Newbie flock plan, is it a good one?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by thetree, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. thetree

    thetree New Egg

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    Nov 27, 2012
    Hi all, First time post, long time lurker.

    I have a 8X8 coop with an 8X8 fenced run being delivered this week. Even though it is winter, I plan on starting chicks and getting them into the coop. I have been doing a lot of research and talking to locals about it and have heard that it is okay, and also nice to have eggs starting to be laid in the spring.
    Here is my plan:
    I am thinking about ordering 25 straight run chicks in a variety of breeds. Right now I am thinking Buff Orpingtons, Black Jersey Giant, White Leghorn and a few Ameracauna hens. I hope to raise these chicks in my basement for 4-5 weeks or until I can get the coop to a bearable temperature for the chicks. I am in NE ohio and the winters can be cold here.
    I am assuming I will have 10-15 hens and 10 or so roosters. Can I start harvesting the roosters before they start fertilizing my hens? I really do not want to deal with candling or giving fertilized eggs to friends and coworkers. What about just ordering all hens of Dual Purpose breeds? What is the major difference? Will the hens just be smaller when I decide to thin the flock? I cannot have 25 hens laying, that is just too many eggs, and besides I want to have some birds for the broiler/fryer. I was told that it is pretty silly to start harvesting pullets at their peak production, is that why people just order straight run and eat the roosters?
    After I harvest the roosters or extra hens, I would then like to order a small lot of birds to raise just for meat. Can I introduce 15 or so broiler birds into my laying flock? What would be the best way to do this? I am assuming I will be keeping my "base flock" of laying hens for years and trying to rotate meat birds into the flock for 2-3 months at a time. Is this at all reasonable without having a separate coop?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2012
  2. groundpecker

    groundpecker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    my thoughts are:

    You can cull the cockerels when they start to crow, usually egg laying starts a few weeks after the cockerels start crowing.

    Instead of purchasing more birds for meat, why not just keep a rooster and 2-3 hens in a separate pen to raise meat birds for you? Just let them keep reproducing and cull when chicken is on the menu.

    I would suggest keeping a single breed for both purposes. After 2-3 years you will want to replace your older less productive hens with younger pullets. Just take some of the younger birds from your breeding pen and replace them.

    Any hens you cannot keep, you can probably sell, as well as the eggs. You will also suffer losses, so for a beginner, you will start out with 25 and probably only end up with 8-10 pullets by the time their heavy egg production cycle ends.
     
  3. thetree

    thetree New Egg

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    Nov 27, 2012
    Do the fertility of the hens and the crowing of the cocks usually coincide?
     
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    First of all, you need to look at your space. More younger birds can fit in a space than larger birds, but with your area I wouldn't plan on keeping more than 10 grown large fowl birds. You don't want to be on here posting about birds pecking/bullying/cannibalizing each other and be told they're overcrowded. So, keep that in mind, it's a big factor for your bird's health. They need space to be physically and mentally healthy.

    So......ordering straight run is okay, the cockerels usually mature a little earlier than the hens. But, are you able to process all the cockerels in a short time span? To meet the non-fertile eggs, your cockerels will be a little light in weight (are you going to be happy with this? Do you know what to expect from a dp rooster carcass?) and you'll need freezer space. Plan on at least 50% cockerels if you order all straight run. I think you're too optimistic on your male/female ratio.

    Fertilized eggs really aren't any big deal. No one can tell the difference without a very educated eye.

    If you're wanting meaties, why not order some sexed pullets for layers and some cornish cross for meat? You could possibly manage that in your space with young birds, but not once the hens are grown. Then again, I don't think you could pay me enough to raise cx in a basement.
    You need to understand you'll have a lot of dust and poop with 25 birds, even non-meatie breeds. Plus, how large a brooder are you looking at? 24 4 week old birds are going to need a fair amount of space, I like to do over a foot each. Even that's kinda crowded.

    Just a bunch of stuff for you to think about..............
     
  5. groundpecker

    groundpecker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, donrae is correct. You will need more space. i suggest at least a 2.5 x 2.5 feet space for each bird as a bare minimum of just walking space. this does not include the space the coop takes. The more space, the happier the birds, the faster the growth, less fighting, picking, and disease.
     
  6. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    Most recommendations are for 4 square feet coop space and 10 square feet outdoors space - so you can keep 6 adult standard fowl in the available space. If you increased your pen size to 160 square feet, you could keep up to 16 birds.
     
  7. thetree

    thetree New Egg

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    Nov 27, 2012
    Okay. This is all good information. All books I have read say 3 square feet per bird. 8X8 = 64 / 3 = 21 birds, no? I have never seen the 10 square feet outdoor number but hope to let them range my yard (about 2 acres, very secluded) anyway. And 2.5X2.5 is over 6 square feet per bird? Any other input on space? I am glad to know that 25 birds in that small space would be a huge mistake.

    On keeping roosters and fertile eggs- I don't want blood spots or anything like that in my eggs. As long as I gather them frequently and refrigerate them, do I have to worry about it?

    Re:raising chicks in my basement: Perhaps my best bet is to find 6-8 started pullets locally and get my feet wet like that?

    Eggs are my #1 priority but I would also really like meat birds occasionally, how do you guys make this happen?

    -Thanks again - Dan
     
  8. mtnviewfarms

    mtnviewfarms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Welcome to BYC forum Dan. If your first priority is eggs then I would recommend ( especially since it is Winter and Ohio is very cold and raising
    25 chicks into chickens in your basement IS NOT A GOOD IDEA - trust me on this.) The stench would literally drive you and your family screaming
    from the house! I have been 'doing chickens' now for 3 years and, while that does not make me a pro, I have learned a lot fast. I wanted to start slow
    several years ago and, like you, had done a lot of research and knew what breed I wanted to start with, etc. Of course the breed of day old chicks I
    ordered from the hatchery didn't hatch out so they gave me a choice of four other breeds. I knew zero about any of them as I had only 'studied' the
    breed I ordered Welsummers! I ended up getting Barred Plymouth Rocks, only wanted to start w/17 birds total - 15 females and 2 males but because
    of the price differential between the two breeds they were sending me 25. Ok - the nice brooder my DH custom made will be fine for 25 - no problem.

    When the chicks came the hatchery had mistakenly 'doubled' the order and I ended up with 54 healthy adorable BR chicks. I really had to 'learn fast'
    as I was immediately in the chicken raising business.

    That was over three years ago and now I have a gorgeous custom built chicken house and totally secure covered run that DH built for me out of recycled
    materials and windows, etc. - it's actually so nice that we joke that once we are done raising chickens we can finish out the interior and use it as a
    unique guest house - yes, it's that nice and looks like it's been where it stands for the last 100 years.

    Anyway, I now have 40 pullets and 9 roosters ( I know, ratio of pullets to roos is way off but tomorrow I'm supposed to get my order of the Meyer Hatchery 'All Pullet Rainbow Pack' which is 25 assorted chicks that will lay colored eggs. I ordered two so I will get 54 chicks. I sell eggs at two local farmers
    markets for $4 per dozen and last year I sold chicks that I incubated and hatched but discovered through my 'free' local ads that most people want to
    purchase either started pullets or POL pullets so this March/April I will have it covered and hope to do well. Of course if there is a lengthy power
    outage before the girls 'feather out' I'm in trouble as they won't survive.

    My point to this lengthy response is that I recommend that you locate someone locally who does what I do and put in a 'pre-order' with them for
    your spring started pullets.

    How far are you from Meyer Hatchery? I just remembered that they are located in Ohio - they ship the birds out of Mansfield, OH. If you are
    within driving distance of Meyer I would check them out. I've been extremely pleased with all the birds I've ordered from them. Not show quality
    of course but that's not what I want in my birds.

    Take care and ENJOY your chickens. PS - I use the four foot per bird in the coop rule. Standard size breeds get VERY LARGE and w/o enough
    space very bad things start to happen.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Any other input on space?

    I don’t believe in magic numbers for chickens. There are so many differences in our flocks, our climate, our set-ups, and how we manage them that there is no one number that covers all of us. The commercial operations have proven you can keep laying hens in 2 square feet per bird period with no run, but they have to trim the beaks to keep them from eating one another. Most of us do better than that.

    I understand that if you don’t have experience with chickens you need a place to start. The 4 and 10 is enough room to keep practically any of us out of trouble even across all our different conditions. For some of us it is more space than we absolutely need. For a few, we still get in trouble.

    If you use the coop as only a place for them to sleep and lay and they can be outside from when they wake up until they go to bed, you don’t need as large a coop. The more waking time they spend in the coop, the larger it needs to be. I don’t know how you plan to manage them.

    If they are overcrowded you can get the feather pecking, bullying, and cannibal problems. Chickens have developed ways to avoid these problems. Those ways generally involve the weaker avoiding the stronger and the weaker running away if there is a confrontation. They need room to avoid and run away.

    I find if I give them extra space I don’t have to work as hard. An example is poop management. I have lots of space in the coop and outside. I cleaned my coop out this fall for the first time in four years. It’s not that I had to clean it out; I wanted that stuff on my garden. There are people on this forum that clean their coop out weekly.

    I find more space gives me flexibility in dealing with things. If I have a predator problem, I can leave them locked in the coop or maybe coop and run for days without them having behavioral problems so I can deal with the predator at my convenience. If I integrate new chickens or have a broody raise her chicks with the flock, I’ve got enough room so that can happen. If I have one not laying in the coop, I can lock them all in there until she learns where to lay. I like having flexibility.

    There are a lot of things I don’t know about your conditions. If they can have access to that run every day of the year for most of their waking hours, I’d probably go with as many as 12 hens, but that is tight. And it leaves you no flexibility toward integrating new chickens or those broilers you were talking about.




    On keeping roosters and fertile eggs- I don't want blood spots or anything like that in my eggs. As long as I gather them frequently and refrigerate them, do I have to worry about it?

    Roosters have absolutely nothing to do with blood spots. I don’t know where you heard that garbage. You might want to look through this article to see what can cause blood spots. It is certainly not a rooster.

    Egg Quality Handbook
    http://www.thepoultrysite.com/ourbooks/1/egg-quality-handbook/

    If you gather the eggs daily and keep them below 80 degrees you have absolutely nothing to worry about an embryo developing.



    Eggs are my #1 priority but I would also really like meat birds occasionally, how do you guys make this happen?

    There are a tremendous number of different strategies to make this happen. Personally I don’t do the broilers. I keep a dual purpose rooster and some hens and hatch my own for meat and for replacement layers. But I have lots of room to make that happen.

    I’ve never raised the broilers but if I did, I’d have a separate coop and run for them. I’d build the coop so it could be used as a brooder. All that takes is to make it draft-proof at the lower level and a heat source in one end. You can eat the broilers in 6 to 8 weeks. I would not go through the trouble of integrating them with the laying flock. All they are going to do is eat and poop, then poop and eat.
     
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    If you don't have anywhere outside to brood them you might want to look for started pullets, or wait til spring. I swore off brooding any birds in the house long ago and my marriage is much better! Plus, I didn't like breathing all that dust. I have no idea where it comes from, but it seems each chick magically makes a half cup of fine dust a day. Plus the poop!

    As far as space, well, what ridgerunner said. If you free range, you can get by with less space. But keep in mind times you might have to confine them---predators, weather, etc. Plus, when free range hens start laying, they don't know to lay in that nice nest box you built. They think it's better to find a nice low bush and hide the eggs there. 2 acres is a lot of space to go on an egg hunt daily! Confining them to the coop when they start laying is a good way to get them in the habit of laying where you want them to.

    Space-wise, someone on the boards here likened a coop to you and your family spending all your time in your bathroom. That's a little extreme, but think about your family all cooped in your house, never getting to leave. You'd want a larger house, right? Or wish you'd had less kids lol. Trust me, in a small house with my family, when the weather's bad and we are inside more, sometimes I start thinking about cannibalizing my family!!!

    Ridgerunner addressed the blood spots. They just happen, more with new layers. So do weird shaped eggs, ridges, bumps, speckles, double yolks, no yolks, eggs without a shell, and little tiny fart eggs. I have no idea how many eggs don't make it into the nazi eggs in the store, but I know a lot are discarded as not fit to be sold and sent to bakeries, etc. It's just part of being a little closer to your food.

    There are lots of threads in the meat bird section on dual purpose flocks, eating excess roosters, etc. You might hang out there a while and see some different lines of thinking.
     

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