Chickens....Poultry in a pear tree?greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread
Okay, here's one for you experienced chicken farmers:
Have a New Hampshire Red hen, an Arucana hen and a NH Red/Bantam cross rooster about a year and a half old in a well-built coop and run. We inherited these two months ago, and the rooster has only been with these 2 hens his whole life.
Also have 22 Rhode Island Red hens- 1 RI Red rooster & 5 Leghorn hens that are 10 weeks old in a storage shed that they are rapidly destroying.
Here are my questions:
Have attempted to put a few pullets into the regular coop, but Mr. rooster decided to try and kill them instead. Any advice on when and how to introduce the pullets into the coop without bloodshed?
I know roosters will fight for domination. How long should I wait to put the RI Red into the coop, and is there anything I can do to minimize the scraps they will have? (I mean hey, there's 29 hens to go around...RIGHT???)
Doing the feed thing for now, but next Spring with possible shortages on feed, am contemplating allowing them to free range during the day. Good or bad idea?
Also, wondering with the flock I have about these pullets nesting next Spring. Want to have a rotating flock of RI reds as we will butcher those hens for meat starting next spring, about one a week until the new brood reaches laying age. Wondering if all the hens will nest, if I can control the nesting and about how many chicks I might expect.
I know this is a tall order for info....but this is my first year raising a flock. I'm a transplanted city boy learning to farm and chore, any advice is helpful.
-- INVAR (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 1999
We've always been so pleased to find a good laying / setting hen that we keep them for 3-4 years or until her production falls off. We raise the young crop and watch for good setters. The rest go in the freezer.
We were suprised how much the individual chickens vary in traits. (I avoided saying personality.) Some of the girls just don't take to being mothers as well as others. We've also gone through several roosters trying to find one that doesn't go into attack mode every time one of the kids went after eggs.
How many hens are enough for one rooster? Just a few more.
Remember if you're not feeding a balanced feed (a distinct posibility post Y2000) you need to suppliment with calcium for the egg shells. Otherwise we have free ranged chickens rather succesfully with hawks being the only real problem. Course we coop them up at night.
--Love those fresh eggs.
-- Greybear (email@example.com), July 06, 1999.
Yow, Invar! You're asking for a book!
Key points: Each rooster can comfortably service about 10 hens -- more than that and you will not be able to assure fertility of your eggs (i.e., chicks). You need more roosters if you want your flock to be self-perpetuating.
Free-ranging chickens, in my opinion, are the only way to go. Plus side: your property will have less bugs, your feed bills will drop nearly to zero, and your chickens will be much healthier. Down side: every predatory critter in the neighborhood, plus your own dogs and cats, will think you have set up a smorgasbord; the chickens will discover your garden and peck the smallest red spot out of every tomato, decimate your squash, and poop on your lettuce (you'll need to fence the garden); some of the birds will think your front porch is their personal toilet (have a place to wipe your shoes before entering); they will lay their eggs and raise their babies when and where they want.
Main benefits of cooping chickens is that you control their activities -- drawback is that you have to provide them with all their needs. We've done both, and still opt for free-ranging. Our chickens now roost in the rafters of the barn (out of the reach of most predators)....we have to hunt up nests, but the birds will continue to use the same nests throughout the season. This is kinda fun -- sort of like an annual "easter egg hunt". This is the first year we have really been bothered by raccoons and oppossums -- lost almost 15 birds, but most were the ground-dwellers that couldn't fly up to the rafters. (Problem was solved with dogs and traps.)
If you'd like to try free-ranging, now is a good time to start -- plus it will aid the introduction of roosters to each other. Turn the birds out about 10 or 11 in the morning, but leave their grain and water in the same places in the coop. The birds will venture out very tentatively for the first few days, but return to the coop at night. After dark, close the coop back up until the next late a.m. In this way, the birds will recognise that they are to sleep in the safety of the coop, lay their early-morning eggs in the coop, but get a chance to exercise during the daylight hours.
The roosters will fight no matter how you try to arrange it -- but it is extremely rare for the birds to be able to kill each other. Peck, maim, draw blood, and occasionally put out an eye -- but that's the extent of it. Your hens will also fight. Over time, if you free-range the birds, they will form into little bands consisting of a rooster or two and several hens -- and they will accommodate each other group fairly comfortably.
Before you butcher hens next year, make sure you're only doing-in the unproductive ones: combs aren't as bright red; vent (poop hole) looks dry, shriveled (layers have a moist, pink vent); birds look scraggly compared to healthy ones. There isn't any requirement that hens be culled after their first year -- all hens will continue to lay after the first-year molt (feather loss), but their egg numbers will decrease by about 10%, while the size of the eggs increase. We've kept hens for 9 years that kept laying and hatching the whole time (except when molting, of course).
With Reds, you can't be certain that all your hens will set eggs -- some will be better setters than others. Your leghorns will NOT set eggs...it has been bred out of these birds. If you want the chickens to do this job for you, get some Bantams right away -- they are vigorous (determined, fierce) setters and will hatch everybody's eggs. A Bantam rooster will also make sure that none of your hens goes unbred.
-- Anita Evangelista (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 1999.
Anita is, as usual, right here on the rooser to hen ratio.
I was expressing the ratio from the perspective of the world-view of the rooster.
-- Greybear (email@example.com), July 06, 1999.
Build your pen so they can run next to each other, but not get AT each other. Let them see each other through a fence for a few weeks. That should reduce the stress to only a day or two of fighting. NEVER put immature birds in with older ones. At least, not before they are big enough to run away with a chance of surviving.
Once you start mixing the flocks make a habit of feeding and watering in more spots than you have old hens/roosters. They will run from spot to spot trying to claim it all so don't make it easy by feeding in one spot only. Once they are settled with each other then cut it back to one spot.
Don't count on the Reds being setters. Most are not. One in a bunch will get broody. Invest in a cheap incubator to have stuck away in case you need it. They cost maybe $40 for a simple one.
-- Art Welling (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 06, 1999.
Carla Emery in her book, "The Encyclopedia of Country Living", covers poultry from pages 618 to 696. She says to buy or raise some new pullet chicks every year, perioducally culling your exixting flock of layers carefully (generally after 3 years) and send to the stew pot any birds that are not preforming. She says to figure one rooster to fifteen hens if you want your own chicks.
And then there's the one about the old rooster that would challenge each young rooster, put into the yard with him, to a race. The old rooster made sure to be ahead as they passed the farmhouse, at which point the farmer would come out with his shotgun and kill the young rooster. He would then go back into the house muttering, "that's the third homosexual rooster I've had to shoot this week".
-- rb (email@example.com), July 06, 1999.
I had two batches of pullet chicks I raised this year. One was older by about three weeks and both sets were raised separately. I introduced the youngers into the flock at about 7 weeks. Used a poultry net to separate them for about a week. The olders kept them in one area and chased them out of their territory of the coop for almost a month. Now they are about the same size. They are finaly integrating. It started with the youngers moving onto the perch. Then the youngers would foray out into the run until they got chased back. Now they are out there quite a lot. It took a while. Don't get discouraged.
-- marsh (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 08, 1999.