Keeping Egg Laying & Duel Purpose Hens Together…

“I have 12 brown egg layers, about a year old. I would like to get about 12 heavy’s soon. Can I keep them all together after about 4 weeks or so, and can I leave the big ones out to free range also or should I leave the heavy’s separate, and in the run only and away from the layers because of the different food?

Can they all eat the same food for a while? Hope to hear from you soon so I can figure out what to do. I look forward to your news letters. Keep it up, you got me this far, lets try something different.” ~ Ron from Lake Superior

Thanks for the question Ron.

I’m going to make an assumption here and assume that by “heavy’s” you mean dual-purpose breeds.

I’m also assuming that you want heavier breeds to butcher.

Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood your question.

For those that are unfamiliar, dual-purpose breeds are breeds that grow large and are therefore used for both eggs as well as meat.

Just a few of these breeds include; Australorp, Barnevelder, Brahma, Dominique, Faverolles, Jersey Giant, New Hampshire, Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island, Sussex, Welsumer, and Wyandotte.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list and some make better meals than others but these are breeds that are commonly used as dual-purpose birds in my part of the world.

Before Cornish or Indian Game hens started being crossed with Rocks, the above breeds were common place on the dinner table. Now you are unlikely to find a chicken in the supermarket that is not a Cornish X Rock because they are ready to dress so quickly.

Okay, history lesson over.

Ron you can keep your egg layers and your heavy’s together but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

Dual purpose breeds require more food, you’ll need to ensure that they can get to it. Because your layers were there first, they will most likely dominate the newbies. Be sure you are providing enough food for everyone. Additional feed and water stations would be in order.

Extra protein is beneficial in the diet of a of a bird being raised for meat, for the majority of it’s life, this is the only real difference in the diet of a layer and a dual-purpose bird.

The dilemma with a dual purpose bird is that they take some time to put on enough weight to make them worthy of the table. However, the longer you wait to butcher, the tougher the meat.

Here are some guidelines in how to best cook a bird based upon their age;

Butcher between 8 and 12 weeks to be cooked as a broiler or fryer.

From 12 weeks to 6 months, cook as a roaster.

After 6 months the meat will be awfully tough, these birds are best used as stew birds.

In the last few weeks before butcher, keep them confined in a run and add some cracked corn to put on a little fat (important for flavor).

So Ron, not being familiar with your particular set up, I can’t tell you the best way to raise the two sub-flocks together but I hope this information will help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

Thanks again for the question, best of luck to you.

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