Results of my experiment: Raising egg-layers and meat birds together

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by backintime, Aug 21, 2010.

  1. backintime

    backintime Chillin' With My Peeps

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    After reading through many posts about whether or not meat birds and egg layers could be raised together, I decided to give it a try. Here's how I did it, and what I learned:

    I ordered 11 day-old, heavy brown egg layers (4 different kinds), 2 bantam Cochin roo's, and 13 jumbo cornish cross (all roo's) from McMurray Hatchery. All arrived just BURSTING with health and vitality. First time ordering from McMurray, and by far the best chicks I've ever had.

    Put them all together in a 4' X 8' insulated coop with a heat lamp, 90 degrees at floor level. I closed windows to retain heat but kept one window open an inch the whole time for fresh air, even at night when it got down in the 50's. I had removed all infrastructure (ramp, roosts, poop-shelf, etc.) from the coop because I was worried the meaties would follow the egg layers up to the roosts and hurt their legs getting down.

    I had a few inches of shavings on the earthen floor of the coop. I covered one area (about 2' X 2') under the heat lamp with part of an old sheet until the chicks knew what food was all about. Picked up the sheet after 3 days and chicks frolicked happily in shavings but didn't eat any. Kept a small piece of sheet or some paper toweling under the feeder for another week, so chicks would eat the "spillage" that fell out - much less food waste!

    I fed the ENTIRE FLOCK the same food - Start and Grow. My theory was . . . even though meat birds get REALLY BIG, they are, after all, still chicks! I added powdered Broiler Booster to their water. Never used it before but felt it couldn't hurt. Called McMurray to make sure this was safe for egg-layers and was told it was fine.

    After about 3 1/2 weeks, I opened the coop door and windows on warm, sunny days. The chicks came and went from the coop into their 8' X 16' run on their own. Some would go outside, some would lounge in the coop. I let them self-regulate. Everybody seemed happy, no pecking or bullying. The run is fully enclosed in half-inch hardware cloth (even the top) so I had no predator worries. The run has a 3" washed sand base. I used a kitty-litter scoop to keep up with all the poop. This took 10 or 15 min. a day, but the darn thing stayed clean and didn't turn into a sewage pond when it rained.

    At this point I put a dusting of D.E. in their feed, as it prevents flies from landing on their poop outdoors, and also prevents worms. I also used a bit of D.E. in the shavings, and it dried up the big "wobby-gob" poos to tiny pellets. Made for a nice dry coop and NO FLIES! Yeah, a little dusty, but the trade-offs seem worth it to me.

    All of the chicks slept in a "heap" together, usually inside the coop, but as they got bigger/older, they liked to sleep outside in a sheltered corner all cuddled up. Nights were warm, so I let them have their way and left the pop-door open in case they changed their mind.

    I continued the Start and Grow feed and the Broiler Booster in the water. Gave them some greens from the garden and a few worms from the bin every day. They had sand in the run, so I didn't need chick grit. Swiss chard a definite favorite! I know some say no treats at this age, but I figure a momma hen would be guiding them around outdoors, showing them a variety of foods, so I do it, too!

    When the meat birds got too big to fit around the circular feeder, I put a 6-foot length of plastic gutter up at about 6" height outdoors and kept it full at ALL times. I put a few patio stones on one end for the shorter chicks, but I put the trough high enough so the meat birds could not lay down to eat. (Don't know why this bugs me, but it does!) There was never ANY stampeding to the feeder, because they had access to feed at all times and so no one was ever really starving. This way there was no fighting or trampling of the smaller egg-layer chicks.

    As I had ordered all my jumbo Cornish cross as roo's (more meat) I was worried they would get aggressive, but they were sweet, mellow guys. They did "face-off" alot, but never anything serious. Even the 2 tiny bantam Cochin roo chicks would face-off with the ballooning meaties, springing up like little kangaroos to get up to eye level. Comical!

    I butchered the meat birds at 7 weeks of age. The cleaned birds (without giblets, neck, feet, etc.) weighed about 5.5 pounds each. I wanted to let them go another week, but our schedule prevented it, and all in all, I feel they were a decent size for that time period, given the fact that they did not get "high protein" feed. No real difference in taste from batches I've raised on the high protein feeds, but there was barely any fat beneath their skin, which some people might consider negative but I don't mind.

    I never had any leg problems with the jumbo Cornish. I think the activity level of the egg-layers kept the meat birds more excited and busy than if they had been alone. The meaties seemed just as thrilled to get the greens and treats as the egg-layers, and acted much more ALIVE than previous batches raised alone. I'm sure the Broiler Booster helped in this regard as well. Maybe the higher activity level contributed to the leaner meat?

    Processing day was interesting. After all the big meaties were gone from the coop and run, I expected the egg layers to sprawl out and enjoy the extra space, but the opposite was true. They were quite "lost" and forlorn for several days, and for the first time ever, there was pecking and fighting at the 6-foot feeding trough even though there was more than enough room for everyone. They had to completely re-invent their pecking order, top to bottom. I replaced the roosts, ramps, etc., inside the coop, but even now after 2 weeks, no one has gone up there. They continue to sleep on the ground (outdoors or indoors) cuddled up together. One evening after dark I hand-placed them all up on the roosts, and they stayed there til morning but haven't gone up by themselves. They are 9 weeks old now, and gorgeous!

    All in all, I feel that raising them together was much EASIER than expected. I was very pleased at the robust health and activity of the meat birds. I had no leg problems, no pecking/fighting, and really no adverse incidents at all, aside from the hens now acting more like meat birds and sleeping on the ground! I wanted to share this experience with all my BYC friends, to let you know it can be done easily. There may be other details I left out, so fire away any questions you all might have.
     
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  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Great post. I'll just mention that my dual purpose chicks all like to sleep in a pile on the ground until they are about 10 to 12 weeks old, then they decide to roost. I doubt them being raised with the meaties influenced this at all.
     
  3. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Interesting.
    I too am raising meat birds and layer chicks together, but my meaties are rescues and won't be eaten. I have 9 pullet and 9 cockerel cornish Xs. I'm keeping all of the pullets and two of the cockerels and working on finding a home for the rest.
    I haven't experienced any problems. I have one silkie that runs with the other layer chicks and one that thinks he's the leader of the meat birds.
    Two issues that I have successfully dealt with - making sure there's enough feeders for everybody, especially the layer chicks since I didn't want the meaties starving them out. Secondly, I have to force most of the meaties out the door in the morning, otherwise they'd sit around the feeders all day and eat. One of the meatie cockerels is getting stronger every day. He can walk the entire length of our front yard now (about 100 ft.) without sitting down to rest and he is a sweetheart. Still haven't made up my mind yet about which other cockerel I will keep.
    ETA: Since I read Ridge's post. My layer chicks have been roosting since they were about four weeks old. I put lower roosts in for the meaties, but only a few of them use them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  4. backintime

    backintime Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 7, 2008
    Northern Wisconsin
    Quote:One of the meatie cockerels is getting stronger every day. He can walk the entire length of our front yard now (about 100 ft.) without sitting down to rest and he is a sweetheart. Still haven't made up my mind yet about which other cockerel I will keep.

    After I let them outside, I only filled the trough OUTDOORS so they had to get moving to eat. It got rained on a few times, although sheltered, but they always ate it right up.
     
  5. backintime

    backintime Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 7, 2008
    Northern Wisconsin
    [​IMG]

    This is my first-ever try at posting an image. Hope it works. It's a pic of the whole gang enjoying some watermelon on a hot day.
     
  6. backintime

    backintime Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 7, 2008
    Northern Wisconsin
    Quote:Thanks, now I'll stop worrying about it!!!
     

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