Your Chicken Questions Answered by a Veterinarian. Honest and Practical Advice

Can You Keep Layers And Broilers Together?

You are looking into chickens and would like to have meat and eggs. Maybe you have experience with one and would like to try the other. Or perhaps you are wondering can you keep layers and broilers together?

The simple answer is you can keep broilers and layers together but it is inadvisable. The average person looking to keep broilers and layers for the meat and eggs would be best served by having completely separate coops. The differences in dietary requirements along with general maintenance, care, and interaction are worlds apart. Diet is the biggest factor you’ll need to consider. Layers need a diet high in calcium to produce strong shells for their eggs while broilers need a diet high in protein to grow quickly. You’ll also need to keep them segregated as much as possible since broilers are notoriously aggressive and can injure or even kill smaller birds.

With some careful planning and hard work, it is possible to keep these two types together, but it’s definitely not easy. Your best to consider a hybrid breed if you want to have both in your backyard flock.

In this article, we’ll be delving deeper into the differences between the two birds, why they shouldn’t be kept together and how you should keep both birds. If any of that sounds interesting then stick around for a few more minutes and continue reading.

What’s The Difference Between Layers and Broilers?

Let’s start off by talking about the biggest and most obvious differences between layers and broilers. Both types of birds have been bred for entirely separate purposes. On one hand, you have layers that produce a high volume of eggs whilst broilers are bred to be consumed by humans. This difference may not seem so much of an issue at first but once you know how keeping these birds together will affect them you may change your mind.

We were skeptical about why keeping both eating and laying hens in the same coop is such a problem, many years ago we were actually considering doing exactly that. However, after doing proper research into the subject and studying the behavior of both types it’s clear to see that they’re not designed to thrive in the same environments.

One of the most visually obvious differences between the two birds is that layers tend to be smaller whereas broilers tend to be larger and stockier.

Meat birds on the other hand have been genetically bred to get as big as possible in the quickest time. As they don’t lay anywhere near as many eggs as layers, the extra nutrients they eat all go into increasing the amount of meat they have on their frame, this essentially leads to a better tasting chicken when it comes time to slaughter.

Rhode Island reds can be both a layer and a broiler

Can You Keep Layers And Broilers Together? Why Should Layers And Broilers Be Kept Separate?

You could keep them together but permanently lose with one breed. Because each breed’s requirements in terms of food, housing, duration of growth, and management are different, you would want to keep them separate. The reasons why you should consider keeping them separate:

Broiler RequirementsLayer Requirements
Require a high protein feedRequire a high calcium feed
Needs a smaller coop moved or cleaned daily because of too much manure.Bigger coop for space, grazing, laying, and roosting
Needs a lot of feed to growRequires sufficient food but more water
They will be ready to go in 8 weeksThey will finish laying after 18-36 months

Space: Layers require more space than broilers.

With extra space for the layers, it will lead to more grazing from the broiler chickens, leading to less eating and not gaining enough weight on time. In return, that will lead to more extended feeding of your broilers, costing you more money and influencing the meat quality as broilers who are too old sometimes tend to be chewy.

Feed Differences

The feed can also become a problem when keeping them together. You will have to go with the layer feed to ensure you have eggs, but then with a lower protein index of a maximum of 16%, your meat birds will not make size on time, and you will lose on your part.

The stages of chick feed are also different, where broilers start to get the high protein feed from 2 weeks of age, and chicks of layers get their growing feed only from 8 weeks.

Because meat chicks tend to eat more and are more immobile, they will eat the layers’ feed, leading to the layers not performing as well as they should in laying eggs.

Time and Pecking Order

You will have layers for some time (up to 2 years) before you get new ones. The meat chickens depending on your scale will be fresh every 8 to 10 weeks; thus, keeping them together will not work for the amount of effort, time, and management each phase needs.

this means if half of the flock is broilers then they will have to be replaced multiple times. This is not a good idea! Adding new chickens to an existing flock can be a recipe for disaster. If the current birds do not accept the new young hens into the flock then bullying will take place, this can lead to the hen being injured which is just more work for you. We’d always advise keeping them separate if possible.

To understand why you cannot keep them together, you must know what each breed requires to be productive.

Parasites and Diseases

Layers and broilers also tend to have different parasites and diseases. If the birds stay together in enclosed spaces for extended periods you have got an increased likelihood of spreading illnesses and diseases. Not good!

Not to mention if the birds are not comfortable in the presence of each other then it also may affect things such as reduced egg production of the layers as well as bullying within the flock. If this gets really bad then you may end up separating the birds anyway. However bullying within the flock can happen even if you are doing everything right, if you’d like to know more about how to deal with bullying then feel free to check out one of our other articles on how to stop my hens from being bullied.

How To Keep Layers and Broilers Together

If keeping both layers and broiler is an absolute must, then making sure you provide for them separately is a good idea. I would always advise having 2 entirely separate coops. This will allow you to control everything from the food they consume to their safety and general behavior.

What Is The Difference Between Layers And Broilers?

Broilers are chicken breeds raised and fed to be slaughtered for meat. They are bigger and have more muscle mass, making for more meat when killed.

Layers are chicken breeds raised for the purpose of egg production. They are smaller and need additional nutrients to increase the size and quality of the eggs they produce.

Each breed type has specific needs when it comes to their coop and commercial feed. They also differ in size and how long they take to grow for their particular purpose of laying eggs or being slaughtered for meat.

What To Consider When Rearing Broilers

Breeds

When it comes to raising broilers for meat, there are a number of different factors to consider. The breed of chicken is one of the most important, as each breed has its own unique characteristics. For example, some breeds are known for their large size, while others grow relatively slowly and produce leaner meat. Additionally, some breeds are more disease-resistant than others. With so many different factors to consider, it can be difficult to choose the best breed for your needs.

However, a few common choices for the best meat chicken breeds include Cornish Cross broilers, the Plymouth Rock, and the Rhode Island Red. Each of these breeds has its own strengths and weaknesses, so be sure to do your research before making a decision. Whichever breed you choose, though, you can be sure that you’ll be getting delicious, healthy chicken meat.

Costs

Initially, broilers will cost you less money, and the turnover will be faster than with laying hens. The aim with broilers is to help them gain weight as fast and sufficiently as possible to ensure they are ready to be sold in 6 to 8 weeks.

Feed

The feed of broilers is vital to ensure sufficient weight gain and is rich in protein. After two weeks of chick feed as day-old chicks, the farmer introduces the high-protein broiler grower feed. The ideal amount they should eat is 1,5kg per day. As soon as they reach their optimal size, they will get the finisher food until they are ready to be processed.

Health

The health of the broilers is of utmost importance, as the farmer raises them specifically for their meat quality. After the amount of feed, the first concern for the broilers – their chicken coop and living conditions is a strong second.

When you get the broiler chicks at 1-day, you must ensure your coop is equipped with a brooder for the chicks and keep it clean with fresh bedding daily. Whether your pen is separate from the brooder, the time to move them out is at about two weeks. They will then start feeding on the high-protein chicken feed.

Broilers can sufficiently put their feed into weight gain for fast growth and to reach market weight. They gain about 1 pound per 2 pounds of food they eat. Although they eat a lot, which might cost you money, you only feed them for 6 to 8 weeks before selling them, making it worth it.

Because they eat so much, they also have a lot of manure, especially around week 5. The poop will be a lot of work to clean, and it would be best to have a mobile coop or chicken tractor or, consider free-range chickens to move for a fresh start. Clean water is also a must.

You want to keep their grazing to a minimum as this will lead to them not eating the total amount of their high-protein food. Not consuming adequate amounts of specialized food will leave you with extra expenses to feed them longer which can increase your feed costs.

Rhode island reds

What To Consider When Rearing Layers

Layers are not that complex, but they take time and money and are easily susceptible to diseases because of their longer lifespan.

Feed

Because of a lower protein index, the layers’ feed is cheaper than broilers’. Their food has higher calcium levels and micronutrients to ensure giant eggs, hard shells, and more frequent laying. They don’t eat as much as broilers, with ΒΌ-pound for a laying hen. Water is essential; they need clean and fresh water daily.

Time

Egg layers take longer to rear to a point when they start to lay eggs. You will have to feed them for about five months before they begin to lay eggs. They will then produce eggs up until 72 weeks or maybe longer.

During their growing phase, they need adequate space, and during their laying phase, lighting becomes a factor. Adding light to the coop can extend the layer chicken’s daytime, making more egg production possible.

Housing and Space

Because their lifespan is longer, you will have to take extra care in their housing. Anything can influence egg production, and it is thus crucial to stay on top of everything when it comes to layers. Ensure it is clean, and give the necessary vaccines to prevent illness.

They need enough space, and being cooped up will influence their egg production. Layers also roost, so your poultry house needs to be higher to make space for their roosting and grazing.

Layers don’t eat that much because of their smaller size, but they lay many eggs. If you are managing everything correctly, you will save in the long run by selling the eggs. You don’t have to grow them from baby chicks and can buy them at laying age, saving you money and time and starting you off with the eggs income from the start.

What about Dual-Purpose Breeds?

When it comes to backyard chickens you may want to consider a dual-purpose breed. If you’re looking for a breed that can provide you with both meat and eggs, then you’ll want to consider one of the following dual-purpose chickens. The Rhode Island Red is a classic chicken breed that is known for its high egg production. Additionally, these birds have a good amount of meat on their bones, making them ideal for both purposes.

Another good option is the New Hampshire Red, which are similar to the Rhode Island Reds in terms of size and appearance. However, this breed tends to be slightly more productive when it comes to egg laying. Another to consider is the Sussex – a large bird that produces brown eggs. They also have a good amount of meat, making them a great choice for those who want to raise chickens for both purposes.

Lastly, the Plymouth Rock, and the Wyandotte make great dual-purpose birds. These hybrid chickens are hardy and adaptable, and they typically have a good feed conversion ratio, making them a cost-effective choice for both egg and meat production.

When it comes to choosing a dual purpose chicken breed, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, consider what your main purpose is for raising chickens. If you’re primarily interested in egg production, then you’ll want to choose a breed that lays a large number of fresh eggs. On the other hand, if you’re mainly interested in raising chickens for meat, then you’ll want to choose a breed that has a good amount of flesh on their bones. Additionally, keep in mind that some chicken breeds are better suited for hot climates while others do better in cold weather. Make sure to choose a breed that will do well in your particular climate. With so many great options available, there’s sure to be a dual-purpose chicken breed that’s right for you.

Plymouth rock

From a Veterinarians Perspective:

Some might convince you that it is possible but keeping layers and broilers together isn’t fair. The birds were both bred for an entirely different purpose and aren’t as similar as you may think. Keeping them separately is much better for them, so if you are considering getting both birds it’s essential to provide them with the right environment. I suggest you consider all aspects of broilers and layers’ growing, feeding, and managing before you make a final decision.

Conclusion

So there you have it, I hope I answered the question can you keep layers and broilers together? It will be best to keep the layers and broilers apart in separate coops if you want the best results in broilers and layers. You can build a mobile coop or chicken house for a reasonable price and manage your broilers on their own, reaping both benefits. Or even better consider a dual-purpose breed such as a Rhode Island Red.

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