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Combining layers and meat birds

 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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Does anyone keep their layers and meat birds together in pasture? What works well or doesn't work well? What kind of housing/mobile unit works for combo egg/meat?
 
Marissa Creston
Posts: 29
Location: Flathead, Montana
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I've never used a mobile coop - I must have a very strong and secure structure; my neighbor lost his whole flock to the wolves - but if it helps, this is my arrangement:

I keep all of my birds - chickens, ducks, and geese - in one coop with no problems. The coop is a 12x16 shed. I've divided the floor space into separate sections for the ducks and geese, and I have perches along the side walls and nest boxes in the back for the chickens.

I rotate the flock around the pasture without any fencing by putting the waterers and pools in the preferred location. The birds will tend to congregate around that for the day and then return to the coop yard around sunset. In my experience, the flock generally stays within a 200-300 foot radius. The ducks are, by far, the least adventurous. They prefer to spend the day gossiping around the water cooler. The chickens vary, not so much by breed, but by individual. Most of them keep to the range, but there are always a few adventurers. And the geese prefer to be with me.

The upside is that between the cocks and the ganders, the flock is well protected against small predators that might otherwise snatch a hen or a duck. The downside is that the ganders can be a bit of a problem. (Yes, I have had to pull an amorous gander off a hapless drake.) Anyhow, I've never had any problems with the chickens, even with the size differences among breeds, as long as the cock to hen ratio is reasonable. Just be sure to put your meat cockerels in the freezer before they can run your layer hens ragged and you should be just fine.

Best of luck to you! And please let us know how it goes.

- Marissa


The Flock

Chickens - Silver Wyandottes, Golden Wyandottes, Light Brahmas, Dark Brahmas, Black Giants, and Dark Cornish (but never again)

Ducks - Black Swedish, Blue Swedish, and Buff

Geese - Toulouse and Buff
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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My goal is to make something mobile so that I can follow my cows. I find the eggs to be superior when they are able to pick, scratch and consume nutrients in cow manure as opposed to pasture only. They just wouldn't travel the distance necessary if my coop was stationary.

I like the idea of a couple geese with the flock for protection. Small predators such as racoon, weasel etc are my main concern. My ducks will most likely stay near my pond area and take care of the garden slug problem.

The main issue is making something large enough to house all the animals and making it mobile at the same time. Salatin's millenium feathernet seems like the best large scale option except that it is open and I would prefer something that I can lock up at night.
 
Marissa Creston
Posts: 29
Location: Flathead, Montana
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Ah, you're probably working at a much larger scale than I am

That's interesting, about the eggs. We have an abundance of grasshopers at the height of summer; those eggs are always a lot richer and oranger than the others.

And I definitely recommend the geese. Mine will take on anything. It's all bark and no bite, of course. Well, not much bite anyhow. But I do have to admit, it is hard to stand your ground when the whole gaggle comes flying at you. (And they like me! Or, at least, the treats I carry in the red bucket.) They are decent weeders too. But keep an eye on them. They will nibble everything. Including your house siding.
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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Yes definitely trying to go at it farm scale permaculture! My wife and I will be trying to make our full income off the farm this year which we are a little nervous about. Never been bi-weekly paychequeless in my life before

Thanks for the geese tips! Looking forward to incorporating them


 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I have free ranged meat birds and layers together often. Meat animals begin eating eggs, always. I've never had them not eat the eggs. It doesn't matter how much I feed them they always eat the eggs. Turkeys, chickens, anything bred to be big and meaty will eat eggs.
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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Was wondering if that would be an issue. At what age typically would they start to peck and eat them Elle?
 
Marissa Creston
Posts: 29
Location: Flathead, Montana
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That makes me wonder if I am missing something? Most of my hens lay in the nest boxes, which are up three feet off the floor. But there are always a few on the ground. I collect the eggs at least three times per day, more if the weather is well below freezing. I have occasionaly found a broken egg in one of the boxes, but this seems to be accidental, or, at least, none of the egg seems to be missing. I am actually surprised I don't find more broken eggs given the way that some of those black giant hens cram themselves in, two of them in the same box.
 
Eric Hammond
Posts: 112
Location: SW Missouri
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chicken hugelkultur solar
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Let me recommend a dual purpose breed egg and meat bird. I've had slews of chicken breeds. It seems the best are black australorps and buff orpingtons
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Kris Arbanas wrote:Was wondering if that would be an issue. At what age typically would they start to peck and eat them Elle?


It's usually mid grow period and continues until the bitter end. Doesn't matter where eggs are lain. I have some that lay in the boxes and some that pick random locations. Egg shells can be found at all.
 
Bob Blackmer
Posts: 31
Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
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Just a few questions. How many? What type? and why?

Things to consider.(with making an income in mind)

Generally very different nutritional needs. Standard broilers for example are VERY different from egg layers.

Putting chicks out from the brooder with fully grown layers could be a disaster.

Electric poultry netting works well, but a livestock guarding dog INSIDE that net is worth its weight in gold
 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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Will start with 150-200. Going to try Bielefelders (the German Uber chicken). They sound like great dual purpose giving large eggs in high numbers and a large carcass.

Would definitely be some figuring for feed etc. for layers vs. meat.
 
Marissa Creston
Posts: 29
Location: Flathead, Montana
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Those Bielefelders sure are rare and expensive! (Greenfire Farms charges $29 per female chick and $19 per male chick.) But it looks like a fantastic bird otherwise. I'm sure you've done your research and have a better source. Have you thought about breeding them as well?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 8985
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I agree with Marissa; if you plan to invest in an expensive rare breed, you might seriously consider setting up a breeding program to sell hatching eggs, chicks, or adult birds. Or at least to provide replacements for your own birds.

 
Kris Arbanas
Posts: 87
Location: PNW
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We have a source for $12 and being autosexing we can get all hens and only as many roosters as we need. It still is quite a larger investement vs more common breeds but like you say, our breeding program will provide all future birds and possible high value chick sales.
Breeding/genetics is the most exciting part of farming for me so looking forward to it!
Hope these Bielefelders turn out as good as they are hyped up to be.
 
Those are the largest trousers in the world! Especially when next to this ad:
The stocking stuffer game for all your Permaculture companions
http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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