My goal is to make a flock of birds who will produce as dark an egg shell color as possible, and, produce flavorful heritage meat with the least feed possible. I have a small farm, so this effort is to make money.
What I really wanted was a flock of Black Copper Marans, but that doesn’t come cheap. Since I had no experience with chickens, I decided a year ago September to buy 30 hatchery “special dual purpose” chicks.
I culled the 15 cockerels at 16 weeks and got decent meat to sell. Over the winter 4 of the pullets died, for no obvious reason.
I met a seasoned chicken farmer and she suggested a plan. She gave me a 1.5 yr-old BCM Rooster. She said it was from prize winning lines. It certainly is a beautiful bird, but I have never tried to compare it to SOP. Her suggestion was to breed it with my special dual purpose pullets and, in 3 generations, I should start seeing some maran colored eggs.
So, to this end, I incubated 7 sets this year. From those hatches I have produced 59 new pullets. Next week, I will cull the last of my original hens…leaving me with 14 laying Gen1 pullets by the time I make my first setting of 2016 (1/9/16). All eggs to be incubated will be chosen based on color, but I will use any egg I have in order to always fill my Ova Easy 100 each setting.
I also added 2 unrelated BCM cockerels to the main flock to boost fertility (which was ~75% over the course of this year).
This should result in some 30 Gen1 pullets laying Gen2 eggs by the beginning of July. At the same time, I cull the remaining Gen1 pullets.
I cull the Gen2 pullets in December, and Gen3 pullets in February 2017. At this point I will also have grown my laying flock to my government imposed maximum of 100.
Pullets are being culled at ~31-32 weeks old, so should get a decent price as a productive layer. Of course I won’t be representing them as BCMs, just a dark egg layer. Anyone who asks will be told the experiment.
Cockerels are being culled from 16-24 weeks old in an attempt to find the right age for meat.
At the very least I am getting heartier stock. Putting 4 week olds out in the middle of winter is letting natural selection do its job. Since the genetics of the special dual purpose is so diverse, the birds are all over the spectrum color-wise, so they are all learning to live with a diverse population.