My Ever-Changing Flock

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Some of the new additions are enjoying their heat lamp!

Some of the new additions are enjoying their heat lamp!

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!

My Ever Changing Flock - Hey Mom, who's that crazy lady?

Hey Mom, who’s that crazy lady?

 

Free Chickens

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.

One of my new roosters is a Rhode Island Red...a very good laying breed.

One of my new roosters is a Rhode Island Red…a very good laying breed. I hope he adds some great genetics to my flock.

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!

This poor old hen has been run ragged.

This poor old hen has been run ragged.

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!

Our new turkey is still a little unsure of his place in the flock. He's hanging with the new chickens and seems a little afraid of his new surroundings. Poor guy. I'm sure he'll be happy soon enough.

Our new turkey is still a little unsure of his place in the flock. He’s hanging with the new chickens and seems a little timid in his new surroundings. Poor guy. I’m sure he’ll be happy soon enough.

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?

 

 

 

 

 


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14 comments on “My Ever-Changing Flock

  1. Pingback: Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Chickens? – The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Tracy,
      There are a number of things to look for. The vent should be moist and pink, the hip bones should be wide apart across the back end (3 fingers), the comb and wattles are usually darker red than non-laying hens. I will usually look at these signs and then put them in a cage for a couple of days to see if there are any eggs. FYI, after about 4 days or so, you will see a dropoff in production from the stress of caging. I have had someone suggest the pinky method that her Gram uses…insert pinky in vent and feel for egg…not for everyone, but I tried it and it does give a better sense of whether there is an egg coming in the next day or two.

      If I have a hen that is still laying well enough for my purposes, I clip a few wing feathers to remind me who is staying. The ones going will get a few tail feathers clipped. When I have at least two or three picked for going, I set aside some time for butchering and making soup.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  2. Sue

    Visiting from the Thankful Home Acre Hop. With the sweet photo of chicks and ducklings I couldn’t help but click! My neighbour has raised hens and turkeys together for a few years and if it weren’t for the predator pressure here, everyone would still be okay.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for visiting! I’m glad your neighbor hasn’t had any issues with disease, but predators can be so difficult to deter…I know from experience. I hope there aren’t any more issues.

      Reply
  3. Talina

    We have a mixed flock too! Amazingly, our turkeys (broad-breasted) are still alive and kicking well beyond the 20 week gestation period. We’ve gotta make time to slaughter those suckers in the next week. I really want some heritage breed turkeys! Want to send me some eggs to hatch after winter?! LOL.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Talina,
      I think that the broad breasted turkeys do better when they have pasture…makes them stronger. Good luck with the butchering! We’ll see if I have extra eggs and if they are fertile 😉

      Reply
  4. Philenese

    You are braver than I am! I passed up a pickup bed of free chickens this weekend because I don’t have anywhere to quarantine newbies … of course I didn’t know the fella offering them and don’t have a clue who owned the birds. Some 80 year old woman who fell off a ladder rescuing a chicken was the owner.

    Put my fall hatch out in the littles’ coop and run last Sunday and they finally learned to go to bed tonight! I’m so proud after herding them inside on cold and often rainy nights for a week.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Oh my! I would be the 80 year old woman rescuing chickens on a ladder, lol! And I’m a clutz too, so I would most certainly fall. I hope she is ok!

      I’m glad you got your little chickies to go inside! Thanks for stopping by, Philanese!

      Reply
      1. Philenese

        Heard today, her kids are going to eliminate all of her birds and other critters while she is laid up because she needs to stop living her life and live like they think she should. Grrr! Sometimes people need to be protected from well meaning children.

        Reply
  5. Terryt

    Wow, you must stay VERY busy. So many birds, but your stories are always fun and interesting to read. My Blog is new, after losing 3 I had worked on for a long time. I deleted an old Google account forgetting that Blogger was tied into it. Oh well, so after much dismay I started a new one. Hope you will check it our and follow mine as well.

    Reply

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