Whew! I finally read this entire thread (finished late last night,) and want to let you know how much I have enjoyed it. Thank you, Beekissed for starting this thread and sharing your backstory. Thank you, old-timers, for restoring my confidence in common sense chicken husbandry. All of my grandparents were farmers, and kept white and red flocks for eggs and meat. My parents were farmers, and one of the delights of my childhood was to peruse the McMurray Hatchery catalog and select my chicks for future orders. When I finished high school, I moved to town to get an education and make a living. Twenty years later, my husband and I left the big city for small-town life and we ordered more hatchery chickens to produce our own farm-fresh eggs. We decided to attempt raising our own meats, and with a fondness for old-timey things, I began to research heritage chickens.
A little over a year ago, I stumbled upon Bob Blosl's photo essay comparing standard-bred RIRs and BRs with their hatchery-bred versions, and in 30 seconds I was converted. Instead of a chicken-raiser, I wanted to be a chicken breeder. Reading the information and mis-information available on this forum (and other venues,) had all but convinced me that I was as ignorant about chicken rearing as I was about breeding to a standard. You - Beekissed, Al, Walt, Bob, NYReds, Fred, Pop, Ridgerunner, Mississippifarmboy- have reminded me that chickens are livestock, not exotic housepets and I thank you for that. Thank you, Jim Hall, for reminding me that we all start where we are, with what we have.
My current goal is to breed one variety of chickens, with all roosters on the farm being of that variety. We will probably always have a few hens of other breeds as I also enjoy a colorful egg basket.
This year, I am practicing on hatchery Dorkings and like them much more than any other hatchery variety I have ever had. We brood in the garage, then move them to the unheated barn to live in wire rabbit cages until they are big enough the barn cats will leave them alone. At that point in time, they get to free range on our 24 acre farm, under the protection of 3 LGDs. The chickens stay fairly near the sheep and dogs, and I have only lost chickens to a juvenile delinqent LGD puppy. The poor doing chicks are decomposing, the good and mediocre ones are growing out. My husband and I are both able and willing to butcher our own chickens, but a nearby Amish farmer will also butcher poultry and we really like that option. (Man, do I hate plucking chickens!!) In another year or two, I want to obtain some standard-bred Dorkings and begin to breed them.
Again, I thank you old-timers from the bottom of my heart for starting and sustaining this thread.
P.S. Any tips for getting English sparrows out of the barn?