Still more about Chooks

Chooks! Chooks! Chooks! Whoever knew that choosing a breed of chook was going to be so hard!!!

In researching chooks, the only thing I haven’t been swayed on was the fact that I didn’t want commercial hybrids. Right from the beginning I’ve said I don’t want Isa Browns or Hylines, even though they lay lots and lots. Although, only for about 18 months, maybe 24. That’s why commercial egg producers get rid of them after a year. I still don’t want them!

Looking back over my notes I realise that actually, it’s two things that I haven’t been swayed upon. The other was colour. I wanted some pretty chooks, something with a bit of colour.

My research has led me through so many different possibilities over the last couple of months, that I thought we’d do this and I thought we’d do that, and I’ve uhmmed and ahhed about which breed so many times too. I’ve wavered between ‘Dual Purpose’ birds and ‘Layers’ on a regular basis. The primary purpose of chooks was eggs, but we also wanted to eat our chooks too! And originally my thinking was such that we would get  only one breed, so which one to choose?

Barnevelders or Wyandottes? Light Sussex or Plymouth Rock? Australorp? Ancona? Faverolle? Welsummer? Adulusian, Leghorn or Minorca? Dorking or Orpington? Hamburg or Houdan? Langshan? Naked Neck? Araucana? New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red?

In the end, I couldn’t decide upon only one breed, so now we are getting a variety 🙂 It wasn’t such an anguishing issue for anybody else – I’d had only one request, and that was for the Araucana, because Brydon wanted blue eggs. Of all the different breeds out there, the Araucana, Barnevelder, Wyandotte and Ancona, have been serious contenders from the beginning. But I oscillated quite a lot between the breeds.

Also In the beginning, I was liking the idea of getting some fertile eggs and hatching our own, but after much research I decided against it. Too complicated and time involving for me and my special needs family! Then I was liking the idea of getting 4 week old chicks already sexed – 1 rooster and 12 girls – so we could handle them and get them used to us and get the boys used to them…

What I eventually decided upon was getting at least one chook from a breed known to go broody and also be good sitters and good mothers. When she does go broody I can get a clutch of fertilised eggs from a local breeder and stick them underneath her. She can do all the hard work – it also removes us a few steps so that when the chicks are old enough for us to know the difference between the girls and the boys, it won’t be so hard to kill and eat the boys.

We decided that at this stage we won’t be breeding them, so we don’t need a rooster. I’ve located three local suppliers from whom I can get fertilised eggs of a variety of different breeds, so I am definitely not in too much of a rush. At first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to breed with a mixed flock, but I’ve since found out you just have to take the girls out of the flock and isolate them for a while with their rooster. After about two weeks, the eggs they are producing will be the purebred variety. Sounds easy enough for when the time comes.

Okay, I’ve ordered our chooks, nine in total. One from a broody line and the rest, decent layers. We’ll get them at the end of this month, so now I have to make sure the coop is ready!

Below is my revised and shortlisted table of birds I was seriously considering, ones that would probably do well in our climate zone, sorted in eggs per year (a rough estimation) because the primary aim of our first flock is to produce eggs for the eating. Breeds with Egg under the Bird or Fertile Egg category means I want these breeds and hope to get them by putting fertilised eggs under the broody hen.

Any roosters we get from the hatching of fertilised eggs will be used for the table, although it’s been suggested that as I will be using purebreeds, to get an expert in to check the roos over, because there may be one or two roos worth saving for breeding purposes. The girls will be kept on as layers or we’ll sell them if we have too many.

 

Breed Purpose Eggs p/year (Av) Buy Bird or Fertile Egg
Ancona Layer 225 Y Bird
Leghorn Layer & Show 225
Andalusian  Layer 210
Hamburg Light 210 Y Egg
Langshan Dual purpose 205 Y Bird
Minorca Dual Purpose 200 Y Egg
Sussex  Dual Purpose 195 Y Egg
Araucana  Layer & Novelty 185 Y Bird
Rhode Island Red Dual Purpose 180
Barnevelder  Dual Purpose 175 Y Bird
Welsummer Dual Purpose 175 Y Egg
Australorp Dual Purpose 170
Campine Dual Purpose 170 Y Egg
Faverolle Dual Purpose & Show 170 Y Egg
New Hampshire Dual Purpose 170
Wyandotte Dual Purpose 165 Bird
Plymouth Rock Dual Purpose 160 Y Egg
Dorking Dual Purpose 130

In the end I chose the Ancona because, even though a little flighty, it is a good forager, good layer, does well in the heat and is a striking looking bird with a reverse dalmation affect. The Langshan is another good laying breed, good forager and does well in the heat and cold. The Araucana was chosen for its blue coloured eggs and good foraging skills. The Barnevelder because it’s adaptable and does well in most climates, is a decent layer and forager and a good looking bird. And the Wyandotte was chosen because I always wanted one – they are the prettiest of the lot (I’ve ordered a gold laced one) – and they go broody easily, so are not recommended if you want lots of eggs. She will, hopefully, be the one we use to hatch our fertilised eggs. All these breeds are being sourced locally, less than 2 hours drive away, so they should be okay with our climate – I hope.

Chooks

Our aim it to get ourselves some chooks soon, so right now I’m researching chook breeds. We don’t want commercial hybrids like Isa Browns, the same way I don’t want commercial hybrid fruits and veggie seeds, so I’m looking into heritage and rare breed chooks. I’m partial to something interesting, a chook with a bit of colour.

There are so many different breeds! I didn’t realise I’d have so much choice! So far breeds I’m considering are: Faverolle, Dorking, Ancona, Plymouth Rock, Lakenvelder, Australorp, Andalusian, Barnevelder, Houdan, Minorca, Orpington, Light Sussex, Welsummer and Wyandotte. However, I’ve not been through all the breeds yet, and I’m not sure if all these breeds are available in Australia.

To help with making a choice I am in the midst of constructing a table listing all the points that are important to me, trying to gather most of my resources from Australia, considering that is where we live. It’s quite a big affair. I’ll publish it at some point, when it’s mostly compplete, with hopefully a list of the chooks we chose.

We don’t have a chook shed yet, nor do we have a chook dome for our planned circle gardens, but we have come to an arrangement with our neighbours. They have an empty chook shed and yard and hadn’t decided whether or not they would get chooks, so I proposed us getting some chooks and keeping them in their chook shed and sharing the eggs. They’re doing up their chook shed even as I write this! We won’t be ready to have chooks in our mandala garden system for quite some time yet and I am so sick of buying supermarket ‘free range’ eggs where my idea of free range of chooks roaming around in big paddocks is not necessarily the reality.

Something I found really interesting was how different the yellow of the eggs are from true free ranged chooks to the free range ones I’ve been buying from the supermarket. I saw the hard boiled yolks of a friends free ranged hens eggs and they were almost a curry yellow green in colour. At first I thought they were curried eggs, but no, it’s because these chooks free range. My supermarket free range eggs are not that yellow when hard boiled! Apparently it has something to do with the amount of fresh greens the chooks get!

Interesting colour is an important factor in choosing our chooks, but it’s not the only one. Mostly we want fresh eggs, so we want chooks that are decent layers, and we want chooks that are nice meat birds too as we plan on eating any roosters we get. We also want chooks that are placid, not flighty or aggressive. They need to be hardy too. We get 40 degree days here in summer, thankfully not regularly, and in winter, at night, it can get  down to -5! So the girls are going to need to be able to cope with both the heat and the cold.