Too many chickens - what to do?

JayJo

Songster
Jun 19, 2015
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Bay Area, California
My Coop
My Coop
Hoping to get some help from the collective wisdom of this group. I've mismanaged the growth of my flock and am not sure what to do next.

I currently have 5 full grown hens and 7 chicks. My coop is big enough for 8.

One of my hens is a broody Easter Egger who hatched four of the babies about 7 weeks ago. They haven't stopped sleeping in the nesting box yet, even though they are almost as big as she is, and, judging by the amount and location of the poop in the nesting boxes, they are sleeping in different nesting boxes now.

I bought the other three chicks a week ago. They're about 5 weeks old now.

They're all integrated fairly well. There's an established pecking order that they all seem fairly comfortable with.

That said, there are too many chickens out there. They free range all day in a bigger enclosed run, but still, they all have to sleep in the coop. So I think that one of the reasons that the babies are still sleeping in the nesting box is that it's too crowded on the perches in the coop. (There's still a lot of room left, but the older ladies push the others off so there's only two sleeping on a perch big enough for 4 or 5.)

This year I am planning to cull 2 or 3 of the older ladies (not the broody), and the two chicks who turned out to be cockerels. The question is, when? Right now, I'm getting average 2 eggs a day from all the older ladies combined. If I cull now, then I'll be getting only 1 egg a day until January, and I won't get much meat from the cockerels. If I wait, then the flock stress will just increase as the chicks grow, and the babies will get overly used to sleeping in the nesting box. As it is now, I'm having to wash the poop off all the eggs I get.

I think one of my problems is that this is the first time I'm culling the chicks myself and I'm overly emotional about it, so I'm not seeing this clearly.

When would you cull, if it were you? What other advice do you have?
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Great Horny Toads
BYC Staff
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Jul 16, 2015
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I might just build a bigger coop or another temporary one for a grow out for the cockerals. If you need to cull than if you wait a bit here your hens will quit laying to molt and you could do it than. You could add another roost for the younger ones to use.

It will take a few months before you will really need to address the problem, chicks fit in, but once they get from 4-5 months than you will have troubles if it's crowded. Good luck, I'm not good at culling either, but sometimes it has to be done.
 

marktoo

Songster
6 Years
Mar 27, 2013
610
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California's central valley
Just culled my fist bird, an Australorp cockerel at 13 weeks cause he started to crow. Kill went easier than I expected, processing not so much. He was tasty but none too tender, even after being in the frig for 48 hrs. He fed and the wife & I!

Build a grow out pen.
 
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lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
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There has to be an exit plan in place to match the entrance plan. If you're going to allow chickens to breed, there has to be a plan in place for the cockrels. You also need to be able to deal with illness in a humane fashion. IMO, it's better to cull a sick bird than watch it linger in a slow decline of health. Then, there's the "temporary" influx of birds related to spring hatch and growing out cockrels. I hatch every year. Chicks are brooded in my older but perfectly functional hoop coop. Pullets graduate to the big coop, while cockrels stay behind in the grow out pen. Cockrels get processed. Older hens are often sold. This season alone, I've sold 11 of my older hens, and have a friend who plans to buy 3 more. 8 pullets in big coop, 10 cockrels to process. Had a hen go broody last night, so will allow her to set, and see what comes of it. Hope to keep a couple of the pullets, and maybe one nice cockrel from this anticipated hatch.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
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I am just so glad you are not saying, "I want to keep everything, and why can't they be nice?"

You can cheat on your numbers in the summer, and with chicks. If you hatch, most of us have been here. Chicks are little in the beginning, and don't take much room, and the long days of summer, most of the 24 hours is spent outside. BUT the short days, and long nights of winter are coming, and with that, your flock needs to fit into your set up.

A grow out pen for the rooster chicks is a great idea, if possible, but sometimes it is not. Roosters around 10 weeks old +/-, often times cause a lot of problems in a flock. Before that is when they need to go there. If you have a second coop/run set up, you can keep your pullets in one group, and the rooster/older hens in another for a while. But I had chickens for 8 years, before I got a grow out pen.

You don't say how old your hens are, but by November, they are going to stop laying eggs if they are over 18 months old. The day light will be too short, unless you add light. At that time your roosters should be close to 16 weeks. So you could do them all at that time.

You do not have to cull everything on the same day, or even the same week. If you go with this plan, I would cull my hens in early October, or when you start to feel the tension rising in the flock from being over crowded. This will give you some more room, and let the rooster chicks grow a bit more and do them in November.

Or you could put your rooster chicks on craigslist, and let someone else keep them until they were bigger, and that keeps you from having to harvest your own chicks.

The thing is, you are over the worst step, you do know you have to do something.

Mrs K
 
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JayJo

Songster
Jun 19, 2015
123
30
116
Bay Area, California
My Coop
My Coop
Thanks for your input, everyone.

A grow out pen is a great idea but unfortunately it isn't really an option. I live on a tiny urban lot and a grow out pen would have to be stored in their run, and they need all the run size they can get. Plus I think my husband would kick me out if I so much as mentioned another coop, even a simple one.

Adding a third roost to the existing pen might work. I need to think about where I'd put it.

After reading your posts I'm thinking they're probably okay for now and the stress I'm seeing is more from adding the new chicks to the flock recently than it is them being overcrowded. I'll keep an eye on them but I'm less worried for now. The longer I can let them go, the better. I'd love to wait until the older ladies molt if possible. That was my goal all along but I was thinking I might have to do it sooner. Maybe not.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
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Nov 27, 2012
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Kudos on your awareness of the situation....it's refreshing to many of us here.

It's always hard to time the annual culling, especially using a broody rather than incubation.
I hatch in late winter, goal being that pullets start laying around august before older girls stop laying for molt.
Of course, that doesn't always work out either..haha!

Not sure what to suggest for managing this in future years...except another coop/run for cockerel grow out.

For now, you might be able to cover the nests in late afternoon to force them to roost elsewhere,
then remove covers when you lock up coop after dark or at dawn in the mornings.
That's what I do, rigged up a hinged cover for easy operation.

With your setup you could rig something to be operated from the egg access door.
If you're handy you could make a hinged door inside those nests, that would store up on the slanted roof of nest.
Above your nests might be a good place to do a poop board/roost set up too..for an extra and separate roost area.
 

JayJo

Songster
Jun 19, 2015
123
30
116
Bay Area, California
My Coop
My Coop
You could add another roost for the younger ones to use.

For now, you might be able to cover the nests in late afternoon to force them to roost elsewhere,
then remove covers when you lock up coop after dark or at dawn in the mornings.
That's what I do, rigged up a hinged cover for easy operation.

Looping back to thank you for your suggestions. I figured out where I could add another roost, built it (not my most beautiful construction project ever, but functional for now) and then set the chicks on it a couple of nights while covering the nests with a few boards. The chicks stayed on their new roost, and their mama even started sleeping on it with them. Tonight I left the boards off and everyone was on their respective roost, no one in the nesting boxes. Phew! I would never have thought of another roost, so thanks very much for the idea and the advice on how to get them to use it. Thanks to everyone else for your input too - you made me think about how to do this better in the future.
 

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