New with a lot of questions

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Strangecacti, Jan 14, 2015.

  1. Strangecacti

    Strangecacti In the Brooder

    Jan 14, 2015
    Hello all,
    I'm just getting started with chickens, I have decided on Barred Rocks as I am looking for both egg and meat production. I am wondering (among other things) about flock separation, my plan is to build a coop/run for the meat birds, remodel the chicken coop in the barn for the layers, and keep a section for the rooster(s). In the end I want to be able to produce my own chicks two or three times a year to grow for meat as well as replace layers as they drop in production.I have room in my planned coop for 50 meat birds, the run will be 35' x 45' divided into 2 sections so I can alternate which they are in every week or two weeks, and am planning on 12 layers.
    Feeders and waterers': I am going to make J-tube feeders of 3" or 4" PVC, and waterers out of 5 gallon buckets. How many birds per feeder? How many birds per waterer?
    For the replacement birds I am looking for advice on what a good brooder hen would be, or, should I try to pick one out of my flock? Do I need a different coop/run for the broody and the chicks or can I keep them in with the layers?
    For the layers, in addition to the boxes, do I still need roost poles?
    I have more questions, but will try to find answers in the forums as I need but these are the most pressing as I will be ordering and building/remodeling coops and runs soon.
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    You can often get answers to more questions than you knew that you had by typing in a topic or ? in the search discussion bar at the top of the page. That will take you to pertinent threads. Realize, that you are gleaning from fact as well as a lot of opinions, and folks can be very passionate with a "this is the way it should be" attitude. You're in for a fun ride! If you're planning on raising only PBR for both meat and egg production, IMO, there's no need to separate them until you have a bunch of pubescent cockrels who have declared themselves and are determined to thrash every other bird of the same gender, and mate every single bird of the opposite gender. Then, you'll want to keep the cockrels away from the pullets.

    There are lots of different ways of managing broody's and chicks. Some folks keep them with the flock throughout incubation and from hatch. Others separate broody and egg clutch and don't introduce chicks to the flock until they're weaned from the broody's care. The one recommendation I have for you is that the broody needs her nest area separate from the rest of the flock so they don't add to her nest, or step on her incubated eggs, and so she doesn't inadvertently go back to the wrong nest. I have not had a broody in over 45 years (took a number of years off from raising poultry, and this is my first year with a rooster since the beginning.) My plan, if blessed with a broody will be to keep her in the coop with the flock, in a separate pen area, and integrate chicks immediately after hatching while under Mama's care. I will also set up an incubator so I can hatch some eggs simultaneously along with the broody, so that if she has a bad hatch, I can give her some extra chicks. And if she abandons her project, I can slip her eggs into the bator along with mine.

    Nest boxes are for laying eggs in, and brooding eggs and chicks in. You'll want to provide perches for all of your birds, for night time perching. The only birds that woundn't need perches would be your cornish/rock heavy meat birds.

    I have 2 more bits of advice for you, which... of course you didn't ask for: Build your coop and run bigger than you'll need. Sounds like you have plenty of options there. And, do not add to your flock without observing a real quarantine. A fair number of poultry keepers, myself included, keep a closed flock. Which, at least for my own purposes, means that I'll bring in eggs or day old chicks if necessary, but will not bring in anything older than that. Try to get all of your poultry from the same source at the same time to avoid disease issues.
    2 people like this.
  3. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    You should probably familiarize yourself with the meat Birds forum (check out the archives at the top of tee forum) to decide whether you want to eat the Barred Rocks or raise Cornish X, or Cornish Cross. Most people keep these two separate if they go with Cornish Cross. If you use Barred Rock, you will not need to separate them at all, you can just incubate the eggs in an incubator as needed. If you are lucky enough to get a broody hen, of course, you can use her to incubate and raise the chicks. Most laying hen breeds prefer roost poles, but Cornish Cross do not usually use them. However, you can't breed true Cornish Cross, you have to buy the chicks each year.

    There are a naumber of articles in our Learning center, as well as threads on the forum, tht discuss these things. I'll give you a few links to get you started.

    Good luck!
  4. threescompany

    threescompany Songster

    Aug 3, 2014
  5. ChookRanger

    ChookRanger Chirping

    Jun 25, 2014
    12 layers and 50 meat birds and all Barred Rocks? Barred Rocks are dual purpose, if you raise hens they will be good layers for a few years, the cockerels are often processed as meat when they start to crow. But if you use the laying hens or pullets for meat, that IMO is just a waste. Barred Rocks are easily sexed at 1 day, and mistakes happen, but you can usually get all pullets. Cornish Cross can be processed as soon as 8 weeks, where a Barred rock will not be full grown until around 6 months. It's your call, but think about it.
  6. Strangecacti

    Strangecacti In the Brooder

    Jan 14, 2015
    Six months! Not what I had planned on ChookRanger! I don't understand why using pullets for meat is a bad idea, My ladies for laying will be kept until they drop their production, the others that I breed will be just for meat and for replacing the layers that are no longer productive. If you would care to elaborate I would love to hear it. Also, if rocks are not the best choice as a dual purpose chicken what other breeds would you suggest? My goal is to do 50 meat birds three times a year without having to buy chicks. As a beginner I want to keep it as simple as I can which is why I'm going with a dual purpose rather than two or three different breeds.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    As lazy gardener pointed out you are going to get lots of opinions, this is my opinion, take what you want. I am a firm believer in a multi-generational flock.

    Your plan is doable, but I would encourage you to implement it over three years. Start smaller and build towards that. You will get a healthier, better quality flock over time. Let me explain:

    If you buy all the chicks now, your whole flock is the same age, which means they will all get old at the same time. The other thing is, you have not tested your set up. Predators are real problem, and in the beginning, I went down to 18 head dead one morning...... it made me sick, but I built a better run. Way better to test your predator defenses on a smaller flock.

    A closed flock as LG recommends is a good thing, if you spent the money on high quality chicks. Hatchery chicks will be fine to learn on, but over time, breeding them can cause loss in production of eggs and meet. Start with the hatchery chicks, to get you going, then move up.

    Sometimes, you will find, you just don't like a breed. By the second year, you may want to try a different breed, or at least I have. If you do change breeds, it does make it easier to know how old the chickens are.... the BR are two years old, the Bo are 1.... If you do different color of eggs, white one year, brown the next year, then it is also easier to see when egg production slows.

    As you want birds for meat, I would buy the cornish cross, or freedom rangers, say a dozen. They will be ready quickly, and you can learn about the butchering, and how much freezer space. Twelve will be quite a bit of work, you can time yourself, and see what you need to plan for. At the same time I would buy a dozen pullets to raise as layers. Now you are getting a bit of meat and some eggs the first year. If a predator hits you hard, you can make some adjustments. Not a huge investment, a learning flock, a testing flock that will give you some experience. There is a learning curve to raising chickens, and the bigger you start, the steeper the curve. If you want, you can start another meat dozen several times a year, until you get your meat needs met. If you want meat, economically meat birds are the way to go, dual purpose birds can be and are eaten, but they take considerable more feed and time.

    The second year, now contact a good breeder or a place like Sandhills Preservation. Change the breed if you want, get higher quality chicks. Cull some of the layers, and raise up a few roosters, so that you can pick what you want according to the standards. In a closed flock, careful breeding does make a difference. The roosters raised in a flock, learn how to be a good rooster in a chicken society, much better than roosters that are raised with just flock mates. Those just get bigger faster and often turn aggressive and mean. This year, I would too raise up some more meat birds, as you have separate quarters.

    The third year, you are going to be culling a great deal of the 3 year old hens. They do make wonderful soup, or casseroles, but do take pressure canning or slow cooking. They are much tougher, and to replace them you can begin raising your own chicks.

    As to a broody hen, some breeds almost never go broody, some breeds often go broody, but a human can NOT make a hen go broody! That is up to the Gods. Many people wanting as many chicks as you do, use an incubator, that way they can determine when chicks are being hatched.

    Another point in your set up, that may just be miss communication, you suggest that you will have the layers on one side, and the extra roosters on the other. That won't work, those boys will need to be out of sight and sound of the hens, or awful fighting can occur once they become sexually mature.

    This is a wonderful hobby, but you have years to set it up, adjust and grow. My 2 cents - start smaller.

    Mrs. K
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2015
    4 people like this.
  8. matt44644

    matt44644 Songster

    Sep 14, 2014
    Sanilac County,Michigan
  9. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. .....

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    Actually, that should read GREAT post!
    1 person likes this.
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I’m doing about what you are talking about trying. My laying/breeding flock normally consists of about seven hens and one rooster but there are times I have over 40 chicks/chickens total. I have 19 right now, the eight adults and some juveniles. I plan to put three cockerels in the freezer tomorrow plus a pullet or two. Most of the pullets are laying but I’m holding off on processing them until I can identify which pullet is laying which egg. I have singled out a few pullets for the freezer.

    You can eat any chicken at any age. You just have to adjust your cooking methods to the age. The older they are the slower and with more liquid you need. Some people eat cockerels as young as 12 weeks, usually if they cannot have a rooster so they eat them before they start to crow. Besides, at that age they are still tender enough that you can fry them without then turning to leather. I’ve eaten some really mature roosters, but with them you think crock pot, pressure cooker, stews, or dumplings.

    I try real hard to not eat any chicken before they are at least 16 weeks old. There is just not enough meat on them to make it worthwhile to me. I much prefer to wait until at least 20 weeks and much later is not a problem for me. Cockerels and pullets mature and grow at different rates. Some cockerels are ready at 16 weeks, but some really benefit by getting more time.

    When you hatch eggs, you have no control over what sex will hatch. Over time it should be about 50-50, but you can get some really wild swings. My first incubator hatch last year was 14 pullets and 7 cockerels. I’ve had hatches just as strong the other way. You can eat any chicken, males or females. Once you get your flock established, you will probably wind up eating as many females as males. There ae only two of us and we easily get two meals out of a pullet. A larger cockerel just means I have leftovers for lunch. My lunch today will be leftovers from a pullet I cooked recently ad we got two meals out of.

    Some people that raise chicks for a certain purpose and can identify sex at hatch may kill the cockerels at hatch if they are raising layers or may kill the pullets at hatch if they are raising them for meat. Cockerels do grow larger. That way they don’t have to feed a chicken they don’t want until it is old enough to identify sex. Another possible outcome is to sell the pullets and keep the cockerels for yourself. There can be many different reasons you might want to identify sex early.

    You cannot control when a hen will go broody or even if a hen will go broody. While some breeds are more likely to go broody than others, any hen can go broody. Any hen of any breed might never go broody. If you plan to hatch chicks for meat, you really need to get an incubator so you have some control over that. I generally get by with one early big incubator hatch a year and my broodies raise the rest, but some years I do a second incubator hatch.

    What you want for your stated goals are dual purpose chickens. There are a whole lot of different breeds that can work for you. Barred Rock are as good as any. Mine are not any breed, just a barnyard mix. I personally like a mixed color flock where I’m never sure what color chick will hatch. Some people really like one specific breed. We are all different.

    A couple of things I think you should consider. First, build flexibility into your plans. Not everything goes as you think it should or want it to. And there is hardly ever anything to do with chickens where there is one right way to do something where every other way is wrong. Not only do a lot of different things work, we have so many different conditions and climates and keep them for so many different goals that there is no way one answer is right for all of us. So when someone like me gives you suggestions you need to try to filter out if that meets your conditions and goals. That’s not always easy. But if someone tells you that you absolutely have to do it one way, you might want to get a second opinion.

    Good luck! Enjoy your adventure.
    4 people like this.

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