Raising pullets and cockerels separately?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by triplepurpose, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've heard a lot of "oldtimers" used to separate pullets and cockerels of the same age as soon as possible and raise them separately. In the book Keeping Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps, it suggests that this prevents the larger more aggressive cockerels from hogging the feed, and also allows one to feed separate rations, reserving the more costly, high protein feed for the pullets and feeding "bulkier" feeds such as "potatoes" and extra scraps to the cockerels.

    Are there any other reasons for separate rearing, or drawbacks that anyone is aware of? And in particular, does this have a negative effect on the optimal and proper development of future breeding cocks?

    We have always raised them together just because it seemed simplest, but anything that may save on feed or improve management in some other way might be welcome...
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017
  2. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    I separate mine when they are adolescents. We use two feeders when they are growing out to eliminate smaller bids being pushed away from the feed and not growing to potential. When the pullets are old enough and the grow out pen is getting cramped they are moved to the layer coop and grow out coop becomes a bachelor pad as the choices of cull are being made. I don't see the benefit of different feed.
     
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Best reason to separate IMO is to keep the cockerels away from the sexually immature pullets.
    How you feed depends on your goals.
    I slaughter cockerels around 13-16 weeks while still tender enough to grill and before they start trying to mount the pullets.
     
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I think that idea would work if you were raising the cockerels to butcher. Once you identified a potential keeper/breeder, I'd want him to have the optimal nutrition also.

    IMO, if you have birds hogging food, to the point where other birds don't get to eat, then you're not feeding enough. Alpha birds will eat first, and choice morsels, sure. But they're going to get full eventually and move away. It's pretty rare for chickens to guard food like some dogs now tend to do. But, if that is an issue, simply put out another feeder far enough away the bird can't guard both.

    I usually start pulling my cockerels at about 3 months. But, that's more for breeding purity and to keep the pullets and hens sane. I put them in a grow out pen and raise until about 5 months, then butcher. If I identify a keeper during that time, he gets to go back in the main coop.
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    I segregate my cockrels when they start harassing the pullets. Regardless, they get the same feed. One thing I found of interest last year was that some of the cockrels would start "tidbitting" when the rest of the flock was out free ranging to call the hens over to them. I'll be on the look out for that behavior this year, and if there's a cockrel in the group that shows "behavioral promise", I'll most likely let him out to mingle with the flock. The down side to this is that once you have your cockrels in separate housing, it becomes very difficult to integrate a "keeper" with the rest of the flock which contains a mature roo. But, if the cockrels grow up in the flock from early chick integration, they simply blend in and the Alpha roo (at least in my flock) accepts them. One thing I'll be doing this year is processing those cockrels at an earlier age to help curb the roo drama.
     
  6. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the feedback.

    So, for clarification, from Keeping Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps:

    "Those who can get any quantity like rearing some cockerels... The cockerels want separating as soon as they can be distinguished, because they take the food from the growing pullets. When separated they can be kept on more bulky waste food, such as potatoes, whilst the more concentrated Balancer meal can be reserved for the pullets."

    So this particular reference at least clearly seems to refer to cull cockerels or cockerels destined as meat birds--not potential breeding stock.

    Honestly this idea is very appealing. We pay $25 per 50lb for layer, and the only chick starter we can get is $45 per 50lb. The going rate for farm fresh eggs here is around 7 dollars a dozen, for reference. So it barely "pays" to keep layers, never mind cockerels (however, there is no market for them and I am repulsed by the idea of culling them before they are of edible size, we just slaughter fairly young). So Any strategy that saves on feed is not therefor just a few cents here or there but has potentially significant savings over time. We have a small farm and can easily grow things like cassava yearround that can supplement in a mash--much like the "potatoes" refered to in postwar England. If we could raise cockerels more heavily on starch foods, greens, fruits, and scraps, it might be a game-changer--or at least make it feel less like a money-suck.

    What is REALLY tripping me up is how to reconcile rearing cockerels separately with the fact that we are also breeding, and don't want to upset flock dynamics through separation/reintegration, or provide suboptimal nutrition for future breeding cocks. But in order to avoid this and still raise cull cockerels separately for a length of time needed to realize significant savings, we would have to make a selection among the cockerels when they were very young--and of course how the heck can you make a decent selection at six or eight weeks old? You see the dilemma, of course...

    Perhaps the best compromise might be a two stage selection process: to keep two or three (or four) of the "most promising" cockerels with the pullets and then narrow the selection further later. This lets you avoid "wasting" prime feedstuffs on the obvious culls, while still leaving some room to select later on. (it also would reduce that feed competion with the growing pullets sooner obviously.)

    In other words, saving on feed may have to take some precedence over selective breeding, but of course we would ideally like to have something of both--and at the very least hedge our bets in case future breeders don't survive to breed, or turn out to be horrible man-fighters, or for whatever other reason prove unsuitable.

    Surely there must be some sort of precedent for something like this: in earlier times most chicken keepers were also defacto breeders as well and had to produce broilers as well as breeders, there was no cheap pre-mixed feed subsidized by government money and fossil fuels, grain was grown and processed by hand and much more precious. Surely open ranging helps, but this is not a viable option for us. Im sure people did all sorts of clever things to make the best use of resources possible. And back when caponizing was more widely practiced, it meant that people had to be able to make some degree of selection of cockerels from a VERY young age (with no chance of changing their minds later in that case)! Trouble is, I dont know any ancient chicken farmers to ask about it, and googling has not turned up much...

    What do you all think tho... Any thoughts on that...? Sorry for the long post... sometimes I just get on a roll...:)
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    I'm not at all impressed with the rationale of the writer of that book. I keep a flock, so that I can keep them as humanely as possible. It doesn't matter if they are pullets who will be laying eggs for me, or a cockrel who will eventually end up in my crock pot. IMO it's as important to put good feed into those cockrels as it is the pullets. While I can understand wanting to cut feed costs, IMO, it's a false economy to feed the cockrels sub standard feed. You get out of them what you put into them.
     
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Where are you located?

    Not sure you can make layers 'pay' in today's economy....it's more about raising food outside of the factory farm environment.
    I'm happy if my layers pay for all the chicken feed with egg sales, and they do, probably cover most their bedding supplies annually too.
    I eat the young cockerels and the old hens, but that just bonus IMO and gleaning some meat and stock out of the feed bill but is not accounted for monetarily nor are the eggs I eat.
     
  9. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree completely! :)

    We live in HI...
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  10. triplepurpose

    triplepurpose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I take a lot from that book with a grain of salt--it also describes something akin to "battery cages" in a backyard context and I wouldn't practice, endorse, or condone keeping hens like that. the language is also both archaic and, frankly, foreign, so some things sound funny on the ear. However, there are also a lot of interesting insights to be gleaned to from a different perspective of an earlier time when feed was not taken for granted, and also much advice in there i would agree with such as the emphasis on the importance of fresh greens in the diet as well as other common sense tidbits that too many in the poultry industry have since conveniently forgotten...

    Perhaps some of my postings were misconstrued: I am not interested in practicing or in any way condoning inhumane husbandry or feeding "substandard feed." We also keeping chickens so that we can keep them as humanely as possible--clearly if that didn't matter to us, we could save money buying eggs and chicken at the grocery...

    And If I may be so bold, there is nothing substandard about my farms bananas or cassava. :) They may be low in protein by themselves, but these are fresh, whole foods in many ways more wholesome than what half of the people on this forum buy at feed stores, and certainly much more environmentally friendly than most such. So I'm not sure how we went so fast to "substandard." Plenty of people feed chickens "scraps," but that is not at all the same as feeding them "garbage." I have extensive experience already with concocting various fermented feed recipes for layers involving supplementation with similar ingredients (along with azolla, fresh greens, foraging opportunities, kitchen scraps and much else) and have managed to maintain quite healthy, happy, productive layers for years, with useful savings (and i honestly believe healthier chickens, than just feeding out if the bag). Rest assured I have no intention of damaging our animals or undermining their quality of life.

    But I believe I do understand and appreciate your concerns and where you are coming from lazy g. Sorry if I sound all ranty--not the intent. i just think my posts may have been misunderstood a bit and wanted to clarify my perspective...which is hard to do in a couple paragraphs in a forum format without sounding overly terse... :/ not meaning to ruffle feathers at all...
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017

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