Dreaming of Spring...

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by bobbi-j, Dec 29, 2015.

  1. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    OK, so it really hasn't been a long winter, but I found myself perusing the Murray McMurray Hatchery site today. I am down to seven 3-year old hens right now. They, of course, are taking their sabbatical and I haven't gotten any eggs since November. (Thankfully I have a coworker who also has chickens so I can buy eggs from her.) Anyway, I'm dreaming of fuzzy little chicks. My self-sustaining flock plans haven't panned out too well since I didn't have any broodies at all this year. Then my rooster died this fall. So, it's time to start over. I'm thinking heavy breed, brown egg layers. I haven't decided if I just want the Brown Egg Layer special, or if I want to get a straight run batch. I live on a farm, and we eat extra roosters, so that won't be a problem. I'm just a little concerned about not getting "enough" hens, but not even sure what "enough" is at this point. We eat eggs, I give eggs to my family and sell to friends on occasion. It's certainly not a money-making venture for me. Just a fun hobby. I for sure want another Welsummer hen or two. I LOVE those eggs! Maybe a couple of blue egg layers, too. Beyond that, I have no idea. Just that I want them to be somewhat meaty when it comes time to butcher. (I'm down to my last jar of canned chicken.) What are your favorite breeds? For those of you who have Rocks of any color, how are they for meat? I know they won't dress out like a meat bird, but I would like a little meat on their bones. Other than the Welsummer, I don't think I have a preference.
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I'm thinking the same thing.....even tho winter actually just arrived here with a storm that left a few inches of nasty ice pellets that is now locked up in freezing temps for the next 4-5 days.

    I could hatch to sustain population....but thinking I may want to add something from outside.
    Have a Wellie cock that's made some nice hefty OE's over my blue laying EE, but she's not laying steady after molt (yet?). My Wellie hen had been a fairly terrible layer and only a couple of her first eggs were viable under a friends broody, 2 other batches I've tried to hatch never developed.

    Will follow along for possible inspiration.
     
  3. blkjak

    blkjak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My Barred Rock hens are my best layers all year round. Roosters dress out nicely and fairly large (6/7 lbs.). I always try to add 3 new hens each year so I always have soft brown BR eggs all year.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Favorite breeds? You can get some diverse opinions here.

    I got 18 Buff Rock cockerels from Ideal last February, kept one to be my new flock master and put the rest in the freezer. I butchered around 5 months of age and they were pretty good. But to be honest most hatchery dual purpose breeds are OK.

    Each hatchery has their own people deciding which chickens get put in the breeding pen so the same breed from different hatcheries can be different. I think strain is more important than breed, though some breeds do have tendencies. I haven’t done it yet but I’ve been tempted to try Wyandottes because they should be more curvy and round than most other breeds. It would be interesting to see how the white-dark meat divides with them.

    Instead of ordering straight run, I think you are better off ordering by sex. I once got 7 Buff Orp pullets on a straight run order of 6 from Cackle. They threw in an extra chick because they had extras and just in case one died. None did. I would have liked to have had a couple of cockerels. The worst I’ve done on straight run pullets was four cockerels and two pullets on another Cackle order but I don’t do many straight run orders. Hatching your own is as straight run as you can get. Last year with one hatch I had two pullets and seven cockerels. I had an incubator hatch of 14 pullets and 7 cockerels. Straight run is just luck.

    I don’t know how many you plan to order, but if you are getting many cockerels you will probably come off cheaper by ordering pullets and cockerels separately. Cockerels are pretty cheap. And you get what you want.

    I can’t say I have a favorite breed. I like a multicolored flock of barnyard mutts and am partial to blue or green eggs. That’s why I went with a buff rooster. My flock was getting too dark for my tastes and buff can do some strange things to other colors. By hatching green eggs I can keep the green eggs coming.

    My basic laying/breeding flock isn’t that different than yours, six to eight hens and one rooster, though during the season I may have more than 40 chicks and chickens out there, most growing to butcher size. I’ve bred mine to go broody a lot but I still have to use an incubator to get enough chickens to eat one chicken a week. The only way you can control hatching is with an incubator. One decent incubator hatch each spring should provide fresh pullets to keep your flock young and laying plus some meat. Any broody hatches after that is just Lagniappe. Of course if you hatch them you have to brood them. I really like my broody hens to raise them but I also want the meat.
     
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    I hope you get some inspiration, Aart! It would be fun to know what you've decided on. I'll let you know when I make my choice, too.

    I've had Barred Rock hens in the past, and have good experiences with them. The one rooster I had, though, was pretty aggressive. I know that doesn't mean they all are - I could have just gotten a bad one. But I do like the fact that they dress out nicely.

    Thanks for chiming in, Ridgerunner! I am hoping for some diverse opinions. It's fun to hear others' experiences and thoughts. I think I will order pullets and cockerels separately, just so I can have a better chance at what I want. Maybe I'll get 15 of the Brown Egg Layer special, order a couple of Wellies to be sure I get them, and then 5 or 10 cockerels and see what I like best and want to keep. Somehow, that suddenly seems like a lot of chickens.... I also have a preference for blue and green eggs, so I'd have to order a few EEs, too, just to be sure!

    As my flock ebbs and flows, breeds and colors vary. I'll get a mixed batch of chickens, varying breeds, but birds that are supposedly purebreds, find a rooster I like and the next year or so will have a flock of mutts. Hatching depends on the year, too. I do have an incubator, but don't use it every year. Last year I was gone 7 weeks out of the summer and didn't want to fuss with babies or have someone else have to deal with them. I was hoping for a broody (I had one chicken go broody twice the summer before, but not at all last year) so I could get a few hens to keep things going. Oh well, it doesn't hurt to bring in new blood now and then. I had Freedom Rangers a couple of years ago for meat birds. I did like the red ones - they dressed out nicely. Kept one hen out of the bunch, but she died that winter. I guess if I can just breed heavies and get a good, meaty bird, I'd be just as happy to do it that way than order chicks every year.

    ETA - I hadn't thought about the "strain" being more important than the "breed". Thanks for pointing that out. I have only ever ordered from McMurray, so I don't really have anything to compare them to.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2015
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Just realized that there's guy near me has CL's from Greenfire.....
    ......and someone else has some gorgeous pure white birds, they say amberlink but maybe rocks - they are big girls, under a couple EE cocks.
    So maybe some new blood and colors in the flock is obtainable locally.

    Love the new post function....
    Oh, yeah, you've got me going alright.
    Have just decided not to get into bees and have the winter blues, so thinking about what to do next chicken-wise has perked me up.
    So, thanks!
     
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    You are all enablers here! I've been trying to NOT think about a chick order in April, but here goes anyway. Love my white Chanteclers from Cackle, and I kept a cockrel, and Candy has Walter. I really like Plymouth Rocks and Wyandottes, and my Speckled Sussex are sweet big birds. Welsummers and BC Marans lay beautiful dark eggs, but they aren't laying this winter, even with a morning light in the coop. Must have EEs for the green eggs! My one attempt at Ameraucanas was disappointing form an egg production standpoint, so I'll stick with EEs. I also want to hatch some Chantys this spring, and maybe some Marans with my BC Marans rooster. We'll see... I do like to order straight run, and getting 25 or 50 chicks at a time, it does tend to work out well. I've never had an EE cockrel worth keeping, though, so maybe EE pullets only. MMcM sent some very nice buff Rocks two years ago too. I don't like the hybrid layers or production reds, and don't order leghorn types either. Then the bantams; Have a small Belgian d'Uccle flock, and like the little Cochins and the Buff Brahma bantams. And the Fayoumis are on the list, just for their cuteness. Mary
     
  8. blkjak

    blkjak Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Enabling is what we do best. I don't order chicks so I don't have that weakness but everytime I walk by my bator I think spring is getting closer!
    I love my white Chanteclers too. I have a flock of 30 Chanteclers. I have a pair of CLs also. They are 6 months old. Rocky and Adrian.
     
  9. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    I could replenish my flock locally, kind of, by getting chicks at the local farm supply store... But I think I can get a wider variety if I order them myself.



    Happy to help, Mary! I mean, don't think about chicks, Mary. Get that thought right out of your head! (And then put your favorite candy bar on the middle of the table and forget about that, too!) :D
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    You are most welcome.

    On the strain thing, I've ordered Speckled Sussex and Black Australorp from both Cackle and Meyer. That’s the only two breeds that have overlapped from different hatcheries. There was an obvious difference in the SS coloring, the Meyer SS were darker. I think that’s closer to the SOP but I found the Cackle ones prettier, at least to me. These were only cockerels from Meyer, both sexes from Cackle. I liked the behavior of the Meyer cockerels better but I only had a few from both hatcheries. You need enough to make a valid comparison.

    I did not notice a lot of difference in the BA hens. I did not get BA cockerels. They went broody and laid pretty well from both hatcheries. I think the Cackle BA were a bit bigger but that’s from memory. I never got a side by side comparison. The Cackle BA’s seemed to like to roam further than the Meyer but again I only had a few so maybe not enough to make valid comparisons.

    I understand not being able to hatch when you travel. I had more trips this year than normal, planned and unplanned. That’s part of why I got those cockerels but the travel messed up my hatching big time. This coming year I don’t plan to buy any more chicks and hope to hatch all I need. As far as I know my travel plans will work out pretty well with that. The one thing that could change that is that I’m expecting a grandson in about a month and they are an 11 hour drive from here. I can see a couple of trips down there that are currently unplanned. Not that I would complain.
     

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