Managing a meat and egg flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ammocan, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. ammocan

    ammocan New Egg

    Mar 21, 2016
    I have searched this topic and related topics extensively and I would just like feedback or direct me to an article or existing thread.
    This is the story. My wife and I are excited after many years to start our own flock but we have wanted to do both meat and egg producers. The model we have come up with is to raise dual purpose birds. We are making preparations to manage 12 hens and have selected good dual purpose hens. The idea is to harvest 6 of the hens in the early winter for meat then raise 6 chicks again in the spring and always maintain at least 6 layers.
    Based on my research it seams to be a chore introducing new chicks to a flock but I'm not afraid of the work. What will it be like cycling a flock like this year after year? I am wondering if anyone has tried this model or anything similar and what pitfalls I face cycling a flock like this on a regular basis? These will always be new chicks as I don't want to mess with introducing old hens from another flock and we have the space to separate them at first but I'm looking for some advice from the experienced here. Most of what I have seen in my research is most people only raise for one purpose and only butcher if necessary or people raise meat birds exclusively or they raise both but have separate flocks.
    Help me manage my dual purpose flock.
  2. OrganicFarmWife

    OrganicFarmWife Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 21, 2015
    No where Nebraska
    There are many here who do raise ne flock for meat and eggs, the homesteader one talks alot about how they manage theirs.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I do this...have only been at it for a few years.
    Have 3 age groups in spring/summer, 2 age groups in winter.
    New chicks incubated/hatched in late winter, grown out in split coop section.
    Cockerels will harvested between 13-16 weeks for grilling.
    Oldest age group will be sold or harvested for stewing after pullets start laying in late summer/fall.

    Breeds are mixed at this point..welsummer cock, EE hens and their offspring, a couple brahma which will not be a repeated, too poor of a layer).
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon

    Are you limited in the number of birds you can have?

    I'm just wondering about the butchering six hens.....that's not very much meat in the big picture, and the cost of raising a replacement pullet to laying age is more than the meat you'll get from a laying hen.

    Are you hatching the chicks yourself, or purchasing day old pullets?

    Is this mainly a layer flock, and you're butchering simply to rotate stock?
  5. ammocan

    ammocan New Egg

    Mar 21, 2016
    Sorry duplicate post
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  6. ammocan

    ammocan New Egg

    Mar 21, 2016

    I appreciate the responses so far. I guess a few more details would help. first off i have noticed that people who manage dual purpose flocks for the most part follow the natural life cycle and either hatch their own chicks or just let a broody hen raise new chicks. this leads to butchering the extra roos as you mentioned AART. Donrea, I am limited to 12 hens. im in a rural suburb so to speak and cannot have roosters. I know that 6 hens is not a lot of meat and will certainly not sustain my family but we are trying to balance the dual purpose flock within our limitations. we figured that 6 hens will supply our family with plenty of eggs and we would simply rotate our flock to maintain healthy and young layers. to be fair we came into this knowing that this model would not really save us money over the cost of store bought meat or eggs but we started this for 2 reasons. first was for the farm fresh flavor which we have enjoyed in the past. we also wanted this mostly for our children. i feel like making our kids get up in the summer when most kids are sleeping in to let out the chicks, collect eggs, feed, water, and clean the coop with teach them many valuable lessons. I think raising hens will raise better kids. each spring we will be getting out the brooder box and buying our chicks from the local ranch store and introducing them to the flock after a few months. This is where the concern comes from. Im not sure what to expect introducing 6 pullets year after year into the flock. Will this be a major headache or just a learning curve? I imagine that chicks raised naturally within the flock would integrate better but as previously mentions this is not really an option with our set up. Am I overthinking this?
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Integration can be tough and it's best to have extra enclosed and adjacent space to do it in the least stressful way.
    If you post some pics of your set up we maybe able to offer solutions on how to integrate new chicks.
    Below are my integration notes, several ideas for integrating chicks in there.

    Here's some notes I've taken on integration that I found to be very helpful.......
    ......take what applies or might help and ignore the rest.
    See if any of them, or the links provided at the bottom, might offer some tips that will assist you in your situation:

    Integration of new chickens into flock.

    Consider medical quarantine:
    BYC Medical Quarantine Article
    Poultry Biosecurity
    BYC 'medical quarantine' search

    It's about territory and resources(space/food/water). Existing birds will almost always attack new ones.
    Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

    Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact. Integrating new birds of equal size works best.

    The more space, the better.
    Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

    Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

    Places for the new birds to hide out of line of sight and/or up and away from any bully birds.

    In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best of mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

    Another option, if possible, is to put all birds in a new coop and run, this takes the territoriality issues away.

    For smaller chicks I used a large wire dog crate right in the coop for the smallers. I removed the crate door and put up a piece of wire fencing over the opening and bent up one corner just enough for the smallers to fit thru but the biggers could not. Feed and water inside the crate for the smallers. Make sure the smallers know how to get in and out of the crate opening before exposing them to the olders. this worked out great for me, by the time the crate was too small for the them to roost in there(about 3 weeks), they had pretty much integrated themselves to the olders. If you have too many smallers to fit in a crate you can partition off part of the coop with a wire wall and make the same openings for smallers escape.

    Best example ever of chick respite and doors by azygous

    Read up on integration..... BYC advanced search>titles only>integration
    This is good place to start reading:

  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I think your real question is just on integration. It doesn’t have to be hard but some people sure make it hard. When you are dealing with living animals about anything can happen so I can’t give guarantees but lots of us do this all the time without issues.

    Room is very important in different aspects. One way chickens have learned to live in a flock is that when there is conflict, the weaker runs away from the stronger or they just avoid the stronger to start with. The need enough room to get away and avoid. You might want to follow the link in my signature to get some ideas of why I think room is important. A lot of that won’t apply to you but you might get some ideas of how to manage them from that.

    First forget any magic numbers you may have read on this forum. You are integrating, they don’t apply to you.

    For your model I suggest an 8’ x 8’ walk-in coop minimum. Most building materials come in 4’ and 8’ dimensions so you can save a lot of cutting and waste by using those dimensions if you build it yourself. Another option is to buy one of those prefab wooden sheds from Lowe’s, Home Depot, or construction materials store. I don’t know how old your kids are but when I lived in suburbia I had my 10 and 12 year old boys put one together for me. I provided a level foundation (that foundation might be the hardest part to all this) and a little muscle but they read the plans and drove every nail. Everything was precut. In suburbia it’s challenging finding projects and opportunities for them to learn certain skills. One corner may not have fit perfectly but it was dry and they could amaze their friends in Boy Scouts by swinging a hammer with one hand and hitting the nail when they were helping on Eagle projects. That’s a rare skill in suburbia.

    To convert a shed to a coop you generally add nests, roosts, a pop door, and ventilation. If we knew where you lived so we would know climate we might be able to make some suggestions that could help.

    You will have 12 laying at one time so I’d suggest 3 nests, a minimum 12” x 12”. For my purposes I like them a little bigger since I often let a broody hen hatch in them, but 12x 12 will be fine for you.

    Since you are integrating I suggest two separate roosts, one a bit lower and horizontally separated from the main roost but both above your nests. This gives the younger chickens a safe place to sleep that is not your nests. You don’t want them sleeping in your nests since they poop a lot at night. They are usually afraid of the adults and won’t roost next to them. There is a good reason, some adults can be quite brutal on the roosts.

    Many of us build a brooder in the coop if we have electricity. Mine is under the main roosts with the top acting as a droppings board. Chicks raised with the flock are easier to integrate. Chicks raised with the flock are recognized as flock members. That doesn’t stop all bullying but it does cut down on conflict potential a lot. You can still manage it if you raise them in the house, just house them behind wire but next to the adults for a while before you try to integrate, but since you are raising them to eat you might not want them to become pets. Even if you don’t use it as a brooder it is often handy to have a place to isolate a chicken from the flock.

    I suggest an 8’ x 16’ run minimum, bigger is better. That’s not based on any magic number but on the ability of the chicks to avoid the adults. You’ll find the younger ones inside the coop when the rest are in the run, or maybe on the roosts when the adults are on the coop floor. Until the pullets are old enough to force their way into the pecking order, usually about the time they start to lay, they will avoid the adults. Make it easy for them. Provide separate feeding and watering stations so the chicks don’t have to challenge the adults to eat and drink.

    I raise my chicks in the coop and often just open the brooder door at five weeks but I have more room than you probably will. I also have a rooster which I think helps. If you raise them in the house or some other outbuilding you should house them in a wire section of the coop for a couple of weeks before you let them free to roam with the adults. Let them out when you can be around to monitor them, probably a weekend. Azygous has a method of providing a “safe haven” in the coop. You might search for her or do it the easy way, PM her and ask about it. She’s quite a nice person.

    This is a rough outline of how I usually do it. Others have different methods. That’s one thing you’ll learn here, we all do things differently. But if you build big enough to give them room to run away and avoid and allow them to get to know each other integration is normally pretty stress-free.

    Good luck and welcome to the adventure.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by