Originally Posted by Pasturedpeeps
But I am interested in and would love to have a small flock that could meet my egg needs and provides good-sized flavorful cockerels bred to the SOP. Is this idealistic? I am under the impression that small-scale pure-bred flocks before industrialization could meet this criteria.
I agree that hatchery stock is easier and probably cheaper. But there is too much variability in size and laying ability. I just assumed that breeding would help increase consistency.
Your first post you said you were selling eggs and seemed to want to continue to do so and take things to the next level. Yet you are unhappy with your birds type and egg laying ability. You need to decide what your priority is. Do you want to sell eggs or is the look of your birds more important to you? If egg laying is very important to you, then looks are going to need to take a back seat. Your customers won't care if your bird's type is all over the place as long as you meet their needs for selling them eggs. If you aren't happy with your current birds egg laying ability, you probably have the wrong breed and should look at getting an egg laying breed rather than a Production Red which is still based off a dual purpose breed. Usually Production Reds are fine for the average egg consumer but it sounds like you're needing a larger quantity of eggs that even a hatchery dual-purpose bird may be able to supply.
Production is *relatively* fast and easy to breed for (laying is easier than meat) - but when you start adding in appearance standards - you have just upped your work load and time it takes to see progress. Yes, selective breeding would increase consistency - but I don't think you appreciate just how long it takes to get that consistency. We're talking many years to reach that level. And even then, chicken genetics is so crazy, just because you breed two birds together that are grand champion show winners and have excellent carcasses and egg laying ability does NOT mean that the majority of the offspring will have all of those same traits too. It can be a real crap shoot when you're breeding and things will pop up in the offspring that were not present in their parents or even grandparents. That SOP you were looking at - those photos and descriptions are of the perfect bird - a bird that espouses all the best traits that have been seen in that breed - but not necessarily all in the same bird. And unfortunately there are not tons of birds that have all of those desired breed traits within one body. If there were, there would not be a need for poultry shows because all the birds would look so darn perfect that there wouldn't be much competition. It takes more years to get a higher level of uniformity than your posts indicate you want to spend.
Finding standard-bred birds to meet your needs for eggs and meat depends on what your needs actually are. To make a decision, you need to quantify just how many eggs you expect to get and how much meat you expect to get from one carcass. You have to work within the limits of the birds' capabilities. Are you still wanting this flock to produce eggs for you to sell? Or are you only interested in eggs for your family? And how many eggs do you use? Do you make a lot of things from scratch where you use more eggs than the average family that only eats eggs as an actual dish? How much chicken meat do you eat? If you have goals for your chickens, you would do well to quantify these egg and meat consumption needs by taking a couple of months and every day write down how much chicken meat and how many eggs you use, so you can see an accurate picture of your usage.
And then if you're still wanting to sell eggs, you need to have an idea of how many eggs you need to maintain your business. Of course if you are selling eggs for quantity rather than a niche market that wants things like colored eggs/organic eggs/eggs from rare birds, then you'd be better off getting a commercial egg laying breed for that purpose in order to have a larger profit margin and just forget about standard bred birds altogether.
A dual purpose fowl is meant to provide meat and eggs but they won't give you as much meat or eggs as a breed that has been bred specifically as a meat bird or an egg bird. You can take a dual purpose breed and breed it to have more meat or more eggs, but you're going to sacrifice other things such as body type (appearance) when you do this. My best laying Javas have terrible type and size (too small) and do not look like the Javas in the SOP pictures. They came from someone that emphasized laying and while I can't complain about their egg laying abilities, they don't look as nice as my birds that are closer to the SOP, if you stand them next to each other.
There are ways to compensate for the dual purpose birds being a middle of the road food producer - by keeping enough birds to meet your needs. With my Javas that lay every other day to every few days, when we had just a handful of hens they kept us in more eggs than two of us could eat. With standard bred birds that don't lay every single day, nearly every day of the year, you can compensate for the fewer eggs than you'd get from a commercial layer - but you have to decide whether your priority is lots of eggs with less birds to feed, fewer eggs from a smaller flock, or more eggs coming from more birds.
You mention that you want good sized flavorful cockerels but you don't say what you consider to be *good sized*. And at what age do you expect these cockerels to reach that weight? And how much weight are you expecting to be meat versus bone weight? A standard bred, dual purpose bird is going to be slow growing and is going to be building skeletal mass before it puts on muscle - otherwise it would be sickly and be prone to fractures like the modern commercial meat chickens do. Not to mention that the commercial meat birds will start dying from organ failure if you do not butcher them quickly.
If your expectations are not compatible with the breed that you think you like or the birds you already have, then you'll have to either change your expectations or choose a different breed or even a different source for birds. For egg laying, hatchery birds can't be beat, most of them are egg laying machines. But if yours are not, then perhaps the breed is the problem and you need to look at an egg layer. And large amounts of fast growing meat are going to be more likely to come from a hatchery meat mutt, not the typical standard bred breed you're likely to find. I recommend you write down your goals for your flock to reach - to include things like how much work you are willing to put into them, how much feed you are willing to feed them, how many birds you are willing to keep in order to meet those needs. Seeing your expectations, which should be prioritized as most to least important, will help you better prioritize and you'll be able to see exactly what your expectations are and if there are birds that can meet them.
Edited by bnjrob - 1/6/16 at 7:51am