The pen for the meat birds has worked out pretty well this year, I think. I have decided to NOT take on any major spring projects around here for next year – the last several years, all of our spring has been consumed with new projects and then we miss some of the best camping!
However, I will be building two additional frames for the meat bird pen. I think 25 birds just need a little bit more space to run around than these guys had this year. The two additional frames will add quite a bit of space for them.
I had originally decided that, next year, we would plan to keep all 25 spring birds as meat birds, and then get three or four fall birds for the next year’s new egg layers. This makes the most sense economically. When we use spring birds for egg layers, we end up feeding them for nearly an entire year before they start producing eggs. (They typically hit maturity – and thus can start laying – about the time the days get too short for them to lay, so they don’t start laying until spring when the days get longer.) By using fall birds, we only have to feed them for about half the time before they start producing – they will hit maturity about the same time that the days get long enough.)
But then I remembered that I have some space considerations to take into account. My egg hens live in a mobile coop that we wheel around to very near the back door for the winter, for easy access. It can fit six comfortably all winter, but it is a little cramped. It works out well when all the hens know each other and can get along.
But then where will I put the new (and still growing) hens in the winter? They’ll be big enough to withstand the cold, but not quite big enough to hold their own with full-size hens. I could insulate the meat bird coop, but that’s on the far side of the yard, and honestly – that’s too far for me in the winter.
So, I don’t know. Maybe we’ll just stick to the one order of 25 birds, and take our 3 new egg layers out of that batch, as we will be doing this year.
(Yes, walking across my yard is too much for me in the winter. I hate being cold. I hate tramping through snow. I will put it off and let too many days go between checks on the birds, and then they’ll die and I’ll feel terrible. Yes, I know that if/when we move to an actual acreage, I’ll have to do a lot more tramping around in the cold. I am OK with this.)