Starting a new flock

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by eggcitedagain, Feb 8, 2015.

What's your recommendation for my flock?

Poll closed Feb 21, 2015.
  1. One breed of chicken

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Mixed flock

    1 vote(s)
    100.0%
  1. eggcitedagain

    eggcitedagain New Egg

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    Feb 8, 2015
    I'm starting a new flock and I'd like some advice. Years ago I "inherited" a mixed flock of older egg layers from someone who wanted to freshen up his flock but just couldn't kill the old girls. I had a few Buff Orphington, a Rock Cornish, an Easter Egger, a few I didn't recognize and a NASTY little bantam rooster. My husband got tired of the poor egg to feed ratio and convinced me to get rid of them a few winters ago when they stopped laying. They were pretty old.

    I'm starting over this spring. Here's my "wish list"

    1) I want a flock that is dual purpose. I have 4 teenagers to feed so I prefer standard sized birds with good sized eggs and good production.
    2) I also want my flock to be self-sustaining. I want broody hens so I can butcher off extra roosters and have new layers regularly.
    3) I live in Michigan so they need to be able to handle the winter weather.
    4) I don't like mean birds. I HATED that rooster!
    5) They can hopefully produce year-round without tons of coddling. I don't mind providing extra light but my husband isn't very patient about providing feed to something that isn't feeding us and heat lamps drive him crazy!

    and here are my questions:

    I was thinking about a flock of all Buffs but I did like having the different birds and a variety of eggs.
    Does having only 1 type of bird make a flock stronger or is a mixed flock a better idea? (I put a poll question below for this one.)
    If you have a mixed flock of 6 to 10 birds can it be self-sustaining with one rooster? two? which breed should it be?
    Does the genetics get weird after a few generations with a rooster mating with daughters and grand daughters?
    Are the hybrid chicks from a mixed flock stronger or weaker than the full bred parents?

    If I do decide on a mixed flock what birds live well together?

    Is there anything else I should consider when I decide what birds to get?

    I know these are rookie questions that have probably been answered elsewhere in this forum but I didn't see it. I'd appreciate any help you can pass along.
     
  2. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Lots of questions.

    I have a mixed flock. Most people unless they are breeding specific breeds have a mixed flock. Some advantages are the breeds have different laying characteristics. Some will start young and burn out at a young age while others don't lay as well but are still productive at 4 or older. Some are broody, Some lay through the darkest days of winter, some a just eye candy, some lay the color egg you need. Different breeds look different so they are easier to identify (who's eggs are who's, who's the poor layer) and even teenagers are going to want to name them. I think the biggest disadvantage of having a one breed flock is they're all on the same page so to speak. They will all start laying, molt and stop laying on a similar schedule. My mixed flock is 1,2 and 3 year olds, 2 1 year old roosters plus 2 year old guineas. I like adding at least 4-6 pullets every year. I have never had issues adding chicks into my flock but they have all the room in the world (free range at least 10 hours a day). As far as raising barnyard mutts, you start with more genetic diversity so you should have a stronger chickens. Not necessarily a problem if you start with hatchery stock because they have 100's even 1000's in their breeding pools. A small breeder doesn't have as much diversity. Better quality? Usually yes but unless they are adding new roosters on a regular basis they are going to start seeing problems. No problem using the same rooster for a few generations but I would be replacing him every 2 years. Roosters are a dime a dozen so they are easy to swap out. Having young cockerels schooled by older hens can also help them not get too big for their britches. For 6-10 hens, you only need 1 rooster. Any more than 1 is just an unproductive mouth to feed. I would pay less attention to the breed of the rooster and just focus on his personality. Older rooster are usually easier on the hens and better at their jobs. Hopefully, if he was a nasty cockerel, he already met his fate.

    Even in MI, you do not ever need to heat your coop. I'm with your husband on this one. It is a big waste of $$. You might want to add light but not heat. Light is what stimulates egg laying. I've been -19 this year with no issues. I would probably stick with non single comb birds (especially the rooster) to lessen the risk of frostbite but that still leaves you with a ton of birds to choose from. I would put Chanteclers on the list if you can find them. EEs are a given (who doesn't want green eggs?) Cochins have been great mothers for me raising both chicks and keets. Not the best layers but she can raise chicks back to back in the summer. (and her looks don't hurt)[​IMG]

    Where are you planning on buying your chicks from?
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
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  3. Michael OShay

    Michael OShay Chicken Obsessed

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    Answers to your questions:

    1. I was thinking about a flock of all Buffs but I did like having the different birds and a variety of eggs.

    Buff Orpingtons are a wonderful breed and a great addition to any flock, but there are other breeds that are just as cold hardy , will lay just as well (or even better), are just as calm and gentle, and will mix well with your BOs, so there is no reason not to have other breeds in your flock (4 of my 25 hens are BOs).

    2. Does having only 1 type of bird make a flock stronger or is a mixed flock a better idea? (I put a poll question below for this one.)

    Having only 1 type of bird does not make a flock stronger. Sometimes having multiple breeds can insure hybrid vigor in the flock.

    3. If you have a mixed flock of 6 to 10 birds can it be self-sustaining with one rooster? two? which breed should it be?

    The recommended ratio of roosters to hens is 1 rooster for every 10 hens as too many roosters will become very hard physically on the hens as they mature; over-breeding them, biting and plucking the feathers from their necks and backs, battering them, and potentially, seriously injuring them. The only reason you need a rooster is to fertilize eggs for hatching, and 1 rooster can easily handle 10 hens in this regard.

    3. Does the genetics get weird after a few generations with a rooster mating with daughters and grand daughters?

    Chickens can typically interbreed safely for 4-5 generations, but I would recommend infusing new blood into the flock every 2-3 generations.

    4. Are the hybrid chicks from a mixed flock stronger or weaker than the full bred parents?

    It depends on the specific hybrids. Black Sex Links (red gene rooster X barred gene hen) and Red Sex Links (red gene rooster X silver gene hen) are very hardy for a few years, and will outlay either parent breed, but typically have a shorter laying life and a shorter life span than the parent breeds. Hybrids such as Cornish cross grow much faster than either parent breed (they are ready for butchering in 8 weeks) but as they mature begin having all kinds of health problems due to their abnormal growth rate. On the other hand, there are other popular hybrids such as Austra Whites and California Whites that are loaded with vigor.

    5. If I do decide on a mixed flock what birds live well together?

    I would suggest going with breeds that have a well deserved reputation for being calm and gentle (potential lap pets) such as Australorps, Orpingtons, Brahmas, Sussex, and Faverolles. All of these breeds will get along fine with each other as long as they are about the same age and size, and are not overcrowded, and they are all good layers (Australorps are exceptional) of brown eggs.

    6. Is there anything else I should consider when I decide what birds to get?

    I think that pretty much covers it, but if you think of any other questions, feel free to ask. Good luck in getting your flock.
     
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  4. eggcitedagain

    eggcitedagain New Egg

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    Feb 8, 2015
    To Percheron Chick:

    Thanks for the great info and advice. I never considered the fact that they’d all be PMSing at the same time. It seems obvious but it didn’t occur to me. I did like having lots of different eggs and you’re right my teenagers did name them. It didn’t bother them when it came time to butcher thankfully. None of those even ended up in the stew pot. Rubber chicken is NOT my favorite meal.
    I did free range the first flock but I may not be able to with this one. We own 23 acres but our nearest neighbor is fairly close. We also have a lot of coyotes around. Plus my husband doesn’t like chicken poop everywhere. He felt like a slave to his parent’s hobby farm as a kid and he hasn’t gotten over it yet
    .
    I shouldn’t have trouble getting a rooster every few years. We have a lot of people who keep chickens in our area. I’ll definitely KILL OFF any mean rooster right away this time! I got really tired of having to fight him to get to my eggs!! It was ridiculous! He was a banty, half the size of the girls but what a tiger! I couldn’t imagine how he got the job done. I never had enough eggs to let them hatch so I don’t know if he was or not and YES, he has definitely gone to a better place!

    I think a light is a better option too. I just raised 40 cornish cross meaties and had to use a heat lamp because they weren’t feathered out until mid October. I saved money on the chicks but not after you figure in the cost of electricity. Oh well, live and learn. I know birds need 14+ hours of light a day but can it just be left on all the time?

    I’m not sure where I’ll get them. Hubby says he’ll buy me some layers from a local farmer. I’m not sure who he’s thinking. Even if he does I want to get a batch of chick started too. I was warned not to buy chicks from a Farm and Feed store because of the poor quality. I thought about McMurry and Cackle Hatcheries but they seem a bit pricey. I’m open for suggestions.

    BTW why do you have the guineas? My father-in-law always kept them because they made such a racket whenever anything came near his birds. He always thought they were the best early warning system you could have for coyotes and owls. Is that your reason too?
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
  5. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have guineas because there was a box of keets that had been mislabeled and abandoned at the post office close to work. A friend of the breeder had put out an APB on this board trying to find someone to rescue them. I had been interested in them and since they were dropped in my lap, it seemed like the right thing to do. They do make a racket and it usually gets the dog up to go investigate. They can also be quite comical. We don't have tick issues and after the first summer, they pretty much wiped out the grasshopper population letting me have a productive garden again. The hens have been decent layers and mothers.

    A lot of the chicks that end up at the local feed store all start out at the same mega hatcheries. Some are good, some are better. How long they were in transit, how they are handled at the store and the knowledge of the staff selling them probably has more to do with your success than anything. If the chicks don't look right, are sleepy and quiet pass on them. Stop and watch them for a few minutes. Your gut will tell you. (don't EVER think you need to buy one to save it....) You might also find a great source of birds on CL or FB, I'd keep my guard up when people want to sell you hens. You've already been down that road with older mostly spent hens.

    Hens do not need 24 hours of light nor is it good for them. Even the mega egg farms have lights out. When you don't let them have a normal light/dark period, you hens will never return to the coop at night, their laying will be disrupted (they need sleep just like the next guy), they'll probably get rather cranky plus the waste of electricity. When you do give them extra light, put it in the AM. Let them return to the coop at dusk and put themselves to bed.
     
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  6. eggcitedagain

    eggcitedagain New Egg

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  7. Michael OShay

    Michael OShay Chicken Obsessed

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    You are correct; a hybrid means you purposefully breed two specific types of chickens together to achieve specific qualities or characteristics in the offspring. One of the drawbacks to hybrid chickens is that they do not breed true. That means that you will either have to replenish your hybrid stock by raising some of the parent breeds and breeding them yourself, or else purchasing them from a hatchery that breeds them. If you want offspring that inherit the characteristics of the parents, you will need to go with standard breeds.
     
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