Best breed for hardiness and egg production for desert climate?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Jungleexplorer, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Jungleexplorer

    Jungleexplorer Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,138
    156
    186
    Jan 19, 2012
    Abilene, Texas
    My Coop
    I live in a desert micro-climate near Abilene, Texas. I have lived here for five years now and our average rain fall has been less then ten inches annually. Summer highs can reach over 110 degrees. We had 125 days over 100 degrees this last summer. When I first moved here I started a chicken flock by buying several breeds of full grown birds. I had about thirty birds total. I had some White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rock, Old English Game hens, and several others that I don't know the breeds of. The White Leghorn roosters were so violent that I had to kill them all because they kept violently attacking anyone who entered the pen. The Barred Rocks were dumber then dirt and all died off because of stupidity (I won't go into detail). After several months of observation of the different breeds, I decided that the Rhode Island Reds were the best balance of egg production, intelligence and docileness. I bought fifty chicks to start a new flock Rhode Island Reds, with the intention of letting my other birds run free outside the pen. I only really expected the game hens to really survive free ranging, and it was my hope that if they could survive they would breed on their own and be a source of meat birds.

    Anyway, the Rhode Islands Reds proved to be excellent birds in every area except for hardiness. I have a lot of predators here and I lost 15 pullets in one month to predators. I turned my coup into Fort Knox with four strand electric fences, motion activate halogen security cameras and loud speakers systems, and I was still losing birds at night. I could not believe it, but every single time a bird was killed, it was a Rhode Island Red. And they were all mixed up with the other birds. It is like they smell different and the predators prefer them or something. Anyway, I reluctantly had to launch an all war on the predators that resulted the death of 21 skunks, 9 bobcats, three foxes, and two feral cats. All within 300 yards of my chicken coup! Finally, the massacre of my chickens stopped. But then the summer heat hit and my Rhode Island Reds started to look all mangy. I built them shades and did everything I could, but I could never get them to look healthy. At the same time my game hens look like they were groomed and read for show. One by one, my Rhode Island Reds have died off and now, after less then two years, I have only 15 of the original fifty I started with. I still have seven of the original eight game hens (one was killed by my dog) I bought full grown that are now over four years old and still as healthy as ever.

    Sorry for going on like that, but I wanted you to understand where I am coming from when ask my question. Although egg production is the reason I have a chicken flock, I need a bird that is also very hardy. One that will do well in my area. I know that the game hens will do well, but they are pretty poor egg producers. So, I am asking for recommendations here. Based on what I have told you, what breed would give me the best balance of hardiness and egg production? Thanks for the help.
     
  2. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    4,637
    52
    231
    Jul 22, 2010
    Anderson, Texas
    I live where its very hot & dry. I have red chickens & they do well in this environment.
     
  3. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    30,361
    150
    446
    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    Sadly, I've had a good number of reds die in the heat.

    At present I have a Production Red and a New Hampshire, but they were just chicks and juvies last summer. I'll be putting both in the Air-conditioned coop this summer.

    Leghorns handle the heat OK.

    Also my black sex links have done well. I had one that laid an egg every day from July 4th through October 7th without missing a day.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  4. wolftracks

    wolftracks Spam Hunter

    10,312
    98
    328
    Nov 6, 2009
    Modesto
    Funny you don't have good results with production from Games. I have several and they are my best layers usually. It's cold now and no lighting, but I have always been able to count on them for stocking the fridge, because they lay like crazy. I even have some POL pullets that are Game mixes and I did this mix, so I'd have layers who were consistant.

    Hope you find something that works for you.
     
  5. PtldChick

    PtldChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    628
    5
    111
    Jun 15, 2011
    Portland, OR
    I would look for hot environment hens, like Mediterranean breeds. White leghorns or Ideal's 236 produce very well and their white feathering, larger combs and smaller body size are all good for the heat. These smaller hens are also have a good feed-to-egg conversion ratio. White is not a great color if they're free-ranging in an area with hawks, but otherwise, they 'should' be good. You can always get some brown leghorns and see if one color or the other lasts longer.

    Naked Necks (Turkens) are tolerant of both heat and cold. Having fewer feathers helps keep them cool in the heat. Egyptian Fayoumis are good hot weather birds. They are a decent layer but their eggs are a little smaller.

    Other mediterranean breeds to try are Buff or White Minorcas, Blue Andalusians, Penedesencas, Catalanas and Anconas (black may not be the best color...). A few of these come in rose comb and single comb - try to get the single comb variety.

    Heavier breeds with lots of feathering and smaller combs are definitely not your best bet, so I recommend staying away from orpingtons, wyandottes, etc.

    Ideal in Texas has a Light Pullet Assortment you could try and see which of the breeds worked out the best. Most of these are going to be white egg layers.
     
  6. Jungleexplorer

    Jungleexplorer Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,138
    156
    186
    Jan 19, 2012
    Abilene, Texas
    My Coop

    What type of games do you have? I believe that mine are Old English Game hens. I have one that is a type of Game that I cannot determine exactly and she is a better layer then the rest. She is a beautiful girl and I would to have 49 more just like her. Here is a pic of her.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Jungleexplorer

    Jungleexplorer Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,138
    156
    186
    Jan 19, 2012
    Abilene, Texas
    My Coop
    Thanks for all the information. I will research all of these.
     
  8. wolftracks

    wolftracks Spam Hunter

    10,312
    98
    328
    Nov 6, 2009
    Modesto


    I can't get all my uploads to expand. Need to find out what happened to them in the switch to this platform.

    Anyway I got one to open correctly. A couple of my American Game hens. It's cold here and they are right now in a pen with the other Games and a roo, so very little light. They're getting a much needed vacation for at least another week or two and them they'll see sunlight a little more. They are usually egg laying machines. If the lighting is there and no other breed lays, these girls come through like champs. Bella is almost 2 years old and Juliet probaby about 4 or 5 and still lays like crazy.

    Juliet and Bella

    [​IMG]
     
  9. wolftracks

    wolftracks Spam Hunter

    10,312
    98
    328
    Nov 6, 2009
    Modesto
    Jungleexplorer are you sure your's is an Old English? I have a hen that is bantam size.... OEGB . They are usually a little..hmmm pudgier? LOL

    I think your hen is actually an American Game hen. Probably a mixture of different lines and colors. She's almost a wheaten, but the markings are off.

    I have a Hatch?? I think roo, Lieper and OMG I can't even remember my lines right now and they are popular here. LOL I think the American Games are some of the prettiest birds around and I like to look at them, so although I've owned a couple of roosters, I have never spent time breeding them. I'm only starting to learn them now, but don't spend a lot of time on them. I have other breeds that pretty much get my full attention. I mainly got my hens and some were still pullets at the time, for eggs. Just eggs, now I find them facinating and I got a new roo and I also have a project that gets step 2 this year. Not because I know anything, but there's a look I want and hopefully this year I'll get my first chicks that are headed in that direction.

    I also have some mixes, Game x Marans. I found a pullet egg yesterday and think it might be one of them. Not as dark as a FBCM, but it's a first egg and I have no Marans pullets. I did this mix to use the hens as layers and roos as meat. I could bring myself to process, so I sold the cockerels. LOL I sold a lot of hatching eggs and there are more of my birds out there that are either laying and I hope doing it well and yep....some eaten roos. They are really pretty roos too, but their purpose was for processing and that was their fate.
     
  10. kgdubois

    kgdubois Chillin' With My Peeps

    134
    4
    103
    Apr 26, 2011
    West Texas
    I live in Far West TX (Alpine, if you know where that is) and have had my birds for about a year now. I ordered hatchery stock from McMurray, and got an assortment of breeds to try, needing hardy free rangers that are smart enough to escape from predators, etc. on their own. I provided them with a great coop (Fort Knox, as you described) and let nature take its course. My original order consisted of the follwoing breeds...I'll also include a little info on which ones have worked well for me :)

    Cuckoo Marans = none living any longer (skunks, neighbor dog & racoons got 'em all) They were great, gentle girls & laid big brown eggs, but all died.

    Easter Eggers = all but one living! The one that died was killed by the neighbor dog also (he got 10 of my hens, the [email protected]@rd). These birds lay very nice sized green or blue eggs, and were the only ones that continued laying through the entire winter. They are also excellent broody mothers (if you want chicks). Two of them have "disappeared" for almost a month, then showed back up with a bunch of chicks, surviving hidden out on a ranch...we have pretty much every predator you listed in your original post, and these birds survived with no coop. I was amazed. They are also very gentle.

    Partridge Rocks = all but one dead. These are gentle birds, but not survivors...lay good sized light brown eggs, but they are pretty stupid.

    Dark Cornish Game = all alive! These are AMAZING little free range hens, very wiley & predator smart. They are very alert, always in the best places during the day (shade while hot, etc.) and are good layers for me. Their eggs are medium sized, light brown, but they are regular layers and easy keepers. I've spent a good amount of time watching my flock, and these girls seem to be the ones to find all the goodies, and alert the rest of the birds to where they are. They are also very efficient little snake killers - last summer (when they were 6 - 9 months old) they got 11 snakes that I counted...who knows how many there were that I didn't witness. They slacked off on laying over the winter, but have all picked back up like clockwork. Love these birds...they get my highest recommendation based on your criteria. They are also very good eating (I ordered some cockrels also, and dispatched them at about 6 months of age...YUM!)

    RIR = pretty much the same results as you've listed in my area. Plus, both my hens & roo are very agressive (the rooster is no longer with us, nasty thing).

    Gold Laced & Blue Laced Red Wyandottes = all but three dead. Skunks in my area seemed to have developed a particular taste for my 1/2 grown Wyandottes, and did a number on them. The three that have made it are excellent layers, and seem to be pretty smart now (the cream of the crop, I guess). No laying at all over the winter, but are now laying an egg every other day, large to extra large size.

    Overall, I'd recommend Easter Eggers and the Cornish Game hens. They are great!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by