Replacing / Replenishing stock (and other ramblings--feel free to add whatever you like)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Miss717, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. Miss717

    Miss717 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm probably going to start rambling, but here goes. First of all, do very many BYCers just breed their own replacement chicks or does most everyone go out and buy new chicks to replenish their laying hens? Also, at what age of my established flock should I start breeding replacements. My girls are only a year old right now, but I don't want to wait to long. Plus I also have a broody right now. I was also wondering how many roos per number of hens. I read for heavy breeds 1 roo per 8 hens. Right now I have 1 RIR roo for 12 hens (less 1 broody, so I guess 11 hens). Thinking about getting a BO roo, keeping him with my BO hens and keeping Herbie (RIR roo. Nebraska Cornhusker fans go figure [​IMG]) with my RIR and white leghorn hens. Also, will this be a problem having two roos with 12 hens. Don't want roos to fight and hurt each other or any of the girls. (Herbie can be kind of a butt head especially toward my husband and kids.) Thinking about replacing him with one of his offspring. (Thought raising a roo from a chick might make him more docile?) Any and all input would be very much appreciated. PS: Good to be back. Haven't posted for a while got busy with other things, but am going to try to be better about keeping up with BYC. We'll see what happens.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Different people handle it different ways, though if you have a broody and a rooster or two, it sure makes sense to hatch your own, especially if you don't want a large number of chicks. Broody raised chicks tend to be healthier and smarter, and of course are no trouble to you, as the broody does all the work. If you let them cross breed, the mutt offspring often exhibit hybrid vigor, that is tend to be healther and stronger because of the new gene pool. If you are going to breed repeatedly in a small population of one breed, it might be best to get familiar with "line breeding" and such techniques, to avoid problems with inbreeding. Replacing a roo every year or two might address this, I don't know; I'm no breeder.

    The best laying years are the first couple of years as a rule, though many hens will continue to lay for several more years. In later years they will lay fewer eggs on average, but that is when you get the jumbo eggs. So it's a matter of what your goals are.

    They should certainly be ready to set and raise new chicks at one year. They will do so much younger in many cases, but it's often felt that hatching a pullet sized egg is not as good an idea as waiting til they get to full size. I know if I were in your situation, I'd be giving my broody some eggs to hatch!
    After all, it will be 6 months before they lay, and by then, the year olds should be about ready to go into a full molt, and probably stop laying til they finish.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I’ll ramble some in answering. We get replacements all kinds if different ways. You can buy chicks, you can buy point-of-lay pullets, you can get hatching eggs and incubate them, or you can hatch your own eggs if you have a rooster.

    One problem with hatching your own eggs if you have a small flock is that you can lose genetic diversity. There are techniques to help with this, but many of us have flocks too small or don’t want to keep up with all the record-keeping and provide the separate quarters required to follow a lot of them. You are usually OK with raising your own for three or four generations, but it is usually a good idea to bring in a new rooster every three or four generations.

    There are a lot of what I call myths about number of roosters and number of hens. Each chicken has its own individual personality. The more roosters you have the more likely you are to have problems, so I generally recommend you keep as few roosters as you can and still meet your goals. A normal ratio given is ten hens to every rooster. This comes from a specific type of commercial operation called pen breeding where you might have 20 roosters with 200 hens. Commercial operations that provide hatching eggs have found that this ratio is what is required in a contained pen with that many chickens to keep most of the eggs fertile. If you have one or two roosters with a flock of free ranging hens, you have a totally different situation. How many roosters you actually need in that situation depends on the individual rooster and the individual hens. Each flock has its own dynamics and the social interaction is different because you are dealing with specific individuals. Chickens are so individual you need a certain number before average behavior kicks in.

    My flock recently had 4 roosters and 9 hens in it. I did not have the problems that some people feel very strongly will absolutely occur with that ratio. Mine were all raised together, either as siblings or parent-offspring and they have a lot of room. I think both helped. A 10 to 1 is not a bad ratio and makes for a nice flock, but it is not an absolute law of nature.

    If you want to try two roosters with 12 hens, you can certainly try it. It is possible the roosters will fight to the death, but it is more likely they will sort out their differences and decide which is the dominant rooster. Then they will reach an accommodation and work together quite well as a team to protect the girls. They are living animals. You don’t know how they will react.

    Hens normally lay really well for the season after their first adult molt. After their second adult molt, average production drops around 15%, and continues to drop after each other adult molt. Again, this is an average. Individual hens can vary a lot. You need several hens for the average to mean much. One highly productive or poorly productive hen can throw the averages off a bunch in a small flock.

    I try to raise replacement pullets every year. Say I want a laying flock of 6 hens. I’ll raise 3 replacement pullets this year. Last year I raised three replacement pullets. The year before, I raised 3 replacement pullets. Pullets often lay throughout the first winter so I always get some eggs over the winter. Hens lay really well after their first adult molt. So I will have 6 hens laying full sized eggs every summer and 3 pullets laying those small pullet eggs. When the older hens start molting and quit laying, I remove the 3 older hens from the flock so I don’t have to feed them during the molt. I usually don't reach this 3 new pullets a year goal because things happen in real life but this is my target.

    Others will do it other ways. We are all different and have different goals and set-ups. There is seldom one right answer for all of us.

    A lot of rambling, I know. Hopefully you will get something out of this that will help you.
     
  4. Miss717

    Miss717 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for the input. A few more ramblings as a reply. I was thinking about keeping the BO roo with the BO hens and the RIR roo with the RIR hens to keep two separate breeds. However is good to know hybrids or mutts tend to be healthier and stronger. Might just mix them then, but will dominant roo allow non-dominant to breed? Don't have a real big coop approximately 18 x 7.75 ft. Usually let my flock free range, but starting new grass right now, so they're confined to their coop (and they don't like it very much). Also, I read that inbreeding isn't always a bad thing. Any input on this?
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Both roosters will breed. Often, especially if they are in tight quarters, the dominant roo will knock the other off a hen, but not always. And if they have room, the dominant one may not be able to stop it anyway.

    Last summer, a young rooster tried to mate with an older hen. She ran to the dominant rooster for his protection. The younger rooster chased her but when he saw the dominant rooster, he veered off and ran under a shed. The dominant rooster started strutting around to show how tough he was, but the younger rooster never quit running. He ran out the back side of that shed, circled around, and nailed the hen before the strutting one knew what happened.

    Inbreeding will bring out non-dominant traits. These may be good or bad. If you see offspring with traits you don't like, don't breed them. If enough of the offspring have these bad traits, you might want to start over with new breeding stock. Most of the grand champions at shows and practically all the breeds were developed by inbreeding. These people know what they are doing and weed out traits they don't want and enhance traits they do want. They use inbreeding to identify and weed out recessive traits they don't want or to set desired recessive traits as standard in the flock. I'm trying to do that right now with mottling, a recessive trait.

    The other problem with inbreeding can be that they lose genetic diversity. There are techniques like spiral breeding and pen breeding to help get around this. When flocks lose genetic diversity, they can become less energetic and more susceptible to problems. One thing that can happen (does not always but can) is that the rooster may not be as fertile if he has been inbred. That's why I suggest bringing in a new rooster every three or four generations to get around these types of problems.

    The hybrid vigor Flockwatcher is talking about is due to regaining genetic diversity. You don't have to cross breeds to gain that advantage. You can take chickens of the same breed but that have been genetically isolated from each other for a few generations and get that same vigor when you mate them.

    In general, inbreeding chickens is not that bad, but you do have to watch the genetic diversity.
     
  6. Miss717

    Miss717 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Again thank you for the input Ridgerunner. Don't know a whole lot about breeding or genetics. Learned a little bit about genetics in high school (eye color, hair color, etc), but that was a long time ago. I will just take your advice and make sure I get a different roo every 3 or 4 generations. Thanks again.
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Another easy way to add diversity with a broody hen, is calculate when the hatch day is, if you are doing fertilized eggs, and add some day old chicks that night of a different breed.

    The hen will raise all of them.

    MrsK
     

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