Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Many Roosters are Needed?

After determining what our chicken set up would allow and what our needs were, we set goals. Ideally we should have 10 to 12 hens per rooster for breeding purposes of course. You do not need a rooster for the hens to lay eggs. But a side note - Did you know roosters like big combed hens? No, not big breasted or ones with a large booty. Nope, a large comb turns them on. And yes, rooster do have favorites. Sir Gallop has already chosen amongst the young pullets, though he does not do so at the exclusion of the others. Now I want to watch to see if he prefers big combed hens like the research study concluded.

Sorry, squirrel there. My mind darts like crazy. Back to the story. We had 2 roosters and 19 hens. The young rooster got along as well with the older rooster in their winter facilities with hens, as the 2 buck goats did in theirs with the does - not well! The young rooster was the easy choice to put in the stew pot but which hens? I can't decide. I chose 3 easy picks but I need charts just like I made for the goats to choose more. I rank each goat in varying categories which meet specific criteria for the perfect specimen for our needs. Some categories are worth more points and there importance is greater. This has moved the cloud of emotions out of the equation. This has cleared the confusion.

Through careful thought, I've just completed the list for chickens. Interesting, our needs have changed from the previous location to here. We have more people to feed. We have different facilities and now the ability to use free range; but we have more predators and lots more snow. Time will tell which of these young pullets born last summer will make the grade. Some look great in one category but not in another. They need scored in order or me to decide who stays and who goes. The bottom number of hens needs to be 12. Maybe that was why some of the eggs last summer were not fertile.

We know we need to lower production costs. But with some molting, some not producing yet, and a couple that were injured and had to be put in the stew pot, (which happens), what is the magical number? We need to find out. We need to chart each hen and know how many eggs she produces. Are they of the quality needed? How long is her molt? Is she broody and if she is, does she begin laying eggs when the chicks are young or does she go straight into a molt? We had a variety last summer.  We need records. The information we need will take time but waiting won't get it for us so we had better begin. 

 Increase costs in the care of the hens means we need to produce more with less. We need to search out ways to save money on feed. We need chickens that better fit our needs for meat and egg production. We need to do this within the facilities we presently have. We need to do it within budget. The we needs are awfully long. I think and I emphasize, I think, we need to use the incubator once a year to produce more meat and not simply allow the hens to set on their eggs like we did last summer in hopes we will get what we need. When to use our incubator is what I'm contemplating now. Timing is the key to success. Anyone have any ideas?

Our home canned broth has almost completely eliminated the use of store bouillon and of course we don't use store broth. Home canned chicken is used more and more over store bought frozen. As I use more of home grown, it creates a higher demand. A demand I did not meet last summer and which means we will run out this winter.  

We are working on a more plant based diet that will help lower the need for meat but that takes time. It means more garden space needs to be established. Meanwhile, with our needs high, we need to figure out how to do more with the limited space we have available. A new, larger chicken coop is not going to happen and the one we have has to house the rabbits and chickens in the winter time. A new summer rabbit loafing shed is in the planning stage and maybe it will work for winter but the question is out on that.

Simply put, we need to do more with less. It will require timing. It will require a better dual purpose chicken. How to do that, I'm not completely sure. I'm researching genetics, reproduction, and more. Lots of changes are in the wind and they include the garden, beef, goats, and rabbits.


  1. Hi - I have pondered these same questions, and I think you're ahead of me in many ways. I have no idea how many hens is the "just right" number, and currently have 30 roosters and 10 hens. Sigh. My culling knife stayed in it's sheath last fall and it should not have. Anyway, I wanted to say that I think I've given up on the idea of a real dual purpose chicken flock. I've harvested probably 20 of our chickens over the years and every single one has no breast at all. Even the Wyandottes, even the Astralorps. No breast at all. So my plan this year is to purchase 20 or so "freedom ranger" meat birds, and keep back 6 - five girls and a boy, and when I want more meat birds, I will sequester them until I get the eggs I need and incubate them. In the meantime, the Mr. will be increasing breast size in the rest of the flock. What do you think?

  2. Thank you for the laugh. I needed it. I'm sure 30 roosters and 10 hens isn't the magical number. I can not imagine putting up with 30 roosters - all that crowing. I would check egg production on the breed of rooster you propose to cross with if egg production is a priority for you. Meat birds usually have a poor egg production record. You will have to keep careful records on each hen to decide which hens do not meet the criteria you have set and cull them. That means getting out the knife or if you are like my neighbor, it means giving me a call and I do the job. You will need to set priorities of importance like large breasts are more important than egg production. Daily records will be necessary if egg production is what you are after. You have to cull very heavy to be successful. I've been studying chicken genes a bit and some characteristics require the same gene from both the hen and rooster. Some traits require a combination of up to 16 genes. I caution you that if you cross a large breast with a small breast the offspring will likely just be either large breasted or small breasted - NOT medium sized breasted. It is not like mixing red and blue to make purple. So if big breasts are important then the offspring with that trait are kept. I feel like a slaughter house in comparison to you. I've killed hundreds of chickens over the years. Not all of them have been mine. That has allowed me to observe what many breeds look like undressed. One of these days I will need to order some chicken genetic books like I have plant genetic books. I have learned so much from them. If a fun experiment is what you are after, then have at it and don't be too concerned with the intense record keeping. Thank you for commenting and thanks again for the laugh.

  3. Hi Again - Thank you for the genetics information! I had thought it would definitely be more of a yellow and blue making green situation.

    And, I have now only the 5 roosters I should have! Three of which are just old hands I keep around, so really only two studly dudes. It was a beautiful weekend and I could have culled them myself, but a neighbour wanted them and I let them go for $5 each. My asthma was going to town and I could barely do what I needed to do to get the house ready for the work week ahead. Also, my hen population has increased - I bought 5 a few weeks ago. Things are getting better out there.

  4. Love spring! A batch of eggs in the incubator, a hen sitting on eggs, part of which she stole from another hen who was sitting, and I want to pick up a few Australorps at the store. I get the asthma thing. Winter is hard on mine, leaving my energy levels low. I get it believe me. Sometimes it is just better to sell than process. It is always hard to cull or say goodbye. My Pearl, a large hen, died and I miss her.