So, since last spring, we have been chicken farmers to up to 26 Buff Orpingtons. We butchered 12 males at 15 weeks, leaving us with 13 females and 1 lucky rooster. (We’ve lost four hens since this spring, so we’re down to nine hens and one rooster.) They have been our laying flock for a year and a half now. Currently, all the hens are moulting, so we are getting exactly ZERO eggs/day. It is so difficult for me. I actually bought eggs at the store this week! For shame!
Anyways, we added to our flock with five homegrown babies, hatched by a broody mama on June 2. It was so exciting! Those five (two cockerels, three pullets) are now nearly fully grown and live with the laying flock full time. The cockerels are too feisty and cause lots of trouble, so we intend to, ahem, process them rather soon. I’m tired of their antics.
Buffs are a great breed. Somewhat docile, gorgeous and fluffy, good layers and mamas, good foragers, cold hardy. All what we’re looking for. However, we could use a little more cold hardiness, a little more production, and a little less broodiness. That is, we need to mix things up. So when two more mamas went broody in late July, we eventually decided to order this All Heavies assortment from Murray McMurray Hatchery. It’s 25 males of dual-purpose breeds. This would accomplish two things: give us meat birds to butcher in 16-ish weeks, and give us a fresh crop of roosters to choose from for a potential replacement. We intended to sneak these chicks under our broody mamas, which was only half successful. (Oh, the chicken books I could write. I hope you enjoy learning right along with me, because chronicling what I’ve learned has been part of the fun!)
Anyways. We aren’t going for show birds here, and don’t feel the need to stick to a single breed. In fact, a little hybrid vigor could really do our farm some good. So, again, we are breeding for: egg productivity, foraging ability, cold hardiness, quick growth (for males, who will be meat), good feed conversion ratios (less food, more eggs). We will always want some broody moms, but we don’t need our whole flock to exhibit broodiness. We have our Buffs for that right now. So now I’m shopping among our 12-week-old cockerels to see who might make a good replacement rooster candidate.
Here are some pictures from a few days ago. It is amazing to me how quickly they change – these boys already look different. I’m still trying to figure out what breeds these guys are. (If you want to chime in on this debate, you can comment on my thread over at BackyardChickens.com.) I already have favorites, based on personality and color (aren’t they so pretty?). But some boys are clear contenders due to their size (mostly those red chickens, see bottom pictures). I don’t know if they are hybrids or not, so I can’t be sure they’ll breed true. Can you guess who my favorite roo is from the batch below?