Can you keep broilers or meat chickens with regular egg laying birds?
Is it a good idea keeping broiler chickens with regular egg laying chickens and what I have learned about keeping them together.
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Can broilers and layers be raised together?
Some people keep chickens for the eggs, while others keep them for both meat and eggs. Can meat chickens and egg chickens share the same space?
You can keep broilers or meat chickens with egg laying chickens but it is not considered best practice as they have different requirements for space, food and shelter. You can raise dual purpose or utility fowl alongside you layers with no problems.
I have a do keep heritage meat chickens along side my layers and dual purpose hens but I would never keep a meat chicken like the Cornish cross with my egg flock.
The smaller your flock the more likely you will get away with a combined group.
Below: A mixed flock in my fields, there are layers, dual purpose chickens and meat birds all free ranging. If you look carefully you can see Bresse meat chickens, dual purpose birds like the Barnevelder and Sussex and layers like the legbar.
Meat chickens like the Bresse and Ixworth are slower growing than some broilers and benefit from time spent free ranging on pasture.
The reasons you should not keep your broilers with your egg birds:
- The feed requirement is different: Broiler feed is typically very high in protein, normally 24%, to aid muscle growth whereas layer feed has only 16% protein as well as much more calcium and other egg associated nutrients.
- Differing space and coop requirements: Egg layers typically have a static coop and the birds range across the land while broilers need more floor space that is regularly cleaned or moved.
- Broilers do not roost: These birds will live on the coop floor and get dirty and covered in droppings.
- The length of time you have them: Some broilers can be ready for processing before egg laying chicks are even off heat.
- Predation: Meat chickens have no protection from predators as they can not run or fly at all.
- Outdoors on pasture: Broilers never wander far from their feeder and don't have the same urge to free range and the meat can be tough if they do.
- Diseases can be a problem: Layers are vaccinated against many disease over the course of 16 weeks whereas meat chickens are vaccinated once at day old.
- Bullying can be an issue: Meat chickens often get feather pecked and bullied by layers.
- The amount of waste and poop: Meat chickens eat several times more than layers do and poop a considerable amount, especially as they grow.
- Amount of light they need: Broilers often require 24 hours of daylight whereas layers need hours of darkness.
- Broilers need to be staved before they are processed. This is more difficult in a mixed flock.
There are some important things to consider when deciding whether to keep broiler chickens with regular egg-laying chickens.
Below: I would avoid trying to rear modern hybrid meat chickens in a mixed flock, they need their own space.
The following are the pros and cons of keeping these two types of chickens together.
The pros and cons of keeping layers with broilers:
As with nearly every aspect of chicken keeping there are advantages and disadvantages to most things.
- Space: Broiler chickens grow much larger and more quickly than egg-laying chickens, so they may require more space. However, keeping both types of chickens together can save space in your coop and run.
- Cost: Raising broiler chickens can be expensive, but if you keep them with egg-laying chickens, you can reduce your overall costs by sharing food, bedding, and housing.
- Companionship: Chickens are social animals and enjoy the companionship of other birds. Keeping broiler chickens with egg-laying chickens can provide them with social stimulation and help reduce stress.
- Different Needs: Broiler chickens and egg-laying chickens have different nutritional and housing needs. Broiler chickens require a high-protein diet and more space, while egg-laying chickens need plenty of calcium for egg production.
- Different Life Spans: Broiler chickens have a shorter lifespan than egg-laying chickens, typically only living for 6-8 weeks.
- Different Temperaments: Broiler chickens are typically less active and more docile than egg-laying chickens, which can lead to pecking and bullying if they are kept together.
Top tips for raising broiler chickens with regular egg laying chickens:
If you have decided to keep broiler chickens with regular egg-laying chickens, there are some important things you need to know to ensure the health and well-being of your birds.
- Get an chicken ark with a raised door. Raising the door 18 inches of the floor level will mean the layers can free range and the broilers have to stay confined.
- It is important to provide enough space for both types of chickens. Broiler chickens need more room to move around, so make sure your coop and run are large enough to accommodate them.
- Make sure you offer a balanced diet that meets the nutritional needs of both types of chickens. Offer a feed that is a mix of broiler and layer ration.
- Keep an eye on the behaviour of your birds and intervene if necessary to prevent bullying or pecking.