How many is enough?

Discussion in 'Beginners Forum' started by JackAubrey, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. JackAubrey

    JackAubrey New Member

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    There are 5 people( myself, my wife and two children) in my household. My neighbor has 4 adults (older wife disabled, older husband, retired brother, and senior mother of husband.) I have a very small flock, 10 birds. I want to produce meat for the two families. I want the flock to be self sustaining...I want hens to raise chicks, not buy chicks all the time. I am trying to gear this thing to help our families eat healthier and to weather a second great depression/major economic disruption. Can anyone suggest how many birds I need to raise ? I have 3 acres...well, we have a house on it , so whatever is left . JA
     
  2. TheChickenGuy

    TheChickenGuy New Member

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    I can't answer that question without knowing some other facts. For example, how many chickens do you plan eating in a week? How long do you rear chicks before slaughter? What breed of meat bird do you want to rear? From all these, you'll know how many you need.
     

  3. hellofromtexas

    hellofromtexas New Member

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    Can you have a rooster to make your life easier? Or at least a decrowed rooster (think of it like getting rid of the annoying part for the neighbors.)?

    This would let you hatch eggs but you don't need one for it to lay. Note: nobody really likes fertile eggs to eat.

    Your question is very breed dependent and consumption dependent

    If you go by the old WW2 thing it be 18 but that thing can be wrong.

    The best way to calculate is the avg eggs laid per week and the average eggs consumed per week. If the consumed is more you may need more chickens.

    Personally I'd just keep a laying flock and order a day old meat flock to start. It lets you experiment with taste. If I were to keep a meat flock it be Jumbo Cornish Rooster and White Plymouth Rock Hens (Cornish Cross). I like bland tender chicken

    PM if you have questions about meat chickens. They are different from raising laying pullets.
     
  4. LittleWings

    LittleWings Backyard Breeder

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    All of the eggs we eat are fertile, and taste great. I really don't think there is a difference.
     
  5. hellofromtexas

    hellofromtexas New Member

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    The difference is the rooster bullet in the egg (looks like a white bull-eyes or a white doughnut if you look close vs infertile looks like white dot)

    and

    the and the potential for baby chicks if not stored right (for eating).

    But the taste isn't different


    Info on chicken eggs by the university of kentucky
     
  6. Fiere

    Fiere New Member

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    Unless the eggs are being heated for a log enough period to allow growth inside the eggs, you have no issues with eating fertilized eggs. All mine are fertilized and they can sit out on the counter for near a week before they're eaten. Not one partially formed chick, of any stage of development. I really would not be concerned with fertilized eggs.

    Every family's intake is different. Our family includes myself, my husband, and our young daughter. We personally eat between 2 and 3 dozen a week. A flock of ten hens will give about 3-5 dozen on average, very dependant on breed and age. You will need to know what your hens will lay and your families will eat to figure the perfect ratio out.
    We also raise meat birds. I raise the commercial-bred Cornish Cross which have a carcass weight of 7-9 lbs. We get 60 a year, and half I cut straight down the spine for roasters which gives us enough meat to have one supper, sandwiches the following day, and I'll save the halved carcasses for soup. The other 30 I cut up for drumsticks, thighs, breasts and wings. I debone and skin all the breasts and cut them in half for ease of preparation for quick suppers. I cut the wings off all 60 birds, separate them and save in portions (we love chicken wings here). We get 6 turkeys, kill 5 of them at 15-20lbs and half their carcasses as well (all these birds - chickens and turkeys - are so big it's wasteful to cook the whole bird every time for 3 people). We save one as our designated Christmas turkey and we make sure he is massive before he's done in, as we feed a whole lot of people on Christmas.
    We also raise two pigs each year, they dress out at about 250lbs and we eat one and a half. First pig is our chops, steaks, hams and bacons. One half of the second pig is for another family and it's other half is for our extra hams and bacon, plus extra meat for sausage, mince, roasts and more chops. Many cuts of meat are from the same part of an animal so to get a variety of cuts we have 3 sides. We use a lot of pork in place of beef, too. If we had land for a steer we would probably barely finish one pig.
    The organs, feet, skin, fat, bones, necks, tongues, ears, cheeks and wingtips are frozen in portions for our dogs. As well as any roosters we get who aren't breeding quality, which we take off feed for 24 hours to clean their systems out, then they are killed and skinned and frozen whole.

    I buy purebred poultry every year, and hatch out my own birds. If I just wanted to sustain my family I'd have no need to buy hens after the originals, but I breed rarer heritage breeds so my wants are a bit different than yours. I do buy my meat birds because you will not get the same feed conversion in anything you breed yourself. The commercial strain has been selectively bred for over 60 years to achieve what it is today and it's really quite impossible to compare to it. That being said, you can definitely breed a cross that is akin to the commercial strain in size and type with great feed conversion. It might not grow as big as fast but if you are looking for a completely closed system then that would be your option. The poster above mentioned the white cornish rooster on a white Plymouth Rock hen, for example. I do have some heritage Cornish coming this year as I am interested in breeding a smaller, slower growing birds and want to outcross the Cornish to some other breeds I have here to sort of test out some theories.

    I also do not raise my meat birds really any differently than my laying birds. Every bird of the same age is brooded together and they all free range together. My meat birds sleep in a separate coop than my layers only because my older hens are nasty to younger birds and the meat birds aren't as quick to escape as the laying breeds, so I find they get picked on simply because they're easy targets. Plus there are simply too many of them to go in my coop. In every other aspect they are raised exactly the same, the meat birds just eat more food. There's a lot of misconceptions about meat birds, for some odd reason.
     
  7. hellofromtexas

    hellofromtexas New Member

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    Shortened the quote but yes the long heat is what I mean by a storage issue.

    My family used to leave fertile eggs on the counter (there was no affordable refrigerator or a/c invented yet. The time period is the dust bowl in midland, tx). The problem would occur mostly in the hot texas summers. Also my families old habits die hard. Don't try reason, it fails, and I've tried.

    Plymouth Rocks are a good base hen. Most crosses for meat birds involve them because having 8 of them is less of a drain on feed than traditional meat birds. You will have the fast growing problem with crosses though. However for a slow growing meat bird, a jersey giant may be worth looking into. Either that or a Delware, Dorking or Buckeye.
     
  8. Fiere

    Fiere New Member

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    Plymouth Rocks would be a traditional meat bird. They offset feed costs by laying eggs, but the feed conversion depending on the strain is about 5:1-6:1, and could be up to 8:1 (lb of feed vs lb of growth). A commercial Cornish rock cross - not a backyard bird with a Cornish and Plymouth parent - has a feed conversion of 2:1, which is obviously much better than the traditional meat bird.

    Jersey Giants are horrible meat birds because they are so slow growing, they can take almost 2 years to reach full weight. I wouldn't recommend them, at all.

    The key to a good meat bird is not just size but feed conversion. It is not worth it to have a bird that will take 5 months to reach marketable size and eat 50lbs of feed to do it. There's rich, slow grown meat and then there's just bad financial decisions. The commercial Cornish rock cross, is actually a third generation bird with a large percentage of Cornish blood and Plymouth Rock blood in it's lineage. It is not a cross of a Cornish and Plymouth Rock. However, a for backyard bird who has a feed conversion rate of about 4:1 that will take about 4 months to reach a good marketable size (dressed weight of ~5lbs), that cross is one of your best bets. Delawares are also nice when crossed with a Cornish if you get a good Delaware line. The reason you want to breed to the Cornish is for body style, most breeds do not exhibit the wide thick breast and heavy thighs of a grocery store chicken - the Cornish however, has that build naturally. They are also really good at putting on weight fairly quickly as compared to other breeds, a trait which they will pass on to their get.

    There are other commercial breeds that are better suited for slow growing that still have a feed conversion rate similar to the Cornish Rock Cross. They are often marketed as "Free Range Broilers" and have names like Red Ranger, Freedom Ranger, Sasso, ect. They are suited to pasture ranging and have a bit more thrift on that setup than a Cornish Rock cross. I free range all my birds and have no issues and my meat is lovely, so I don't see the need to drive 5 hours to purchase the Sassos for 1.25 more per bird.

    It all boils down to what you are looking for. From what you stated, wanting to provide meat and eggs to your family without buying new birds every year, I would definitely start out with a flock of Pymouth Rock hens, maybe about 18. I would then search for a large Cornish rooster (or two, for a flock that size) and breed him over the flock. This will give you plenty of eggs, and a good traditional cross that will efficiently make it to the table.
    Usually you would want to follow the female lineage, so for the best meat bird you'd want the Cornish to be the mother as she's putting forth the best traits, but Cornish aren't overly great layers and so a flock of them wouldn't be as effective as the rocks.
    Honestly, for the amount of people you wish to feed, you are going to need to hatch out such a large amount of birds that you might find it best to purchase the meat birds, or at least a portion of them.
     
  9. LittleWings

    LittleWings Backyard Breeder

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    Its not like there is a rooster bullet in the egg. The embryo is fertilized long before it is an egg. Most people have eaten eggs their whole life and have never even noticed the white dot, much less whether or not it had a doughnut around it. Is hard to tell the difference for most folks even if they can find it. A lot of people think the "chalaza" or the white stringy stuff that hooks to the yolk is the rooster bullet. In fresh eggs it is much larger and healthier than old store bought eggs so people think that is the difference in a fertilized egg. My grown son saw a fresh egg and said he wasn't eating those because it was full of rooster stuff, pointing to the chalaza.

    I have never had an egg that had a chick or partially formed chick in it. Blood spots and weird little chunks of tissue, but no chicks.
     
  10. hellofromtexas

    hellofromtexas New Member

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    I have... It's not fun. Like I said, storage issues. If it's refrigerated you don't have to worry so much. When stored at 100 degrees, it happens.

    The rooster bullet just refers to rooster sperm. It will look like a bulls-eye. There is no nutritional difference.


    To fierce, You said you wanted slow. I still prefer my bland cornish cross chickens. Yes there is more breeding involved in the commercial and I put it in simple terms. It's a 3rd generation cross. This is why I recommend ordering them. Here's how to order the parent stock tho. http://en.aviagen.com/ross-308/


    You actually can breed cornish crosses to a cornish cross contrary to popular belief but it isn't worth the time, money and effort. To keep them alive you have to feed them sparingly. And you don't get the product you want. If you breed them you won't get a good meat chicken chicks and it lays 2-3 eggs a week. As well as a massive feed cost

    The poor man's version is just doing the parent cross. Dark cornish or New Hampshire red roosters to White plymouth rock hens. It's not a cornish cross but it's still a good and more feed efficient to produce chicks. The commericial cross has is about 75% cornish but there is a weird crossing with the females which makes it hard to do.
     
  11. LittleWings

    LittleWings Backyard Breeder

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    Storing at 100 degrees is called incubation.

    OK sorry, I'll word it differently. An egg does not have rooster sperm in it.
     
  12. Fiere

    Fiere New Member

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    The commercial Cornish cross broiler can be kept to adulthood and bred, without astronomical feed costs. The problem with this lies in the fact that they have been so selectively bred to have their body mature so very young they are elderly at 2 or 3. They won't start laying until at least 28 weeks, and they are horrible layers, so pair that with their short lifespans and you would need quite a few to make enough chicks to become table birds to feed a family. The resulting chicks will still have excellent meat bird properties, they just won't hold a candle to their parents feed conversion ratio. And you have to worry about dwarfism, which is quite common in their genetic makeup and crops up in the fourth generation fairly frequently. It is really not worth it to keep the first generation crosses unless you have a large scale facility as it will take almost 3 years to get the 2:1 broilers. Much easier to cross what I mentioned above for a 4:1-6:1 ratio with the body style of the modern meat bird. I have had several hens who I have kept with my laying chickens being fed free choice scratch and twice daily feedings of FF and they did wonderfully. My plan was to breed my best laying-breed roosters over them and see if with careful line breeding between the resulting chicks, my laying breeds and my heritage Cornish I could achieve a dual purpose bird that was a consistent 200+ egg per year layer with a feed conversion that will grow an 8-10lb bird in 20 weeks, as well as looking really good and having the vitality to keep the females several years. This is a 5-10 year project minimum and I have stock that has already been line bred to the point where most of my work is done. The hardest part of breeding meat birds is increasing their feed conversion ratio to make them economical.

    You are right, hellofromtexas, they need to be fed sparingly for the first couple months as they are designed to eat and grow and be killed well before they reach maturity. To explain how this works to the OP: If you do not limit their feed, they grow too fast for their eternal structures to keep up with them and are prone to organ failure and their legs can break under the weight of themselves - as they are essentially morbidly obese. The commercial poultry farms feed continuously and keep them in conditions where they are unable to move resulting in a market sized bird in 50 days, this is what they have designed this bird to do. They do not recommend keeping them for breeding as (1) they don't breed true and (2) if fed in that system they are physically unable to live long enough to reproduce. They also warn about keeping them past 20 weeks as they will start to lose weight, essentially becoming normal chickens who can be fed whatever you like as they are passed their periods of extreme growth.

    When I buy my commercial broiler chicks each year, I feed fermented feed - as much as they will eat in a few minutes three times a day, and let them free range. This allows them to grow slower and healthier, with very little fat. I raise mine till they are 10-13 lbs resulting in a carcass weight of 7-9lbs, which takes me 12-14 weeks. If I were to feed them on a free choice system and limit their movement I'd have that size achieved in less than 10 weeks. My chicken is very flavourful because of the bird's diet and free range situation. A more traditional meat bird has an even stronger flavour because they are extremely slow growing and have mostly dark meat. I prefer the broad breast and heavy thighs of the commercial Cornish cross, and for economical feed costs they certainly can't be beat, that's why I buy them, and will continue to buy them, even though I am playing scientist with my own cross.

    Little wings is right, there is no rooster sperm in an egg. The bullseye is the fertilized part of the egg and the point of development for the chick. The actual sperm meeting egg results before the egg is developed, what you see inside the fertilized egg is simply the embryonic speck that under the right conditions, could result in that speck growing and forming a chick. Any blood spots or what have you in an egg are not baby chicks, they are trauma experienced in the hens oviducts while the egg is being formed. If you have a spiderweb of blood vessels or an actual fetus inside the egg, that egg is being incubated. I would not confuse the original poster by saying improper storage causes chicks to grow in fertilized eggs, as in the experience of hellofromtexas the eggs were being stored at incubator temperatures. So long as the eggs were never stored over 90 degrees no chick will ever have developed, and fertilized eggs lose their vitality after a week (roughly) of not being set.

    Sorry for the long posts about breeding, here JA. Hopefully you can gain some knowledge out of this that will better help your selection to best feed your families.
     
  13. hellofromtexas

    hellofromtexas New Member

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    I'll word mine differently too...

    The rooster bullet/Rooster sperm is what is needed for a fertile eggs. No rooster bullets will equal no fertile eggs.

    The infertile egg and sperm combined produces a bulls-eye mark which given the right circumstances (and if your my redneck family and store them on the counter or outside in the middle of a hot summer) you get the possibility of chicks. To see the baby chick in the frying pan, it would have to be 4 days or more at a high temp. The scientific terms for this mark is a blastoderm for a fertile egg and a blastodisc for an infertile.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Chicken fertile eggs are special where as long as you keep them above 55 degrees the hatch-ability is viable. If below that temp, the hatch-ability will decrease and you will end up with less chicks than eggs kept at or above that temp. In order for development to start they need to be at a certain temp.

    Storing them in a fridge or eating them right away, instead of a counter, would greatly decrease you chances of seeing this. So this is why my other point is storing them correctly.



    I prefer not use technical wording (because it leads to walls of text and having to explain complex things) but I can if necessary.
     
  14. dcfrenkel

    dcfrenkel New Member

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    Agreed!!!

    Over the years I have sometimes had a rooster and other years not. There is no difference in the eggs. They are always delicious.

    If I cooked two batches of eggs for a person, one batch fertilized eggs, the other batch not fertilized, that person would not know which was which.

    There is no difference.
     
  15. LittleWings

    LittleWings Backyard Breeder

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    Yep. The sperm fertilizes the blastodisc and it becomes a blastoderm and that is what is in the egg, not sperm.

    Hamburger meat will spoil if you store it in the heat also, so I don't do that either.

    Books are nice, but can't replace actually owing chickens and learning from experience. :)
     
  16. hellofromtexas

    hellofromtexas New Member

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    Lol, I still hate the very technical terms. I am not a very correctly word person. I am a science major, not an english major.

    Yes, this is why I avoid some foods with my family but that is another story entirely. Like the time grandma left the milk in a black car for 3 hours in July in Texas... For sake of argument, the car is off and in the hot sun. Food sanitation is not their strong suit and reasoning with them and giving them logical points will not work.

    The only non cross I think that is widely used for meat is a Bresse. However, It is expensive. It's a french bird that some chefs swear by. But the price tag stops most. $29-$50 per unsexed day old chick.

    Cheapest source for the bresse chicken