Record Keeping

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by WesleyBeal, Dec 19, 2016.

  1. WesleyBeal

    WesleyBeal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 28, 2016
    Douglas County, Minnesota
    Hi all,

    I wanted to find out what others think it is important to keep track of with regards to the flock.

    I have started setting up a spreadsheet in Google, linked to a form I use to enter the number of eggs collected.

    I'm tracking the number of sound eggs laid,
    number laid somewhere other than the nest,
    number of "bad" eggs, ie. eggs were bad before they were laid, not eggs damaged after laying (soft-shell eggs, for example),
    number of eggs damaged after laying (cracked due to freezing is the one culprit I'm seeing so far).

    I've also got a sheet that lists all my chickens, what breed they are, what their hatch-date was, "type" (hen, rooster, pullet, cockerel), their age in weeks, date-deceased, cause-of-death. I (think I) want to start collecting other information, such as the butchered weight, weight at 8 weeks, and weight at 16 weeks. Date/Duration of molt?

    My chickens were all hatched in mid-June this year - this is my first time raising chickens - so I'm not sure at all if there are things I ought to try to record that I haven't thought of yet.

    Other than a love of data, the reasons for collecting this information would be to allow me to compare the productivity of future generations, and make more educated decisions about which chickens to breed for the future, which chickens to breed them to, & etc.

    Also, a love of being able to look at my spreadsheets and see how I'm doing.

    My interest in chickens is all utility: in other words I'm not trying to create show-birds. I'm interested in their ability to provide meat and eggs for the table - my and my friends/families tables though, and not the market.

    I want to develop a flock that will survive well in my climate, forage for a lot of their own food, and avoid predation as well as possible.

    But that's getting off topic, except insofar as it feeds into the sort of records that are important for me to keep.

    I've found some other examples of spreadsheets both here and on the web, but in every case there's an attempt to collect data I'm not as interested in, or it doesn't track things I think are important.

    So I wanted to ask the community here: what do you think is important to keep track of?
    2 people like this.
  2. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 28, 2008
    How about including age of onset of laying, egg size, and tendency towards broodiness? Given your climate maybe include any frostbite damage to the comb? You may want to consider more frequent weights for cockerel chicks once they are obvious, to select for the fastest growers.
    1 person likes this.
  3. WesleyBeal

    WesleyBeal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 28, 2016
    Douglas County, Minnesota

    I want to record onset of laying, but I'm not sure how to do it.

    As my hens began laying, they laid everywhere but the nests for a while. So that makes using trap nests ineffective. Maybe next year, with experienced hens on-hand, the new hens will use the nests from the beginning?

    Right now, I don't know for sure which are laying and which aren't. I've got 23 hens (pullets, technically, at 27 weeks), and the most eggs I've collected in a day is 15.

    So I want that info, but don't know how to collect it.
  4. Earl Medcalf

    Earl Medcalf Out Of The Brooder

    You are going to need a way to determine which bird laid a given egg. The approach I would use stresses bird a bit impacting number of eggs produced and is pricey.

    Look up "trap nest".

    Egg color can get you around some of this but better egg producers will likely produce light brown or white eggs. Later selection efforts likely will not have the same range of color options.
    1 person likes this.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I'm a spreadsheet junkie too, have a file for chickens with a couple dozen sheets,
    but file is on my hard drive instead of 'clouded'.

    Main sheets are daily egg counts and egg sales that are linked to calculate if egg sales cover feed costs-my main goal.
    All edible eggs are recorded, inedible eggs noted.
    My cost 'cycle' is defined by each bag of feed gone thru....may be a bit odd, but it works for me.
    Annual totals of eggs collected and eggs sold are on their respective sheets.
    Daily egg count sheet has a notes column to note any oddities/issues/events worth noting.

    Also have a sheet for each hatch, banding info, and record onset of lay there.
    At least did the first hatch when I only had 6 that laid unique and thus easy to identify eggs,
    kept weights on all those eggs for about 6 months also.
    Kept track of feed cost to point of lay too.
    Now that I hatch and keep more pullets each year, and they are integrated at 4 weeks,
    I can't keep track of individuals or feed cost, but do note pullet egg weights for a time.

    It's really tough to accurately track what bird is laying what, without constant 'stalking'.
    Unless you use trap nests as mentioned above, but then you still have to be around a lot to release birds.
    Although I have the time and would love to do this, I just decided I didn't need to know everything.
    I still frequently stalk the pullets when they come into lay...and sometimes certain birds if there is an issue.

    Have lots of sheets of info saved, cost of coop and run, power usages, medication dosages, all kinds of things.
    Up to you what and how you track what you want to track.
    May take some time and trial and error to get it where you want it.
    Love spread sheets for lists and calculations.

    Also keep a Word doc with info worth saving for reference and sharing on BYC.
    I can edit as I learn more and copy/paste to save excessive typing, which I'm lousy at.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  6. WesleyBeal

    WesleyBeal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 28, 2016
    Douglas County, Minnesota
    Thanks for the input so far.

    I've gone through it, and made a list of things to track. Some things are tracked for the whole flock only, while other things are tracked for each individual bird.

    There are challenges to collecting some of this data, but for now I don't consider that. So far, this is the list of things it would be desirable to keep track of:

    Ideas on what's missing?

    Are some of these less important than others?

    For each bird:

    Daily sound eggs
    Daily damaged eggs
    Egg size / weight
    Date of onset of laying
    Date molt begins
    Date molt ends
    Hatch date
    Sex (Hen, Pullet, Rooster, Cockeral)
    Age (weeks)
    Date deceased
    8 week weight
    16 week weight
    Other weight markers (each week up to 20, maybe?)
    Butchered weight
    Broodiness tendency
    Frostbite damage (date?, severity?)
    Medications/dosage amount
    Dosage dates

    For whole flock:

    Daily bad eggs (softshells, etc.) My experience is that bad eggs aren't layed in nests.
    Daily floor eggs
    Feed costs
    Infrastructure costs
    Power usage / costs
    Number of eggs minus Number of eggs sold
    Egg sales minus Feed costs
  7. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Can you translate feed costs to amount of feed per day for your flock? I think it would be interesting to compare this to ambient temperature. Oh and of course temp and humidity and daylight hours [​IMG]

    Methinks there are graphs in your future [​IMG]

    Love the idea, BTW! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  8. WesleyBeal

    WesleyBeal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 28, 2016
    Douglas County, Minnesota
    That would be interesting. Might be easier to keep track on a weekly basis, but the data would still be relevant when you looked at temperature averages for the week.

    I haven't included weather data in my list so far. Been thinking about it though. The nice thing about general weather info is that other people collect that data for you. I think anyway that I can find and download historical weather data by day from weather underground. So if I know the date on which I start each new bag of feed, I can map out how long each 50 lbs lasts, and compare to the weather.

    I'm not interested in this as a business (others though are), but I do want to know how much money I'm "losing" from keeping chickens.

    Also though, this data would allow you to predict how much feed you need to have on hand, and possibly what changes you want to make to feeding. Add supplements higher in fat or protein at which times?

    If you're mixing your own feed - I haven't gotten into that yet - but if you are that info would be really valuable I think.

    Additionally, feed consumption I would assume is also linked to how much stress the birds are under. So it may show you things that your normal observations of their behavior misses.

    While we're at it, tracking water consumption might also give you more insight into what kind of stress your birds are under.
    1 person likes this.
  9. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Yes yes download weather info, I would think, and keeping track of water great idea also!

    How about selecting a few chickens from your flock as say "barometers" (I know, I have weather on my mind) and weighing them say monthly? Or other indicators like that?
  10. WesleyBeal

    WesleyBeal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 28, 2016
    Douglas County, Minnesota
    I think it's a decent idea, depending on your objective.

    If the objective is to cull out slow growers, then it doesn't help you much. If your objective is to track the weight gain of a hatch of chickens, to measure the results of a breeding program, then that is useful.

    Also I think to measure stress again - looking at feed consumed over time, combined with weight gained or lost, to give you a sense of how comfortable your birds are. I think you'd want weights collected more frequently - maybe weekly - to do that. And you'd want to weigh the same few birds each time.

    The ideal system would keep track of every detail of each individual bird. But the time involved to do that....

    Also, I'm trying to figure out a way of capturing data on the onset of lay. With my chickens this year, when they started laying, they didn't use the nests. They laid all around the coop, outdoors, etc. If the next generation behaves the same, and if I want that data, I may need to cage the birds at what I estimate to be when they'll start laying, until I see the first egg. It wouldn't be too hard to produce a bunch of small pens that give them some space in the form of a small run of 3 feet or so, and a nesting box. But I have to decide if the data is important enough to me to go to that trouble.

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