You might also be interested in my post Hatching Chicks in Autumn.
The Oldies and The Newbies
My flock has undergone so many changes through the years, with new birds coming and old ones going on a pretty regular basis. I cull the old hens and ducks when they no longer lay well enough to earn their keep. The local predator population steals a bird here and there. Each year I raise babies or bring in new stock to keep the eggs coming and provide meat for our table.
This year has been no different. I have a clutch of ducklings and chicks in my brooder room as I write, along with a broody hen with a little one and another batch of eggs under her!
I picked up thirteen old laying hens and roosters from a friend yesterday. He doesn’t have the time and energy to cull his old chickens, so I get freebies! I chose the two best roosters from his flock and culled the other two, along with my old rooster, Brutus. I hated to say goodbye to Brutus but the last batch of eggs I put in the incubator proved that he is no longer ‘taking care of business.’ Only four of the twenty-two eggs were fertile. Bye Bye, Brutus. The nine hens that I picked up have been added to my flock for a while. I’ll check to see who is laying and who is going, then I’ll need to work overtime for a while to butcher, cook, and pressure can the old laying hens.
The new hens are pretty beat up. There were nine hens and four roosters housed together. A good ratio is one rooster for every eight to ten hens. Poor hens!
New Tom Turkey
My friend Marcy from Trogg’s Hollow CSA brought her one lonely male turkey over to our coop yesterday. Their flock was hit hard by a predator and out of seven turkeys, they ended up with one. So he came to live with my pretty Narragansett turkey hens. We’re hoping for lots and lots of baby turkeys in the spring!
Keeping a Mixed Flock
Most experts will tell you not to keep a mixed flock of birds to prevent disease problems. They warn that keeping turkeys with chickens will lead to Blackhead disease. Honestly, I’m not much for following rules. So far I haven’t had any problems, but I might just be lucky. The birds in my flock all seem to coexist very well and the pecking order is being re-established today with the addition of all the new birds.
If you do decide to keep a mixed flock of birds, I recommend that you worm them on a regular basis and watch them carefully to make sure that there aren’t any serious fights breaking out. Just because I’ve been lucky doesn’t mean that you will be too. New birds should be quarantined to make sure they are healthy before adding them to your flock. Again, this is good information to follow, but I rarely keep the newbies quarantined. I don’t have the space to separate the new chickens from the old ones in our barn, so I make do with what I have. There could come a day when I decide to cull the entire flock and start over from scratch. I threaten this on a regular basis, but I don’t think my birds are listening. 😉
Do you keep a mixed flock of birds? Have you had problems with blackhead disease in turkeys? Do you add and cull birds often, or do you sell, give away, or cull the entire flock and start over fresh?