Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A chicken retrospective

  We get 37 day-old chicks in four different pure breeds next week. And it got us to thinking, how many chickens have we had over the years? I worked out it’s about 76-here they are!


   First up, four White Leghorns. Rather flighty (I had to tackle them out of their perches in trees quite a few evenings) but good birds.


   Next, four New Hampshire hens with their rooster. The rooster was a big wimp, and ran away one day when a dog visited. The next one we got was just as wimpy! Maybe it’s a breed trait? There’s also a frizzled Australorp that was thrown in with them.


   A few weeks after that, six Australorp pullets arrived. Very few photos of them, oddly. We also found a rooster for them, the wonderful Spartacus. He’s the rooster that has reached mythical status in our family-fantastic with the hens, he never hurt the children (and Frosty would chase him, grabbing his tail). And he even fathered the chicks-of course in the literal sense, but when they were out with him he would teach them to scratch, find them tidbits and attack any hen that bothered them.


The clucky New Hampshires made excellent sitters and mother-can’t remember how many the two of them hatched though. Nine maybe?

DSCF0791 Look! He’s parenting!




   Next, we wanted some broody hens, to hatch us lots of chicks. So we got two Silkies. I hated them, they were silly birds, not an ounce of sense in their heads.


  Then we had to sell most of them off, but kept the three remaining New Hampshire hens, when we moved back to town. We bought this mixed lot, but suspected after a few weeks they were mostly roosters, and gave them away before they started crowing, and our neighbours started throwing rocks at us in protest.


Three hens past their prime was not enough for eggs for seven.The friend who bought our Australorp flock had an incubator-so we had an adventurous drive thought Bundaberg during the 2010 floods to pick up 15 chicks for ourselves. We raised them, then gave them to a friend to look after while we went south for a month or so……then we travelled, then moved 2500km from her, and as far as I know she still has them. They started laying a week after we dropped them there, literally. I wasn’t happy!


Then came the packing up, and travelling, and the general horror. Ugh.


   In Mount Gambier, we had a horrid time finding hens. We were desperate for eggs after nearly a year, so bought four commercial hybrids (two ISA browns, and two Australorp/ISA). I hated these ones too. Yes they laid well, but only if they got a specially formulated high-protein feed. And seeing as our vegetarian-based ethics means we don’t buy feed with animal products in it, and our anti-GM ethics mean we don’t buy anything non-organic with soybean in it, and there was no organic feed available………….their egg production was woeful. Our conclusion: don’t bother with hybrids if you’re planning to feed scraps and free range, with available grain. They’re a high-performance animal, so they need high-performance feed. Purebreds lay much better on forage and grain.


   And in Tassie, we bought twelve Rhode Island Reds hens and their rooster. Eggs galore! I like the RIRs, they’re a bit lazy and dopey but because of that a perfect backyard hen.


And they go clucky! Even though the books say they don’t. But the books also say the roosters are vicious, and ours wasn’t a bit. Mrs Broody, as our mother of the year was christened, did a wonderful job with her six babies. And we ate the three roosters, so I can vouch for the fact that they taste good too.


  I’ll leave you with this photo of our RIR rooster-he came into the house, the kids tried to catch him, he freaked out and ran under the fire and got completely stuck. Luckily (especially for Tasmania) it wasn’t lit, or he’d have been roast chook. I had to drag him out by his tail.


Next week (or whenever I get around to it), more chicken blogging! Bet you can’t wait, right? RIGHT?!

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