BREEDING FOR PRODUCTION...EGGS AND OR MEAT.

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by hellbender, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. bnjrob

    bnjrob Overrun With Chickens

    2,359
    804
    301
    Dec 31, 2008
    North TX
    I've got some older books on herbs with pictures, since a good number of edible weeds are also considered medicinal. I have the Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs and there is supposed to be a new edition that is supposed to be even better. Other places I've gleaned info from, for free, is Mother Earth News and Extension websites and a site that is specific for foraging in TX but may have some of the same plants you have up there - http://www.foragingtexas.com/

    Some books that I don't have but have been recommended to me for plant IDs are *Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate* by John Kallas, and *Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide To Over 200 Natural Foods* by Thomas Elias/Peter Dykeman

    If you were to do a search for *foraging* and *New England* or *Massachusetts*, you will probably find some good sites with photos for plant IDing. Also *edible weeds* usually gets you some good hits for sites with photos and descriptions.
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. bnjrob

    bnjrob Overrun With Chickens

    2,359
    804
    301
    Dec 31, 2008
    North TX
    Here is what we built for potatoes. There are plans all over the internet with specific measurements for building potato planters, usually under something like *how to grow a hundred pounds of potatoes in 4 square feet*. I just used scrap stuff I had from another project and cut it to the size I wanted, which is approx. 2 ft on each side and roughly 3-4 ft tall. The boards are screwed in place so you can take off the boards to get your potatoes out but not have to harvest the whole bin at once.

    I didn't get any potatoes when I tried this last year but I think I've figured out what the problem was. Potatoes are a cooler weather crop and I planted them at the normal recommended time for this area. Wrong. That works for ground planted potatoes but not for container. The idea with the container is you plant them and then as they grow, you continue to put dirt on top of them, leaving just the top layer of leaves/stem above ground, so that it continues to grow upward before it start making potatoes. It was just too hot for them to make potatoes by the time I had grown the plants as tall as the actual container, which is several feet tall. And then the grasshoppers ate the plants. If I had planted sooner, the plant would have reached the final height and grown potatoes before it got too hot, or if I had been able to keep the grasshopper from eating the plants, if they could have just kept alive until Autumn, then they likely would have made potatoes when it was cooler. So I have just planted potatoes in them this year, since the container dirt is warmer than ground dirt, and am hoping to get a crop this time around.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. bnjrob

    bnjrob Overrun With Chickens

    2,359
    804
    301
    Dec 31, 2008
    North TX
    Did I forget to mention kale? Yes, kale is a favorite. I can grow that in winter here and in summer when everything is dead, I buy kale at the store for them.

    Am planning on growing plantain, comfrey, yarrow, nettle, and lamb's quarters also, since they are supposed to be chicken favorites as well as for medicinal purposes.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  4. bnjrob

    bnjrob Overrun With Chickens

    2,359
    804
    301
    Dec 31, 2008
    North TX
    Wish we could grow kale year round - just too darn hot in TX for that.

    I know you asked about culling the males in regards to egg production - essentially we cull the males in the same way as our females.

    Part of it goes back to the breed standard for our birds (which I know some folks hate to hear about on this thread). Our breed standard calls for long backs and wide backs which are wide all the way from chest to tail. This is best viewed from above but you can also see it from the back with their *shoulders* wider than their butts. Both sexes should be wide all the way through.

    We also examine them and check for things like pelvic width in both males and females. In our males, usually if they are narrow in the back, their pelvic width will be narrow also. Sometimes in the females though, they can look wide enough in the back, but in measuring them, there can be a fingers width, or slightly more, difference in the width of their pelvic bones, so we can't simply go by appearance alone.

    On occasion we have had a male at the bottom of the pecking order turn out to be kept for a breeder, but not as a rule. More often, we find that the cockerels in the grow out pen that are at the bottom of the social order also wind up being too small and runty to be used, since size is an important factor in our breed. When taken out of the grow out pen and put by themselves, they can sometimes regain the growth and catch up to their hatchmates, but only if they are alone and not having to compete for food. Which in the case of an otherwise superb specimen, sometimes it is worth it to use them even though they couldn't hold their own in a large group of cockerels. But we have some hens that just dislike mating, they will actually fight with a cock till both of them are bleeding. So having a cockerel that takes a subordinate role in the grow out pen is probably not going to be able to get the job done with a hen that doesn't want to easily submit to mating.

    As of yet we have not had a set time to cull, we will usually cull when we have time to do all our hands on exams of everyone at the same time unless there are just some obvious culls that we can butcher without examining everyone in the grow out pen. We've spent the last few years getting enough birds on the ground to cover for any losses of breeding birds as a larger priority while also emphasizing the other traits of size and conformation more often. Actual egg production has been pretty consistent and acceptable throughout all the birds even though we have not trapnested to only breed the hens that laid the best. We have always made note of who matured faster, but it was more in the middle of the list of priorities and not at the top, but we're working toward getting the faster maturity higher on the list of priorities, which will also help with not having to keep so many until they are over a year old.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  5. Heron's Nest Farm

    Heron's Nest Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    579
    45
    158
    Dec 11, 2011
    Oregon
    BNJROB- you broach another important thought:
    You really can't select for EVERYTHING at once! As a newbie, relatively speaking, I find that I am focusing on a single trait in each pen, developing an understanding and familiarity with it. Having a narrowed focus is essential.

    Your post has made me really want to sit down and list my characteristics and prioritize to be sure that I am starting off where I ought to! I may arrive at the same place, but I think during this tiny break before the farm explodes I ought to really focus and prepare better.

    Thanks for the very info packed post. I appreciate the thoughts that all of you take the time to share.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Heron's Nest Farm

    Heron's Nest Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    579
    45
    158
    Dec 11, 2011
    Oregon
    On the food thoughts for hens, I have summer squash planted around my pens. I let them get huge and then throw them in. The hens love them!

    I am lucky as my neighbor grows for fresh market so I take the golf cart into his fields and get old rotations or produce off greenhouse floors. My hens have it goooood.
     
  7. RedRidge

    RedRidge Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,454
    512
    228
    Apr 28, 2013
    TN
    We raise all our own food for us and our livestock - except coffee ;-) The sweet potato vines and small sweet potatos are fed to the rabbits throughout the winter. The single most important feed for the poultry over the winter is BSF. Unlike all our other livestock, poultry are not herbivores, they require animal protein. While animal protein is very easy to acquire most of the year, this can be problematic in the winter. Raising BSF in the summer and freezing them for poultry feeding over the winter has assured us they continue to get their necessary animal protein, both for winter laying and ease of molt.
    The ideal combination we've discovered is to hatch in Jan and Feb. For production purposes those who lay by 26 weeks are the keepers. They will lay right on through their first winter and provide a steady income when the older hens slow down post molt. Combine this timing with quality fermented grains and adequate animal protein and the egg frig stays full.
     
    2 people like this.
  8. ocap

    ocap Overrun With Chickens

    4,553
    609
    291
    Jan 1, 2013
    Smithville, Missouri
    any direct correlation between egg size and pelvis width? or might it just be luck?
     
  9. bnjrob

    bnjrob Overrun With Chickens

    2,359
    804
    301
    Dec 31, 2008
    North TX
    A larger pelvis width theoretically can render a larger egg, but not always. But a wider, flexible pelvis will allow for a larger egg with less risk of strain and injury to the hen - decreasing risk of egg binding or of straining to get an egg out and ending up with a prolapsed vent.

    We have some pinched tailed hens that will lay an extra large egg, in weight, but the eggs themselves are not as aesthetically pleasing, being more elongated and sometimes just having an odd looking shell or shape as compared to the eggs from wider hens. Those pinched tailed hens have also occasionally had some blood smears on the extra large eggs they have laid that were wider instead of longer. Our wider hens have never had blood smears on their egg shells even when the eggs were quite wide.
     
  10. bmvf

    bmvf Chillin' With My Peeps

    126
    34
    91
    Apr 7, 2014
    Annville, PA
    We once had an alfalfa field that was overtaken of chickweed. We baled it and it tested at 23.4 protein and 163 RFV which would be very good feed. The stand was 50/50 chickeweed to alfalfa.

    The definition of a weed is a plant that you don't want. I consider dandelion not a weed. It is very high in nutritional value and has medicinal qualities. However, my uncle who's yard is right next to my pastures considers it a weed!
     
    1 person likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by