the moments that create my life

Thursday, February 15, 2018

a chicken update

Our chickens have faired well so far this winter. They've appreciated the warmer weather that we've had! Just a little refresher, the breeds that we have from our original purchases are Plymouth Barred Rock, ISA Brown, Leghorn, and Rhode Island Red. We also have two Bantam Silkie roosters that are not at all beneficial...They just get everyone wound up and make the bigger roosters mad when they try to interact with the ladies. We have added Australorps and Araucanas, two each, to our flock.

I have been working on a review as we are coming up on one year since we started caring for chickens. Our eggs have quite the demand so we are looking into adding to our flock. We also desire to move into meat production so we are weighing the costs and possible interest in that. As I'm reviewing, I'm looking to see which breeds have been most hardy, resilient and productive. Temperament is also of big importance to us as our kids are a vital part in their daily lives. There are always younger kids here at our house and we need chickens that range without causing an issue with them.

Here is my little breakdown:

Rhode Island Reds: We currently have two hens and one rooster. They have excellent personalities. The rooster is calm and protective, yet never bothers the kids. He has yet to cause an issue or attack a person. The hens are docile and easy to deal with. They don't love to be picked up, but don't fight it. They have been efficient layers. We previously lost two of Rhode Island Red roosters, unfortunately to our own dogs. At times, we do rely on our dogs to help herd the chickens into the coop. The loss of the roosters was a combination of the dogs being over zealous and the roosters, extra stubborn. 

ISA Browns: The ISA Browns are one of our favorites. They have all been so friendly and incredibly easy to handle. They return to the coop without much fight every evening. The ISA Browns are a breed that is considered to be more of an industrial layer. They lay very consistently, about every 24-36 hours from what I can tell. During the summer months, we consistently get double yolk eggs from the ISAs. The only real issue that we have had with them has been their inability to escape demise. We have lost more ISA Browns to predators than any of the other breeds. An accurate ratio would be 4:1, ISA Brown to Barred Rock. I don’t know what makes the difference, but it has been unfortunate to lose so many ISAs.

Plymouth Barred Rocks: These birds are very hardy. They’ve handled all of the weather extremes very well. They are productive layers with a gentle personality. Being picked up is not their preference, but they do tolerate it. The Barred Rocks have been successful rangers with very little issues. They return to the coop at night when it is dark or they’re coaxed with feed.  We have only lost one Barred Rock over the course of raising the chickens. Like the ISAs, they are very productive layers and began to lay eggs earlier than any other breed we have.

Australorps & Araucanas:  The Australorps and Araucanas have been a sweet addition to our flock. They have docile personalities and enjoy being around us. We acquired them when they were already several months old, but they adapted well and took right to us. They come up to us when we are outside, will eat out of our hands, and have been successful at ranging. I have noticed that these hens have just started laying. The Australorps lay a light brown egg. The Araucana hen has given us our first white (almost light blue) egg. We have seen eggs from them almost every day this week. I have loved having them as part of our flock. In the future, I would love to add some more!

We also have ten chicks from our December hatch. I am fairly certain that at least four of the chicks are roosters and will need new homes. They are White Leghorn crossed with either ISA or Barred Rock. Those personalities seem to be a bit less combative than their dad’s was as a chick. Our Leghorn rooster is not a fan favorite. He is very protective of the hens, quickly letting you know if he wants you to leave them alone. There have been several times that he has had unfavorable encounters with the kids so we do have to watch him when he’s near. We have kept him on the farm though because we do highly value his ability to protect the girls.

I am hopeful that the other six chicks will turn out to be pullets. We would love to keep them here on the farm and see how their mixed breeds present as far as temperament and productivity.

As we contemplate adding to our flock, the Barred Rocks are the highest on our list. We have loved the ISAs and would consider adding a few more. Their inability to keep themselves safe makes it a little more difficult to add too many more of them. The Barred Rocks have overall been our favorite breed. We would also love to raise some Orpingtons, Black Marans, and Easter Eggers (for the fun colored eggs!). Our barn is due for some updating, mainly for a brooder room. Once that is done, we hope to add about twenty more chicks to our flock. Having a brooder room will also open up opportunity for us to be able to begin moving into meat production. We have high expectations for the meat that our family consumes. By moving towards meat production, our goal is to be part of every step of the production process, knowing exactly what goes into the meats that we eat.

As always, our desire is to raise all of our animals with the most ethical, respectful practices. All of our animals are antibiotic and vaccine free and fed organic, GMO-free feed. The pastured animals range on areas that are free of pesticides, fertilizers, and other stuff that’s just gross and doesn’t belong in our food or bodies!

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