Sustainable Flock?


10 Years
Jun 22, 2009
Outside Ottawa
Is it possible to create a sustainable meat/dual-purpose flock using the hens to incubate/raise the chicks?

I'm new to chickens, and I'm just starting out into researching. So far, from my understanding, you have to keep broody hens isolated with their chicks. We're about to move to a small farm so we've got the space to do that (I think).

We'd like to raise 100-150 birds for the freezer/sale.
I understand it takes 21 days for eggs to hatch out (?) how long until that hen can start laying again?
One hen can incubate/raise 10-15 chickies?

I think we're going to look into Brahmas, we live in a cold-weather area & have young kids, so those look to be the best option for dual-purpose.

Is it worth the extra labour/resources to create a sustainable flock?


10 Years
Dec 6, 2009
On a small scale, yes. On a large scale, no.

Im working on a breeding a good SS bunch of chickens. From here on out most chickens will be incubated and raised by a broody. I dont plan to isolate except during incubation. So other hens wont lay in with her eggs. I have a broody BO (she is on loan) raising me 8 little BO chicks in my other coop. They get their first air outside here in a week or two. All of my poultry forage from early on (it helps them later). They get most of their food from range.

Breed is also something to consider. I have Australorps, Dominiques, Buff Orpingtons all hens over a RIR/BO roo. I have culled over temperment (Dom roo had to go, he was mean) and egg laying/size (that hen wasnt laying and was teeny tiny). I got tons of eggs from these girls over the winter.

I picked the breeds based on this:

Buff Orpington- Large Size, Broody, Winter Egg Laying, Cold Hardy
Black Australorps- Large Size, Broody, Excellent Egg Laying, Cold Hardy
Dominiques- Cold Hardy, Broody, Egg Laying

Eventually I will have a flock that is really sustainable. The chicks will forage from day one.
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collects slightly damaged strays
12 Years
Oct 22, 2008
Glen, Mississippi. 40+ chicken years
Just adding my 2 cents...

We've never isolated our broodies. They hatch out the chicks in one of the nest boxes in the coop with all the other chickens. I understand everybody else builds a broody coop, but I never have and might add I've never had any problems just letting them do their thing.
We do incubate most of our eggs because I want them to keep laying. But if I don't need the eggs, I just leave them alone and let a broody raise a hatch. Love watching them following Momma around the farm.


11 Years
Mar 15, 2010
On the MN prairie.
I tried several times to leave a broody in with the flock. It never worked for me. I'd just leave the broody in a nest, and all the other hens would decide that that's where they HAD to lay their eggs. Eventually all the broody's eggs would end up broken, and consequently, eaten. This year I separated the broody and her eggs and it worked out great. Well, kind of. Her eggs never hatched (didn't even develop), but they were all still intact when I took them out of the nest and replaced them with 8 chicks from the feed store! I waited until they were about a month old before integrating them with the rest of the flock. Not sure how I'm going to do it this year. I have also decided to grow a dual-purpose flock. I have 2 productions reds, some EEs, two SLWs, a BO, and a cochin banty for hens (the bantam is strictly for brooding purposes) and a Brahma rooster. I hadn't thought about doing this until I got the rooster. He's about the size of a small turkey!


9 Years
Nov 13, 2010
My problem with having the chicks in the same pen with the others, is that they need a smaller waterer for a while, and shouldn't eat laying pellets. So they needed their own eating gear, and I had to protect it from the other adult birds. This round I'm using a broody pen. But in a year or so, if the dog grows up to be reliable, I'll let everybody out to forage much more...


12 Years
May 8, 2007
It's pretty easy to raise your own replacement layers and butcher the extras. You might want to look at the financial difference of raising dual purpose vs. meat chickens, if you're planning on raising a lot. Most people raise meat chickens because it costs less and they're ready sooner. If you're just going to raise a few extra, it's not a big deal. If you're going to be selling them, it makes more of a difference. You might want to check out the forum section for meat birds.

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
western South Dakota
I would suggest starting out small, getting things figured out and then expanding. Feed yourself first, then enough to sell.

I leave my broody with the flock, and she did fine. I have small single hen nests. I have never had two hens in the same nest, so another hen did not add to my broody's clutch.

When my broodies eggs hatched it was mid summer, and they were all free ranging, broody and chicks most of the time. I let them free range day 2. You might lose one of two, but they were eating bugs and grasshoppers from the get go, high energy, lots of sun and exercise, and fresh air, great growing conditions, and no reintroduction issues. My mamma hen was tough enough to keep her chicks safe from the others, but there was LOTS of space.

I love my dual purpose birds, but while they have more meat on them than just egg layers, they are not as meaty as the meat birds. If you are selling processed birds, you probably want meat birds. From what I have read here, you should NOT raise dual and meat birds together.

If you have the space, you could have two flocks, one of the meaties, and another dual purpose flock, the dual purpose flock broody hens could be used to hatch out the meaties eggs. But then I think would have to be seperated shortly.



Crossing the Road
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
Holts Summit, Missouri
We used to have a flock of about 35 game hens that would start with similar size clutches (10-14 eggs) that would raise chicks through independence (8 to 12 weeks post hatch). Average number of surviving chicks to harvest (14 to 18 weeks) was about six per brood. Some hens would double clutch, rarely triple clutch (broods per season). Not all hens attempted to breed or would not re-nest if first brood failed. Our first clutches usually occured in late March to early April, just priot to natural insect forages taking off. Earlier broods had to be babied with quality feed. Second pulse / cohort of broods occured in July. Problem a large number of hens causes it that hens with chicks have to forage a long distance from protection of buildings. For us predators not real problem but such free large range increased odds broods caught in heavy rains. Natural forages will become limiting causing declines in growth and survival. Later broods typically smaller.

Care must taken to enable adequate places for broody hens to take chicks at night. Losses to be expected if too many hens with broods in close proximity at night. Conflicts result in chicks getting lost or injured.

Barry Natchitoches

11 Years
Sep 4, 2008
It is my understanding that, unless you have a HUGE amount of land for your birds to forage, that they will need supplemental feed of some kind.

Certainly in the winter months that will be so.

Have you considered what you will do to supplement their natural forage, when the need is there?

Obviously, some people purchase chick starter feed for their babies, layer feed for their layers, and "meatie" feed for their meat birds. (I don't grow meaties, so I'm not sure what the name is for meatie's feed).

Other people grow -- or purchase -- garden vegetables or grains for their chickens. The main reason that most small gardener/farmers don't grow grains such as wheat is because it is too difficult to harvest the grains. Not because it is difficult to grow these grains.

So alot of folks grow wheat and -- rather than trying to thresh the grains themselves -- give the entire plant (grains and all) to the chickens and let THEM free the grains from the plant.

There are even a few folks who -- in the middle of winter -- deliberately grow maggots to feed their chickens. It is a wonderful source of protein for the birds, once their owners get over their initial skeemishness over the matter.

Anyway, I was just wondering if you have thought out your plan to that detail yet, and if so, then what are your ideas for forage supplementation.


In the Brooder
9 Years
Apr 22, 2010
Just sharing my experiences (only a years worth) on the subject. I've tried to hatch out under a broody Buff Orbington three times and here's the results;
1st time, brooding in the general population, out of 8 eggs, two roosters hatched and survived and made a yummy roast.
2nd time, brooding in the general polulation, out of 10 eggs. one hatched and zero survived past the second day.
3rd time, brooding in semi isolation (will explain later), out of 12 eggs, 9 hatched and 7 survived to now 2.5 weeks and are out and about free-ranging with their proud momma.

Ok what's semi isolation? What I did is in my coop i placed an extra large dog kennel (wrapped in chicken wire to keep the chicks in) equipped with a nesting box and food / water. Insert broody hen, eggs, close door and wait 21 days. A week and and half after hatch open the door for a few hours to see how everyone gets along. So far no problems and everyone getting along fine. Chicks, hens, and rooster just one big happy flock.

Word of confession, the poor hatch rate is also due to one rooster to 30 hens, poor guy can only due so much......

Still working and the best dual purpose breed(s) to balance broodiness, egg production, and a plump roast for a small self sustaining homestead

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