Chickens

After a lot of research, I have settled on Indian Game bantams for breeding our table chickens, they lay quite well (or at least a lot more than their large IG or Cornish do) and improve the meat of any other breed they are crossed with. The cockerels mature early and can be processed at 5 months to dress out at around 2kg - so a very decent meal with leftovers for lunches for a family of five.  I will be picking up our first lot of POL hens and a few cockerels before Easter.  Although we haven't yet processed and eaten our own roosters, we've been planning it for a few years and the kids are no longer concerned about eating our own animals.  I think going to school with other farm kids who have grown up eating the animals they raise has helped them realize that it is quite a normal thing to do.  Plus they understand that the life we give our chickens is a much healthier and happier one than the commercial meat and egg chickens that end up in the supermarket - and unless they plan to be vegetarian, it's a better option for the chicken and a healthier choice for them.

I think hanging around with farmers wives has rubbed off on me, and while I am definitely not looking forward to actually doing the deed, the thought of providing my family with healthy free range chicken that we have raised and cared for ourselves is a step towards self-sufficiency that I am looking forward to.

Depending on what I can find available, I would also like to set another lot of fertile eggs in the incubator so that we have a decent number of pullets ready to start laying in spring.  I'm leaning towards some Rhode Island Red and Auracana eggs - the RIR are a good utility bird, so any roosters in the hatch will be raised for meat, and future generations crossed with IG will be used for the same purpose.  The Auracana will primarily be used for egg laying and because they lay a coloured egg that ranges from blue to green they can be run with other breeding chickens without confusing which eggs are for eating and which for hatching.

Eventually, we would like to have some more Gold Laced Wyandottes in the laying flock, as well as some Silver Spangled Hamburghs, both breeds because we like the look of them.  Getting fertile eggs for these breeds will have to wait until later in the year though as most breeds are moulting now and have gone off the lay.

The heat wave we had over summer claimed a few of the chicks that we incubated last year and we lost a few to crows.  Of the remainder we have one Australorpe cockerel growing out, one Light Sussex X hen at POL and the remainder are all bantams - and mostly cockerels with the exception of one pekin, one silky and one crossbred bantam.  Even one of the two Pekin chicks adopted by Zoom is a cockerel, so the male imbalance - and the dilemma of what to do with them - continues.  Hopefully the 8 bantam hens (pekins, silky, mix and Zoom) will be enough broody hens to help hatch out more chicks in the future.

Not surprisingly, the excessive heat over summer sent the remaining hens off the lay.  So far, CornChip the Gold Lace Wyandotte is the only one who seems to have started laying again, although I did find one egg in the growers pen, I suspect that was probably Zoom's.

M.

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