Starting over or not?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by I have WHAT in my yard?, Oct 23, 2011.

  1. I have WHAT in my yard?

    I have WHAT in my yard? Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 24, 2008
    Eggberg, PA
    I am not happy with my flock right now. I have egg eaters and feather pickers.

    I can't figure out who the egg eaters are and am separating a few at a time to try to weed them out. I lost a hen last week to an infected sore that she got from the other hens picking at her. BY time I realized how bad she was she had maggots in her. DH culled her. [​IMG]

    I have a few special hens and I really like my roo, but I think he's shooting blanks these days as no hatches bore live young this spring. One hatch had no chicks in it at all.

    So I was raising another young roo in the flock hoping I could have him do husbandry duties, and still keep the other for guard duty which he still seems good at.

    Can I cull half of the flock? Or should I start over?? The ladies I like are all pretty old and may not be productive any more. I used to have a happy healthy productive flock but they just don't seem so any more....
  2. so lucky

    so lucky Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 31, 2011
    SE Missouri
    I haven't had to do this yet, so I'm just giving my opinion, but I believe I would cull half the flock, wait a while to see if the feather picking stops, and go from there. You might be culling your egg eaters accidentally, as a bonus. You didn't say how many birds you have, but it sounds like they are not bringing you much pleasure, and lots of aggravation at this point. You could bring in some new blood in the spring.
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    You don't really state ages, but then, my guidance is not so dependent on knowing all the details anyhow.

    We are always "freshening the flock". We always have new pullets coming on line. We brood in either spring or fall and once in awhile, both.
    I like young birds and l enjoy the raising process. We have egg customers, so always having a healthy portion of the wintering over flock being new layers means we aren't going to get "skunked" in the winter. If older birds go into moult, the POL pullets keep things going.

    Sure, I have favorites, but I find favorites in each new batch too. We take older hens out of the flock once, sometimes twice, a year. These may be used in our breeding program or they'll be used for food for families that have a need. I feel good about either of those destinations. Our approach is, overall, much more a livestock one, admittedly, but every bird is cared for with great affection, even those destined for someone's freezer, slow cooker or pressure cooker.
  4. Erica

    Erica Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 5, 2010
    You know, I would be tempted to keep this flock without any additions until the time comes to make a new start. Feather picking and egg eating are two vices that can be extremely hard to get rid of, and egg eating is highly contagious. So for me, it would be a case of waiting until production is too low, then making a decision about the whole group.

    That may not be your style, so don't mind me. I just know if the past I've often regretted trying to reform a flock with an egg eater in it, as usually they're all doing it (not always on the same day). I once filled the eggs with paint, and every single bird had a paint-bib. [​IMG]

    On the other hand you could roll-nest them or aim for a total cure by retraining them (no nests or nestboxes, just open floor; the hens lay but can't get a purchase on the eggs). If you did this for a few months before making a decision you'd have some idea whether it's safe to put new pullets in. Hardening shells if they're weak is also helpful.

    Good luck,
  5. I have WHAT in my yard?

    I have WHAT in my yard? Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 24, 2008
    Eggberg, PA
    We added shells and more dairy to help with the shell issue but with little luck. I still have one girl - who knows which - who is laying very thin shelled eggs. I think some one steps on them and once it is broken the feasting begins. I am going to try that paint egg though, how did you do it??
  6. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    I was exceptionally unhappy with my flock since I got a new group in last spring. The sorriest lot of birds you ever saw- aggressive, egg eaters, feather pickers, some mild deformities that made them unsuitable to my plans... just a big mess. I tried to work with the flock to improve the situation and got nowhere. By spring this year I was done. Between the flock problems and predation issues I nearly threw in the towel.

    Over the summer I had to paint the entire exterior of my house, so I spent every day up on a ladder with my flock free-ranging around the base of it. I got to watch the flock carefully without them really being aware that they were being observed. What an education! I was able to pin point exactly who was doing what. I started noting who was spending too much time in the coop, and found my egg eaters. Culled them. That one hurt a bit because it included 2 of my favorite birds. I watched the interactions and discovered the feather pickers. The pickers were working in groups, and would literally pin a bird to the ground and start mowing the victim's back. Culled them. That one felt good because the feather picking has been making me crazy. By the end of this summer my flock of 19 chickens had been weeded down to 8. It may turn into 7 if I continue to see the one lone feather picker keep up her nasty ways. It was a tough decision, but I didn't want to have to start over. I knew my child would have been devastated if I decided to cull her favorite bird, so I made the extra effort to establish exactly who was doing what. Once a bird was caught red-handed on more than one occasion it was marked. Once I had a handful of marked birds, they were separated and processed.

    The birds that are left are all decent birds that can live together in relative harmony. The flock is starting to feather in nicely since they are no longer being plucked daily. The noise level has gone down significantly. I hadn't realized that the cacophony constantly coming from the coop was related to the flock problems. I just figured I had loud birds. Since all the culls the noise has gone down considerably, but the ones who used to be constantly screaming are still with us and have quieted right down. I think I may have solved all the flock problems without having to start from scratch.

    If you have the time to do that kind of intense observation, then you may be able to salvage some of your flock. If you can't do that or are just beyond the point where you even want to salvage any of the birds, then cull the lot and start over. If it's any help, I know exactly how you are feeling right now. I was there not too long ago.

    Good luck.
  7. 92Pony

    92Pony Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 1, 2010
    South Carolina
    To the OP; I'm right there with you. My flock is almost 2yrs old and rife with non-layers(2), butt-peckers(2), and one absolutely satanic hen. I'm considering a full do-over myself in the spring - you're not alone.

    For me, my non-layers are my daughter's favorites, an the butt-peckers and evil one are my best layers...sigh. LOL!

  8. saladin

    saladin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 30, 2009
    the South
    Really not enough information as fred's hens stated.

    Standard bred layers should lay well into their 4th, 5th or even 6th year.
    A cock should be fertile until he is 9 or 10 years old.

    There is an easy way to stop the egg eating: VERY EASY TO CURE.

    The pecking: either not enough space, something is lacking in the feed or are you really use to chickens yet (possible?).

    You can do whichever you desire. If you want to stop the egg eating let me know and I'll tell you how it is done (if you decide to keep them).
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2011
  9. Poultrybonkers

    Poultrybonkers Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 22, 2011
    I had an egg eater I separated two at a time and since that they stopped I gave them cat food to for protien that helped too.
  10. Hot2Pot

    Hot2Pot Fox Hollow Rabbitry

    Feb 1, 2010
    West TN
    Yes, feathers and eggs are both protein, maybe their diet is lacking. Feather plucking is also related to overcrowding or boredom.

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