Originally Posted by aart
I'm thinking the same thing.....even tho winter actually just arrived here with a storm that left a few inches of nasty ice pellets that is now locked up in freezing temps for the next 4-5 days.
I could hatch to sustain population....but thinking I may want to add something from outside.
Have a Wellie cock that's made some nice hefty OE's over my blue laying EE, but she's not laying steady after molt (yet?). My Wellie hen had been a fairly terrible layer and only a couple of her first eggs were viable under a friends broody, 2 other batches I've tried to hatch never developed.
Will follow along for possible inspiration.
I hope you get some inspiration, Aart! It would be fun to know what you've decided on. I'll let you know when I make my choice, too.
Originally Posted by blkjak
My Barred Rock hens are my best layers all year round. Roosters dress out nicely and fairly large (6/7 lbs.). I always try to add 3 new hens each year so I always have soft brown BR eggs all year.
I've had Barred Rock hens in the past, and have good experiences with them. The one rooster I had, though, was pretty aggressive. I know that doesn't mean they all are - I could have just gotten a bad one. But I do like the fact that they dress out nicely.
Originally Posted by Ridgerunner
Favorite breeds? You can get some diverse opinions here.
I got 18 Buff Rock cockerels from Ideal last February, kept one to be my new flock master and put the rest in the freezer. I butchered around 5 months of age and they were pretty good. But to be honest most hatchery dual purpose breeds are OK.
Each hatchery has their own people deciding which chickens get put in the breeding pen so the same breed from different hatcheries can be different. I think strain is more important than breed, though some breeds do have tendencies. I haven’t done it yet but I’ve been tempted to try Wyandottes because they should be more curvy and round than most other breeds. It would be interesting to see how the white-dark meat divides with them.
Instead of ordering straight run, I think you are better off ordering by sex. I once got 7 Buff Orp pullets on a straight run order of 6 from Cackle. They threw in an extra chick because they had extras and just in case one died. None did. I would have liked to have had a couple of cockerels. The worst I’ve done on straight run pullets was four cockerels and two pullets on another Cackle order but I don’t do many straight run orders. Hatching your own is as straight run as you can get. Last year with one hatch I had two pullets and seven cockerels. I had an incubator hatch of 14 pullets and 7 cockerels. Straight run is just luck.
I don’t know how many you plan to order, but if you are getting many cockerels you will probably come off cheaper by ordering pullets and cockerels separately. Cockerels are pretty cheap. And you get what you want.
I can’t say I have a favorite breed. I like a multicolored flock of barnyard mutts and am partial to blue or green eggs. That’s why I went with a buff rooster. My flock was getting too dark for my tastes and buff can do some strange things to other colors. By hatching green eggs I can keep the green eggs coming.
My basic laying/breeding flock isn’t that different than yours, six to eight hens and one rooster, though during the season I may have more than 40 chicks and chickens out there, most growing to butcher size. I’ve bred mine to go broody a lot but I still have to use an incubator to get enough chickens to eat one chicken a week. The only way you can control hatching is with an incubator. One decent incubator hatch each spring should provide fresh pullets to keep your flock young and laying plus some meat. Any broody hatches after that is just Lagniappe. Of course if you hatch them you have to brood them. I really like my broody hens to raise them but I also want the meat.
Thanks for chiming in, Ridgerunner! I am hoping for some diverse opinions. It's fun to hear others' experiences and thoughts. I think I will order pullets and cockerels separately, just so I can have a better chance at what I want. Maybe I'll get 15 of the Brown Egg Layer special, order a couple of Wellies to be sure I get them, and then 5 or 10 cockerels and see what I like best and want to keep. Somehow, that suddenly seems like a lot of chickens.... I also have a preference for blue and green eggs, so I'd have to order a few EEs, too, just to be sure!
As my flock ebbs and flows, breeds and colors vary. I'll get a mixed batch of chickens, varying breeds, but birds that are supposedly purebreds, find a rooster I like and the next year or so will have a flock of mutts. Hatching depends on the year, too. I do have an incubator, but don't use it every year. Last year I was gone 7 weeks out of the summer and didn't want to fuss with babies or have someone else have to deal with them. I was hoping for a broody (I had one chicken go broody twice the summer before, but not at all last year) so I could get a few hens to keep things going. Oh well, it doesn't hurt to bring in new blood now and then. I had Freedom Rangers a couple of years ago for meat birds. I did like the red ones - they dressed out nicely. Kept one hen out of the bunch, but she died that winter. I guess if I can just breed heavies and get a good, meaty bird, I'd be just as happy to do it that way than order chicks every year.
ETA - I hadn't thought about the "strain" being more important than the "breed". Thanks for pointing that out. I have only ever ordered from McMurray, so I don't really have anything to compare them to.
Edited by bobbi-j - 12/30/15 at 7:20am