The Catskill Homesteader Breeding Project Goal is to Produce Locally Adapted Winter-hardy, Colorful "Eye-Candy" Chickens Laying Various Shades of Green & Brown Eggs; Dual Purpose, Active Foragers & Frequently Broody The purpose of this thread is to share photos of the Catskill Homesteaders, ask questions, discuss and share ideas. Please, no debates or arguing! Or, just to enjoy the "journey" as we hopefully progress. I have invited those who have purchased chicks, started pullets or adults from me to join this thread and post pictures of their CH chickens as well. As far as I know, there is no one else breeding the Catskill Homesteaders, but I am currently working with a few individuals who may be willing to start helping with this project. If you or anyone you know of would like to join me in this fun project, whether with breeding, raising out chicks or suggestions. I'm also open to other breeds being added to the gene pool, as long as, they meet the goals of the project. Catskill Homesteader Chickens History I think the very beginning of this journey was when I ended up keeping "Rocky" the Freedom Ranger Rooster (meat hybrid) from the 2011 batch. I'd never had a rooster before, as I'd heard & read about all the "mean roosters" people end up with. But, "Rocky" was such a sweet, gentle giant that I knew I wanted to always have a rooster. The photo above is of Rock and his hens. But knowing that he was supposed to be for meat, I started a search for another rooster to replace him. It just "happened" that the family who originally gave me my first five hens ended up with an extra chick in their all hen order who was a rooster. So, "Michael" the Blue Andalusian came home with me, and "Rocky" went into the freezer. Here's "Michael" chasing a white leghorn, soon after he arrived, and later on in the winter (2011-2012). "Michael", though, was the exact opposite of "Rocky" - tall, skinny, high-energy & aggressive towards humans. He was quite handsome, which was one redeeming feature, but his very large single comb wasn't ideal for our NY winters. Therefore, when I placed my chick order for April 2012, I ordered several breeds of roosters, as I was hoping to breed my own "sex-links" using small combed roosters. Then, a surprise Easter Egger rooster became one of my favorites, and my "plans" started changing. One of the roosters I'd actually ordered was Golden-Laced Wyandotte, but the main mistake I made with him is that I kept the runt, because he was so friendly. I later learned that his genetics weren't the best, but there were a few chicks that turned out okay. When Daisy, a white EE hen, went broody for the first time in 2012, I though I'd give a few eggs to her to hatch out. Two of the three resulting chicks ended up being roosters, so I gave them to a friend. One of them started out as this cute little blue chick. These Catskill Homesteader chickens wouldn't be where it is today, if that friend hadn't returned those roosters to me in the fall. I was intending on just processing them, as I already had too many roosters. But one of the young cockerels caught my eye. He was blue like his father, "Michael", but had gold and red feathers on his neck & wings. He won a place in my heart, so he stayed, along with his "half-sisters", the all back one and white one behind him. I named him "Michael Jessie", and he soon became my favorite rooster, above the other pure bred roosters I'd ordered. Before "Michael" went to a new home, he fathered more chicks, three pullets of which I kept. "Michael" was showed by his new owners at the local Delaware County fair two years in a row, and won a price the 2nd year. He was still mean & had signs on his cage to not touch him, but at least he got a "third chance". Those "unplanned" hatches of 2012 changed my plans for what I wanted to breed in 2013, and my original plans for "sex-links" was no longer a priority. I spent hours on BYC, looking at photos and reading about breeding, eventually finding out about several inspiring breeds and crosses that inspired me to experiment with my own flock. Then, I bought a Genesis 1588 incubator, joined the 2013 Easter Hatch-A-Long, and it's been "history" ever since. I've also been inspired along with way, thanks to BYC. For example, the Swedish Flower Hens and Icelandics, which are "a box of chocolates", meaning you never know what the chicks will look like when they have grown up. I've also been inspired by another breeding project, Aloha chickens that's using the mottled gene for "splashy, colorful" chickens. Like the Swedish Flower Hens, Icelandics & Aloha Chickens, the Catskill Homesteader chickens are not a recognized pure breed. Some may be consider them as "mutts" or a "barnyard mix", but many of the crosses were intentional and planned, with lots of culling and carefully selecting the best along the way. And they are now several generations from their original hatchery relatives, with some of the F1 crosses still being in the breeding flock. In 2013, I also experiment with adding Freedom Ranger to the bloodline, via "Pumpkin" and his sister T3 (short for Two-Ton Tonita), who'd been raised by Daisy the broody hen and lived for about 8 months. Here's "Pumpkin", who was obviously a big boy, but sadly only fathered two chicks - "David" and "Butternut", both of whom added their genetics in 2014. I originally started calling them "Wildflower Easter Eggers", but after some confusion with the "Easter Eggers" commonly sold by hatcheries, I decided it would be best to have an original, "different" name. Hence, the idea of "Catskill Homesteader" chickens was hatched, named after the beautiful, rugged Catskill Mountains, and "Homesteader" after the pioneers who withstood many hardships on the frontier, many of whom had chickens that were much better at being "self-sufficient" than today's grain-fed poultry. Breeds Used in Creating Catskill Homesteader Chickens: Blue Andalusian (BA) - white egg; blue feathers; single comb Easter Egger (EE) - green egg; multi-colored feathers; pea comb Dominique (DOM) - medium brown egg; black/white barred feathers; rose comb Partridge Chantecler (PC) - med br egg; partridge feathers; cushion comb; broody Partridge Rock (PR) - light br egg; partridge feathers; single comb Golden-Laced Wyandotte (GLW) - med br egg; golden-laced feathers; rose comb Freedom Ranger (FR) - meat hybrid; lt-med br egg; brown/orange feathers; single comb “Joseph” (unknown cross) - br egg; orange/red/black w/ slight barring; single comb; - came from TSC as “Barred Rock”, but obviously was a mix. Black Sex Link (BSL) - med br egg; black with red neck; single comb - (only 1 hen offspring, not sure if still have any left from that line) Rhode Island White (RIW) - br egg; white; single comb - (sold most of their offspring, as mostly made "Red Sex Links" and white chicks) Red Star (RS) - dk br egg; red/brown/white feathers; single comb (Note: I have now decided to eliminate the Red Sex Link hybrid from the breeding program due to the high frequency of reproductive issues when crossing with other breeds. One FR/DOM x RS was used briefly for breeding in 2015, but now has been sold.) In 2015, Crossing CH with: Swedish Flower Hen (SFH) - light br egg; multicolored feathers; single comb; Bielefelder (BIEL) - dark terricotta, speckled egg; multi-colored barred; single comb Blue Copper Maran MIX (BCMx) - unrelated rooster from Blue Copper Marans(R) x (? hen) parantage; blue, black, gold; single comb (not yet with hens) Recently acquired another unrelated rooster from another local chicken lover, who was sired by Buckeye/Buff Orp rooster and unknown hen, possibly an Easter Egger. As of this post I have yet to pair him with any hens, as he's still in quarantine. Catskill Homesteader Chickens - Breeding Goals: 1. Active Forager CURRENT:: Actively seeks out fresh grass, loves to dig in compost piles, eats food scraps, bugs, etc GOAL: Little or no supplemental grain needed during summer months (diet based mostly on foraging - if supplied with enough compost, bugs, red wigglers, pasture, etc) 2. Predator Savvy A. CURRENT:: Roosters alert flock & hens sometimes take cover; roosters more of a flight vs fight type. Will alert, but not protect. Hens alert to danger & will often spot aerial predators. For their protection, fencing & aviary netting is used to deter predators. B. GOAL: Hens run for cover at rooster's "predator alert" call, and roosters stand guard, willing to protect or "distract" if necessary. Roosters remain non-aggressive with humans, as they are now. 3. Winter Hardy A. CURRENT:: Mix of single & smaller combs, but hardly any frostbite in hens. Single comb roosters sometimes get minor frostbite on combs. Young pullets & most hens continue to lay well through winter with supplemental light. A few of the hens don’t want to stay outside, but most of them don’t mind the cold, snow, rain, etc. I've noticed an improvement in this area with each generation, especially if they were still young & growing during winter. B. GOAL: Mostly/all small combs, or at least small combed roosters. Single combs ok in hens, if meet other qualities, but large floppy single combs not acceptable. Hens & pullets continue to lay through winter without supplemental light, reduced # of eggs, but still continue to lay. Thick down & feathers to keep warm; active and foraging, even when cold and snow on the ground. 4. Healthy A. CURRENT: Mostly healthy - no known diseases or illnesses; though a % of chicks and adolescents failed to thrive in 2014; wormed & treated for lice/mites, increased food - health & survival rates improved afterwards; I believe it was more due to some animal husbandry mistakes I made rather than anything having to do with the chickens themselves or their health. Everyone who's bought chicks or adults from me have had good success. 2015 hatch rates & survival rates of the chicks have been excellent, very strong and vigorous. Parent stock seems healthy since moving Nov 2014. B. GOAL: Strong immune system, better survival rate in chicks and young stock; disease & stress tolerant; hardy, strong & vigorous. 5. Colorful feathers A. CURRENT: Variety of Solid Colors, Patterned, etc - Adult Hens: mostly browns, black, black & white barred, blue, white; some multicolored patterns Adult Roosters: red, red/white, black, brown, black & white barred, white, blue; generally more colorful than hens w/ two or more contrasting colors 2015 Chicks - Much wider variety than previous year's hatches, with lots of chipmunks, blues, blacks, and then some unique multi-colored chicks with or without headspots. B. Goal: Even wider variety of colors, patterns, possibly even some "mottled" or "spotted"; Prefer more than two contrasting colors on both hens & roosters; multi-colored barred, each feather has at least two colors; only an occasional solid-colored hen, except for the "blue" and "black" varieties, but even still would prefer a little "splash" of color besides an all-black hen. Egg Basket in Summer 2014 6. "Easter Eggs" - wide range of colors A. CURRENT: (Spring 2015) - Shades of green, light blue, sage/ khaki, dark green, light brown, medium brown, dark brown, pink B. GOAL: Various shades of blue, green, tan, light brown, dark brown, pink, terracotta; generally the same, perhaps just a wider range of shades in each color group. 7. Productive Layers A. CURRENT: (With supplemental winter light) - Lay pretty much year-round, except for when molting and broody; Each hen varies, but I’d estimate young pullets & hens lay every 1-2 days, until they’re 18 months old, then it’s every 2-3 days, with occasional several days in a row, with a day or two break in between. Don’t know yet how they’ll do once they’re 2 - 2 ½ year old & older. Size wise, they vary from Medium to Jumbo, but majority are large to extra large. Pullets from 2014 laid laying pretty large, often Jumbo double-yolkers, for awhile, but by spring they were mostly large to extra large eggs. Shell quality - both genetic and feed-based; mostly nice, thick shells; older hens tend to have “bumps” or thinner shells. There’s some who have laid shell-less or thin eggs, but those obviously can't be hatched, so there's no chance of getting chicks from them. I have yet to identify which hen(s) are laying them. B. GOAL: Lay year round (except for molting and brooding) with or without lighting. I’d say they’re pretty good overall in egg laying frequency & size, so right now not an area selecting heavily or culling for. Not trying to reach a production level of Red Sex Links or White Leghorns, as I'd prefer a hen that lays consistently over a longer period of time. 8. Dual-purpose for Meat A. CURRENT: Hens and roosters from hatchery egg production background are generally skinny and don’t have a lot of meat on their bones. Okay for soup, but not good conversion ratio for amount of feed to amount of meat. Hens & foosters from Freedom Ranger meat hybrid line show promise of improving size and weight, even muscling more than non-FR siblings the same age. Most of the 2015 chicks / young stock are growing very well, especially when feeding them fermented 20% chick starter. Though, they're too young still to tell how the roosters will turn out for meat. B. GOAL: Not trying to compete with the Cornish Rock “big boys”, but at least enough meat on the roosters and old hens that it’s worth the work to processes them. No established weight goal yet, as ratio of meat to bone is more important than overall size. Note: with many breeds or proposed SOP for a "new breed", they specify eye & leg color. This is not an important trait with the Catskill Homesteader. Eye color varies widely from orange, yellow, two-toned, and a deep mahogany (This one is often found in ones with the Blue Andalusian genetics, as "Michael Jessie" has dark eyes, where you can't tell the iris from the pupil.) Leg colors include yellow, white, "green", gray, slate, dark-washed yellow, and some with dark shanks & yellow toes! It's more important that they use their legs for scratching and turning the compost than what color they are! Also, just to clarify, the goal at this time is not to form a "new breed" that will would be eventually recognized as a "standard" breed. That would take a long, long time, and since there's such a wide variety, I doubt it would ever happen and still retain all the wonderful traits. Status as of 4/30/15: The Catskill Homesteader 2015 Breeding Groups Were First Separated on 2/12/15. "Dad's Coop" Group - All Single Combed 2 Multi-Colored Barred (VERY HANDSOME) CH Roosters - "Caleb" & "Joshua" "Joshua" is the current rooster; "Caleb" put back in the bachelor pen in April 9 CH Hens & Pullets - includes ones with Freedom Ranger lineage; Laying various shades of light brown, medium brown, and "pink". Hen's feather colors/patterns include 2 black/white barred, 2 "bluish lavender", 1 solid black, 1 orange/brown/black patterned, 2 blue/gray/gold patterened, 1 brown/gold/charcoal gray patterened "PA Coop" Group - Mostly Small Combs 1 EE-based "Gold Duckwing*" CH Roo - pea comb - current rooster 1 "Blue Wheaten*" CH - rose comb - fathered some of the earlier hatches 12 CH Hens & Pullets with rose, pea, cushion or mixed small combs Feather Colors & Patterns include black, blue, multi-colored Egg Colors - Green, khaki, blue/green, "pink", light brown, medium brown 1 Partridge Chantecler - cushion comb (breeder, when not broody) 2 CH Pullets from Oct 2014 SFH Rooster over 3 CH hens - green egg layers + 1 Bantam Cochin Bielefelder Rooster over 1 CH green layer "Susan" + 2 CH brown layers (blk/white barred; gold/brown/black patterned - carries barring gene) *color names such as Blue Wheaten are just for reference, they are not the same as the pure breeds that come in this color. "Lavender" - a BA/EExFR pullet as a young chick in 2013 She turned into a beautiful large hen who lays light, creamy brown eggs. This is one of the 2014 Pullets "Rainbow", who is very stunning and is currently raising a brood of 25 chicks (some hatched under her & the rest she adopted from the incubator.) I believe her father was "Joseph", as she carries his white earlobe gene, but lays a brown egg. I'm not sure who her mother is, as she was hatched under a broody hen. But, she is a beauty, and a great example of how unique and different the Catskill Homesteaders are in their looks.