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Question about layers and meat birds dwelling together

 
Jared Blankenship
Posts: 23
Location: Glasgow, KY zone 6b
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I'm thinking of using Paul's paddock system for my chickens. My layers will hover in the neighborhood of 10-15. We have 27 red rangers and pioneers right now and will probably do more for ourselves next year, with a possibility of raising some to sell. The meat birds and some replacement pullets are in Salatin style pens right now.

My question is, could these live in harmony in 1+acre paddocks? I thought of using mobile coops for both and positioning them opposite of each other in the paddocks so they might keep a little distance and keep traffic down right around the coops. But we're talking about the layers raising chicks, staggering dates on the meat birds so that there are chicks all the time during the warm months. Will they get along or would it be a constant source of problems?

If I'm asking for trouble, could I use one paddock for the layers and one for the meat birds? Or would I still have trouble between the bigger birds and chicks?
 
Willy Walker
Posts: 89
Location: Foot of the Mountain, Front Royal VA
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chicken fungi hugelkultur
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I don't have an answer from experience but I am along for the ride. I will be having a smaller but similar setup. I never considered problems as long as space and chicken comforts are high. From what I have gathered from talking and friends, etc there should be no problems. But again, I'm interested in what others may have to say
 
Jennifer Kremp
Posts: 4
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Hi Jared,
raising meat chicks under layers (if they're the kind that do go broody) can work, but isn't without drama, for instance other adult hens may be quite cruel to the free range meaties. The meaties may have trouble getting away from persistent aggressors. Then again if the broody is protective and the meaties are fairly mobile, it should turn out okay. Just be sure to keep a lot of feeders for chicks to access. You may want to put upturned milk crates on the chicks' feeder to keep the layers off it.

Also make sure you don't feed layer feed as the chicks won't do well on it (it may harm their kidneys from too much calcium; also the protein is a little low). And if you use higher protein low calcium feed for both layers and meaties, then you'll need to supply an extra calcium source (e.g. shell grit in free access hoppers) for the layers, so they can make eggshells. (Sorry if you know all this!) But it's all do-able.

One more thing, I find raising chicks under hens is the best way to give chicks early exposure and early immunity to coccidiosis. Another help is fermented feed. It really strengthens the gut, and meaties seem to have thinner gut linings, so the more you can do against cocci the better. Meat chicks can be particularly prone to coccidiosis because of their high metabolism, breeding for meat (at cost of immune system) and also the fact that they eat so much, and therefore ingest more soil/droppings. And of course they don't roam as far, so the droppings are more concentrated.

If you artificially raise the meaties (in which case I wouldn't put them with layers in the same pen -- introduction once they're older is complicated), make sure they have cocci exposure from day one (e.g. a handful of hen pen soil tossed in the nice clean brooder will help) and try to raise chicks on new ground each batch.

I found either way (under hens or artificial brooding then pasture pens) works, but have issues... If you go with artificial brooding and then putting into pasture pens, cocci will be your biggest concern (and maybe predation). With all the chickens together your biggest concern will be getting the layers to play nice... In both cases things can be managed quite well, with a little effort.

Hope this helps, and once again apologies if it's all stuff you already knew...

best wishes
Chancy
 
Jennifer Kremp
Posts: 4
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Oops, forgot to add one thing: meat birds will either not want to roost, or will roost lower than the layers. Unfortunately if they do get up high they'll break legs getting down.
You may need to keep very low roosts for both sets of birds, or make sure the meaties have a clean area that isn't directly below roosting poles.
cheers
Chancy
 
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