We are on the cusp of spring. If you’re a new chicken keeper, you might be putting the finishing touches on your first coop. Or you might be adding an addition to your hen house (because, chicken math) or reinforcing what you have.
My wife Sarah and I have built eleven coops together on our farm, where we have a combination of stationary coops, movable tractors, and two small prefab coops. (Why so many? To maintain our clan mating programs). Over the years of building together, we’ve learned a lot about coop construction and what our chickens’ need--and we are still learning, even now. Our coops might not make the cover of Martha Stewart Magazine, but we built them ourselves, our birds are happy, AND not a single predator has ever breached our chicken castles!
Wherever you are in your chicken journey, having a coop that meets your flock’s needs is a vital part of poultry care. Whether you are building a coop for the first time, purchasing a prefab coop, or already have your housing set, there are a few fundamental features that every coop should have. I’m going to go over them in this post, so that you can incorporate them into your build plans or make adjustments to an existing coop.
What is Clan Mating? And How to Start a Clan Mating Program with Your Home Flock
What is Clan Mating?
If you are interested in breeding your own flock for the first time, know that there are a number of different breeding methods you can choose, including line breeding, flock mating, and clan mating. All have their pros and cons, and some might be a better fit than others for your own situation and goals. On our farm, we’ve chosen to use a clan mating system for our Ameraucanas and Black Copper Marans.
Clan Mating (also known as Spiral Mating) is a system of breeding where chickens are separated into at least three different groups, or clans. You can absolutely have more than three groups if you wish, but three is the minimum. In the initial year of a clan mating program, chickens mate within their group, and in all subsequent years, males are rotated to the next clan over. (I was unable to discover where this breeding method originated, but I first learned about Clan Mating from Harvey Ussery’s great book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock.)
A few months ago, one of our Marans hens, Mollie, suffered an impacted crop. We performed an at-home surgery for her, which went incredibly well. After a few weeks of rest and recuperation in our house, Mollie started laying eggs again--a clear sign that she'd made a full recovery!
While we would miss her company, we knew it was time to move Mollie back outside. Since we don't breed birds that experience any kind of illness, this meant integrating Mollie into our laying flock, a new group for her.
Integrating or re-integrating a chicken into a flock should be done with care and planning, in order to reduce stress on all birds involved. Below are our best practices for introducing or returning a chicken to a larger group.
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