Someone commented to me recently, that too many people choose a breed because of a "Label", without understanding what it actually is that makes that breed unique. That got me to thinking about my choice of breed.
When I first decided to get back into poultry (my last flock was a mix and match assortment) I wanted to have eggs and meat. But reading up, I realized that the commercial meat birds were not self-sustaining, so then thought about crossing breeds. That was pretty much a dead end too, since they would not breed back consistently, and eventually that lead me to heritage breeds as a whole. So I started researching breeds, and narrowed it down to a hand-full of breeds, then eliminated some simply because, if I'm going to devote time and effort to something, I want to like the looks of it too... Maybe a bit of a shallow reason, but still.
Initially I discounted the Dorking because the floppy hen's comb was just 'weird' to me, but loved the look of the silver grey cocks. I didn't want crests, or feathered feet (realized with the assorted bantams I'd picked up, both were hindrances in free ranging), didn't want the black & white barring simply because I'd been attacked as a kid and don't like barred birds, and on down the list...
I've read a TON of stuff here on BYC, on heritage breeds and more, and kept coming across the Dorking, rocks and reds... so I read some more, but kept going back to the Dorking for several reasons. It was uncommon, an ancient breed, great table bird, etc. By fall I'd made up my mind, and started looking for birds. That was the WRONG time of year I guess. I found some eggs on eBay, and a couple weeks before they hatched got a trio from someone else, because the roo went after her youngest. I haven't seen any aggression in him in the slightest except towards other roos, so... her loss I guess.
In the last 6 months of researching them, I've seen good and bad. More bad than good I think, but even with their flaws, they are still recognizably Dorkings. My silver greys have foot issues, white on their earlobes, and other minor flaws, but all of these can be worked on. I'm eager to see what my reds and coloreds hatch out to.
Everyone says don't cross breed colors, don't don't don't, but that is one thing I plan to do. In ADDITION to breeding toward SOP and pure color. I want to learn everything there is about them, including the genetic makeup of the colors involved. So by crossing colors, I hope to see what traits are involved down the road. It may take 2-3 generations, but I've got time. Then by knowing what's what, maybe we can work on breeding for certain traits to improve on others within a pure color line.
Unlike some, I have no problem growing out culls, simply because I need the meat for the freezer. That's what brought this whole thing around. I feed my dogs raw (whole meat and bone), and I estimate they eat roughly 50-60 pounds of meat a month. so if live weight is say 5 pounds, dressed weight 4, that's about 12-15 birds a month minimum. not counting what I want to eat too.
And since I don't give the dogs the breast meat at all, there's a good chance I might be able to sell excess breast meat at the local farmer's market. I'm also planning on advertising my quail there too, and possibly eggs if I have enough hens laying. But in the mean time, I can't build all those expectations on just 2 girls laying, so I have to wait for youngsters to mature, more eggs to hatch, etc. In the mean time I plan. And research. And learn.