|The Flock 2010|
I do this every year - take stock of the flock and decide if I want to buy more baby chicks or not.
Last year - like this year - I filled the incubator with eggs in hope of getting a new flock from the old flock. When that didn't work - I bought a dozen "straight run" (un-sexed) chicks from local sources. A few weeks later I did get a few hatchlings, four or five, not enough to make up for the massive losses.
I had to buy ($10 each) four hens, 4 turkey poults (with a free crazy chicken) to try to make up for what I lost. The end results was 16 roosters and 2 hens - to replace the 12 hens I lost last winter.
Meanwhile, I've still got 4 roosters, 2 home-bred and a pair of Buff Brahmas - and 7 hens. A couple of the hens are too old to lay except in the early spring. I'm literally swimming in eggs at the moment. This supply will dry up very soon.
This year's debate is not only 'shall I get more chickens?' but also 'what kind?' because I've not had success with Dominikers, Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds as breeding stock. Barred Rocks and Rhodies don't set - my 2 best Dominikers did set. But the breed lays fairly small eggs and aren't particularly fertile - and I have the empty brooder to prove it.
Satisfactory farm chickens are ones who will replace themselves - the hens will set - the eggs will be fertile and there won't be too many roosters. It's a tall order in the world of 'production' breeds who aren't bred to set - but to lay huge amounts of eggs.
UPDATE! -- April 28th 2012
I gave in, yet again, buying chicks at the feed stores. A few Buff Orphingtons and a dozen Comets (a production cross-bred) have joined with the six pairs of baby geese. I didn't order chickens - I just didn't have the heart for it after losing so many Dominques in the past.