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Running Meat Birds and Layers Together?

 
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I just ordered 25 “Color Yield Broilers” from Cackle Hatchery. I currently have 17 pullets about to start laying. I’m wondering whether it would work (once they’re big enough and introduced to the flock) to run them all together on pasture, several days behind my three heifers, in rotational grazing. My thought is to add the broilers to the paddock (delineated by poultry netting) in their own tractor and leave them in it for a couple of weeks before allowing them to freely graze with the layers (who will have their own portable coop). After integrating them, I would feed the broilers morning and evening while confined and give the layers their ration outside at the same time, since they need different feeds and the portable coop won’t be large enough for them to eat inside. During the day, they would forage together.

Does that sound doable? I like the idea of having them together for convenience and for the sake of the layers being an example of foraging. Only I wonder whether I could get the Color Yields into their tractor without also drawing in a bunch of layers wanting the broilers’ unsuitable high protein food. Has anyone tried this?

On May 8th... there will be new layer chicks coming a month after the broilers arrive, some of them for free ranging (and hopefully eating mice) and the rest to join the rotation. And with them, turkey poults. I wanted to brood them together so the chicks can teach the poults to eat and drink. I’ll make a turkey tractor, and maybe the new (non-mouser) pullets will want to stay in that, since they’ll know (and hopefully get along with) the poults already... though there should be room for them in the portable coop once they’re accepted by the layers. The mouse hunters (Buckeyes) can have the brooder coop and when they’re big enough, free range during the days. When winter comes again, they’ll all (those not in the freezer) be together in the coop and run complex... though I can separate off the Buckeyes in their own yard with the smaller coop; a woven wire fence between them and the rotational chickens/surviving turkeys until they decide (hopefully) to all be friends.

What do you think of my grand plans? Any huge pitfalls or miscalculations you can see? I mean other than me possibly biting off more than I can chew....?
2712FBB8-E22A-4F3A-922E-051A5E1B1148.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 2712FBB8-E22A-4F3A-922E-051A5E1B1148.jpeg]
Part of my Current Flock
 
pollinator
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My meat birds definately learned to be better foragers from the layers.  It worked better when the birds were young together.  This year we had the problem of adult layers wanting to break in and steal meat bird food.  We usually would just pick up the feeders out of the way before letting everyone out together.  

It probably helps that our meat birds didnt have constant food access because we want them to forage too. At one point the adult layers had to be limited with their free range time when they were picking on meat and layer chicks.  

It all worked well enough that I plan to do the same this next season.
 
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Personally I would keep the flocks separate for the most part. Flocks, especially mature layer flocks, have a pretty strict social hierarchy in place. When birds (especially mature birds) are added or removed it often causes upheaval and upsets the harmony of the flock (which leads to squabbling over roosting space and other disputes). Anytime you upset laying hens the egg production can drop.

Not sure how long you will raise these meat birds (5-6 months? or less?) but maybe you can divide up your current hen house with wire/fence and put in a second door/run? Though they probably could free range in the same areas if there is lots of space, but integrating a bunch of new meat birds into the flock once or twice a year and then removing them all a few months later seems like a lot of unnecessary chaos and disruption IMO.

Also on a side note, and a thought from the thread yesterday about the pullets staying inside because there is snow outside...  One nice coop addition (in case you or the hubby need another project) is a covered porch area. My hen house door opens into a 6x8 covered chain link dog kennel with sheet metal on top and a couple of daytime roosts, and that is always open into the big run.  The birds LOVE that covered porch area and hang out there at least half the day all year long. They never go in the hen house (except to lay/sleep).  It is raining today and they will spend 75% of their day under their little porch, and they do the same when it is super hot.

Since chickens hate snow your birds would probably appreciate a porch even more.

 
Cindy Skillman
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That sounds perfect, Tina. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. That helps a lot, knowing it worked for you. I’m definitely planning to keep the layers out of the broilers’ feedmand doing what you did... that is, not giving anyone all-day feed access, to encourage foraging.

Good points, Lucretia... it’s certainly a consideration. Maybe I ought to run a length of netting between them. I’m now already planning a canopy that might shelter both yards. DH will be thrilled. 🤦🏻‍♂️ BTW, would either of you know whether the turkeys are at all likely to respect the poultry netting if they’re trained to it early? I’m guessing probably not, but I hate to trim their wings if I can avoid it. (And would that even keep them in?)

 
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I would keep them separate for one major reason.  Broilers (at least the hybrids like Cornish Cross, Freedom Rangers, and probably those Color Yields you ordered) eat A LOT more than layers.  They have to in order put that growth on over such a short period.  My Freedom Rangers last spring produced an average (almost on the nose) 5lb carcass in exactly 10 weeks.  Some of the largest were approaching 8lbs live weight.

If you keep broilers like that in with layers the layers will almost starve because the broilers will hoover up all the available feed.  I fed my FRs twice daily, and they were very aggressive about getting to the feed.  I called them sharks with wings.  

Plus, as mentioned by Lucrecia there are the social hierarchy issues to contend with if you add such a temporary group to a flock.
 
Tina Hillel
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Just to be clear, the meat birds and layers are not sharing a coop.  Their interaction is during free ranging. The meat birds are fed three times a day other than what they forage. They are a little slower to finish, but way healthier and still taste great.

Sorry, I have no turkey experience.
 
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Tina Hillel wrote:Just to be clear, the meat birds and layers are not sharing a coop.  Their interaction is during free ranging.


Do they go into their proper coops at night on their own? You don't have problems with them switching places?
 
Cindy Skillman
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Thanks guys. I’m genuinely grateful to you all for your generosity in sharing with me. It helps a LOT. Just to make sure you understand what I’m actually proposing...

I’d like to keep the broilers in their dedicated, closed tractor until they finish their broiler breakfast while the layers have their breakfast outside.

Then when everyone is finished with breakfast, I would let them out to range inside their poultry netting paddock together (unless it causes persistent conflict, in which case I would run an electronet curtain between them).

Then in the evening, I would put away the meaties and feed them dinner in their own closed dining hall whilst the layers enjoy their repast in peace before retiring to their own portable coop to be locked in with their own kind until morning.

Tina, thanks for clarifying that you feed your meat birds midday, too. I will follow your example. I want the meaties to forage, but don’t want to slow their growth down too much.

Andrew and Lucretia, I was a little concerned about the pecking order, and thanks for emphasizing that. So far there’s not been much in the way of conflict with my girls and I don’t want to ruin that.  I’m thinking, from what you say, that it’s likely I’ll need that netting partition between the two kinds of chickens.

My main goal is for the meaties and everyone else to be healthy, to forage, and for the cow pies to be scratched around a bit and the fly larvae diminished. I saw an interview with a chicken farmer who would scatter the chickens’ feed on the cow pies to get them to scratch there and find the larvae. I’ll likely give that a trial at least, at some point, and see how it works.

Appreciate you guys!
 
Tina Hillel
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I did have a layer who tried to sleep with the meat birds.  She had to be relocated a few times and then stopped.

When the meat birds were small, the free ranging for everyone combined didnt happen until after their midday meal just to make life easier.  When they were bigger, the most of the layers would be free ranging a further distance away, so I could get them fed midday separately without a hassle.

Its great being able to get so much information here and learning from other people's experiences!
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Cindy Skillman wrote:
Andrew and Lucretia, I was a little concerned about the pecking order, and thanks for emphasizing that. So far there’s not been much in the way of conflict with my girls and I don’t want to ruin that.  I’m thinking, from what you say, that it’s likely I’ll need that netting partition between the two kinds of chickens.



If you let them loose to free range separately and have lots of space you may not need netting as they may just ignore the other flock. Your girls are still very young and since they were all raised together from chicks they may get along fairly well forever, usually the dominant birds start to show their attitude after they start laying.

Though I will say I did once buy a couple of Freedom Ranger hens as layers (bought them at 6 months or so) and one of them was VERY aggressive. Since I have a mixed flock with bantams I really don't want highly aggressive bully birds, and the aggressive bird was rehomed (only time I have rehomed a chicken). I try to avoid all production layers and now meat birds as a result of that. They often do fine when they are with the same breed of equally tough birds, but some are really hard on the softer/smaller breeds.
 
Cindy Skillman
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Lucretia, my thoughts were to run the chickens 3-4 days after the cows (to allow fly larvae to develop). If the cows’ paddock is too small for the birds, I can add one more paddock to the one they were already using as soon as I move the cows. So if the cows are okay with a 600 sq ft paddock but the birds need more, they could have their old paddock plus another slightly used (by cows) paddock... and continue to add more until they have enough.

Salatin said in one of his books that he’d never lost any chickens to raptors while protected in electric netting. If this is still true, I’d conjecture that it may be that they used small paddocks that the raptors didn’t want to land in. If that’s the case, my idea might not be so great a plan. I figure though, that as long as they all have a coop to run into or under, I’ll have done all I can reasonably do short of keeping them in their enclosed run. I may get a goose... not sure of that yet.

I don’t blame you for getting rid of a meangirl chicken. 😡 I don’t have any banties, but even if you only had big girls you don’t need that. Nobody likes a bully (except, in the case of chickens, maybe in soup....)
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Cindy Skillman wrote:
Salatin said in one of his books that he’d never lost any chickens to raptors while protected in electric netting. If this is still true, I’d conjecture that it may be that they used small paddocks that the raptors didn’t want to land in. If that’s the case, my idea might not be so great a plan. I figure though, that as long as they all have a coop to run into or under, I’ll have done all I can reasonably do short of keeping them in their enclosed run. I may get a goose... not sure of that yet.



If there are trees or bushes the birds will run under them, and some people throw out other forms of cover in case raptors fly over.  If you have lots of raptors and the chickens are foraging in huge open fields then maybe adding some additional hiding spaces is a good idea.

I have netting over my coop and have only had one raptor attack, the birds were free ranging in the yard (which has lots of trees) and suddenly they were all SCREAMING, they all scattered and hid in various areas as fast as they could. It was very dramatic and none were lost but it took a while for them to calm down. If birds were lost the flock probably won't want to free range in that paddock area anymore.

If a raptor attacks the birds don't have time to run very far. You can use scrap to build little hiding spots, maybe pick up couple of free wood pallets and put those in the paddock if they will be too far away from other cover.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:

Cindy Skillman wrote:
Salatin said in one of his books that he’d never lost any chickens to raptors while protected in electric netting. If this is still true, I’d conjecture that it may be that they used small paddocks that the raptors didn’t want to land in. If that’s the case, my idea might not be so great a plan. I figure though, that as long as they all have a coop to run into or under, I’ll have done all I can reasonably do short of keeping them in their enclosed run. I may get a goose... not sure of that yet.



If there are trees or bushes the birds will run under them, and some people throw out other forms of cover in case raptors fly over.  If you have lots of raptors and the chickens are foraging in huge open fields then maybe adding some additional hiding spaces is a good idea.

I have netting over my coop and have only had one raptor attack, the birds were free ranging in the yard (which has lots of trees) and suddenly they were all SCREAMING, they all scattered and hid in various areas as fast as they could. It was very dramatic and none were lost but it took a while for them to calm down. If birds were lost the flock probably won't want to free range in that paddock area anymore.

If a raptor attacks the birds don't have time to run very far. You can use scrap to build little hiding spots, maybe pick up couple of free wood pallets and put those in the paddock if they will be too far away from other cover.



I lost 3 broilers between 2 attacks by ravens.  Would have lost a lot more but we scared them off.  Had to put bird netting over their paddock.  Major PITA.
 
Cindy Skillman
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They’ll have the portable coop to run under or into, the broiler tractor (hoop house style with a human-sized door—except for when the meaties are in there having a meal, when I’ll close it temporarily) and the turkey tractor (similar to the broiler tractor.) If I need to segregate them into separate paddocks they’ll at the least have their own shelter. Otherwise if the paddock looks like getting too expansive, I’ll definitely give them more alternatives (thanks for that tip!) Pallets sound like a good idea and maybe I’ll think of more by the spring.

Thank goodness we don’t have ravens, and only rarely do I see so much as a crow out here. Eagles sometimes, hawks often... Redtail mostly, but there’s a variety. We do have Hoot Owls, and some odd tiny variety of owls that sometimes fly up from the driveway as you’re coming home after sunset in summer. I haven’t noticed them in the last couple of years. One goes from thinking of these as “cool wildlife” to “dam nuisance” instantly upon picking up that first adorably cheeping box at the post office. Then when you look inside... well, it’s just too late for you, and any raptors who might have been thinking about dinner had better just watch out for mama hen... 🐣
 
Tina Hillel
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Its funny how things change.  I remember when I used to think raccoons were cute😀
 
Cindy Skillman
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LOL Yes indeed. I used to wish for raccoons for their cuteness. 🤷‍♀️ Believe it or not, I’ve never lived in a place with raccoons. I’d better hush my mouth or some malevolent god may hear me... We do have coyotes that hunt more like wolves hunt and no, I don’t think romantically and longingly of wolves, either. Not now that I have sweet animals of my own to look after. Bobcats (rarely) cougars (not so rare). That’s about it, so not nearly as bad as it could be, but it’s a dangerous world out there, especially if you’re a chicken.
 
Acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin. This could be handy too:
Heat your home with the twigs that naturally fall of the trees in your yard
http://woodheat.net
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