was not needed.

    I have no idea about cost, but it seems to me the big expences are start up costs (coop and fencing) and it you already have the room to comfortable house 40 going from 20 to 40 hens isn't much more expencive.
  5. homesteadmomma

    homesteadmomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 26, 2011
    Parke Co. Indiana
    All but three losses were by choice. I sold them to a couple people, because I started wondering how in the heck I was going to keep track of who laid what egg. All of our breeds lay brown eggs and we had 6 of one type, 2 of two types, 10 of one type, and 25 of another. So I thought, most likely each breed will lay a slightly different colored brown egg and if I can narrow it down a bit, I can butcher anything that isn't laying well. While I'm outside all day nearly every day, the act of trying to catch 16 chickens laying eggs seems pretty time consuming, but I think it could be done, especially if each chicken laid a slightly different colored egg (what are the chances that it could be so easy). Since we had nothing but time invested in the coop and run, that saved a ton of money, I'm sure, and makes it a bit easier to come out ahead. I will check out that site this evening. That way I can scratch my spreadsheet and maybe have a slightly more organized cost/profit system. As of right now I am in the green, but selling older chicks really helped with that. I'm hoping that the free ranging cuts down on costs as well, although they seem to just pick at the grasses outside and then come in to gobble down their food. Right now I am slowly reducing the amount of feed they get, to hopefully get them to become better foragers, and they love the kitchen scraps and the small area in the garden planted just for them with many different greens.
  6. homesteadmomma

    homesteadmomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 26, 2011
    Parke Co. Indiana
    So I signed up on, and sign-up was free [​IMG] and I requested the tools for a flock owner, and got a reply saying that they will send the info within 24 hours. Being that it's in it's beta stage, hopefully it will be completely free and I can use this indefinitely. I will post as soon as I hear back and let you all know if there are any costs.

    As far as "all in/all out...does that mean with eggs as well if they are just for eating? or would that be for hatching eggs and selling chickens? It seems as though there wouldn't be much harm in selling eating eggs to people that have no chickens and selling chickens to the neighbor and a friend that have bought my chickens before, right? I suppose if I were to branch out though, that might be a big concern, someone please correct me if I'm wrong. Most likely anything that my current chickens are carrying would be left in the run for an extended amount of time and therefore any new chicks would be susceptible to catching it. This is very confusing to me, as well as many other things...obviously.

    I really like the idea of a broody raising chicks. I raised all but the first six from 2-3 day olds and the first six we lucked into at Rural King for $.50 each. I kick myself every time, knowing that we should have bought every single one there [​IMG] I did the rubbermaid containers for the first two weeks and then moved them to the pole barn at 3 weeks into a plywood brooder because I couldn't handle the mess inside anymore. They got moved outside with the older ones in a separate run about 6 weeks ago, and then about a month ago got moved in with the older six. I really don't want to do that again!

    I might possibly be picking up 30+ more pullets that are 5 months old this week. Just waiting for a head count and a final price (I'm cheap). $4 each seems reasonable, but it's a big chunk of change when you're paying all at once. That will give me about 50 pullets and will mean using both coops, and nearly doubling the run, but they are used to free ranging, so I hope that the smallish run will work if they can get out in the yard. I would like to know how tame they are, because there is nothing I hate worse than chasing around a bunch of chickens who are far faster than I for hours on end.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    One of your original questions involved getting chicks this time of year and about laying eggs. I hatched chicks under a broody last summer, and they were hatched the last week in July. They started laying at the end of November, and were my best layers through out the winter, as pullets lay well through the short days, and the older hens tend to slow down with the short days, as I do not add light.

    I think that decreasing the feed is not a good idea, however, even if you are free ranging, but if you elevate the feed bowl on cement blocks, there is not near the waste. Mine are good free rangers, and just recently they have reduced their feed intake, with free ranging. I think that if they are still eating the feed, there is not enough bugs to support them.

    I have also heard this idea, I would like to try it, but have not. One year you hatch or get brown egg layers, next green eggs and the next white egg layers. Then you can easily tell when the older girls start to decrease production.

    Older layer make great stew chickens and produce great chicken broth. Process your young cockeral for frying and eating, and if you are hatching chicks you will get them.

  8. gjensen

    gjensen Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 22, 2011
    Midlands, South Carolina
    If you need an average of 6dz. eggs for yourself, and want a dozen or two for friends I can't see where you need more than 20 hens. My family of five only eats 2-3 dz. I wish I could get us eating more. I want us to eat about 4dz., but I do not want everone to get sick of them. The numbers we use go up when my wife is baking though.
    I think you should stick to 16-20 hens. If you are concerned with costs, stick with the hybrid laying hens. At least get some hatchery production reds or rocks. Many of the production fowl will be laying 5-6 eggs per week. Forget four if cost is a concern. It sounds like you will not have exceeded your run space, they will have plenty in the house also. Consider lighting in the house if it is an option, or settle with less eggs in your winters.
    There are some that hatch in Aug. so that their pullets are coming to maturity as the day light is increasing toward spring. They will not mature as fast in the shorter day lengths of fall and winter, but there are plus(s) to the pullets growing out a little slower. You can get a batch from a hatchery in Aug. or Sept. Also since you are not concerned with particular breeds, you can put a good cock on the hens in their second year to hatch out your next generation. They are a dime a dozen this time a year. Find a good cock from a breed that lays well, and if he lacks a little size still all is well. I bet you can find a Deleware or Red cock a couple springs from now. Just monitor the production of the cross, and adjust from there. You will buy the pullets one time like that. Just be CERTAIN, that any cock that you might bring in is disease free and from a disease free flock. Even less virulent strains can be detrimental to flock production and overall well being.
    Home flocks are more economical when the hens are two year layers. Hen replacement is a cost. I enjoy monitoring costs and productivity of my birds. I am a utility kind of guy, but I keep pure breeds and like to see them improved. That being said, it does cost more. Good luck and have fun.
  9. homesteadmomma

    homesteadmomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 26, 2011
    Parke Co. Indiana
    You all are so helpful!. Turns out Eggzy is completely free although I have yet to play around on it. I will stick to around 20 hens for now and see how the supply and demand work. We have 6 of the Golden Comets and 3 are roosters. Do you think they would be a good rooster to breed hens to? All three are good birds, none are aggressive yet, but none are friendly enough to let you pick them up. They can however be caught for inspections and don't put up too much of a fight. I might keep one of them and see what it will produce with my hens. Might be some interesting looking chickens out there running around. I think the two year idea seems to make the most sense. I really don't mind the meat being tough or stringy, it will be mostly used for pot pies, as I make a lot of pie crusts throughout the year.

    As far as cost goes, I just don't want to be spending hundreds per year, as we really can't afford that on a tight budget. I figure for every dozen eggs we eat, we are saving around $2, so in my book, that's a profit. So that's an extra $10-14 each week. That's a bag of feed, and right now, they don't eat that in a week. So from a cost standpoint and extra eggs that are sold will be strictly profit. So far our cost for the price of chicks and the cost of feed and feeders and waterers is around $200. So if I can make that, then I've paid for my expenses. That seems fairly reasonable. I would need to look at the spreadsheet for an exact figure though.

    We have been working on a trench to supply a water line and the electric to the coop this summer. I plan on putting the light on a timer to aid with production through the winter. We also worked on the run to allow more room to feed, although they aren't even putting a dent in the grass and weeds in their run now, and I am having to mow it at least once per week.

    I would like to get a small flock of orpingtons to keep separate from the egg layers. I'm in love with the colors and would really like to try my hand at raising some nice ones for the kids to show in 4-H, although I'm not quite sure where you might start something like that. And another subject entirely.
  10. ChicKat

    ChicKat Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    It will be interesting to hear what you think of eggzy. I may also sign up although I only have 3 chickens...just for the analytics of the software. There is always a learning curve for new software. -- Hang in there---it sounds like you have a busy life too!

    My husband's mother put her two daughters through college on egg money... (back in the day--the 1940's) It is amazing how eggs can add up. So in addition to keeping the family in eggs, she was able to get quite a nice stash from the extra eggs.

    I also kind of wish I could tell exactly who is laying. I have a golden comet that lays huge eggs each day---so I know hers. I have two barred rock "pullets" but since both are laying for sure now--I guess they are also hens no longer pullets. They were just 6-months old in May. One pushes all the shavings out of the nest box so I am pretty sure which are hers. The other doesn't. Sometimes -- half the shavings are pushed out -- half not. But when I get three eggs, I know that each has laid that day. (Today was my second 3-egg day and Friday was the first---the Plymouth Rocks were kind of alternating or skipping now and then before---) but now I have heard that Plymouth Rocks from hatcheries can lay an egg a day. My golden comet has laid a huge egg daily for 49 days in a row now. I guess it is a long way to say -- you may get a lot of eggs from your chickens.

    You had talked about cutting the feed....and that my also cut egg production. I also saw on another posting here...where perhaps due to a manufacturing glitch, some people's chickens suffered due to poor purchased feed. Mine have been eating a lot lately, and they always act hungry....I supplement with table scraps, they free range some---I am working to increase that capacity--

    If I look at just the pullet eggs, I can't tell by the color --> the size difference is obvious--- but the comet and pullets have different colors. So in addition to getting more than you think you will get in eggs, you may have difficulty telling who's eggs are who's.

    Because golden comets are hybrids--keeping a golden comet rooster--- may not be exactly what you have in mind -- they won't "breed true" as the saying goes.

    'All in -- all out' (I was talking to a vet about this the other day)-- is a way to make sure that there are no lingering diseases. So for commercial producers...I think that they have a time limit and at that time they clear out all their chickens...and get new ones. For example, birds at 18 months all go. They can go to processing -- or they can sell laying hens to individuals that just want a small flock. All the facilities are sterilized and a period of time goes past -- before restocking with new birds. May work for big producers, may not work for people who have smaller flocks and want constant eggs.

    Here may be another thought for you, because it sounds like you have the capacity perhaps at some time you could make a good profit from raising chicks to the point of lay. Some people don't have the capability, patience, knowledge to raise chicks..but want to have 'replacement' hens. It seems that backyard chickens are getting more and more popular...thus the demand may increase. They are 'cheap' from the hatchery, but I was happy to pay $10 each for my two-- (the fewer the chickens the higher the price). And I wonder what the cost of chick + 5-months of feed would be for a break-even.

    Here is one more thing I learned. I tell people that I purchased the 'sickest chicken in this state'. She is now recovering--but I had to do a lot of chicken disease and parasite learning very fast == I have heard that 'by the time you know the chicken is sick - it is usually too late'. Thus the purchase of the pullets you were considering eventhough the prices were low, incorporates a risk. Some people on this forum have vowed never again to obtain anything except hatching eggs...because they brought home chicken diseases with purchase or gift or swap chickens. So sticking with your 20 is a wise choice.

    If there were a way to guarantee that the point-of-lay pullets or already laying hens were healthy, I think that there would be a good market.

    Another source of revenue for you may be the chicken litter Poop-- depending upon how you manage it. You may be able to package it and have a local garden center sell it. It needs to compost for 18 months before it is able to go in the garden due to the possiblity the high nitrogen content could 'burn' plants.

    Edit--> whoops, I said 18 months on the compost, and I meant 6. Lots depends upon how you manage the manure...deep litter, daily dump --- and the heat, moisture, amount etc. Composting is a whole topic by itself...of course. Completed compost has a nice earthy smell---and is 'gardener's gold'.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2011

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