Making Lemonade [Selective Culling Project - very long term]

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,516
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Success or Fail, I intend to leave this as record for myself, and example for others (of what not to do??)

No, this isn't a "Breed" project, I'm not that organized, and while I have the space, at current prices, its not worth the materials or flock sizes I would need to maintain to create something closely resembling a breed - rather, this is a plan to use selective incubation and culling to create, eventually, something resembling a dual purpose landrace suitable for (largely) free-ranging in my area -

Where: North FL Panhandle area comprised of sandy clay soils suitable for some prairie grasses, mustards, peanuts and upland hammocks of yupon holly, oak, hickory, pines (in order of frequency). Soil quality is both poor and dense, rainfall averages 1" per week+, seasonally heavy spring and summer, non existent late fall. That description would also include swaths of southern Alabama, SW Georgia. Summers routinely hit mid 90s at high humidity, winters will briefly drop below freezing (20s) for several days in a row, but don't maintain those temps. Frost line is 1/4".

What: a red-toned, patterned bird well suited for free ranging in these conditions, alert and intelligent. Low (120-150/yr) but moderately early (4-5mo avg) egg production and cream to tinted egg color, medium-large in size. A good bulk and moderate to somewhat early growth rates (4.5# or greater live weight males at 12 weeks?) on a diet of free ranging and 20% protein feed at .2#/bird/day. Some comb, minimal or non-existent leg feathering. Broodiness is neither sought nor avoided. A dual purpose emphasizing meat over egg production.

Timeframe: I'm not going anywhere, I have years.

Flock size: Expect to maintain between 25 and 60 birds for the duration. Its a reality that my efforts WILL be "assisted" by natural predation, my hopes can't depend upon a single bird or birds. Incubations to maintain flock size will be monthly at a rate of 12 eggs/attempt, year round.

Costs: Existing hen house needs to be expanded, more likely will create a second and/or third house, to assist in segregating the flocks when needed. Existing run suitable without additional resources and can be partitioned, existing free range area is (electric) fenced and approximately 4.5 acres, 1/3 cleared, 2/3 upland hammock - underbrushing is an ongoing project. Readily able to be partitioned at need. Multiple existing grow out boxes in a sheltered and protected barn space. Feed, courtesy local mill, is $0.25/lb at 20% protein (mixing bags 1/1) and will be offered as a mash. Hatchlings will receive a medicated 24% protein feed at $0.32/lb for the first four weeks, 22% the next four weeks, then integrated with the existing flock.

The "Lemons": Breed Stock consists of Hatchery birds obtained from the local farm store (TSC, so Hoover's Hatchery in my area), half of which are themselves Mutts. The single rooster currently available to me was obtained by rehoming. Also a Mutt. Pictures to follow in subsequent comments.
 
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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,516
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
This is RUG, "Rooster of Unknown Genetics", and the first potential deficiency in my plans. [Weight: ] My only Rooster.

He's a product of rehoming, age unknown (believed over one year, less than three) and has already produced prior generations at his old home. Has also sired his first hatching at mine, 8 December 20.


1607613635824.png


Pro: Good Size, Pattern, large single comb, clean yellow legs with an orange/red tone on the sides. Known to sire offspring. Appears to be an adequate and protective free ranger.

Cons: Unknown breed/ancestry, age, speed of growth.
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,516
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
There are four, arguably five, selections of hens to work with, with multiples (3-5) of each bird type.

Pattern 1 is the Dark Brahma (pictured typical flock member). Have one bird decidedly darker than average, "Darkest Diane", and one decidedly lighter than average, "Chuck".

Hens are about 4#, though they look much larger. Age 32 weeks.

1607614045610.png


Pro: Large size, the adult Brahma are the biggest of my birds. Very alert and intelligent, particularly to aerial predators. Excellent pattern, readily camouflages into the background.

Con: Pea Comb, Heavy feathering, poorly suited to heat. Foot feathers - we can get muddy, clay soils clump. Very, VERY slow growth and egg laying, my girls started at 7 months. Medium eggs, tan in color, hard to candle for incubation. High feed/weight ratio.
 
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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,516
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Pattern 2 is the Silver Laced Wyandotte, again, I have five hatchery-quality birds, nearly identical. Hens are 3.1# give or take, at an age of 17 weeks.

1607614598564.png


Pro: Near desired size, fast growing, active free rangers, good pattern*. Moderately early egg laying, clean yellow shanks.

Con: Pea Comb, mine tend towards smaller, darker eggs, though they had just started laying as winter hit and the days grew short, spring may alter this somewhat. Brahma penciling is superior to SLW markings for camouflage, but this is acceptable. Large white patches at neck not desired.
 
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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,516
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Tint 1, I have three of these birds. Hoover Hatchery "Rainbows", supposed to be dual purpose. They are, in almost all respects, "average". [Golden Comets at background for reference. The birds tend towards buff/blond rather than red]. Least patterned of my "tint" birds. Hens are +/-5.2#, current age 36 weeks



1607614981303.png


Pro: They are mutts. Single Comb, clean yellow shanks.

Con: No pattern. No exceptional traits. Not brilliant. Not meaty. Decent rate of medium egg laying.
 
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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,516
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Tint 2 - I have four of these birds, ALSO Hoover Hatchery "Rainbows", supposed to be dual purpose. These have darker red tinting compared to their siblings, a speckle of black at the neck, and a black tail band. [My darkest brahma appears for reference, and my red barn door] Hens are also +/- 5.2#, age 32 weeks.

1607615430539.png


Pro: Superior Red color, Smallish single comb, clean yellow shanks. Some darker markings.

Con: like their siblings, these are very average birds with moderately high medium, brown eggs. Best breast of my Reds, still narrow and poorly filled in.
 
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U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,516
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Tint 3 - Hoover's "Golden Comets", I have three of these birds (aka red sex-links). These birds mature early and are prolific layers of large eggs. They are also start tiny and have an expected short lifespan. Hens are +/- 4.9#, age 32 weeks.

1607615944560.png


Pro: Single Comb, clean yellow legs, large to extra large eggs, very early maturity. Good red tint.

Con: Poor free rangers. Darkest tinting of my eggs, true brown not tan. White markings at neck are a proverbial bulls eye for aerial predators. Not smart.
 
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