Saddle feathers develop from the middle of the back, and are easily identified if you have a bird over a certain age--they start to cascade over the sides and down over the rump. Nothing else has the shape and shine of a saddle feather- they are skinny, and SHINY. In a light Brahma some of the saddle feathers will be white and some will be black laced or simply black.
Brahma Breeders thread - Page 103
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What are you comparing the cockerels to in the 'meat department'? Other dual purpose breeds or a store bought carcass? If it's a Cornish cross like you buy at the store they are short and wide, where a Brahma cockerel is tall and 'thin'. Fillet the meat from a butchered cockerel and a store bought carcass and compare the amount of each...you might be surprised.
If you need more meat or eggs then try raising Cornish cross and Leghorns....I don't think you'll find faster producing birds than these.
- custom Brahmas
They are putting their energy into developing frame/bone to carry the weight they will put on later. A Brahma does not approach full mature size till two years old.
Brahmas are not the breed for those short of patience.
The key is to keep the youngsters healthy and shovel them the feed till they develop enough to give some idea of there potential, and then keep shoveling.
If quick is top priority, you might consider bantams.
For meat production, nothing compares to the "Cornish"broiler hybrids.
For egg economics, white eggs, as mentioned one of the leghorn hybrids. Brown eggs, one of the gold comet type hybrids.
The girls are almost safe unless they do something really wrong. I know I'm going to keep at least one of the boys. Might keep both if they continue to be nice. I don't think I'll get anymore in the future. Unless I get a pullet/hen that decides to go broody from the other breed I get. I'm not going to get anymore boys. I'm just going to get pullet babies, and some meaties. But I'm not going to keep any of the meaties. Now I get to figure out what breed I want. Mine are fairly quirky at times. When I water the grass and trees they start running around trying to catch any bugs they can. Even when the bug takes flight and they know they can't fly they start running and almost skipping to try and catch it lol. So even though I'm almost pulling my hair out in frustration that mine aren't as fat as I would like them I guess that's thanks to their hatchery breeding. I'm going to deworm them again in a week. Hey I have a question. What is this fermented feeding I've heard about? Do you just make a mash of the feed and let it sit for a while before you feed it to them? When I deworm mine I usually make a warm mash with their feed, and put some oatmeal, FGDE, and small chunks of apples. They love it. Usually I have to separate the dishes I use so everyone gets some.
Fermenting feed is a great idea. It does take a bit more effort and you'll need food grade, lidded buckets or large glass jars with lids. It's great to start chicks on it as well.
For another option for a sustainable, dual purpose breed that matures faster than Brahma, have you considered Speckled Sussex? They are meaty, lay well, very hardy and family friendly.
Like I mentioned, you may want to diversify. I have Production Reds (sold in the feedstore as RIR) that are not mean or flighty. They are strong birds so one is the head hen but easily caught. They laid almost every day from 20 weeks till they were a year old even through the winter. This being their second year they are still laying about every other day or more. I have Bufff Orpingtons. They are my sweetest birds and laid great (5 eggs a week) from about 22 weeks till they were about a year old and now it is about 3 a week. Those were my first years birds. This year I added the Brahmas and EE's because I knew I would not be chomping at the bit for the Brahmas to develop with the others being normal production type birds. My EE's are laying almost every day, I have too many eggs for my little family of 5 so I can just relax and let the Brahmas do their thing (though I am sending the rooster off to a friends house to become freezer meat for him as he is just too big for my poor girls to handle). The diversity lets me feel like they are mostly earning their keep though I consider manure and bug eating just as important as egg laying in my house. This is a recent pic of my rooster but I suspect you may just have some higher expectations than they are genetically able to fulfill so soon.
Edited by newmarch2014 - 10/13/15 at 11:23am
I'm not really interested in Cornish X meaties. I've been looking at the Pioneers, and the Rangers. They're a little slower to develop but don't have as many health problems. Also I don't like white eggs. Don't ask. I'm looking at the Naked Necs, and Easter Eggers. The eggs are for a family of four, and my dog for training treats. I like to cook, but my boys don't like store bought eggs. I got some fresh from a friend and they devoured them fast. Plus my 4 yr old is allergic to something in store bought eggs. The fresh ones he didn't have a problem with. I'm trying to get us healthier food. Plus they need to start learning about real life. Not all food comes from the store. After much thought my Brahmas are staying. I talked it over with my husband and we decided to keep them. We would love to find a sustainable breed. That's why I'm thinking of adding the Turkens. I'm only going to get pullets. So if my boys I have now fertilize the Turkens and the other 3 Brahma girls then they'll reproduce and replenish. Yes slowly, but then I won't have to keep buying more. These are JUST thoughts right now. Not fact. Yes if my Brahmas reproduce I'll have to start thinking about getting a new cockerel every couple years so I don't have inbreeding. And no I'm not going to keep any boys from any other breed.
From reading back a bit it sounds like your birds are all together. You might try keeping your meat cockerels separate and out of sight of the pullets. If they're not spending energy posturing and fighting it will help them gain weight. The other reason they may be smaller is multiple wormings might be damaging their digestive system. Even DE might not be good for a growing bird as it may scratch/damage papilla to the point where absorption of nutrients is compromised. Maybe it's even the reason your pullets aren't laying yet.