Breed help!

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by BLT79, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. BLT79

    BLT79 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 3, 2013
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    Hi,
    Karen from PA suggested I come here to get the advice I seek! Thanks Karen and hello!
    I don't have my chicks yet, and that may be a good thing due to me being a researchaholic! haha! Plus being indecisive! I had my chicks picked out at local TSC. Red sex links. After reading some info on these forums, I am second guessing! I initially wanted Black Austrolorps but not easy to find in orders of just 6. I also have to buy 6 at a time. We are new to this and actually wanted to just start with maybe 3. Then after awhile get maybe 3 more. Another confusing question, how long does the average hen lay eggs for? With all the following considerations in mind, please recommend the best chickens for us! 1)They have to be confined! 2)We have children of our own, plus large family of kids as well as neighbors. 3)We want egg layers. 4)Cannot have roosters. 5)Prefer quiet, docile ones. 6)Live in Northeast with winter temps reaching below 0 at times with wind. And temps in high 90's in summer. I think that is all. Thank you all so much in advance. I want to make the right decision for my family!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I’m not going to help you much. There is not just one breed or type that is perfect. There are a lot of different chickens that would suit you well.

    Practically any chicken can handle your weather, but you need to provide a decent coop for most. I haven’t kept chickens in your climate but some people on here I trust have posted that they had some chickens sleep in trees in colder climates that you probably have. Those trees were not on ridge tops with blizzards blowing through but were in protected places. I have seen chickens sleeping in trees where the overnight temperature got below zero Fahrenheit but I suspect your lows can get colder than that.

    Chickens in general are a lot hardier than many people want to think. But I think it best for you to provide a coop where they can get out of the wind. With your snow the coop needs to be a bit bigger than normal because they may be in there quite a bit. But there is no real weather reason you can’t pick practically any breed.

    Them being red sex links doesn’t really tell me a lot about them. I don’t know which hatchery your TSC gets their chicks from, but there are two basic types of sex links from hatcheries. One is based on the commercial egg laying chickens. These are not a breed but are hybrids carefully bred to lay a lot of large eggs in the conditions you see in the commercial chicken houses. They are fairly small so they don’t have to use as much of their feed for body maintenance. They are very efficient at converting feed to eggs. They are not great at longevity. The commercial chicken will lay for one or two seasons then is replaced. I’ll get to that later.

    The other type of sex links you might get from hatcheries are made from two distinct breeds. Different breeds are used but the chicks can be sexed at hatch because of down color. The hatchery chickens they use to make these chicks are good layers so these hens are generally pretty good layers too. They have bigger bodies so they are not as efficient in converting feed to eggs but they do lay a lot of eggs. These eggs may not be as large as the ones laid by the commercial types, but then they might be. The hatcheries don’t breed these for longevity either but these are generally not as bad as the commercial types at “burning out”.

    Each hen is an individual and averages don’t mean much unless you have enough statistically, but with an average hen, she will decrease her productivity somewhere around 15% after every adult molt after the first. Chickens will go through a couple of molts as juveniles. They simply outgrow their feathers and have to replace them. That’s why I said adult molt.

    After their first adult molt the eggs get larger but the frequency of lay stays way up there. But after every molt after that the frequency of lay drops on average of about 15%. The eggs get larger too. So how long does an average hen lay for? Several years, but her productivity normally drops off a lot as she gets older.

    What this means for the commercial type of red sex links especially is that they start out with a smaller body and laying fairly large eggs to start with. After an adult molt, those eggs get even larger. This leads to more egg laying problems with those larger eggs and smaller bodies. This is not a big problem in the commercial operations because these hens are gone anyway after a couple of seasons, but in the backyard flock it does cause problems. And some people like to feed a protein rich diet which makes the eggs even larger.

    This is just one factor though. The hatcheries we buy from don’t breed for longevity so other problems can show up with any of their chickens after a few years, not just the sex links or the commercial sex links. But I think this helps contribute to the reputation of the sex links having problems.

    The sex links may not be that bad a choice for you. At least you would know they are pullets. Another choice to assure pullets is to get older chickens, called point of lay (POL). They are more expensive since someone had to buy them feed and take care of them.

    For your goals you don’t even need a breed. A barnyard mix would probably fit your needs pretty well. If the flock you get them from are good egg layers, the ones you get should be too. If you find your State thread in the Where am I? Where are you? section you can probably find someone close that can help you out, either with chickens or maybe to split an order.

    If you want breeds, you can go to the Henderson Breed Chart and look through it for egg laying, handles confinement well, are not skittish, docile, or whatever traits you want. This does not mean that each and every chicken in that breed will have those traits, but they do tend to follow trends. You can find pretty pictures at Feathersite too.

    Henderson’s Breed Chart
    http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html

    Feathersite
    http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKPoultryPage.html

    I doubt I’ve helped you much. In my opinion it’s hard to choose wrong if you do a little research and know what you want to start with. Good luck with it.
     
  3. BLT79

    BLT79 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you very much. The hatchery my TSC uses is called MT.Healthy. At least for the chicks they had in this past week. I am going to check that state thread you recommended as well. After talking to that hatchery they told me the Red Sex Links are a cross of Rhode Island White Rooster and a Rhode Island Red hen. Does that help at all?
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Nope. Does not help me. First, they would have to use a Rhode Island Red rooster over a Rhode Island White hen to get a sex link. It doesn’t work the other way around, but that could have been just a miscommunication. To me, that is not the problem.

    The problem to me is that I went to Mt Healthy’s website and could not find that cross. I found what they call a Comet. That is a red sex link, but they are clearly the commercial type of egg layers, not a cross of the breeds you mentioned. The Dekalb Amberlinks and Production Reds are not red sex links. The Red Rangers are meat birds, not egg layers and are also not sex links.

    Maybe they are talking about their Red Cross chicken. According to their website these are crosses between Rhode Island Red roosters and some other female. They don’t give breed for the female used but mention “Columbian” which is a feather color/pattern. Rhode Island Whites don’t fit the Columbian description.

    If you talked to the hatchery you’d think the description on the website would match what they told you. I don’t know what is going on with these specific chicks. If they truly are a cross between a RIR male and a RIW female, they’d probably be a good fit for you. The RIR rooster over most Columbian hens would probably work quite well. But looking at their website and seeing “comets” there, I’m not real comfortable that those are truly the cross they mentioned.
     
  5. BLT79

    BLT79 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well thank you for actually taking the time to check that out for me! That was very kind of you to do! The unkown is what makes me unsure of getting them!
     

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