What breeds would you recommend for TN farm?

Discussion in 'Where am I? Where are you!' started by Lady of McCamley, Aug 31, 2013.

  1. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi Y'all in Sunny Tennessee,
    We live in Oregon, and my daughter has recently married a fine TN fellow who is an organic vegetable farmer in the Nashville area (he grows for several farmer's makets in Nashville and Franklin).

    They have sojourned awhile in Idaho for an extended honeymoon and to help a friend get their farm up and running, but are planning to head back to TN to prepare for the start of the next farming year come fall.

    My daughter would like to start a flock of chickens. She is animal savy (Vet Tech) but has not kept chickens before.

    I keep chickens, but here in Oregon.

    She would like to choose breeds that would accomplish several things for her in TN.

    1. Good foragers that are especially good tick eaters. Hubby has had lyme disease and they would like to keep the ticks down as much as possible.

    2. Good dual purpose...meat and layers. She has some dietary restrictions and fresh eggs are something she can have plenty of. They likely will sell some eggs at market, but most will go for home use. They would also like to eat the birds when it's time to retire them. (Yes, I know they are stewing birds by that time.)

    I know generally what to recommend, but thought I'd get some specific local input.

    So...what are your ideas?

    Any input appreciated.

    Thanks from Rainy Oregon
    Lady of McCamley (who has visited your fine state and thoroughly enjoyed your hospitality)
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Interesting question. I grew up in East Tennessee and went to college in Middle Tennessee. I’d suggest you don’t overthink it. It can and probably will get over 100 Fahrenheit in the summer for a few days at least, maybe more. Humidity can be up there too. In winter they will probably see a few days below zero Fahrenheit. What chickens can handle those temperature ranges? If housed and managed properly, practically any of them.

    It sounds like there are only two of them. How big a chicken does it take to make a meal for two people? My wife and I get two meals from a fairly small pullet.

    It sounds like they are pretty much going to free range them if they can. Predator pressure can influence that. I had to go with electric netting because of people dropping dogs off out here. It’s not the foxes, coyotes, raccoons or anything wild, just the stupid people that drop dogs off out here so coyotes can eat them. I could rant on that a while.

    Which ones forage better? The ones that get hungry. I think it makes a difference if a broody raises them but that’s a bit harder to start off with. I also think it helps if they are outside at a young age so they can better learn to forage. But if food is available even if they have to go looking for it, what chicken is going to stand around and starve? While foraging they peck at spots and little things that move, like ticks. Guineas are supposed to be the best tick foragers, but chickens do a respectable job.

    Personally I’d get a mix of breeds from a hatchery and see which ones they like best. I don’t think you’ll find hatchery birds have that strong of breed behavioral characteristics so there won’t be that much difference in how they behave anyway. Hatcheries are not set up to select breeders based on those characteristics. But most breeders don’t select for that either, especially the ones breeding for show.

    Someone that has been breeding for those characteristics are the farmers that keep small free ranging flocks the same way farmers have been keeping them for thousands of years. They pretty much feed themselves from foraging most months of the year and raise replacements for you. They are not a pretty breed but are normally a rainbow mix of color and pattern. In that area you would need to supplement their food in the winter, but what is more efficient, a hen that lays 11 eggs in 12 days and you buy most of their feed or a hen that lays 8 or 9 eggs in 12 days and finds her own food most of the year? These chickens often have some game in the mix and still provide a meal for the family.

    I’d just go with your normal recommendations. I’ve seen some of your other posts. You seem to have a good handle on what makes the world go around as far as chickens. Just don’t overthink it.
     
  3. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    Good thoughts Ridgerunner,
    Curious...since ticks are a big issue for them, do you or anyone on this thread know how well guinea fowl and chickens co-exist?

    I've raised turkeys and chickens, but I've never even been up close to a guinea fowl. (Actually had to google a photo the first time I'd heard about it. [​IMG] ) I know that there are certain diseases that turkeys and chickens can share, the chickens generally being the better for it, the turkeys not. But what is it for guinea fowl?

    I am curious which chickens might handle that awful heat and humidity best without a lot of extra attention than normal water and shade...my gut instinct tells me to stay away from the really meat heavy breeds and winter hardy types (although you do get some cold there too).

    Thanks for input
    Lady of McCamley
     
  4. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Lady of McCamley,

    I live in southern KY, 4 miles north of the TN border. I'm new to chickens with my first batch, now at 22 weeks old. So, I've not been through a winter with them but can give you a bit of info to pass along to your daughter.

    As Ridgerunner suggested your daughter might try, I have a mixed breed flock. I have RIR, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Black Australorp, Cockoo Maran. These are really common breeds so you may already know all about them. All of these seem to do well with our weather in this part of the country. The Buffs are more fluffy and seem to have just a tiny bit more challenge with the heat and humidity but it's been a very cool summer so they're doing fine.

    There is a great "chick selector" tool at McMurray Hatchery http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/index.html upper right hand side. When you get to the tool, make sure you select "show more characteristics" to narrow the search. You can pick criteria that are important to you like how well they freerange, how well they lay, how well they are for meat, heat tolerance, cold tolerance, when they start laying, likelihood to go broody, etc. I used this to figure out what breeds I wanted that I thought would work best for my objectives and my climate. I personally selected to try to maximize egg laying, meat, freeranging, broodiness (of my breeds, only the Buff's are likely to go broody which is why I selected them), heat and cold (although heat was more important to me than cold, given our climate). I also only wanted smooth legs, no feathers as I free range and they stomp around in the mud quite a bit. I also didn't want any mostly white chickens because I free range and didn't want to make them any easier to spot by predators, ground and aerial. Anyway, you get the idea.

    If your daughter wants to get some started pullets and/or cockerals, The Poultry Hollow in TN has them http://www.poultryhollow.org/index.htm I picked up 6 8-week old pullets from them and they've worked out well. They did indeed turn out to be all pullets, which is what I needed as my original straight run flock turned out to be 80% cockerals (I know, bad luck for me, eh? I cooked up/froze the exras). I visited Poultry Hollow to pick up my pullets and it's a smallish operation, a big barn divided into sections for different breeds and ages, incubators and the like but no conveyer belts or any of that factory-like hatchery stuff. They don't vaccinate there, however, for anything. I did have one of the pullets I got from them die of Marek's but I honestly don't know if she got it from one of my existing flock, the virus blew here on the wind from my neighbor who has chickens or if the pullet already had it. I've had no other issues with Marek's or any other illness in any of my flock since.

    Hope this helps provide some ideas to help you and your daughter along.
    Guppy
     
  5. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    Guppy TJ
    thanks for the info on the breed selector on McMurray and for your personal experiences thus far.

    It's good to hear those are doing well in the heat. The cold there is not as much a concern as the heat and humidity...which is why I asked...you can lose birds quickly in heat if they dont adapt well to it...something we in Oregonian rarely have to deal with.

    Thanks again.
    Lady of McCamley
     

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