Who to keep and who to eat?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ShariChickabee, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. ShariChickabee

    ShariChickabee New Egg

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    Aug 12, 2010
    Well, first let me say hello everyone. I am new to chickens this spring but have been reading, reading, reading all of this mass of information and wonderful advice but I haven’t quite found the answer to my questions.

    The majority of my hens are almost 19 weeks of age (6 Barred Rocks) with the exception of a couple week older Rhode Island white and a little younger Delaware. I think my Rhode Island white has started laying eggs, (Yey!!!) mostly based on her being a little older and having the reddest comb and waddles. I found one small egg on Saturday which was a fertilized double yolker with a good shell. The next one I found on Sunday was a very soft/moist shell split open with one yolk in the small end and the membrane of another in the other end. The yolk I could see was also fertilized. My 2 BR roosters are certainly doing their job! Then I didn’t find an egg until Wednesday afternoon which appears to be normal and a little bigger than the first. (Haven’t cracked it open yet) I have read this is all normal for newly laying chickens.
    I was going to serve up half of the Barred Rocks for dinner and the roosters since I will need an unrelated rooster for next year. I am assuming that I want to cull the hens that are not good egg producers. At the same time, I have heard that the older they are the tougher they are to cook. By the time I figure out who is a good producer they will be beyond the 5 month timeframe for tender meat (so I have heard).

    How do I determine who should be dinner and who I should keep as egg producers? Some of the Barred Rocks are meatier than the others. Some are friendlier than the others. I don’t know that I will ever know which ones are the good producers since I am hardly ever home. I’ve read to check their pelvic bones for spacing, their feathers may be dirtier, and the redness of the combs and waddles. I also have a younger lavender cochin pullet who I am hoping will be broody and a good foster mother to raise some chicks before winter.

    Am I on the right track? How do I manage this small flock to have meat and egg producers on a semi-regular basis? Any input and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks to all for all of your informational posts!

    Also, any suggestions on the best and easiest way to cook the older birds for the not so good cook would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks again!
     
  2. lacasitarojafarm

    lacasitarojafarm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would be interested in this too. I have a mixed breed flock of mostly 17-20 week old BR, Black and Buff Orpingtons, Ameraucanas and some Maran both Cuckoo and Splash. My husband also has some 14 week Turkens in that flock. We now have 3 roosters, a very young Turken Roo that is very young, a Copper Maran roo that's like a tween and a Black Orp roo. The BO may be related to his flockmates. The Maran is unrelated and the Turken is unrelated. How do I decide which rooster to keep? I am intereted in colorful egg production mostly plus a good vigilant rooster to scare away other birds.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Northwest Arkansas
    This thread has some discussion on cooking older chickens.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=384753

    Which ones to keep depends on your goals. If you plan to raise your own chickens for eggs and the table, you need to keep the ones that meet your goals and eat the ones that do not. For example, one of my goals is to raise birds for meat. I eat the smallest slowest growing roosters and don't eat the rooster that would really do well on my table. The best rooster becomes the father of the next generation. Over time, the size of the whole flock does improve.

    Same thing with egg laying, though this is harder. You need to determine which ones are laying eggs your like and breed them. Eat the others. I don't know any easy way to determine which hen is laying which egg. I have hens that will stay on the nest quite a while and not lay an egg. If another hen had already laid, you could easily get confused about which hen laid that egg. That has happened to me.

    I don't worry too much about the rooster being related to the hens. I'll bring in some new blood every three or four years to keep the genetic diversity up, usually by getting eggs to hatch and raising some replacement hens, not the rooster. As long as I don't see traits that I don't like, I don't worry. But I do try hard to keep only the ones I want and get rid of any that exhibit traits I don't want, either physical or behavioral.

    Good luck!
     
  4. Buttercup Chillin

    Buttercup Chillin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 27, 2008
    SouthEast TX
    Like Ridgerunner said, it depends on your goals. If you are going to breed/hatch for aself sustaining flock, then you breed for eggs and meat, dual purpose. By your breeds, that is what it looks like you want to do.

    I would keep 1 Roo, the best, he will have a wider bottom (his characteristics will go to his hen chicks). He will be nice to the ladies, find them food and dance for them. Early on dancing looks more like a stomping around of frustration. He is the one that sends the hens to cover while he mouths off to prey, (Hawks, etc). Replace your Roo about every 2-3 years unless you line breed.

    Hens, Keep the ones that have a wide behind (best egg layers, few problems) they are more fleshed out in the breast and the breast is abit wide, room for a strong heart and lungs.

    Figure out who is laying the double yolks and eat her. Her egg laying decreases with each double yolker she lays. Double yolker eggs normally do not hatch or survive if they do.

    There is a study on Buckeye Chickens done at one of the universitie, years ago. It has an excellent write up on how to select breeders, etc. Sorry, can't remember where I got it. Try Googling. I think it has been refered to on here somewhere, too.

    Your birds are about past the tender stage now, so decide and do the deed. Selection is normally done by week 16 on those breeds and dispatched by week 17. Only the larger (Java, Brahma) need to go longer because of the size differance.

    Good luck in you endeavor.
     
  5. ShariChickabee

    ShariChickabee New Egg

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    Aug 12, 2010
    Thanks for your replies.

    Ridgerunner, thank you for confirming my thought of eating the less meaty chickens and saving the meaty ones to produce a better flock. At first I was thinking I would want to eat the meatier ones and then realized that I would be better of keeping them to pass their better genes on. Also good to know about not worrying about the rooster being related to the hens. My best rooster is just beautiful and he matured so much better than the other with only being born a couple days apart. I guess I will keep him. The other conflicting information I had heard about roosters, another reason I was going to go ahead and serve him, was that roosters reach their peak fertility at one year of age. Is this true? How long will they remain fertile?

    Buttercup, thank you also for your suggestions to keep my good rooster. As far as the double yolkers, I have ready that they are really good eating. I do realize the hatchability is very bad. I have also read on here that it is common for the first eggs to be double yolkers. Should I wait and see if the double yolkers continue? Also, the first eggs are small. When do they reach normal size? I am assuming the first smaller eggs would not be good for raising as they would produce a smaller chicken. Is that correct?

    Anyone's input on this is greatly appreciated! I am so excited about having my first eggs. I had thought the first one was from my RI white but yesterday we had another small (first egg!) and it was much more of a rich brown than the first which was lighter. So now I am thinking that the first lighter egg was from one of my Barred Rocks, and the newest darker small egg was the first from my Rhode Island. Am I on the right track with that?

    Thanks again so much! This is such a great website!

    Shari
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2010
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Northwest Arkansas
    When you in-breed, different traits are enhanced. They may be good traits and they may be bad traits. You do have to be careful in your selection and you do need to eventually introduce new blood.

    Roosters will remain fertile for a long time. As they get older they get less energetic so they may not be able to keep as many hens fertile as a young rooster. It's not because he is not fertile but because he does not chase the hens as much. If you really want to, you should be able to keep a rooster four or five years, but each can vary some.

    The eggs will get larger as the pullet gets older. Then, after their first adult molt, the eggs will really increase in size. You are absolutely correct that the small pullet eggs are not good for hatching. It is possible that some of the small pullet eggs will hatch, but the egg does not hold enough nutrients for the chick to develop as it should so if it does hatch, it is smaller and weaker than it should be. If the chick does find enough nutrients to develop, it does not have enough room to easily position itself for the hatch in that small shell. And it is likely to be cramped when developing in that small egg, resulting in more cripples and deformities. As I said, some do hatch OK but I find it is much better to wait until the eggs get larger. I hatched out some eggs from 9 month old pullets and they did OK though a few developed but did not make it through the hatching process. Some of that could be attributed to other reasons, but I think egg size is important.
     
  7. laughaha

    laughaha Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Grandpa says the BEST eating chickens are 2 yrs old laying hens that aren't laying much. Swears the flavor is better than anything I have ever tasted and REALLY wants a couple of my older hens to roast.
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

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    western South Dakota
    You also asked about broody hens, and getting one to set before this winter. I do not really think that is reasonable expectation, although Iam fully aware the moment I say that, your hen will be out there setting away! haha [​IMG]

    I have BO's and they went broody about 14-15 months old. I am not sure, but I also think that temperature and daylength can affect it.

    I would think it highly unlikely that with that young of flock, you will have a broody before next summer. Just my 2 cents. If you check out incubating and hatching chickens, there is a thread that people have been adding to, and it currently shows about a 50% hatch, whether you use a hen or an incubator. So keep that in mind.

    You don't say how big your own family is, but I have a household of 3-4 (one college son, home most week-ends) and I had 5 hens that easily kept me in eggs all winter and this summer when two went broody, and only 3 were laying, I have not run out of eggs for house hold use.

    Mrs.K
     
  9. ShariChickabee

    ShariChickabee New Egg

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    Aug 12, 2010
    Thanks Mrs K for your reply. As it is, my new small eggs aren't good to try to hatch anyway so I guess my cochin can take her time to get broody. I will be looking forward to having some chicks next year!!!
     
  10. Buttercup Chillin

    Buttercup Chillin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 27, 2008
    SouthEast TX
    Unfortunately my double yolk layer, did lay mostly double yolkers, but they don't always continue to do so. I knew which Turken was laying the double yolkers though, I did hatch some of her smaller, normal size eggs and got several young from her. I have a 19 week girl and another 5 year from her now. Good thing because she was dinner the other night. She was only 2 years old and there really were no eggs developing in her. She was about done and very early. I will watch her off spring closely to see if they are double yolkers too, though I don't keep many past 3 anyway. But that 5 week old is already called Golden by my granddaughter.

    I have had others lay double yolks when they start laying and then normalize and lay normal eggs from then on. I would give the young pullets several months to see what happens.

    I totally agree with Ridgerunner on the hatching of pullet eggs, just not worth it if you want big healthy chicks. I can definately tell when I make a mistake and hatch a pullet egg from my Buttercups. Those chicks are really small, the older hen's chicks are bigger and grow up bigger.

    Note on older hens: My 2 year olds are very good, full of flavor. I stew then for like 3 hours and will store the broth for fall. I will use some for chicken salad and we have had wonderful chicken tacos, more meals to come. My Mom liked her 2 year olds cooked down and canned for winter use. I have a story of her and her like for old chickens on here somewhere. I think if you are used to the watery flavorless chicken in the market nowadays, you may not like the real flavor of chicken. But if you have ever had it and liked it, you'll love growing out your own hens for chicken and dumplings, or such that cook in moisture. I may just have to make some with the next batch of 3 year olds. You may want to raise more chickens, wish I had room for more.
     

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