Originally Posted by DesertChic
You're keeping Tank, right?
Yup - something really weird would have to pop up in him for me not to keep him. He's great in every way so far: Nice example of a red Naked Neck with black tail, homozygous (NN) for the naked gene with a nearly clear neck, large and fast growing from day one, great blocky body shape and wide breast and wide stance, not aggressive with the other chickens, later maturing (without being abnormally behind) - checked him out today, he's going to have a super red neck! He's not a cuddler, but he doesn't freak out when handled. He's not currently "alpha" (that's Bane, and Dozer is second), but I am likely to select him as primary flock rooster for the Naked Neck girls. For those of you who don't know my birds by name , he's been top bird in all my graphs until last week. (No weights today, was feeling under the weather - will try tomorrow). Here he is at 9 weeks, though he got his name from how he feels when picked up, not his visual appearance (he's heavier than he looks):
(Here's a side shot, added):
I do, of course, have a little time before I choose. If you guys don't mind, I'll just think out loud here for a minute on this - would welcome comments. (I always listen carefully to advice, even if I decide not to take it!) If it's too long for you to read, feel free to skip to the next post!
This is year one for establishing this flock. My NNs are hatchery-sourced production types, and there's no SOP in sight for my goals with this particular flock, just utility. I may do some side crosses with German New Hampshires (size) and Speckled Sussex (since I already have those girls, mottling/aloha coloring side project for fun, and if I'm lucky, some size as well). Some of my goals:
- Meat is the primary purpose for these birds, so overall size, plus early fast growth, is important. Good blocky "meat bird" type body is good. Fewer feathers to pluck is nice as well (so, Naked Necks!). Eggs are a bonus - with all these chickens I'll have more eggs than I need regardless (I won't ignore egg production data, but it's lower on the priority list for my back yard. I have other chickens that lay pretty colors in good numbers.)
- Heat tolerance is essential where I live (being Naked Necks they should do well, but I will cull/not breed from any that don't handle heat well). I cannot stress enough what a giant PIA it is to make enormous amounts of ice every day, ice down waterers multiple times a day, give them iced wading pools, freeze treats for them, and give struggling chickens little water-dunks in a cold water bucket - minimizing the number of days I need to do that is vital. This means that less feathered birds (homozygous NN) are preferred. In addition, if a rooster is NN genotypically, all offspring will be naked necked (either NN or Nn), even if I were to cross with a fully feathered breed (e.g., German New Hampshires). If a rooster is heterozygous (Nn), he may throw 25% fully feathered offspring with a Nn hen (and, of course, 50% fully feathered offspring in any hybrid crosses). Not interested in any full feathered birds in this flock, all would be culled early (possibly even in chickhood), goal is to increase N allele frequency over time in the flock.
- Late sexual maturity will make growing out cockerels easier in my yard/set up (more time to grow out before the whole crowing/fighting/frat boy thing starts) - I realize you need to watch birds longer to pick good future breeders, but nice to have more time to let them get bigger before having to start separating from the girls or each other, which gets complex, housing-wise.
- Good relationship with the flock/potential to be a good leader - less important than in some folks' truly free range settings, but I DO let mine roam around in paddocks while I'm not there, and while large predators are excluded, smaller ones and hawks could be a threat despite some of my counter measures. I have been very impressed with the quality of my Cream Legbar cockerel as protector and solicitous/polite husband for his little three pullet flock. I'd like to have a nice flock rooster for this Naked Neck group, but at minimum, I don't want a rooster that is not protective or that mistreats the hens. I don't have any expectation of my chosen future roosters to be super friendly/cuddly with me - I figure that's not their job and not what I should select for. (Though for my own sanity/management I don't think I would keep a bird that attacked me unprovoked.) Indeed, the ones that look strongest are a bit more stand offish with me. That being said, I want to be able to handle them if I need to weigh or check them over (they all tolerate this mostly, as they're used to being weighed every week).
- Color is fun and interesting to the eye, but it doesn't taste like anything, so that would represent fun side projects/secondary aspects. That being said, I find variety more interesting to look at... So a rooster that could inject some color leading to lots of different color genetics and variety in the flock would be nice if major goals wouldn't be compromised (e.g., I don't necessarily want all reds with black tails). Fortunately, my largest pullets have some really interesting color, so that's another way to get that mixed in without the extra rooster. Mottled Naked Necks are lovely to me, I might want to try for those in a side project. This isn't a business for me, not selling anything, so I guess variety in color is the "hobby" component of the term "hobby farm" in my case...
- I don't care one whit about leg color except that I suppose it provides variety.
Of the seven cockerels in question, I have four "standard" red with black tails (leg color helps me tell them apart):
1. Tank is NN, white legged, advantages described above.
2. Dozer (blue legged) has been second largest behind Tank from the beginning, but is Nn - he's also starting to look more tall and leggy/lanky than blocky in body type, not a big breast - looks "taller/skinnier" to me than Tank and Mouse; he's second in pecking order.
3. Mouse is NN, yellow legged, and while smaller than Dozer has a better body conformation (blocky) and growing nicely. He's also a more buff-colored red with less black in the tail. He will probably beat out Dozer as back up black-tailed red rooster who will have his own Speckled Sussex flock of five ladies.
4. Cypher is Nn, smallest male, really red, and is freezer-bound
5. Here's the part I'd like opinions on: Bane (deep iridescent black with scant red accents, rose comb, Nn) is my largest male - he grew more slowly than the other males for the first 5 weeks before really taking off - he went from smallest male to largest male in 7 weeks and passed Tank last week in size by a bit (4.05 lb at 11 weeks). He is top of pecking order - no question. Good body type. But I don't think I will end up keeping him (though I don't have to decide yet). Why? Well, his growth curve has a really different shape than all the others, which in combination with the unexpected rose comb and heterozygous phenotype for the Naked gene, indicates that he may be a direct/F1 cross with a non-Naked Neck (fence hopping?). I have nothing against that per se, except that it makes me think that some of his size and rapid growth could be a hybrid vigor effect (that may not carry to his offspring). Also, I have spent a lot of time watching them all, and he is just not all that social with the rest of the flock - a bit of a loner. Despite being top boy, he doesn't really seem disposed to take up the protective stances that Tank and Dozer have started doing when something startles the flock. He also started crowing at 9-10 weeks - no one else is crowing. When I'm growing out cockerels for the freezer, I'm not particularly interested in an entire yard full of boy birds all crowing but not ready to go to freezer camp yet, so that's not something I want to select for. (Thoughts on my reasoning?)
6&7. Of the other two, Neo (NN, black downed as chick, pretty deep black with red highlights, some melanization - if I'm using that term correctly) is low on the pecking order (and cuddly with me - possibly for this reason). He's really lovely, possibly the prettiest bird in the group, he's NN with a pretty clear-ish neck, good body shape (dense/blocky) and would make pretty babies - but he is just above Cypher as second smallest male of the group (3.4 lbs at 11 weeks). Apoc (Nn) is interesting, colorwise - yellow downed to start but black feathered with mahogany overlay/accents. Good body shape, tied with Mouse in the middle size wise. Doesn't like to be picked up, hard to assess body shape because he's "fluffy" (though it seems ok). He's been a pest to the other chickens a bit. Nothing otherwise special. If I were to keep one of these, it would be for color interest, and if so, pluses and minuses for each.
Sooooo... I know it's way early, but (with the understanding that I have more observing over time to do), I'm pretty sure about keeping Tank and Mouse. I had thought I might find a place to Dozer, but I'm not liking his lanky look as he's gotten bigger recently (and he's Nn). Then it's a matter of whether I want to keep a third or not (he wouldn't have any girls, he'd be solo, at least at first) - Neo or Apoc. Neo is smaller, but I like his shape and appearance more (and he's NN) - he might be interesting for a side project involving color, though I have some more color genetics to learn.
Wow - that was long! If anyone's still awake and has comments, feel free. If not, I may have just saved you a sleeping pill!!!!
- Ant Farm
Edited by Fire Ant Farm - 12/2/15 at 9:27pm