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Go Back   BHM Forum > Homesteading > Animals > Livestock/Horses

Livestock/Horses Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, llamas, and other four-legged friends.

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  #1  
Old 01-07-2010, 03:08 AM
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Diavolicchio Male Diavolicchio is offline
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Default Picking the Best Rooster(s)

I'd like some advice from you chicken experts.

As I mentioned in a previous thread, I'm just venturing into the world of having my own chickens and have been trying to absorb as much as I can by reading the posts on here as well as a number of books on raising chickens. My plans are to build a relatively large home chicken coop (16' x 28') and have it sectioned into 8 equal sized screened-in rooms, 4 on each side, measuring 6' x 7' each with a 4' aisle down the center of the coop. I'll be getting all straight run chicks and eggs, so most likely will end up with far more cockerels than I'll know what to do with. Final count in the chicken coop is targeted at 63 hens + 7 roosters + 10 additional back-up roosters, for a total of 80 chickens, 10 per each 6' x 7' sectioned area in the coop (4.2 sq ft per chicken.)

My questions are about culling and knowing which birds to keep and which to end up using for meat. I plan to have 7 different breeds, 1 breed per section, each section comprised of 9 hens and 1 rooster. The eighth section in the coop will be set aside for a back-up rooster of each breed, plus possibly a second of a couple breeds. I'm doing this because I ultimately want to keep my options open for breeding. I want to make sure I've got a good rooster of each breed and back-ups as well in case anything happens to any of the primary roosters.

Let me state for the record that I'm aware I should probably be starting out with just one breed rather than taking on seven. And I should also probably start on a much smaller scale. I understand these things. That would be more practical and realistic, but I've decided not to go that route.

That being said:

1) How do I know which rooster in a given breed should be the one I ultimately keep with my hens? Is it about nothing more than dominance and which has established themselves as highest in the pecking order? Or do I take into account things like the appearance and personality of the rooster, and whether he has traits I want to perpetuate when it comes time to breed my hens?

2) I've read in a few places that if I hold onto a couple extra roosters and keep them confined from the hens, they're likely to get along just fine together. I'm skeptical. Would I really have little problem keeping 10 extra roosters in their own separate area where there are no hens to fight over, but where the hens are still in clear eyesight? I can't help but think there's likely to be trouble amongst these extra roosters at some point if they're sequestered to their own little frat house, but are spending a good chunk of their time staring into the seven nearby sorority houses where clearly somebody is getting laid and it's NOT them. I'm curious how this set-up may have worked for others in this Forum.

3) I'm going to have a LOT of extra cockerels early on that don't even MAKE it to the frat house. Nor will I have the space for them to be allowed to fully mature. At what age should I begin culling them out (and extra hens if there are any) to reduce the numbers down to the final number I want of each breed? At what age will I truly have a sense of a rooster's personality and whether he's one of the ones I should be holding onto?

Finally,

4) Given that I will have one rooster of each breed living with his respective flock in a separate area in the coop, do I ever actually let the EXTRA roosters I'm keeping have direct contact with the hens (such as when they're outdoors around in their run), or should I be keeping these extra roosters permanently isolated and only allowed out in the run with each other? I'm just concerned with having jealous roosters going NUTS if they're ever allowed to directly mingle with the hens, especially in the presence of the rooster who's actually mating with them.

Thanks in advance for all of your input and suggestions.



John

P.S. If it's at all relevant, the breeds I'll be raising will be the following seven: Barnevelder, Black Copper Maran, French Wheaten Maran, Blue Orpington, Buff Brahma, Buff Chantecler & Welsummer.
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  #2  
Old 01-07-2010, 02:00 PM
Anon001 Anon001 is offline
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I think you are under the assumption that all roosters fight. Not all do.

I would keep the best one or two based on temperament, coloring, etc. that fits the breed description best.

You most likely will not want to keep rooster to the age of breeding. You will want to butcher them long before that. Otherwise, you may have some tough chicken meat in the freezer that have to be boiled or pressure cooked. The older a chicken gets, the tougher the meat... usually.

You say you will be getting "straight run". You will most likely average close to 50/50 of male and female.
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Old 01-07-2010, 02:36 PM
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Diavolicchio Male Diavolicchio is offline
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Originally Posted by PaulNKS View Post
I think you are under the assumption that all roosters fight. Not all do.

I would keep the best one or two based on temperament, coloring, etc. that fits the breed description best.

You most likely will not want to keep rooster to the age of breeding. You will want to butcher them long before that. Otherwise, you may have some tough chicken meat in the freezer that have to be boiled or pressure cooked. The older a chicken gets, the tougher the meat... usually.

You say you will be getting "straight run". You will most likely average close to 50/50 of male and female.
Paul:

One thing I've learned thus far is that if I want the best chickens, I'll likely have to get them from good breeders, or places like Superior Farms or Sand Hill Preservation. And in going these routes, my options are pretty much going to be limited either to straight run chicks or fertilized eggs. There doesn't appear to be any way around ending up with way more cockerels than I need or want.

My goal is to end up with 9 mature hens of each of 7 breeds, plus 2 roosters of each (plus 3 extra roosters to round me up to 80 chickens total.) I'll be starting with 20 straight run chicks of each (or 2 dozen eggs), so I'll likely end up with around 140 chicks initially. I'm guessing that a nice large freezer chest is going to be in order if I'm ultimately going to be culling back to 80 when all is said and done. I wish there were a way around culling out so many birds, but going the straight run route, I can't see any way around it.

I'm curious though. . . at how many weeks would YOU do your culling? I'm only going to have the space for 80 mature chickens, however I want most of the chickens I'll be culling to be large enough to be decent roasters. How many weeks are we talking about before I make my cuts? And if I'm going to be culling the extra cockerels before any of the pullets are ready to lay eggs, is there any reason to keep any of the chickens segregated from each other prior to the culling, aside from the likelihood of a couple roosters with bad attitudes?

If the answer is no, then I'd have full use of the chicken coop (448 sq ft), central aisle and all, for everyone to roam free, giving me adequate space for 112 mature chickens @ 4 sq ft/bird. I'm guessing I could probably accommodate the full 140 initially, considering the young pullets and cockerels won't be requiring nearly the space as mature chickens. I'd simply leave the doors open on all 8 sections inside the coop so the full area could be utilized, including the central aisle.

Once the culling is done though, I'd segregate each breed to its own sectioned off area (10 per section), and keep the central aisle chicken-free.

Do you see any major red flags with this plan?


John
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  #4  
Old 01-07-2010, 02:47 PM
jonvee Female jonvee is offline
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You're an ambitious guy JOhn

I'm no expert, but will tell you what I've done.

I select replacement roos depending on temperment first (I hate nasty roos) next on the breed standard or as close as I can get. The APA (American Poultry Assn) has a standards book on all breeds recognized by the assn. But, if you're not showing your chickens then it becomes less important.

Some of your breeds, like the Blue Orp I think, need a specific color roo in order to carry on the breed as it's suppose to be. I have Blue Cochins and need black hens and blue roos to breed or they don't come out right.

This is just me personally, but with the number of chickens you want to end up with and the high percentage of roos you'll get from straight run, I would pay the extra $ to get pullets.

As for housing the roos, I've always raised them together and housed them together. I'm not breed specific so don't care that some of my replacement hens are crosses. Right now I have 4 full grown roos and DD hatched 8 eggs over the summer and 5 of them are roos (soon to be butchered) so really Ihave 9 roos, bantam and standard all living together with no problems.

Like Paul said, not all roos are mean. You just have to wait and see. In the past Ihad a really nasty roo and did keep him separated even from the hens because we couldn't go into the coop to collect eggs without being attacked. Needless to say he did get to stay long.

Hope this helps.

Just out of curiosity - how did you come to pick these breeds?
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Old 01-07-2010, 03:03 PM
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Diavolicchio Male Diavolicchio is offline
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Just out of curiosity - how did you come to pick these breeds?
Jonvee,

It's not that I'm ambitious; it's that ignorance is bliss. I'm sure I'll regret my zeal at some point. I'm just not wired to be much of a dabbler. If I'm going to do something, I'm rarely going to just stick my toe in the water to see if it's a little chilly. I'm going to do as much research as I can, talk to as many people as I can, then close my eyes and jump.

I picked the breeds I'm going with based on a number of characteristics. The Marans and the Welsummer were chosen primarily based on their beautiful bronze/copper eggs; the Blue Orpington because I wanted an Orpington in the mix, but wanted to take a different route than go with the Buff that everyone seems to have; the Buff Chantecler because of its super hardiness and egg-laying abilities; the Buff Brahma because it's such a beautiful bird and because I've only heard wonderful things about it; and the Buff Catalana because it's quite uncommon, is a dual-purpose bird, produces a lot of medium to large eggs, and because I love its appearance. I've gone with Stardards for everything because I'm just not a Bantam kinda guy.

Whether it's varieties of fruit in the orchard, or chickens in the chicken coop, I tend to seek out great varieties worth having, rather than going with the common, tried-and-true varieties chosen by the masses.


John
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  #6  
Old 01-07-2010, 03:31 PM
Andy Jones Andy Jones is offline
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Default Picking the best rooster

This is from my experience:

1 I choose the one that best represents the breed.Temperament,coloring,strong,good comb,straight feet and toes;just the best looking one I have.

2 I've put 12-15 roosters together in a pen without many problems.Occasionally some will fight,but not often.I've had them gang up on one rooster,whip him pretty bad,and a few minutes later,all is well.Butcher them fairly early so they won't be tough.Roosters eat a lot,too.

3 As stated in earlier comments,spend the extra money for pullets.After you hatch a few,I guarantee you,you will be over run with roosters.For some unknown reason,when I hatch with my incubator,I'm averaging 60% to 70% males and it stinks.Sometimes I think I'm better off to buy pullets instead of hatching my own.

4 I only put 1 rooster with a maximum of 8 hens for breeding.Check the hens often for injury;for some roosters can really injure the hens bad duting mating,especially roosters with long spurs.Maybe I should despur them,but I haven't.

These are just my observations.I have never raised any of the breeds that you've listed.Good luck!
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  #7  
Old 01-07-2010, 03:47 PM
Anon001 Anon001 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diavolicchio View Post
One thing I've learned thus far is that if I want the best chickens, I'll likely have to get them from good breeders, or places like Superior Farms or Sand Hill Preservation. And in going these routes, my options are pretty much going to be limited either to straight run chicks or fertilized eggs. There doesn't appear to be any way around ending up with way more cockerels than I need or want.
It depends on what you mean by "best chickens". Almost any of the top hatcheries are a good place to get chicks. If you buy eggs, you have no guarantee they will hatch if you incubate them yourself. You will never be able to hatch as many as the hens can hatch. So, you have to buy more eggs than you expect in chicks. I would go with a hatchery and buy the specified number of males and females of each breed.

Quote:
My goal is to end up with 9 mature hens of each of 7 breeds, plus 2 roosters of each (plus 3 extra roosters to round me up to 80 chickens total.) I'll be starting with 20 straight run chicks of each (or 2 dozen eggs), so I'll likely end up with around 140 chicks initially. I'm guessing that a nice large freezer chest is going to be in order if I'm ultimately going to be culling back to 80 when all is said and done. I wish there were a way around culling out so many birds, but going the straight run route, I can't see any way around it.
Most people that order chicks and/or butcher their own birds don't consider that to be a problem.

Quote:
I'm curious though. . . at how many weeks would YOU do your culling?
I don't look at it as "culling". If I'm ordering chicks then I order straight run and order twice as many as I want to end up with. I dress most of the roosters and none of the pullets. The length of time from hatch to butcher depends on several things including the type of breed. Some breeds grow faster than others. If it is a meat only bird such as the cornish cross, you usually want to dress them at 8 to 9 weeks. For dual purpose birds, it usually takes longer.

Quote:
I'm only going to have the space for 80 mature chickens, however I want most of the chickens I'll be culling to be large enough to be decent roasters. How many weeks are we talking about before I make my cuts? And if I'm going to be culling the extra cockerels before any of the pullets are ready to lay eggs, is there any reason to keep any of the chickens segregated from each other prior to the culling, aside from the likelihood of a couple roosters with bad attitudes?
There's no reason. Even after they are old enough to breed, If memory serves me, the hen's eggs are only fertile for up to two weeks, then she must be bred again. If you get eggs before separating them, just don't save them for hatching until the breeds have been separated for at least two weeks. I would not try to brood chicks in several different "pens". It takes a lot more work than brooding them all in one pen.

Quote:
Do you see any major red flags with this plan?
umm....well... it's different, to say the least. It seems that city people always do overkill with chickens. But, as long as you enjoy it, then go for it. To me, a chicken is just that.... a chicken. It doesn't take much knowledge to keep chickens. I think you're over analyzing. The best way to do with them, is to get the feed, get the chicks, get the brooder lamps, and then let them be chickens.

Chickens can be the simplest animal to keep or the hardest depending on the owner. Personally, I don't want all my time taken up dealing with chickens. I have too many other things much more important.

One thing I do know, is that the simpler you keep it, the happier you and the birds will be.

Paul
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Old 01-07-2010, 04:03 PM
AlchemyAcres AlchemyAcres is offline
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Refer to the Standard of Perfection.
The Standard describes the appearance, coloring and temperament of each breed.
I breed with those characteristics in mind and respect for the original purpose of the breed.

I like to compare the old standard with the new standard and note changes, if any.

The American Standard of Perfection, full 1905 version from Google Books.

http://books.google.com/books?id=1HA...ummary_s&cad=0

There are several breeding methods used in the art of breeding chickens, it's probably best to do some reading to determine what may work best for you.

Traditional breeding methods for the home flock.
http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/is...g_Russell.html

Working with cocks in the flock.
http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/is...ey_Ussery.html

Here are a couple excellent older reference books on the art of poultry breeding.
Some argue that the information is out-dated, I argue that it's the information was used to create the breed, it should more than suffice to preserve it!!!
Both books are also available as new modern reprints via Amazon and the like...

The Mating and Breeding of Poultry. (1920)
http://www.archive.org/details/matingbreedingof00lamo

Genetics of the Fowl. (1949)
http://chla.library.cornell.edu/cgi/...a;idno=2837819


~Martin
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Old 01-07-2010, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulNKS View Post

One thing I do know, is that the simpler you keep it, the happier you and the birds will be.

Paul
Paul:

If I keep all the chickens running loose in one big communal coop, with a dozen or so roosters in there all trying to establish who's in charge, 1) I can't help but think that I'm going to be dealing with a LOT of unnecessary chaos and fighting, and 2) I'll have no place to segregate any particular breed when it comes time to breed it. I'm either going to build a coop WITH internal pens or WITHOUT them. I have no desire to add them at a later date.

I guess HOW one raises their chickens is in many ways dependent on WHY they have chickens and what they plan to do with them. There's no one way that is going to be equally applicable to everyone.



John
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Old 01-07-2010, 04:39 PM
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Diavolicchio Male Diavolicchio is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlchemyAcres View Post
Refer to the Standard of Perfection.
The Standard describes the appearance, coloring and temperament of each breed.
I breed with those characteristics in mind and respect for the original purpose of the breed.

I like to compare the old standard with the new standard and note changes, if any.

The American Standard of Perfection, full 1905 version from Google Books.

http://books.google.com/books?id=1HA...ummary_s&cad=0

There are several breeding methods used in the art of breeding chickens, it's probably best to do some reading to determine what may work best for you.

Traditional breeding methods for the home flock.
http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/is...g_Russell.html

Working with cocks in the flock.
http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/is...ey_Ussery.html

Here are a couple excellent older reference books on the art of poultry breeding.
Some argue that the information is out-dated, I argue that it's the information was used to create the breed, it should more than suffice to preserve it!!!
Both books are also available as new modern reprints via Amazon and the like...

The Mating and Breeding of Poultry. (1920)
http://www.archive.org/details/matingbreedingof00lamo

Genetics of the Fowl. (1949)
http://chla.library.cornell.edu/cgi/...a;idno=2837819


~Martin

These are really great resources, Martin. Thanks for sharing them. I doubt I would've discovered them any time soon on my own.

Cheers,


John
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Old 01-07-2010, 05:17 PM
jonvee Female jonvee is offline
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Thanks John for the explination. I find it interesting to hear people's reasoning. No judgement, pur curiosity.

I almost got some Marens, but found the breeding (to keep their eggs that wonderful chocolate brown color) a little too technical. When you have a kid involved you need to keep it simple.

Since you like egg colors how 'bout Araucanas (blue/green eggs)?

I agree with your thinking that if you want to keep the breed pure you will need to separate by breed or they will cross. This is what we have right now - some really funky crossbreds. But, my daughter loves it because she has birds that noone else has. Not sure there is any reason to have an Aruacana Frizzle cross except for the kid thing
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Old 01-07-2010, 05:44 PM
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Diavolicchio Male Diavolicchio is offline
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Since you like egg colors how 'bout Araucanas (blue/green eggs)?
No Araucanas or Ameraucanas for me right now. They remind me a little too much of Martha Stewart.


John
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Old 01-07-2010, 10:53 PM
GoodDaughter GoodDaughter is offline
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Unless your breeds are typically agressive breeds like game birds, I can't imagine that you *would* have a lot of fighting and chaos. That's what the 'pecking order' is; any bird inclined to be the dominant rooster will assert himself and the other roosters will not assert themselves around him very often if at all. I have kept many, many breeds over many years, and I coop them all together and have no problems.

Now game bird roos will fight to the point of death.

My .02
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