Who Is Staying and Who is going

I have made a decision on who I am keeping and who is going from my flock for the winter.   Here is what I have decided.

Barred Rock – Going because she is from the 2011 flock.   She is getting on the far side for age.  She is a good layer but in the interest of flock rotation it is time for her to go.

Dark Brahma – Going because she is from the 2012 year and she isn’t a great layer.   The dark brahmas have not been as larger as other brahmas in the past.    They have gone broody and molted the first fall.   If she molts again in fall there will be no eggs until spring.   This is a breed I don’t intend to repeat.

Austrolorp – Going   She has never been the kind of performer that you expect from this breed.   I kept on thinking she would get better but hasn’t.  This is a breed I don’t seem be able to get a good one.   I no longer intend to try and get one.

Speckled Sussex (2) – one stays and one goes.   They both will stay if we change our mind on the Jaehorn.   They are good layers.   They lay late and start early. It is just that there are birds from this year so they have a longer rotational life that forces one of these out.

California Leghorn – Going because her comb is too big for a Montana winter in my coop.

Silver Laced Wyandotte – Going because she has severe scoliosis.   Though she is doing well right now but  I would hate to be forced to deal with problems caused by this in the middle of the winter.  Experience with this problem, says don’t take her into the winter.

Buff Orpington – Staying.    She is a large bird from this flock and seems to be laying well.

Buff Brahma – Staying.   A favorite breed for us.   We are going to see what she will do if she stays for the winter

Easter Egger Staying  We  have had mixed results.   We are going to see what happens if we keep her.

Norwegian Jaehorn – Staying – We are torn the most with this one.   She is the lowest on the pecking order, and not sure when they are forced to hang out more together in the winter how this will all play out.   Because she is for Norway and should be winter hearty we so want to keep her.   We may flip on this before butcher day.

Buckeye – Staying.   She has a cushion comb, and seems to be a great layer.  She is a rock star forager and a fairly calm bird.

 

There are a couple of things that could change this.

  • Death of a bird
  • A bird goes broody or into a molt.   In that case the bird would move to the going list.   Either one this late in the season, would mean an egg hiatus until next spring.
  • I waiver on the Jaehorn.   Neither one of us are sure keeping her is the right thing.

Chickens are like Cowboys – most of what you think isn’t true

Chickens are sort of like cowboys.  There is a lot urban beliefs on what is based on TV shows and Hollywood movies.  If you live in true cowboy country you know many westerns are just plain crazy with things that are preposterous.    I am a transplant to Montana, and though I grew up in rural Illinois, my cowboy IQ before moving west was shameful.   After living here for a number of years I  have friends who own ranches, are married to true cowboys,  help out during branding, love to help bring  herds down in the fall, lady friends who have barrel raced for years, and  neighbors who have arenas on their property so they can practice their team roping skills.   I know so much more, but my cowboy IQ is still pretty low.    Some of favorite urban legends about the west are: horses whinny and talk all the time,  you can get off your horse and if you don’t tie it up it will be there when you come back twenty minutes later, all cowboys are sexy except the old chuck wagon cook, and none of them chew.

On the other hand I have had my own flock chickens for quite awhile and my chicken IQ is pretty high.      Here are some of my favorite chicken fallacies.

Rooster Farm_CottageArts

You need a rooster.  A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, and a chicken needs a rooster about as much.   Unless you planning hatching chicks, there is no need for a rooster.   A rooster like a man is need to make babies, without it the female gender will produce eggs and slough them off.

Brown eggs are better, more nutritious, better flavor, you pick.   Brown eggs are a genetic egg shell color period.  Nothing more exotic than that.

Chickens scratch and wander around the “barnyard.”  Some chickens are great forager, meaning the scratch around looking for good food..   Others have no interest in moving around beyond going to the feeder. I pick my birds for their forage quality and I can tell you some are rock stars going out and finding the first green grass of the spring and others well they will get there, but if they miss out on a tasty morsel or grasshopper they don’t care.

Chickens are fed hormones or steroids to make them big faster.   The poultry industry doesn’t need to do this.   After years of selective breeding they have developed a bird that will “naturally” grow from egg to maturity in just about 6 weeks.   This breed is extremely efficient turning everything they eat into body weight.  They sit in cages and have food available to them non-stop.  They grow so big so fast, their legs often can’t hold them, and can get congestive heart failure.

sdrum_kitschykitchen_eggBASKETCage free or Free-range means something when buying eggs.

  • Technically yes cage free means exactly that the chicken that laid your egg was not in a cage.   It doesn’t mean it had a lot of space or could wander around the chicken coop, it just means it wasn’t in a pen. I am not sure if that is any better, chickens have a pecking order and can be quite mean to one another when allowed to be free, and in crowded conditions things always get worse.  Cage free generally  is just a bunch of free chickens crowded in a coop.
  • Free-range is a term that means the chickens had the opportunity to go outside.   It doesn’t mean they have a wonderful green lawn with bugs, slugs and seeds for them to eat.   It just means there is a door in case they want to use it.   There is no standard that says each free range bird must have at least two square inches of outdoor space.   It doesn’t mean they ever have to be so uncrowded in the coop that they could make their way to the sunshine.   Keeping chickens myself I can tell you it takes no time for them to denude green space, so odds are this free-range space has long since been picked free of any green material they might eat.

Organic or vegetarian eggs are better.   Organic just means they at organic food, it does not speak to how they were treated or raised.    The only advantage of organic in my mind is they are not fed food that was not raise with pesticides, but probably more importantly to me no vaccines or antibiotics.   Vegetarian eggs on the other hand is plain insanity.   Chickens are omnivores, like us they eat meat and veggies.   Vegetarian and free range are mutually exclusive.   You can’t let them egg bugs like they naturally do and call them vegetarian.

There are many more, but these are some of my favorites fallacies about chickens and cowboys.

The Incredible Edible Egg

eggsOur chickens, at least some of our chickens,  are back in the egg business again.   All I can say is Yahoo!  We have been paying dearly for locally laid eggs.

We do not supplement our chickens with light all year-long like many do.   They are given an egg laying holiday.  Winter is a chickens natural time to molt and stop laying eggs.   Normally hens need 10-12 hours of daylight to lay an egg.  The short days of winter cause this egg hiatus.     We let our hens go through at least part of the natural cycle of things.  Our hens stop laying sometime between October 1st and December 1st.   During that time there is lots of feathers flying as they take care of their seasonal molt.      As soon as we go into the new year and the days start to get longer  the holiday is over.    We start turning on the coop light when my husband leaves for work at 7am.     Instantly the days become longer.   It takes several weeks sometimes more for them to start laying again.   This year they have started at a new early record, the second week of February.   And as the keeper of chickens we could not be more thrilled.