Managing a Large Flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MandaE2015, Mar 24, 2017.

  1. MandaE2015

    MandaE2015 Hatching

    Mar 24, 2017
    This is my first time posting, though I have read for years! I have raised chickens on and off for years, but last year we really did it up and ordered 25 chicks (received 28 live) and my sister gave me four more, so we had a total of 31. I have never had a flock this large and feel a bit overwhelmed at times! Our girls have been very hardy (we didn't lose one as small chicks), though we did lose one at about 10 weeks old (it had been very hot and she didn't seem to cope). This week has been horrible. We had deer netting over our run and it had gotten weighed down by snow, so we pulled it down with the intentions of replacing it this spring with hardware cloth. We lost one of our hens on Monday to a hawk, so the rest of the girls were locked up this week to avoid another hawk issue (which was not a big deal because it was FREEZING in MA). Then today, I went out to check their food and water and found another one of our hens just dead. We check them three times a day (more when the weather calls for it) and never noticed anyone not feeling well, so I'm not sure what the heck happened. In reading the forums, I see this happens sometimes, but I've never had this happen before! Any thoughts on how to manage and monitor a larger flock would be much appreciated. I can't help but think we must have missed something, but everyone else SEEMS to be fine.

  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Welcome to BYC!

    I've managed as many as 200 birds in the past, so I understand a large flock. And one important thing to understand about a large flock is that you will lose more birds, simply because you have more birds. It's not unusual for birds to drop dead, provided it's not happening often - I've probably had thirty do it in the past five years, with no relation or explanation. It's usually something internal that cannot be seen or treated - in female birds, it's often related to the reproductive tract, as laying puts a lot of stress on this part of the bird's system.

    Weather has indeed been a foe of mine as well. I've had two netted roofs cave in due to snow this past winter, which had been very severe (to us Californians, anyhow). I've also had several birds which just succumbed to the constant cold and wet.

    Truthfully, 30 birds is not too hard to manage. If you have concerns for their health, you might conduct a monthly exam of all your birds. I (try) to do this for my bantam pen on a regular basis, as those are my "special' birds and pets and there are few enough in that pen (perhaps 25) that it is not excessively time consuming. I choose one night out of the month and as I lock them in, I pick up and examine each bird for good weight, health, and check for any abnormalities or parasites. You might consider doing this with your flock.
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    Chickens have a way of looking fine one day and being dead the next.

    I personally like to toss out scratch to mine than I spend some time observing them to see if anyone looks off. I currently have 84 chickens and I know each one and how it should be acting.

    Most things wrong with chickens health wise can't be fixed anyways, so prevention is a better route. Provide clean fresh water a few times a day, good fresh ration, keep them mostly clean and don't crowd them.
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Spotting health issues can require more attention to behaviors that are not always as evident when flocks are large. Yet they do give many signs something is wrong when not feeling well. Most birds I have lost would loose some weight and change roosting habits in days before loss. They also sleep more during the day. I effort to have so birds are in good feather and that they do not do the feather blow out thing when molting. Feathers in poor condition stimulate me to check more closely for a variety of causes. If due to not preening as much, watch out. Watch how they walk as sick chickens drop their wings more when changing direction. Body posture is something to pay attention to as well.

    A favored time for checking health for me is when the birds are on the roost. I like them to roost up about five to six feet above the ground where they have to do a jump and short flight or two before reaching roost. Sick birds may stop roosting up with others. You can also check the hens for muscle mass at night by touching breast as walking about under roost and reaching up.
  5. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Welcome! All good advice!!! Hardware cloth won't be the best with snow load either, without good framing to hold it up. I had my run roofed in 2015, and it was totally worth it. No snow, no rain, wonderful. My 'run' isn't large, so not a big problem. It's now more of a large coop, with free ranging most days. Some state veterinary labs will do post mortem exams inexpensively, and some cost a lot. Here in Michigan, the price is for up to six birds, which can be refrigerated (not frozen) for up to a week. Our pathologist recommends holding onto the first bird, in case more die, so you can ID the cause. Mites and lice, reproductive issues, predators; hopefully not lots more deaths due to some illness. Mary

  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I have never had my dead birds examined. Chickens most often are not real long lived birds, and they do jus die.

    I would not worry about it. One summer I lost one about every 2 weeks until 5 were gone, and then did not loose another one for months. I was getting nervous, but really, one does best with space, clean bedding, clean water, good feed and wind protection with good ventilation.

    If one is sick ( I have had one sick bird in 11 years) I culled that bird out of the flock.

    MRs K

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