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I would like to know if anyone on this board has been able to get their chicken flock to reliably reproduce and produce eggs? I want to get to where All my meat and eggs comes from here at the farm. Right Now I get lot's of eggs, but not enough meat. I know breed makes a difference, but I am interested in those who have breeding projects going for those specific qualities. I want to hear about if you think your breeding project is working or failing? I know I can buy meat birds seperate, but that isn't what I want to do. I am looking for a well rounded bird that does both. My goal is to never buy another chicken. How many birds do you think it would take to do this? What kind of genetic considerations are there? How many roosters in this kind of flock? Is there anyone on the board who doesn't have any of their first purchase of birds left, only decendants?

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, July 26, 2000


I suspect for someone to answer this they will need to know what your average weekly consumption of chicken will be.

-- Ken S. (, July 26, 2000.

We consume chicken about twice or three times a week. Is there anyone out there eating two or three chickens a week out of their back yards that are produced right on the farm?

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, July 26, 2000.

Are you planning on freezing chickens or are you thinking of fresh meat at all times?

-- Debbie T in N.C. (, July 26, 2000.

Well it has always been my attitude that an animal on the hoof is easier than storing it. I guess what I am looking for is a variety of birds coming up and being butchered and stored before they get tough. So I would say a little bit of both. This would also vary as I had feed to feed them. There comes a time when you have to get rid of some birds, when it becomes to expensive to feed them all. So I would probably butcher and store when I felt I was reaching capacity.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, July 26, 2000.

I currently have about 20 adult Game Chickens 2 or 3 hens with chicks running around here. I started with 2 roosters and 7 hens about 6 years ago none of the origional 9 are here any more. They maintain a population of about 20 - 30 adults. I lose a few to predators and I eat about a dozen a year myself.

They survive on what the other animals drop, lots of bugs andI throw them the feed left in the bottom of feeders as I clean them.

Game Chickens are very prolific breeders and they pretty much take care of themselves. They taste great, a different flavor than the broiler chickens that I also raise. They are not the fastest growers or do they get very large. I am sure with a little managment you could have a lot better results than I get. You could catch the hens and have them set, hatch and brood their chicks in pens and you would cut down on a lot of loses from predators. I don't bother trying to gather the eggs, but I am sure if you provided some nests and fed them in the same pens you could collect lots of eggs.

90% of my Game Cickens have ever been touched by Human hands til I put them in the pot. Every couple of years I buy a few at an Auction and add them to the flock to create some new blood.

Try buying some from some old Farmer who has them running around loose you will find theese are better than the ones you can buy from a hatchery. Start out with a rooster and a few hens and see how they do. Good Luck!

-- Mark (, July 27, 2000.

I have found a well rounded bird for us is the Orpington. As a meat bird the hens butcher out at 5-6 pounds for the cocks at 7-8 pounds. They lay most of the year for us -- I live in a warmer climate of southern california. They are pretty good sitters and mothers.

I have found two breeds that work really well for us, the Orpington and the silkie.

Silkies will sit on anything! heck they will die on the nest trying to hatch a rock! My orps are not as good as the silkies, so I take most of the silkie eggs for eating and replace them with the orps eggs. The silkies are such gentle mothers!

You can eat the silkies and if it was just my husband and myself this breed is all I would raise. The silkies are black skinned chickens from China and bring luck to the person eating. They butcher out like a little larger but scrawnier cornish game hen.

As to how many chickens it takes??? how many times a week do you want to eat chicken? how many pounds of meat do you need per meal?

One 6 pound chicken? can you bake and eat 1 night, tacos next night and soup the third? off one chicken? so is that 2 chickens a week? 3? multiply that by 52 weeks in a year, and that is a start! factor in loss to preditors, family and friends stopping by for dinner, how about selling some? to pay for the grain you buy?

once you determine the breed you will raise and how many eggs they lay each season that will tell you how many chickens you will need to raise to maintain your flock. don't forget that hens lay less their first year, many their second year, and then they slow down each year after. Nice thing if you buy too can eat the mistakes!

I keep 3 roosters or more around. Why? one is always gonna be the whimp! but while two are fighting for power the whimp is romancing the girls! 2 roosters and there aren't the others to sidetrack them and I find less breeding getting done!

I have 50 hens, 5 roosters of the orpingtons, 20 hens and 3 roosters of the silkies. They are kept in seperate coups. 3 silkie eggs = 2 chicken eggs.

(I have just looked into rabbits, 1 buck and 3 does will keep us eating 2 rabbits a week.)


-- Ima Gardener (, July 27, 2000.

One of the very best dual-purpose breeds is (what else?) the Australorp. It's quite a big bird, but used to be the world champion egg-producer at one stage; until they bred up those peculiar White Leghorns, which are basically bones, skin, feathers and oviducts; and not terribly edible - although on reflection perhaps they are terrible, edibly.

Whatever, if you're going to let them do their own thing, you will get a flush of chicks in spring and early summer, with a smaller second flush about three or four months later. About five or six months after that, you will have a flush of young, active, testosterone-overdosed cockerels that desperately need killing. You'll either have to deal with the seasonal factors right then, or lock the cockerels away in single-sex isolation until you whittle their numbers down.

Whatever you do, think before you fall for the "bantams are great mothers" trick. It's true - they will absolutely out-breed anything worth having, given the opportunity. You'll end up with hordes of things breeding down towards the size where the quail are getting nervous about your roosters; and your hens are in moral danger from cock-sparrows, hiding their eggs everywhere, and popping up with a new half-dozen chicks every day. It's a sad day indeed when a new batch of chickens is cause for mourning - daily. And you wouldn't get a tooth-full's worth of meat off any of them. Better to let natural selection make a "good-mother" flock out of birds that are worth having.

Actually, if you're going to produce a major part of your meat from your flock, dual-purpose may not be necessary. You're talking about eating say 200 birds a year (adjust math as necessary, but allow for losses) - half of those are of necessity going to be female, and free- range low-maintenance birds aren't going to be worth eating until roughly six months (about when the pullets have settled down to laying consistently). What that amounts to is that you rotate 100 of your layers and 100 of their sons (per year) into the oven, 50 of each per half-year. Even if you only keep your layers for six months, from six to twelve months of age, you've still got AT LEAST fifty layers - they don't have to be terribly good at it to give you a LOT of eggs every day. You might be able to go more towards a meat-type, eat them (or their sons and at least some of their daughters) earlier, cut down on the numbers some, and STILL get more eggs than you can handle.

Which I guess illustrates why they developed different breeds. If you kept roosters penned, for breeding only; have laying pens for bred hens (as opposed to general laying boxes for unfertilised hens); and isolated or terminated cockerels before they could breed; you could run two or more different types - say Cornish Game or Jersey Giants; and Australorps or Orpingtons or RIR's or even Leghorns or whatever, cut the numbers way down, and still do it all. May be worth reading up on, or discussing with breeders at a poultry show, as to how show breeders manage it.

Or just keep meat birds, and Indian Runner or Khaki Campbell ducks for eggs. Sounds easiest of all.

-- Don Armstrong (, July 27, 2000.

We're going to have to start referring to you as Colonel Little Bit.

As the above postings indicate it would require a quite large flock (with the consequential need for feed and housing) to try to give you an average of three chickens a week from it alone. Also consider having to process chickens several days a week. From what I know most people settle for raising one or two large groups a year and then put them in the freezer as a batch.

Even on large family farms chicken dinners were a treat and, yes, they were probably bought from a hatchery to be raised as a batch with a separate laying flock, with culls from it adding to the batch raised ones.

Do you live near any large egg farms which hatch out their own chicks? A sexer checks them as day olds and the males are converted into feed. You might be able to buy a group of these males from them for far less than you will pay a hatchery. Maybe they won't be all that meaty, but the chicks would be cheap. You might also buy spent hens at a couple of cents per pound. At one time, due to an over abundance of broilers, they were selling for $.03 per pound. And before I get the 'but what were they fed?" replies, you can keep them long enough on your own feed to run most of it out of their system.

I just don't see how you could do this without raising commercially bought batches and putting them in a freezer.

-- Ken S. (, July 27, 2000.

Do you plan on having the hens set or can you use and incubator? Would think that an incubator could allow you to have several batches a year or 25 or so chicks to raise and then maybe only 6 dressing days ayear. gail

-- gail missouri ozarks (, July 29, 2000.

Whenever I buy grocery store frying chickens I almost feel ill just looking at the hunks of fat on them. When I butcher my own chickens, which have mostly been the Cornish X Rocks my children raise as 4-H projects, there is almost no fat on them. I do remember as a child a neighbor having "fat" hens, but even then they were nothing like the grossly globby things in the grocery store. It has to take something extremely unnatural to put so much fat on them. I,too, would like to raise all of our own chicken. If we have chicken once a week it takes two chickens (my homegrown aren't as big as commercially grown) for our family of eight. That would be 104 chickens a year. Twice a week would take 208 chickens a year. I've had chickens of many different breeds for 15 years, and I still find it almost impossible to raise that many healthy chickens. I do well to raise 25 or 30 every six months. My hens seldom go broody, no matter what breed they are. They usually quit laying in the very hot summer altogether, even if they have shade. Chicks I hatch in the incubator or buy from a hatchery can never be allowed to set foot on the ground till they are nearly grown, or they will get sick. That is not just our problem, it seems common in these parts. I am now working on smaller, separate pens for my different breeds so I can sell purebred chicks to a local feedstore. I have White Rocks, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and a variety of mixed breeds and sex links. I have found for me, the sex links that come from the Rhode Island Red Rooster with a Barred Rock hen are the very best layers.The Cornish X Rock chicks that come from hatcheries grow very fast, and I have found that they can go way past the suggested eight weeks old to about 12 weeks old, and still be tender enough to fry. But they are not easy keepers. They get sick easily, eat a LOT of feed, and will eat you alive when you put your hand in the pen to feed them. I detest raising them.

I cannot let my chickens roam free, though the hens would no doubt lay better and be happier. First of all, they attract raccoons. Second, they will inevitably end up in the neighbors' yards, and never return. I wouldn't blame them (the neighbors, that is). One neighbor had chickens, and thought it was his right to let them roam free. They destroyed my garden, as did his guineas, went right down the row eating my young corn plants. I spoke to him about it, and even caught them for him, and took them to him, and he promptly let them free again. The next time I caught them they didn't go home. I keep my animals penned, and that includes my dogs, and expect the neighbors to do the same.

Because of all this I find raising chickens for meat to be very labor intensive. I am still going to keep working on it, and trying out new ideas. That is why I love this forum.

One little thing I'd like to add. I read that clabbored milk will make chickens lay eggs, and it works. When we milk our cows, and after we keep what we need for our family and the bottle calves, any extra is put in glass jars and left out to clabbor. It gets real thick, and smells like sour cream, but it's a "good" smell. If it molds or has other bacteria it smells rotten, and you surely know the difference. We mix the clabbored milk with the cracked corn and the chickens love it, and when they have it no one eats their eggs. Every other day with the clabbored milk will do, too.

-- Lela Picking (, July 30, 2000.

I'm sorry you've had so many problems raising chickens, Lela. I've had them for about 1 1/2 years now, and have yet to have any sickness. They lay all year 'round (I'm in the sunbelt) and hatch chicks when I allow it. I've ordered day olds from the hatcheries and been given chooks of all ages from friends/neighbors. I eventually plan to get some Guinea eggs and put them under some Cochins who'll brood anything ~ even an empty nest! Silkies are supposed to be the best brooders.

I can't see a neighbor, and I have a lot of land, but the chooks seem to stay within an acre of their pens.

They do free range during the day. The nocturnal critters are the reason I have them tuck themselves into their pens at night. Raccoons are nocturnal.

Anything new that comes in I leave in the pens for 2-3 weeks. Newborns stay in until they feather up. Then they'll return to the pens at dusk. I keep the hoppers filled with 18% chick starter for all ages. They wander in and out of the pens during the day for feed/water, yet still keep the insect population down. I've about 30-35 chooks, and I fill the hoppers (one 50 pound bag does it) about every 1 1/2 weeks.

I've always mixed oyster shell into the starter. Then a neighbor gave me some chooks. The eggs were REALLY hard; took a couple of good whacks on the frying pan. I asked the owner what she fed. She said 'starter,' and she makes sure there's plenty of dirt in the pens. NO oyster shell! I'll be experimenting with that idea the next time I fill the hoppers. Won't have to add the dirt since they free range. (The dirt around here is sandy loam.) Figure I should know the answer in a month, maybe sooner.

-- ~Rogo (, July 30, 2000.

Little Bit: I have been attempting to do what you are talking about- it worked in some ways and not others. Here is what I have found and general observations. The quantity of chicken being raised is really quite a bit and should in fact be treated as a small business, that being said it is cheaper to kill and freeze in quantity than continue to feed animals past their prime(and makes for better meat). Choose a dual breed, get an incubator so your hatchings are timed. Pen the meat birds separate than your laying hens (I don't have good luck adding young birds in with established hens it causes so much turmoil, plus the rations are different for laying versus meat). And make friends with someone who has a chicken picker!

-- TerriYeomans (, August 01, 2000.

I just wanted to stop in and thank you all before my thread disappears. All of the information was very helpful. It also was pretty well summed up that no one is really doing what I want to do. I don't want to use incubators, because they require electricity. I need hens that brood reliably and so what i want to do is develop a strain of genetics that accomplishes this goal. I'd like to do it with a heavy breed of chicken so that I can eat the cockerals as they come up. I will keep you all informed as to my progress.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, August 02, 2000.

Dear Little Bit Farm, I have some answers for you and I hope that you write me so that I know that you got this. If you have looked through the hatchery catalogs you will find (and If you have raised any yourself)that the best meat birds available are the cornish X Rocks. They do eat a lot but they grow soooo fast and are ready to butcher in no time. I know of a friend of mine that is heavy into poultry and she got me started on the right track. Yes I do keep all colors of the Chinese silkie, because there is a market for them here. I use them to hatch out any and I mean any eggs. You ought to see a little chinese silkie that has several month old peacocks following her and her guarding those big things. If your main breed of layers are one of the rock breeds (buff, white are beautiful but don't like small quarters, or barreds) you can keep your hens and 1-2 cornish (not cross) roosters in the same "breeding pen" for about 2 weeks just to be sure and get your hens fertilized and let them do whatever you usually do from there. Start saving the eggs and setting them under the Silkies which are terribly broody. These will be your meat birds. I keep my roosters all penned so that any time that I want either meat or layers all I have to do is to put them in the breeding pen with the appropriate rooster. And then save the eggs and set the silkies. Keep in mind that once bred to whichever rooster that hen will be fertile for I think that it was 45- 60 days as they fertilize a whole clutch inside the hen at one time. So you would probably need to mark which hens you put in with which rooster as I do with leg bands and if you have 5-6 silkie hens you can put up to 8-9 eggs at a time under one and keep them rotated so that you can have fresh meat all year round and also be able to provide people with layers and chicks or pullets for sale all year round. If I have not explained it well enough let me know and I will try better. Sorry if this post seems a bit wayward not much sleep last night, we had a very bad storm.

-- Lawannea S. Stum (, August 02, 2000.

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