Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chicken Update

About a month ago we had three chickens die in the space of a week. I was worried that we were about to have an epidemic and loose our flock. I still don't know why they died. We lost two Sexlinks and a Standard Cornish. Now our flock consists of two Sexlinks, one Standard Cornish(all by herself-without her buddy), two Brahma hens, two Brahma roosters, a Cochin and two Americanas. Everybody seems to be very healthy and perky. With the exception of today,(it's ten below zero this morning) we have been having some nice warm weather, mostly twenties during the days. So all the birds have been spending their afternoons enjoying the sun hitting their outdoor pen.

As far how we came up with this group of chickens...we wanted to raise heritage chickens. We also wanted dual purpose birds; the idea being that we could hatch our own eggs and keep the females for laying and put the extra roosters in the freezer come fall. So we ordered the Standard Cornish which is an ancestor of the Cornish Cross meat birds that are raised toda
y. These Cornish are extremely slow growing. At the end of this summer the roosters were still real small and we decided not to winter them over. We kept a couple hens because the birds were so small we thought they weren't worth putting in the freezer so we thought at least we'd get a couple eggs out of them. So that's how we now just have one lone Cornish, and I think she just started laying again. She is still growing. They have quite a different build than the rest of the birds, and it is amazing how much meat is on their small carcass. We might hatch a couple eggs and see what happens with the Brahma Cornish cross. This spring I think we are going to get 20-25 Cornish Cross. For the sole reason of having large roasters in about ten weeks time.

The Brahmas are one of the biggest chickens, they are very docile and mellow
. They are suppose to go broody and be good moms and ok layers, along with doing well in the cold. Well so far we love their temperament. They are easy to pick up and hold. The roosters have shown no aggressiveness to us. We have two roosters and they hardly ever fight with each other. The hens need to impress us with their laying or broody talents this spring. When all the other birds are inside the Brahmas are chillin outside together. They are certainly more cold tolerant.

We picked up a couple Sexlinks while waiting for the rest of our chicks to come in last spring. We have been so impressed with them. Sexlinks are basically a souped up hybrid layer. They lay big beautiful brown eggs, and a ton of them. They are our workhorse layers. They were laying two months earlier than anyone else, and they laid all through the cold spell. They have been our only bird supplying us with regular eggs over the last two months. We are down to just two of them, and we pretty much get an egg from each of them daily,impressive! As much as we want to raise heritage birds, I think we will be getting at least a handful of Sexlinks this spring.

We started out with eight Americanas this past spring, solely for the reason of having blue/green eggs. This past summer was a rough year for raising birds. Everyone I talked to had more losses than normal. It was a wet cool summer. We lost our share, mostly Americanas. We gave a couple away, we lost three and then one was a rooster. A friend of mine had several and was keeping some roosters so I thought we wouldn't have to. So we just kept two hens with the intention of getting more chicks from her this spring, well she lost all her Americanas this winter. Bummer. Our Americanas are our best layers next to the Sexlinks. We didn't get any eggs out of either of them for a couple months but they just started laying again. Up until early January we were getting about one blue egg a day,sometimes two. The egg color and shell quality are excellent. Much nicer than some other Americana eggs I've seen. So I think we 've found another Americana supplier for this spring.

Plans for this year; We are planning on getting a batch of Cornish Crosses to raise in a chicken tractor on pasture. We are going to get a handful of red Sexlinks from the feed store. I'm thinking of ordering about six to eight Americanas and about the same number of Welsummers from a small farm on the east coast. I can't remember their name but they've got some great bird and egg pictures. I've been looking into the Welsummers for a while now. They lay lovely dark brown eggs with spots on them. They are a heritage breed so they should make good foragers and moms. The chicks can be sexed at birth. The roosters are handsome and look like I think roosters should look. I think the roosters might be more work, in that they will be more aggressive than our roosters we have now, but we'll see. We are starting to collect Brahma eggs. I'm about to start leaving a couple marked eggs in the boxes to see if someone will go broody. We were given a Cochin this summer. Our friends had gotten her as an oddball in with their batch of meat birds so she had been their pet all summer so when they put their meat birds in the freezer they asked us if we wanted her. We mostly took her on because she should make a great mom and broody hen. She has been our only bird to go broody so far but it was too early. If she goes broody again in the next few months we will be ready to let her do her thing. She is our only bird with a name, Honey; she is a lovely buff hen. She is one of our more dominant birds, and doesn't put up with advances from the Roosters. It would be awesome to have at least one batch of chicks hatched by a hen this spring. Oneof our chicken tractors would be just right for a hen and her batch of chicks.

No comments: