I will share a story of my life with chickens and the evolution of my breeding strategy, for self sustaining pasture based chickens raised in house, with no bought chicks.
So, like most of us, I was born. That is where this story begins. My Grandma was old, she only had one chicken. The chicken house had fallen into disrepair, mom and dad didn't like chicken poop, Grandma couldn't take care of things anymore, so that was that. I remember asking grandma to hold me up to the window so I could see "chick-hen". She died in a snowstorm when I was like five, (chick-hen, not Granny). I still picked Grandma's brain, of her life with chickens, all the different breeds, outlined in a tattered hatchery catalog. And so it was, through many bleak years, Mom and Dad pointing out all of the things that would go wrong if we got chickens, hordes of ravaging foxes, mite infestations of biblical proportions, and the multimillion dollar feed bill. On through the bleak years, Grandma passed. Then a bright spot. I got married. To a girl who appreciated agricultural endeavors, no less. She became my great enabler.
One of the first things I did was build a barn. Then a home. (Still working on that one). Order some chicks. Instant happiness. And so it went, rattling through the years. Order a different breed every year, or heck, an assortment. By the time the dark egger craze hit, we had graduated through several incubators, up to a giant cabinet incubator and a hatcher. We were doing hundreds of chicks, fancy dark egg layers, some meat birds, selling day olds up through point of lay pullets, good times. Then the kids came. No more time for hundreds of chicks. We quit hatching. Just bought an assortment, ate the roosters, kept the layers, sell them off and have another batch coming on.
By that time, there seemed to be a lot of people raising chicks. I was no longer interested in "ordinary" chickens. I became interested in the various, colorful gamefowl breeds. They had cool, obscure names, and there socially unacceptable heritage made them somewhat rare, but not have eggs shipped through customs rare. Just some little play pretties off to the side. At first, I was pretty turned off by the oriental games. Then through a twist of fate, I ended up with one. I was instantly taken with their raw ugliness, grace, and because they lack natural fear responses found in most chickens, they are just the doggone friendliest things on earth. I mean take a rooster for a ride to the landfill with you friendly. How cool is it to take your pullet fishing.
So, integrating that into a pasture based meat and egg production system was the next logical step. There are no incubators or brooders in use now. I have hens that can do a far better job. They can take better care of them than I can, and I am tractoring around small, easy to move pens, with smaller numbers of chicks, and in some cases letting hens free range their broods. I raise a few orientals on the first brood and then on the second and third broods I am raisng replacement layers in small batches, so hopefully I will have seamless egg production. I have butchered some of the games and it is apparent that the Cornish owes it's meat heritage to the Asil, they are some thick breasted little things. My Ga Noi are interesting me, I have enough now that I should be able to do some experimental crossing, on dual purpose heritage breeds, I have some BLR Wyandottes and some buff Orpingtons, from one of the accidental breedings I had, I am expecting near Cornish X performance on a hen raised pastured chick. My Asils are small, but I am planning on crossing some of them on some Dorkings, ought to get a plump breasted little bird from that cross. I know that I am definitely onto something with the tight feathered big breasted oriental crossed on the heritage types, they are getting a real kick from the hybrid vigor and both parent lines are easily self replicated. So now you know my system and how it came about.