Self sustaining flock Questions

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mojoejoe, Feb 2, 2016.

  1. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    This has not been my experience. In my experience, a young cockrel raised with pullets is a terror to them. A more mature rooster will leave the pullets alone until they are POL, while a young cockrel will not. Yes, there is a bit of size difference, but a good rooster gets the job done, while a young cockrel has an over abundance of sexual energy, and won't give the young girls a break. He will also be bigger than same age pullets.
  2. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I agree
    • older rooster,
    • younger hens
    • broody breeds or incubator
    • full size eggs

    And another point, you don't always get enough pullets! Last year I hatched out 11, got three pullets. I have been doing chickens for years, but until this year, I have had to add chickens, or chicks, or eggs from outside of my flock into it. It sounds easy to be sustainable, but it is a bit more tricky than you might think.

    Mrs K
    1 person likes this.
  3. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j True BYC Addict

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    You've received some good advice. I can't comment on breeds specifically except to say that if you're getting your hens from a hatchery, they may or may not go broody. Yes, some breeds are known more for broodiness than others - bantam cochins for one. They can be crazy-broody! The last BO I had, only went broody once in the 3 years I had her, and then it was too late in the fall, and she was in a bad place. So, I moved her after she'd been setting for a week, and she went bonkers. I moved her at night, as recommended, checked on her in the morning, and she was off the nest, most of the eggs broken. She never went broody again. If you want to hatch your own eggs out, get an incubator. That's the only way you can be sure to hatch chicks at a certain time if that's what you're looking for. Don't count on getting a broody, even if you get a breed known for it.
    1 person likes this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Ditto Dat^^^ .....Broodiness and mothering skills are a crap shoot.

    Year by year, you're probably going to want to schedule when to hatch (and when to harvest)....unless you have unlimited enclosures to manage age groups.

    'Self sustaining' can mean many different things.
    You can reproduce your flock with an incubator and a good cockbird so as not to need to buy more birds or chicks as needed,
    but even then you'll want fresh blood for your cockbird every few years, line breeding has its limits.
  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Line breeding does have it's limits. A decade is good time to bring in new blood to a flock by outsourcing a cock bird. There are flocks that never outsourced and were or are still around for 30 plus years. There is a limit but if line breeding is done correctly that limit may never be realized in a persons breeding career.

    I'm a fan of the incubator. Makes timing of hatches spot on as to warm up my man made broody only takes a few hours. I can fit in a lot of eggs at a time so many chicks are on the ground at once. A few batches a year and there is plenty of birds to evaluate to cull down to breeders, point of lay pullet sales, cockerel chicken dinners. Your just not going to get a lot of birds from a broody. They can only fit around a dozen eggs at a time. It's their decision when to start brooding and how many broods they will do in a spring and summer. For the only purpose of have a few more chicks each year the a broody will work. A flock will sustain itself. In my opinion there is a useless bird on all accounts except brooding. Some people keep a Silkie hen in their flocks for the exact reason your wanting a broody type breed. To brood a few batches each year to perpetuate the flock. I hear Polish are extremely broody too and they at least lay a fair amount of eggs. Just don't hatch the eggs from your Silikie or Polish incubators, pull their eggs out as it's the dual purpose breed your actually wanting to keep and breed.
  6. JanetMarie

    JanetMarie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 23, 2014
    This is exactly true.
  7. rebrascora

    rebrascora Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    I have a self sustaining flock that free ranges but it's very much a mixed breed flock. I process excess cockerels (few reach anywhere near 9lbs though and don't expect them to be like supermarket chicken.... they are significantly tougher and more sinewy and need to be slow cooked) and my flock is still increasing.

    I have several broody hens within the flock and no doubt more will take on the role this year. I love my broodies. They often lay when the others have knocked off for the winter and raise chicks in the summer when I get plenty of eggs from the layers. They raise the chicks within the flock so there are no integration issues and no real work for me as they see to the chicks needs until they are fledged and independent. The only thing I haven't got that I really need is a grow out pen for the young roosters as I end up having to process them when they start harassing the hens and they could probably do with a few more weeks to fill out.

    I can't specifically comment on Barred rocks as the closest I have is a legbar cock and his farmyard mutt offspring but I would recommend getting a couple of hens of specific broody breeding if you are going down the natural route of raising chicks and I very much agree that an older male bird is a lot easier on the hens/pullets than an adolescent cockerel with raging hormones.

    Good luck whatever you decide.
  8. mojoejoe

    mojoejoe Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 13, 2014
    Ontario Canada
    Thanks again for all of the information. Truly a wealth of knowlege.
    Since part of my goal is to eliminate me raising the chicks and then intigrating them iinto the flock, I will be "trying" not to use an incubator.
    That being said I have summerized the knowlege and think the following would be my best set up for success. Please let be know if you disagree or have any further suggestions
    6 barred rock ready to lay hens.
    1 barred rock older rooster
    1 "known to be more broody" hen. I hear silkies are good?

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Others have pointed out that not all hens of broody breeds do actually go broody. You certainly cannot time that either. I fully understand wanting a broody hen to do they work for you, I do also, but I raise mine for meat and have to use an incubator to get enough chicks to hatch at the right time of year for me. I’m collecting eggs right now to get an incubator hatch going so I’ll have some chickens to butcher before I run out of meat in the freezer. I’m hoping to have enough broody hens later in the year to not have another incubator hatch, but I’ll just have to wait and see.

    How many chickens do you want to hatch a year? Even if you get a hen that goes broody often, you will be limited to two or three broods a year by the time she hatches and raises them. Bantams are limited on how many eggs they can hatch at a time, depending on how big they are and the size of the eggs. Many Silkies are bantam. Even if you are wildly successful in her going broody, one Silkie hen may not be enough for you.

    One trick I use is that I often incubate eggs when I have a hen go broody. In the heat of summer a hen can raise more chicks than she can cover the eggs. So I hatch some extras and give them to her to raise. I’ve also had a snake eat the eggs out from under a broody hen. I hatched 15 for her in the incubator and she raised them all. With that snake she would not have hatched any.

    I don’t know of any sustainable breed that is fairly quickly to 7 to 9 pounds. How fast they can put on weight can vary a fair amount between strains of the same breed, but you may be setting your expectations too high. How important is size to you anyway? Half the chicks I hatch are female and half the chicken I eat is female. There are only two of us. We can get two meals out of a hen so size is not that important to me. Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice sized cockerel. But I also enjoy eating the pullets and hens.

    I like your flock size. My laying/breeding flock is one rooster and 6 to 8 hens. I eat about 40 to 45 chickens a year so that’s how many I need to hatch. I have been breeding for broodiness in my flock. Some years are more successful than others with broodies, but I usually get a lot of broodies. A couple of summers ago I had so many going broody I had trouble getting enough hatching eggs to put under them. My broody buster was full most of the summer. Broody hens don’t lay eggs while broody or for some time after you break them or after they have finished raising their brood. It was a nice problem to have but it was a problem. If I had not had a bunch of incubator chicks early in the spring before they started going broody I’d have run out of chicken.

    I’s hard to say how many hens you’d need in your flock to truly be sustainable just with broody hatches. That’s a function of how often they go broody and how many chicks you need to hatch, and when you need to hatch them. Without an incubator you may find that pretty rough going with a flock that small.
    3 people like this.
  10. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Silkie or Polish are what many use for a walking incubator. One of those birds in your flock that you feed and who's sole reason for existing other than looking like a goofy chicken is to brood chicks for you. You don't want to hatch their eggs rather put the productive birds eggs under them when they go broody to propagate them not the Silkie or Polish. Though a few Polish cross wouldn't be bad at all. You'll find someone with one or both of these breeds locally. They are everywhere so not hard to purchase a walking incubator when ever needed to add to flock. So really no need to hatch their eggs.

    Some find them adorable, must own. My opinion is a poor layer and a poor meat bird does not equate to a good bird. I don't have canaries or parrots either. If you want a broody then they are a must have. There is no guaranty when it comes to nature but these are the sure bet.

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016

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