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What is the most practical way to keep laying hens for eggs but also end up with some baby chick to?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Blueeyez, Nov 19, 2016.

  1. Blueeyez

    Blueeyez Just Hatched

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    So, we have decided to start a backyard chicken flock. I am not totally new to chickens, as a child my parents raised them from eggs and then slaughtered them when they got big enough. So I am fairly familiar with raising them from eggs and caring for them in general, but I have never had egg laying chickens. Now as an adult, my boyfriend and I live in the country on a couple Acres and have decided we would like to start a back yard chicken flock! For eggs, not slaughter! Lol anyways, we would like to keep only one breed of chicken so that we can let them breed and end up with more pure breed birds. We are considering either Plymouth rocks, cochin or australorp. We would like to breed the birds until we end up with a pretty large flock. I guess the thing I'm still uncertain about, is the best way to allow them to breed but also keep a few hens separate from the rooster because we don't want to eat fertile eggs..... So, I understand from what I have read, that not all chickens will go broody and the ones who don't typically don't make good mothers anyways? Soooo, should I just get say 6 hens and 1 rooster and put 3 of the hens with the rooster and 3 alone and depending on how everyone does maybe trade them out to be in the group that's more we'll suited for them? Or how do I do this? Do I just let all the chickens go together and get over my fear of eating fertile eggs and just incubate the extras we don't eat to end up with more chickens? Lol I feel like an idiot asking this.... But really, what is the most practical way to go about this? To give an idea of what kinda setup I'm working with, we have our coop built, it's basically a chicken duplex lol two side, exactly opposite of each other and each with there own door. We haven't put up any kind of fencing yet because we need to figure out the best way to do what we are trying to do first lol but, our who property is about 3 Acres and is completely fenced with 6ft chicken proof fence so we want to let them run the whole area when we're home, but we were thinking of putting some type of pen on each side of the chicken coops so that we can keep chickens separated if that's the way to go! Please let us know your ideas on the most practical way to make this work well! Thanks
     
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    The easiest way would be to just let them all be together and incubate eggs if you want to go that way. Why are you afraid to eat fertile eggs? You will not end up with a baby chick in the frying pan or cookie dough if you collect and refrigerate your eggs daily. Chickens are not like people where cell division and growth start immediately when sperm meets egg. Chickens don't start developing until they've been incubated for over 24 hours under the proper conditions. If you are that uncomfortable eating fertile eggs, you will want to divide your flock, keeping some separate from the rooster, and don't let them mix. If I remember correctly, a hen's eggs can be fertile for up to two weeks after mating.

    How big is your coop(s) in feet by feet? If you bought one of those little doll house coops "big enough for 8 chickens", you may want to rethink your housing. They are usually big enough for half that many birds. Also, where do you plan to keep the ones you hatch out? What are you going to do with the extra cockerels you will inevitably end up with? What about the hens when their production drops after 2 or 3 years? Do you have enough space to build a bachelor pen? Or let the older ones just live out their lives while still having young stock for laying purposes?
     
  3. Blueeyez

    Blueeyez Just Hatched

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    As far as size goes, they are definitely MUCH larger than anything store bought. We built it, the whole building is about 10' by 25ft, divided into two halves with one size larger than the other. So, I guess one coop is about 10x15 and the other side about 10x10. The original thought behind the two sides was that big one would be for "the main flock" and then the smaller size for raising the young chickens from hatching to the point of big enough to join the rest of the flock. After the hens are old enough to stop producing, we plan on just letting them live out there life as part of the flock since we have plenty of space... But, that's one of the reasons we want to breed them, to keep younger chickens coming as others age! As far as cockerels, we were thinking of just selling them on Craigslist?
     
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Depending on your area, and what you're hoping to get out of them, that may or may not work. Around here you can hardly give them away. We eat ours. I know, it's not for everyone, but it doesn't make sense to me to put in the time, effort and money to raise them up only to give them to someone else who will likely end up eating them anyway. Maybe check your local ads to see if people are advertising and what kind of prices they're getting. (Which may be a whole different thing than what they are asking for them.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2016
  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    Your best bet is going to be purchasing more layer chicks each spring and not breeding. Chicks are inexpensive enough from feed stores. Everything to do with cockerels and cock birds your not into except hatching. Not wanting to butcher extra cockerels or eat fertile eggs means it's not really for you. Day old chicks are fun and you can always receive only layers so never worry about males just by purchasing sex links at your feed store or though local hatchery. Black or red sex links are superb layers and sexed by color at hatch so you'll never mistakenly purchase a male.

    The thought of eating fertile eggs puts some people off but in reality there is no difference. They don't incubate on their own, that takes an incubator or broody hen.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Blueeyez

    Blueeyez Just Hatched

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    So, I guess what it really comes down to... Is that I need to decide if I would rather get over eating fertile eggs or just let it go about raising them and just get all hens and keep them for eggs adding a few new young hens yearly? Lol I'm not opposed to eating the cockerels, or letting someone else eat them, I just can't personally slaughter and eat a chicken I have raised from chicken.... Butttttttt maybe I should just go with hens. Looks like I have some thinking to do.... But in the mean time, I would still like to hear ideas of keeping two separate flocks incase we do decide to go that route! Thanks
     
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Honestly, it might not be a bad idea to start out with an all hen flock. Get used to how chicken society works (it's not all warm and fuzzy, believe me), get used to having them around. Getting a few pullets every spring or every other spring to replenish your layers would pretty much guarantee you not ending up with a bunch of cockerels you can't get rid of. Sometimes one gets misidentified, but hatching them out, you have a potential 50% of cockerels.
     
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Welcome to BYC. Having a flock of chickens can be very rewarding, both for the fresh food, and for the entertainment, and the benefit they provide to your property. Both BJ and EH have made some valid points.

    If I was to crack open 2 eggs from my flock, and place them in front of you, you would not be able to tell which of those 2 eggs was fertile... unless you've studied the issue, and know exactly what to look for. The point is: there is absolutely no difference between the 2 eggs except for the tiny little speck of germinal disc on the yolk. Bet you never even noticed it was there! In a fertile egg, it looks just a tiny bit different.

    As for having a rooster: are you and your neighbors prepared for frequent, sometimes non stop crowing jags that start at 4 AM during the long summer days??? If you follow through with your 2 flock plan (one for fertile eggs, and one for non-fertile eggs) you'll need at least 10 hens to keep your roo from over breeding them, plus how ever many hens you keep for your eating eggs. And if you have 10 hens laying fertile eggs, exactly how many of those will you hatch, and what will you do with the rest? Then, what to do with the cockrels? So, in the end, for practicality sake, it boils down to (IMO) Buying chicks on a regular basis. You will have better luck selling the older birds that are less than 2 years old, so you could buy chicks every year or so. Or get used to the idea of eating cockrels, and get used to the 4 AM crowing jags, and get used to the ensuing cockrel drama.

    Future research: Fermented feed. Outdoor heating pad brooding. Henderson's chicken breeds list.
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Everyone has made some excellent points. I hope you examine your fear of eating fertilized eggs and try to pinpoint what it is exactly that's so off-putting. There is absolutely zero quality difference between the two. If you've been put off by tales of people cracking an egg into a hot skillet and having a partially developed chick fall into the pan, that's all they are - folk tales. It. Does. Not. Happen.

    It's been pointed out that it really is easier and more efficient to buy day-old chicks as opposed to hatching them yourself, if only for the reason you are going to get 50% boys when you hatch them yourself. That's a lot of waste if you don't plan to butcher them. There are many breeds that are "auto-sexed" at hatching, meaning the two sexes look enough different they are easily sexed so you know you will be getting all pullets. If a mistake does happen, it's nowhere near the percentage you can expect hatching them yourself. Also, breeding your own chickens, done right, requires a lot of time and care and knowledge to avoid genetic issues.

    You've come to the right place to get informed. There's a wealth of knowledge here on this huge web site. Check out all of the forums. There are ongoing discussions about breeding and hatching and how to manage a flock, etc. It's better than a college course because you get the benefit of so much experience and knowledge here.

    Please stick around and join the community!
     
  10. AllynTal

    AllynTal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Okay, I'm going to be the bad guy here and give you my straight up advice.
    1. Get over your fear of fertilized eggs. Fertilized eggs look and taste just like unfertilized eggs. If the eggs don't get incubated, nothing is growing inside them.
    2. Hens don't go broody on your schedule. Your plan to put a rooster with some hens and let them hatch chickens sounds all well and good, but there'll be a LOT more eggs that are left than are incubated by a broody hen. In reality, it's just not feasible. If you seriously want to hatch eggs and have a sustainable flock, get an incubator and incubate eggs on your schedule (after first having conquered item No. 1). If a hen goes broody, great! Nature can take that hatch, but otherwise, you'll be stockpiling fertilized eggs waiting for a hen to 'get with the program.' The eggs are viable for only so long. That'll be a lot of wasted eggs if you don't eat them.
    3. Hatching eggs, you're going to end up with a lot of cockerels. If you don't have a plan to deal with them that's within your control (putting them on Craigslist and hoping someone takes them is NOT in your control) then you aren't ready to have a sustainable flock. I'm sorry if that sounds mean, but it's the truth. People want the happy/fluffy part of raising chickens, but aren't ready for the reality of what flock management means. It means being responsible and dealing with the extra boys, the injured or defective birds, and the ones that are sick/injured beyond the expectation of being well again. It's something you deal with, not hope someone else will do it for you.
    4.Killing and eating birds you raised can be unsettling at first, but honestly, it's what you do if you have a sustainable flock. Having a sustainable flock means you don't coddle the weak and the birds with undesirable traits/features/characteristics so your flock is strong. Nurturing a weak flock creates all sort of problems, not only with under-performing adults, but with rampant health issues so you have to be prepared to do what you need to do to have a strong flock.


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    Last edited: Nov 19, 2016
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