Wednesday, February 14, 2007


First---let me apologize for my word errors in my post yesterday. I meant "hydra" not "hydro" and of course I will just ask you to ignore all the our/are and deer/dear type of mistakes that frequently inhabit my posts. I try---but I think my fingers can't keep up with my brain and afterwards, when checking, I know what I meant to say---so that is what I see. So on to the regular format now......

Cheryl asked me yesterday why we had chosen the breed of chickens that we did.
Well, I can't say that I have some formula that narrowed the field down to these three breeds. I wish I did since it would have made the selections a bit easier possibly. So as best I can I will tell you why I chose these breeds and if any of the rest of you----having ordered your chickens or who have chickens (Jamie , Phelan, Maggie or anyone else interested) would like to chime in on your own post --I think there are plenty of others who would be interested in this subject.

My first choice was the Cuckoo Marans. Marans are a "traditional" breed even though they are not considered rare per se and they lay the dark dark brown eggs that so many people love. We had a Welsummer previously (raccoon got her) and everyone always ooo'd and ahhh'd over the egg color. Since we live almost on the downtown square of this small town we felt that the extra dark eggs would help draw people up here to buy them. Free range, organic, freshly laid eggs for sale. By selling eggs, the chickens would help pay for their selves and possibly allow me to purchase an incubator. With an incubator---I could hatch chicks to sell. Then the birds would really be paying for their selves at that point. I liked the "cuckoo" part since I wanted something a bit flashier than just the black, white or gold. I would have taken a "splash " but couldn't find any.
As I previously said we had Barnvelders before, who also lay dark eggs, but some say the Maran is a bit "tamer" than the Barnvelders are--Supposedly. I don't know if that is true, but those Barnvelders could hold their own that is for sure and were a great bird--though they could have been a bit better layer (maybe that was just a problem of the genetics of the stock I purchased from a lady in Texas--I don't know).

The Delawares were chosen because they are a newer heritage breed (we strongly believe in genetic diversity and these are also slow food listed), and they are not just "plain" white for a white chicken. They are listed as good egg layers (a bit better than the Marans), good growers for butcher, good layers in winter and fairly docile. We thought about raising "pasture poultry" with the grower/broiler cross breed birds that the hatcheries sell when we first started looking at chicks for this year. I heard though, that even when you grow them out in a better environment than confinement birds, they still can have leg, heart and other health problems because of their quick growth. The Delaware is actually one of the original breeds developed for the broiler industry that then became a recognized breed---but with a bit more history and a lot less problems. They are also suppose to be friendly, and let me say our chicks are. They don't "freak" when we take the lid off the brooder or pick them up, and they are quick to come over to our hands in the box to see what's happening. One even came and roosted on my son's hand yesterday evening. So, so far, we like them. We are also pretty sure we are able to tell which are the roosters already. We'll see if we are correct.

The Silver laced Wyandottes were chosen because I wanted a third bird to fill the order with. They are considered a "heritage" breed and listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (and slow foods) but that is only one reason for their purchase. They are supposedly as good of layers as the Marans AND more striking in their color I think. I have to admit---some other breeds were considered but I like to get as close to : dual purpose, good layer, heritage and attractive as I can. We'll see how they turn out and if we like them or not. The roosters are fabulous looking which will at least make them a pleasure to look at. The baby chicks are a bit flighty---but if that means they are less likely to be caught by hawks and even warn the others: all the better. We don't need pet chickens anyways :-)

One breed I really really wanted to get was the Salmon Favorelle. I really liked them when we had them last time, but as I mentioned on anther post: they are too docile for us in this environment. The hawks get them--and everything else too. They are attractive, great foragers, wonderful egg layers even in the fall/winter, very gentle and their roosters are gorgeous. Their only negative for us was the carcass size was smaller and slow growing. That was o.k though since we eat more of the eggs than the chickens.

We've also had some other breeds that I don't remember what they were--some were cross and some were not. Obviously all had their pluses and minuses. I don't know if any one breed is the perfect one. I think the same thing about sheep, cows,horses etc. We just have to look until we find the "perfect" one for our individual situation. I will keep everyone posted about the different things I learn about my chicks. Sometimes all you can find on line is the "standard" gobble y gook about each breed. Not what an individual person raising them really thinks about their pros and cons.

By the way we are pretty sure we now know what our Mystery Bird "brownie" is......A black breasted red Old English Game chicken. We are pretty sure based on the wing feathers we can currently see that it is a hen. Well, I can't say that I would have wanted one of them. I absolutely would not have wanted a rooster of that breed. We shall see if we like it or not.

SmallMeadow Farm Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexters and heritage chickens


Caroline said...

We originally ordered some dual-purpose breeds from McMurrays. We started with RI Reds, White Rocks & Black Australorps - based on what was available when we wanted them. We quickly sold off the RI Reds (at about 4 months old). They were too stupid to free-range - could barely find their way back to the coop. After that we diversified with some Cuckoo Marans (love 'em!), one Barred Rock hen from a neighbor (she goes broody frequently, and they didn't like that), a couple of Ameraucanas and Welsummers from local breeders, a few banties from a local show... I especially like the temperaments of the Australorps and Ameraucanas.

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Hey Caroline! Post some pics of your cuckoos---I would love to see them. Never had an Australorp but we have had Ameraucanas. I liked them too but everyone seems to have them now a days. Their only negative was that the roosters "harassed" the hens so much they de feathered them. I guess the hens needed some of those little chicken "coats".

We were trying for a bit more "unique" of a bird with the chickens we ordered this time--at least for our area.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the info, Monica (and Caroline)! I'd love to hear an updated opinion as they grow up and start producing.

Jamie said...

I will probably write a big post about chix breeds when we get this spring's order in April. Right now our best layers (and friendliest gals!) are Barred Rocks. We are also very fond of our Black Langshans and our Speckled Sussex. We also have Buff Orpingtons, who are such nice ladies and good broody hens, but who are kind of meek and get picked on by the roosters excessively. If they were out in the mean ol' world, some predator would surely pick them off.

Our favorite chickens of all are useless, egg-wise: Mille Fleur bantams. We like them purely for their snappy looks and their cheerful personalities.

Liz said...

I can't wait until I can join the chicken love.... we just don't have the space right now, which frustrates me endlessly. We're putting up a small building this year (crosses fingers), so I hope to have plenty of space for the ducks plus chickens, goats and possibly sheep. And maybe a donkey. And a Thanksgiving turkey. Perhaps some geese. And... ;)

Liz said...

I look forward to the day when I join the ranks of the chicken-havers (and lovers). Meat blobs don't really count... we only keep them for 8 weeks. Hopefully we'll actually build that barn this year (we've only been talking about it for four years!). :) (I hope I'm not reposting... blogger has been a royal pain tonight)

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Yes Liz, they both came through but they were a bit different so I put both up---hope you don't mind.
When we moved here we brought our chickens from our other place where we had a coop---but not one here. They had to reside at night in a dog kennel with fencing across the top to keep out the predators. It was complete with hay bale "house" and a plywood roof with sticks between the bales for roosting. Not very pretty---but it did the job. Then they moved "up" in the world to a very small movable coop. This year---we finally get a real one. Good luck on your barn---I know how things have a tendency to get put off (and off and off)

Phelan said...

have posted my reasons.