“Can you raise broilers and laying hens together? We haven’t kept chickens before and I want the broilers for meat but also want eggs. Some basic information on broilers would help too.” ~ Mike Cauffman
Thank you for the question Mike.
The term broiler refers to a fast growing, large meat bird, usually referring to a Cornish Cross or Rock Cross.
While most dual purpose and laying breeds are narrow breasted, these meat breeds are broad breasted. When you picture a whole chicken, cooked golden brown and juicy, you are picturing one of these crosses. A dual purpose bird looks more like a rubber chicken when it has been plucked.
There is a big problem with raising broilers and layers together; it’s would be very difficult for the layers to get enough to eat because the broilers will camp themselves in front of the feeder. These birds will sit down when eating if possible.
A broilers job is to get big fast. You can get a broiler to a live weight of 6 pounds in just 8 weeks! It doesn’t happen by chance though, they get that big because they eat a lot and are bred to grow rapidly.
This rapid growth also brings with it a tendency for some health problems. Typically these concerns do not become a problem until beyond 8 weeks of age. By butchering before that, you can eliminate much of the concern.
You will find that broilers do not have much personality and they’re not very energetic birds. Their primary concern is to eat. The only reason you’ll find them roaming is if they have to go find food.
If you are raising broilers, their diet must be high in protein.
If not they will still grow quickly but will have too much fat and not as much meat. Their meat will also likely be tough. Therefore, if you free range your broilers so that a large portion of their food comes from forage feeding, you need to make sure they have plenty of protein.
Depending on your area and the forage available, you’ll likely need to supplement with either commercial feed or a home rationed diet. For the first 6 weeks, your broilers will need 20% protein and 9% calcium. From 6 weeks to butcher they need 10% protein and 8% calcium.
If you must keep your flock confined to a run or yard, you’ll be limiting their diet and will therefore definitely need to provide commercial feed or a “complete” home rationed diet.
Again, the concern here is that your layers get enough to eat. If possible, it would be best to separate the layers from the broilers.
If you must keep the two together, free ranging is probably the best way to raise both broilers and layers. You’ll probably find that your broilers will stay closer to home, lazily eating the food that is close. Your layers will roam a little further.
A practical suggestion would be to release the layers while keeping the broilers confined.
Feed the layers outside rather than with the broilers and do not release the broilers until the last layer is done eating. Remove the food you put out for the layers (as nutrient requirements will be different) and release the broilers.
By removing the food during the day, you also deter other animals from approaching.
In the late afternoon, bring the broilers in and feed the layers again outside.
Mike, I hope this has answered your questions and that it has been helpful.