Planning for the spring. New breeds, more specialized.


13 Years
Jan 24, 2009
Saint James/ Comfrey MN
The last 5 years I basically have either picked up a few of each breed at the local store or ordered a handful of this, a handful of that. I give away the old (3 yrs.) hens to family who still likes the old hens for soups/stews and move in the new hens in their place. I think this is how many people who have a hobby flock do things but I really want to start breeding and hatching to get away from hatchery chicks. Not a closed flock per 'se but close to it.

I have decided to work on some heritage breeds, Hollands and Buckeyes.
Most of my egg customers (other than little kids) prefer white and brown eggs. I want a winter hardy breed, one that is docile and fun for kids to be around. These two breeds seem to fit my need.

I have 2, 9'x15' pens in my barn right now. Each one has nesting boxes and roosts. I have about 20 in each pen most of the time and each has access to a 30'x65' grass/alfalfa outdoor run.

Here is a pic of the oldest pen:


And here is a pic of the left half of the pen I built last year:


And the other half:


As long as I am at it, here is half of the outdoor run. It is divided into 4 paddocks for "rotational grazing".


Yes, I am grazing rabbits in 1/4 of it right now

So I think I have a nice setup for chickens. The pens only take up 1/4 of the barn right now. I have room to expand and separate.

What I need to figure out is the transition between going with 2 pure breeds and keeping my existing egg customers satisfied, setting up pens for breeding the best of the best, having a grow off area for the ones that don't make the cut (culls for the freezer) and arranging the new breed laying hens to take over for my existing flock. (I hope that makes sense

So in the first stage, I need to contact a breeder and get what? Day old chicks or should I spend the money to buy adults so that I have eggs asap? Would buying someone's seconds be good enough for egg/meat production and buy a hand full of someone's quality breeding stock to eventually phase out the "seconds" and my existing flock?

Is it a good idea to tackle 2 breeds at once? Am I really just over thinking this?

(This is getting too long) Please explain how YOU did it and what YOU would have done differently (or did do differently the second time).

Thanks - Chris
That is really up to you. In order to keep our egg customers happy, we bought a few day olds while keeping the others until the day olds starting laying pretty good. After that we got rid of the other hens.
I guess I am just having visions of elaborate setups in chicken breeder's barns. You know, many separate areas. One for breeding this breed, one for that breed, one full of the best layers you have for egg sales, one area for plumping up the ones destined for the freezer etc.

I'd like to see a few of the smaller scale setups. Doing a google search nets some BIG operations. Stating that a small breeding operation is one between 1500 to 5000 birds! I'm looking at keeping my numbers similar to what I run now. under fifty layers and about that many for meat give or take a few.
Thanks EngieKisses for the reply, that is the simplest, most basic way of doing it. But I am alittle surprised that no one else wants to explain how they made the transition from a grab bag assortment of chickens to a replenishing, breeding, hatching, raising, processing, maybe even selling operation

I'm not looking for pictures of you setup, just a discription of what worked for you and what didn't work.

We're in the process of doing the same thing here. We bought breeder stock of Marans and Ameraucanas, and we've had a self sustaining free range flock for almost 15 years. We converted our dog's kennel into a new coop, and have plans for 2 more all built out of our barn with outdoor runs. We are also building 2 tractors for very selective breeding. We have planned crosses for different egg colorations and whatnot, but also need to keep pure lines of our birds. We're pretty much playing it by ear. My best friend and I are college students and are funding the endeavor, while one of my little brothers an our friend do most of the building and husbandry while we're away at school. Most important to us, is that come breeding time, we know exactly which hens and wich roosters' eggs we are hatching.
I'm right now planning for the spring as well. You see I got into chickens just this year. I was born and raised in the city and moved onto the farm last year. I married my husband 13 years ago and he was raised on a farm. We finally got our piece of land and built our dream house.

So, when I got the chickens, I just grabbed out of the bin at TSC. Then I set up a hap hazzard brooder in the basement. Turned out my husband is allergic. Then we built the coop while they were in the basement.

All in all I can tell you I'm a big fan of planning now. Turns out the labels on the tubs at TSC were wrong, or someone mixed up the chicks. I ended up with some beautiful Silver Pheonix. I couldn't ask for sweater birds, but you have to crack an awful lot of eggs to make breakfast from those peewee's and forget baking with them as the protein ratio is all off once you're doubling eggs to equal the large egg called for. I also ended up with some gorgeous cochins, again small egg layers.

So, I contacted a local seller and ordered myself some Delawares. I ordered three pullets because he could not sell me a rooster. I ended up with a trio anyway and am thrilled.

My plan for the spring is to build myself a Hutch to go inside the goat barn. This hutch I will use to isolate a Hen and rooster pairing that I want to breed. First the hen, probably with a second hen for company for 2 weeks, then add the rooster for a few days to fertilize and release the extra hen. Leaving the fertilized Hen in the hutch until she has laid the eggs I'll need to hatch for that incubation period, I'll then release her. If I have a broody cochin at that point I might move her to the hutch to hatch the eggs. If not then in the incubator they will go.

Using the isolating hutch I'll be able to remove the Hen from the rest of the population long enough to ensure she isn't fertilized by a rooster that I haven't chosen, then place her with the rooster of my choice. I'll be able to know which eggs are hers, and collect them easily and then release her.

I'm a very small operation, all of my chickens free range 24/7 despite the fact that they have a coop. They are all able to fly and live with horned goats for protection. We do live under an acceptable loss principle here. If we did have a predator coming in regularly then they would be locked up.

Other than keeping the rooster and hen I chose to breed separate for the time I choose to breed them, I would not keep my breeds separate. It doesn't really matter who is mating to whom unless you need to hatch some eggs. You will need to be removing eggs an watching for broody hens though. However, my hutch was also intended to help isolate brooding hens so they can have some peace. Give them a few golf ball, fresh straw to nest in, free access to feed and water and let them set as long as they need to.

Sorry for rambling, I've had a stomach bug today and it's set my sleeping hours off terribly.


New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom