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I looking to start produce my own food.

 
edward bardsley
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I am looking to start a mini chicken farm, for the propose of providing a sustainable amount of chickens to eat (about 1.5 chickens and 6 eggs a day).

- I was wandering which breeds are best for eating and which ones are better for eggs.

- How many chickens would I need to uphold a sustainable population if I am planing to eat 1.5 chickens a day.

- What age is best for eating.

- How much space would my chickens need to be happy.

- I was planning to grow vegetable, as well would the chickens try and eat them.

- Will I need 2 coupes if I was eggs and chickens.


 
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Here's my take.......

Meat production:
1.5 chickens times 365 days equals 548.5 chickens. Taking losses into account, that comes to about 50 chicks a month being produced. But the problem is that hens do not produce broods year around. So in order to achieve your goal, part of the year you would have a glut of birds to compensate for the times when no chicks are being produced.

How many hens are needed to produce 548.5 chicks (actually the number needs to be higher because of losses) a year? That depends upon the hens and your location. Where I live my hens will produce one, sometimes two broods a year if the chicks are raised naturally. So if I average 8 chicks or so per brood, I'd need 60 to 70 older hens dedicated to just chick production.

What age to slaughter is a matter of preference, and what breeds you are raising. My Cornish rock crosses go into the freezer at 6-8 weeks. My dual purpose fryers go at 10-12 weeks. Capons can easily go 6-10 months and still be good roasters. My stew birds are any age.

Good eating breeds , it depends upon personal preference. We like the Cornish rock crosses, but they have to be managed. They are not free range birds. I also raise a number of crosses for fryers. Our current rooster happens to be a barnvelder, but I've used Rhodes island red roosters in the past. Hen-wise we have an assortment for fryer production -- Rhodes island red, Australorps, Orpington, plus a few others. But there are plenty of other dual purpose breeds out there. These hens started out as egg layers but showed good broodiness, thus were kept for chick production.

Eggs:
6 eggs per day could be achieved with 6 top production hens, but only for part of the year. A young production hen fed top notch nutrition with artificial lighting to extend the laying season can produce 300 eggs per year, or a bit more. If you want eggs year around, you need to add fresh pullets each year so that you will have eggs during the slack time (plus you'll need to add lights unless your in the tropics). I can get eggs year around but only because the new pullets start laying in late summer.

As for my preferred egg breeds, I like red sex linked and production reds the best. But Rhodes island reds and aracaunas are real good too.

As for space, I figure on 4 to 5 square foot per bird.

Multiple coops will be necessary because it would be difficult to successfully add new chicks or young birds into an adult flock. The adults would gang up on new birds and attempt to kill them. A separate pen for the egg production might be a good idea. There would be less completion, less stress, less problems with the nests, less egg destruction.

Considering that your meat goal is 1.5 birds per day, and you want a sustainable system, I think you will be beyond the level of a mini chicken farm. But if you opt instead to buy in day old chicks, you would have a lot less chickens in the pens at any one time.

Your vegetables? Yes, they will destroy the garden if allowed access to it. What they don't eat, they will scratch out.
 
edward bardsley
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thank you that has been really informative. I have a few question.

you said I would hens 70 (but less go with 80 because you said I would need more). Now the roster (which I understand is 95% a cock but not !00%. Some times a hen can take over if hes not "taking care" of the hens properly). would he feel attack over cocks and/or cockrel if so what age should I get the out of there. Also what age can hen (or cock's) no loner breed, and is it safe to eat them at at age. you said I would want more than one coupe. What is the best size of a coupe to optimize production.

would said would be better to buy day old chicks. You also said new chickens in to a coup and the older ones would kill them, would you care to elaborate please.

Now I like in England where domestic cat are everywhere would I domestic cat be a problem of would the large number of chickens be able to scare it off.

much thanks Edward

(sorry about the spell and gamma I am very dyslexic
 
Terri Matthews
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If you use an incubator instead of a hen you can get by with 4-5 egg layers, BUT then you would have to raise the chicks yourself, and there is a fair amount of work involved! You would need a heat light, and a waterer that the chick would have trouble turning over, and then there is the poop. Chicks are easy to care for when they are little, but starting when they are about 3 weeks old they are messy things!

When you use a broody hen she protects the chicks from the rest of the flock, assuming she is a part of the flock herself. Introduced birds of ANY age will be pecked, and if they are tiny they will STILL be pecked, and that would be fatal to something that only weighs about an ounce. You may have heard of the "pecking order", well it comes from the chickens method of determining status. Dominant hens peck and the hens below them in status GET pecked! Mama hens protect their chicks, but without a mama to protect them the babies would all die.

I am currently introducing my 3 young birds to my laying flock: I am putting one old bird at a time in with the young ones, so it is one old hen pecking 3 half-grown birds, and not 4 old hens pecking on three half grown ones.

As for roosters, they will fight when mature. In nature the weaker roosters will go off when they are mature (the dominant roosters chase them off), and try to get a hen or a few hens of their own. I do not know at which age this happens, but you will want to have eaten them before there is a problem. Fully grown roosters have the reputation of being tough!

I have a flock or layers, and a young layer will lay about 6 eggs a week. Older birds lay somewhat less. A meat variety may only lay 3 eggs a week, as will a middle aged layer. My old flock is between 2 - 4 years old each, and I am still getting about a dozen eggs a week, but I wanted a rooster and a broody hen, to spare me the work of raising chicks, and so I bought a few chicks. I lost one chick when she flipped the waterer over on top of herself and died of the cold before she was found, so now I have 3 half grown birds. Thankfully, I have one rooster and 2 hens, of a breed that can go broody, so I am optimistic that they will do a good job for me. I look forward to setting eggs from my best layer. (A hen will accept eggs from another bird, but once they are hatched and she knows the chicks, she will not accept a strange chick. )

By the way, chicken used to be an expensive meat. If you feed birds for 6 weeks and slaughter the lot and freeze them, you will use a lot less feed than you would if you had them for 6 months before you slaughter them. Back when the farm wife would cook one young rooster on Sunday, that last rooster from that hen would have eaten twice as much feed as the first one to be eaten, and so the cost to raise him would be doubled. And then there would be the rosters from the other hens, all of which might have hatched the eggs at the same time.
 
edward bardsley
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how do I tell the difference between a brooding hen and a laying hen because I ready don't need although of eggs. will chickens lay eggs all yeah round and will all they eggs they lay hatch chicks
 
Terri Matthews
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edward bardsley wrote:how do I tell the difference between a brooding hen and a laying hen because I ready don't need although of eggs. will chickens lay eggs all yeah round and will all they eggs they lay hatch chicks
Some breeds will go broody and set on the eggs to hatch babies and some will not: it depends on the breed. Chickens that have been bred as layers will rarely go broody: they just keep laying and laying! They will lay right though winter if they have 14 hours a day of light. If the hours of light fall below that then they will eventually stop laying and moult instead: Moulting is when they lose their feathers and grow new ones, and thy stop laying in order to do this. It takes 6 or more weeks to moult.

There will usually be a few infertile eggs, but how many are infertile depends on the hen and th rooster, and hens often have a better hatch rate than an incubator. A hen that is broody (actively trying to set on eggs) will stop laying.
 
Matu Collins
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edward bardsley wrote:how do I tell the difference between a brooding hen and a laying hen because I ready don't need although of eggs. will chickens lay eggs all yeah round and will all they eggs they lay hatch chicks


You have so many good questions! Four chickens a week plus eggs is a big job with expensive inputs. I would suggest trying out a smaller scale project to see if you like it, and eventually scale up.

You can tell a broody hen because she acts differently, she will set on the nest all day, make funny noises, act funny when she gets off the nest quick to eat drink and poop. She will hold her wings oddly and look suspicious of the others. Eggs will only hatch is a broody hen has been sitting on them for 21 days or if you use an incubator.

Laying hens are much more casual and relaxed. They lay about one egg a day and spend their day looking for food, dusting themselves and chilling with their girlfriends.

I like a flock with 10-18 hens and one rooster. This is a lot of eggs but we use them all.

Meat birds are more complicated than egg. To make it worthwhile economically you need to have a lot of cheap food and the heirloom breed birds are not as breasty than the store bought ones that Americans are used to.
 
edward bardsley
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My main focused right now is not economic. I could go down my local market and 3 whole chickens for £6 (dead ones like in a shop btw). I understand factory farming will always be cheaper, than doing yourself but I just don't agree with. The more I look into the food industry the more I don't trust it.

-Is there a way to tell an egg from an egg with a chick inside it over from one has a hen on top of it.

-where would be a good play to start I was think 2 chickens. For eggs till I learn to look after them. Then maybe in a few years move up to 12 hens and a roster.

-how does the quality of feed affect the quality of meet and/or eggs.
 
Matu Collins
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If there is no rooster there will be no chick! Fertilized eggs don't start developing until a broody hen starts setting on them. You can move her aside and take the eggs even when she is setting. If you get the eggs every day this will be fine. If you leave fertilized eggs under a broody hen for a week it will start to be a sad scene if you crack one into an omelet by mistake. No rooster, no worries.

As for numbers, a small coop with three to five hens is nice to begin with. They are social birds and like company. A safe protected run with lots of bedding in it and a place in a yard or garden to scratch around in the greens and a dusting place are all good to have until you get bigger. How much land do you have to work with?

Have you read Paul Wheaton's Chicken Article?
 
edward bardsley
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Thanks that was a really good read. If I have a roster will all my hens start production chicks or only some?
 
Terri Matthews
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edward bardsley wrote:Thanks that was a really good read. If I have a roster will all my hens start production chicks or only some?
Roosters will mate with any hen that they can. If you have a 1 pound bantam rooster and a 10 pound Cornish female, that might or might not be possible! As a rue of them if there is a rooster the eggs may all be fertile.

If you incubate an egg for a few days you may be able to candle them to see which eggs are fertile: shine a light through them in a dark room and see if the egg is clear or is growing a chick. I could only succeed in candling white eggs but some folk say they also candle brown eggs
 
Matu Collins
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edward bardsley wrote:Thanks that was a really good read. If I have a roster will all my hens start production chicks or only some?


They will lay eggs whether there is a rooster or not, and if there is a rooster most eggs will be fertilized. No eggs will start developing into chicks until a broody mama sets on them.

Hens go broody when they feel like it, more often when they see a nest with a bunch of eggs in.
 
edward bardsley
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what breeds make for good eating
 
Dave Doyle
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Here's an aspect of food production to consider:
What form of carbohydrate will you consume?

Of your total caloric intake, your largest portion is carbohydrate. 2000 or more calories a day, every day in energy foods.

Grain?
Tubers?
Fruit?

This is often the most challenging part of self sufficiency. It's one reason man adopted agriculture, to produce enough.

And have you considered NOT producing all your food?
There's a big value in putting part of your labor into tradeable/sellable goods or services.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Dave Doyle: My diet is mostly fat and protein with very little carbs... I rarely eat grains. And I typically only eat fruits during fall and winter. I attribute the leanness of my body to avoiding foods that are high in carbohydrates. I attribute my ability -- to do hard physical labor all day long without eating -- to my avoidance of carbohydrates.

My perfect diet would consist of chicken, eggs, and some low carb vegetables like cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes, and peppers.
 
Dave Doyle
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Oh you poor dear.
Well, whatever males you happy

Pumpkins - also good for chickens.

Best of luck
 
edward bardsley
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I think there might be some slight confusion, I live in England so food is cheap and land is very expensive. I don't have time or the land, to produces 100% of my own food. I am looking at producing some food.
 
Dave Doyle
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It's very consuming to produce 100% of your needs.
Sufficiency is the better course.

But you're telling me, you don't eat Marmite on buttered toast?!
 
Dave Doyle
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If I were in Britain, I'd select Dorkings or Sussex as dual purpose birds.

Some sort of Cornish Cross for meat.

How much land DO you have?
 
edward bardsley
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But you're telling me, you don't eat Marmite on buttered toast?!


honestly I can't stand marmite or butter on my toast, I personalty prefer a good jam (raspberry is my favorite)

I don't like Cornish rock cross, tho I understand they grown to harvesting age (in like under 12 week ), they also have a 30% mortality rate and can grow deformed. Not to mention they don't like to forage, I was hoping to use the paddock's to keep them.

As to my land I am an engineering student, so I don't have any land yet but its something I am looking into.
 
Ken W Wilson
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You might try to diversify your meat production. Rabbits take less room than chickens. If your chickens all got sick, the disease wouldn't be as likely to affect the rabbits.
 
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