We have a small hobby farm geared towards food production, with dual purpose poultry and gardens. We're in the midst of restoring this 1908 barn, it's our main coop.

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Keeping chickens for pets is where I started, as a kid. The hobby has morphed into a complete cycle, from maintaining breeding stock to filling the freezer. I've become fascinated in how their genetics work, in the variety that can come through or the refinement that can occur over a few short generations. The differences between the breeds has become more clear, the variations between bloodlines has become more obvious.

There are a lot of lessons to learn in how best to operate your poultry hobby. For us, for our intentions, we own the whole process of it. From the main breeder birds, to the incubation station, the brooders and grow out pens, the keep list, rehome list and freezer list. Outstanding roosters are sent on to new flocks after they've proven themselves. Their most promising sons stay on, to keep the flock going for their variety. We're reaching the point now where the numbers are good and we can afford to be more particular on the pullets.

For breeds, we trimmed it down to Marans, Bresse and my project. Dark brown eggs, cream eggs and a slew of blue/green/olive to really round out the egg basket. We have different cook methods for each variety, based on their characteristics. I prefer to bake/fry a Bresse and slow cook a Marans. The Bresse have a finer texture, thinner skin and larger breast. The Marans have thick skin, a heavier texture to the meat. The project at the moment is more Marans in terms of how they dress out.

We also raise Turkeys, in Bourbon Red and Narragansett. They're pretty much the same sort of bird, in their size, laying and overall temperament. Very different feather colors, I love the contrast!

So far the Marans I have kept on with are the Blue/Black Silver. They've had the best type for our purpose out of the other lines and varieties we've tried. A deep and wide body, strong thighs, good laying ability with the desired dark brown shell color. They've proven to be everything they should be. The other Marans we've tried... I didn't get the right bloodline. They lacked the type we needed. You gotta choose the bloodlines that will meet your expectations/goals.

For 2019 this rooster got his chance to shine, the best of the bunch from 2018.

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A promising Black Silver son, he'll be held back for 2020, along with some of his brothers. May the best rooster win! With him is a project cockerel that will also be held back.

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The Bresse are a work in progress in getting their combs under control and making sure the right body type for dual purpose moves forward. They've been "breeding forward" very well so far! The hens have proven to be VERY good layers, they have easy temperaments, sociable and curious without hands on rearing. Never had a rooster from this variety look at me crooked.

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The eggs are the reason I haven't been able to settle on just one breed. The different colors also allow for selective hybridizing. If you put blue layers in the Marans pen, you'll know which eggs will be the Olive Eggers. Same as if you put Marans in a Blue egg pen. We mark the pen number on the eggs, if they look good for hatching. We're picky on the eggs we set, from shape to size to color.
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This guy is the current project flock leader. He's a Legbar/Twentse hybrid, along with his matching ladies. He has some other girls running with him too. We'll see what hatches! An outcross is planned for 2020 from his best offspring that get the traits we're after. Winter hardiness being in the top 5.
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We keep our Turkey breeds separate. Not too many raise the Narragansett, so we'd like to keep our line pure. When one group gets let out, they of course need to go start drama along the fence with the other group.

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The Narragansett
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The Bourbon Red
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We run 3 pasture Tractors during grow out season. This large one is parked and fenced in, used for the Turkeys. The other two cruise the back field with the oldest boys from rooster coop, so that new additions can get to growing on free range pasture in rooster coop.

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We do perennial, biennial and annual gardening. For food and ornamental.

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Keeping the chickens in their own space is the only way to keep the mulch and plants in the beds! The bright green Stone Crop ground cover (spilling over the brick edge) is like chicken candy. When ever it's spreading too far I can grab it out easily by the handful and give it to them.
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It's now been 3 years since we moved farther out from the city and expanded our hobbies. We're already thinking about the next farm, we need more space! We have just enough space to get our feet wet and take a chunk out of keeping ourselves fed.
About author
mandelyn
My poultry hobby has turned into Arcadian Orchard, after leaving the city to live a more rural life. We've ventured further into gardening and growing food, since my husband's thumb is more green while mine is decidedly feathery.

www.arcadianorchard.com

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Beautiful birds—and barn, too. That is a handsome building, and good on you for trying to save it. Important work.
 

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