Keeping The Best, Culling The Rest

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mizjones, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. mizjones

    mizjones Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 28, 2016
    South Carolina
    Hi Everyone. After spending over an hour perusing this wonderful site, and not finding what I was looking for I decided to post this topic myself. The issue I'm researching is this:

    *What are your thoughts on maintaining a healthy, superior flock?* Note: By "superior" I mean in terms of health and vitality rather than particular breeds. One of my go-to references is The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow; in it she states that hens who are at the bottom of the pecking order should be considered for culling in order to keep a strong, disease resistant flock going.

    Your thoughts on how and why you cull this hen or that one? Thanks in advance.
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    If you cull the bottom hen than the next hen is bottom hen. Keep going and you have no chickens. Cull for illness to have a healthy flock, leave the bottom bird alone unless she's sick.
    3 people like this.
  3. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    I completely agree.
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    I will cull birds that have problems they won't recover from. Sick or injured birds, or ones that just aren't thriving. That's how you keep a healthy flock.

    Exactly what I was thinking. There will always be a hen at the bottom of the pecking order. That's how chicken society works. If your bottom hen (or any other chicken in the flock) doesn't meet the standards you are looking for, then yes - cull them. Put them in the freezer, sell or give them away. Keep the strongest, healthiest chickens in your flock.
  5. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    The bottom hen is in her inferior position in most instances because she is an inferior hen. Do what ever it is that you think is best but if you really and truly want an inferior flock then keep inferior hens.

    All chickens understand other hens' and roosters' body language. (Humans like my self who has been around chickens (both free range, commercial broilers, cage laying hens, as well as game chickens and commercial hatching egg flocks) Don't speak hen worth a darn.

    I am a firm believer in the concept of selective breeding. Now selective breeding is not necessary killing the poor preforming hens but it is definitely denying such hens and roosters the opportunity to pass their inferior DNA forward.

    Also one of the main reasons hens end up at the bottom of the pecking order is communicable diseases. Do you keep and renew all the illness that hens and roosters are susceptible to.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Bottom hen isn't always ill or unhealthy......wonders if there wasn't more in the text to expand on this thought.
    She has some good info and experience, but not everything she purports is viable, IMO.

    The criteria by which you 'cull' can depend on your goals in chicken keeping, facilities available, and what 'culling' means to you.

    I only have so much space to overwinter birds in my cold goal is enough egg sales to cover feed/bedding costs.
    Kept too many last winter, hard to sell older birds in fall, so sold some 2yos this spring to make room for replacement layer chicks incubating now.
    All cockerels from hatching will be in freezer by 16 weeks, and older hens (2-3yos) will join them in fall.
    Still may have too many and may have to sell some pullets in fall.
    Almost 4 years in and I still haven't found the population/production balance yet.
  7. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 6, 2015
    Mora, NM USA
    You have to look at the big picture. And, you have to decide what your goals are.

    Part of the pecking order is simply which birds are the most aggressive. Aggressive birds are not necessarily "better". Are small children involved in the care of the chickens? Well, in that case - aggressive birds are definitely not what you want. You, too, need to consider how the flock works for *you*. You are the one who has to go in there every day and perform daily chores. I've had roosters that were so aggressive, I trained them to fly up on the perch and stay out of my way while I was in the coop. But finally that aggression got on my nerves too much... and I'm the one that is paying for the feed and doing the chores. So, they had to go.

    A better way is to keep track of the things that are important to you: if it's high egg production, don't select based on the bird's personality, but on their production. I believe there are nest boxes that lock the hen in once she lays, so that you can figure out who is laying the eggs and how many they lay, rate of lay, weight of egg etc. or whatever criteria you are going for. You definitely should evaluate which ones are "better" for YOU: are you eating them? Then you might keep the ones that stay the plumpest on the least amount of feed etc.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
    2 people like this.
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I have two basic criteria when it comes to deciding which chickens get to breed and reproduce. First is any with obvious defects. Any crippled or malformed chickens of course, but I had a hen that consistently had runny poop. She was fine in everything else and laid a nice egg but day in and day out she was the only one with runny poop. To me that meant something was wrong with her. I remove any hen that becomes barebacked. I know everyone wants to blame the rooster for that, but I find that if I remove the barebacked hens the others do not become barebacked and following generations don’t either, or at least it is extremely rare. When I’m deciding which cockerel to keep as a replacement for the Flock Master, I only consider early maturing cockerels. I find that the early maturing ones can usually win the hens over by the sheer magnificence of their personality. They usually don’t have to resort to brute force to win the respect of the hens, at least not nearly as much. I find the late maturing or runt cockerels don’t have the personality to really keep the flock peaceful. I once removed a pullet because she was still laying from the roost instead of laying in a nest after two months. There was just something wrong with her instincts. What I consider defects is probably different than most other people on here, but I raise mine for meat. If one wants to volunteer for that and I can improve my flock at the same time, she or he steps to the head of the line.

    What are you goals? Those goals are going to differ for each one of us. They might be feather color or pattern, egg shell color, quality of the egg they lay (size, thin shells, consistent blood spots), how many eggs do the lay, size if you are after meat, do they go broody or not, or certain behaviors. I remove a human aggressive rooster but I also remove hens that upset the peace and harmony of the flock. I remove chickens with brutal behavior toward other chickens whether the brute is male or female. I understand chicken society can be pretty rough but some chickens, hens as well as roosters, can just be brutes. I try to keep the ones that best meet my goals.
    1 person likes this.
  9. Kellycbf

    Kellycbf Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 15, 2017
    Midwest US
    This is such an interesting thread, thank you for starting it. I agree with the fact that each one of us has chickens for our own reasons and we need to decide how to manage our own flocks for our own reasons. We have 8 chickens that are really our children's chickens. They care for them and have named them and love them. Our first priority is child friendly, secondary is egg production. We ended up with 7 very sweet birds, one is a little skittish, but we attribute that to his child. Like child, like chicken.
  10. Ljc01

    Ljc01 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 5, 2016
    Nipomo, Ca
    Adding my opinion on this subject. I was given a white leghorn that looked like hell. She limped and never seem to have any feathers on her back. But seemed healthy in every other way We had no rooster. But she laid an egg every day like clockwork. Ended up rehoming all my 3yr old birds to get new pullets. Those birds are now happily eating bugs on a ranch outside of town.
    So, it depends on what you are looking for in a flock.

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