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New dual-purpose chicken breeds

 
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Hello,
I thought this might be of interest for all those looking for a heritage style duel purpose chicken breed.
This new breed, the Quamby Chook, has been developed by the wonderful Dr. Gil Stokes. I know he’s wonderful because he not only published his contact email publicly in one of the following articles but also replied the next day with answers to all my questions about the development of his breed and chicken genetics in general. He was extremely patient with my ignorant assumptions and impertinent questions and very generous with his knowledge and advice.
Anyway, read below about the Quamby Chook! It’s very interesting how he developed the breed and his success at re-creating the chicken of his 1950’s youth.

https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.abc.net.au/article/11713888

https://www.meandervalleygazette.org/meander-valley-gazette-tasmania/tag/chickens

Dr. Gil’s email address is published in the second article for those who would like to write to him directly.  

Quamby’s are available in Tasmania and mainland Australia now, but for those in other locations it’s still an interesting example of what can be achieved - the foundation stock, New Hampshire and Sussex, are widely available.

I have also found another example of a very successful duel purpose breed being developed in the UK at Castle Farm - the Welsh Black and the Improved Indian Game (different colour variations of the same foundation stock). I haven’t ever communicated directly with this breeder but there is a great deal of info shared on the site about how the breed was developed over 5 generations. It’s really impressive, and the breeder (I’m sorry I don’t know their name) is very generous with their knowledge and experience. Foundation stock for this breed were Black Australorp (roo) and Dark Indian Game hens.

http://castlefarmeggs.co.uk/?p=473

I’d be keen to know what other duel purpose chicken seekers think

 
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Buff Orpington lay large brown eggs and are dual purpose for meat too.
 
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Ive been on the buff orpington train for 3 years now. I do mix in genetics from other breeds from my foundation flock, but the roosters are always pure buffs. The egg color is the main variation, I have some 87.5% buffs that lay eggs like a welsumer (medium dark brown with dark brown speckles). And I had another 87.5% buff that laid green eggs from her ameracauna grandma, but she passed on. I dont really breed to a buff standard, but my roosters I choose all match the american standard. Ive noticed larger eggs, and bigger carcasses over time. But most people I sell chicks to dont really care, they either want truly pure buff orpingtons, or they think the buffs are a boring looking chicken.
 
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I'm not a dual purpose seeker.  I figure "egg layers" are really good at that task and "meat chickens" are really good at growing quickly and efficiently to a good size.  Dual purpose chickens are usually decent egg layers, but often still disappointing as meat birds (either in terms of overall size, time to grow out, meat/bone ratio, etc).  Plus, I don't really like listening to roosters all day long, and keeping them for breeding purposes is part of the point of having dual purpose flocks.  

If I wanted a sustainable poultry I'd go for heritage turkeys personally.  I find them friendlier than chickens (especially if you raise them, rather than letting the hen do so), and the gobbling of the toms isn't as loud, or obnoxious as rooster crowing, to my ears at least.  I'd like to try raising muscovy ducks too as the females are reputed to be excellent brooders.

All that said, if the Quamby chooks become available here in the states I'd try them out as an egg layer.  They do sound like an interesting breed.
 
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I'd be interested in seeing how "duel" these birds really are.  We raise Plymouth Bar Rocks and Rhode Island Reds -- both of which are commonly called "Duel Purpose".  In fact, they take a LONG time to reach maturity and start laying, and when you butcher them, they are pretty scrawny without much meat on them.

Don't get me wrong -- we love those breeds.  But you'd go broke raising them for meat.  You'd also go hungry -- not much bite on that drumstick.  

Details on this new breed, please.

1.  How quickly do they grow to a butcher-able size?
2.  How soon do they go from chick to egg production?
3.  How long do they remain productive layers?  (Our 3+ year old Bar Rocks are still laying 4+ eggs a week)
4.  When butchered, how large of a bird are they?
5.  How good at foraging are they?  As efficient as a Freedom Ranger?  Better -- worse?

Thanks in advance for the information.
 
Caitlin Mac Shim
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Michael Moreken wrote:Buff Orpington lay large brown eggs and are dual purpose for meat too.



Hi Michael! Thanks for your response :)
I have read about Buff Orpington being duel purpose (and white Orpington too I think?) but from what I understand (online research only) in Australia the breed has lost a lot of their duel purpose characteristics here and are mostly kept for their laying, beauty, Temperament and fluffiness :))
Where abouts are you in the world? I’ve always imagined there must be some good duel purpose lines still out there somewhere.
In Australia a lot of the old style homestead duel purpose lines have been lost, and now tend towards being single purpose, hence the interest in developing/re-creating chickens that are great layers but still produce a good meal in a homestead environment (free range / simple feed).
I’d love to know more about your experience with Buff Orps. How do you keep/feed them? What age do you slaughter at and do they make a nice meal? And where did you get your lines?
Thanks again, Caitlin.
 
Caitlin Mac Shim
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Strider Wardle wrote:Ive been on the buff orpington train for 3 years now. I do mix in genetics from other breeds from my foundation flock, but the roosters are always pure buffs. The egg color is the main variation, I have some 87.5% buffs that lay eggs like a welsumer (medium dark brown with dark brown speckles). And I had another 87.5% buff that laid green eggs from her ameracauna grandma, but she passed on. I dont really breed to a buff standard, but my roosters I choose all match the american standard. Ive noticed larger eggs, and bigger carcasses over time. But most people I sell chicks to dont really care, they either want truly pure buff orpingtons, or they think the buffs are a boring looking chicken.



Hi Strider, thanks for the info
I don’t think Buffs are boring, I think they’re beautiful. All that soft fluffy-ness!

Unfortunately here (from what I’ve read - no direct experience) people say they are all feathers. I don’t think you’re alone in introducing other genetics to try and achieve a better carcass over time, and it’s inspiring to hear it’s working for you! Could you tel me more about how you’ve achieved this? Like just selected the fastest/biggest growing birds to breed from?

Thanks again, Caitlin.
 
Caitlin Mac Shim
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:I'm not a dual purpose seeker.  I figure "egg layers" are really good at that task and "meat chickens" are really good at growing quickly and efficiently to a good size.  Dual purpose chickens are usually decent egg layers, but often still disappointing as meat birds (either in terms of overall size, time to grow out, meat/bone ratio, etc).  Plus, I don't really like listening to roosters all day long, and keeping them for breeding purposes is part of the point of having dual purpose flocks.  

If I wanted a sustainable poultry I'd go for heritage turkeys personally.  I find them friendlier than chickens (especially if you raise them, rather than letting the hen do so), and the gobbling of the toms isn't as loud, or obnoxious as rooster crowing, to my ears at least.  I'd like to try raising muscovy ducks too as the females are reputed to be excellent brooders.

All that said, if the Quamby chooks become available here in the states I'd try them out as an egg layer.  They do sound like an interesting breed.



Hi Andrew!
I agree about the Muscovy’s. I’m planning to give them a go too once I’ve finished re-building the duck quarters at my folks place. By all accounts they are good layers, great mothers, good meat birds, quiet, and also I don’t find them as sweet and adorable looking as mallard breeds..... so I’m hoping I can avoid getting too attached.

When I wrote to him, Dr Gil said that a focus in his breeding program was to ensure having nice roosters. He says his guys are nice to have around, and he usually butchers them at around 11 months, as he wants to hold on to the ‘brothers’ until he identifies the best laying ‘sisters‘ in his breeding program. Therefore he doesn’t butcher the boys until he can identify (and keep) the brothers of the best laying girls.

So he keeps them all (a pretty big flock of Roos) until 10/11 months or so, and they all hang out happily and being well behaved. I imagine there would still be some crowing going on however.

Dr. Gil said that his aim in the eating department was to create a chook that tasted like it did when he was a boy in the 1950’s. So he’s not after creating a fast growing meat chicken, but a chook that is hardy, good at foraging, does well on a simple diet, lays very well, gets on well in a flock and with people (Roos that are nice to have around), and produces a good carcass for the table that’s good eating even at 11 months (quite late I understand?). I imagine the birds would actually be ready to slaughter significantly earlier than that, but I don’t know when, as they were being kept until that old because of the needs of the breeding program.

I’m also interested in a chicken with these qualities that can reproduce itself. One thing to note is Dr. Gil told me he had largely bread broodiness out of the Quamby. I imagine he was focused on upping the egg production and was also using an incubator to get the breeding numbers he needed. He recommended adding some silkies as broodies if I wanted to hatch that way, but I was also thinking maybe a few Buff Orps!

Cheers, Caitlin.
 
Strider Wardle
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I’ll admit my breeding program could be improved. This guy’s system he describes where he catches every hen that lays an egg and records it...amazing. I havent been selecting for speed of weight gain in particular, just total weight and size right before the fall molt. Any birds that are scrawny get sold to people for egg laying/backyard pet. Most cities in Orange County have a maximum of 4 hens per lot, so its not too hard to sell any hen of any age. Therefore I rarely eat the hens and 99% of the time its roosters were eating. I keep about 10-15 to stay through winter and be the mothers if the next generation. I keep the same rooster for a couple seasons and bring in new blood from more professional breeders. The males are usually cheaper so I buy a bunch and keep the best. Again Im only selecting based on size of birds, and size of eggs. I dont really have a system for identifying which eggs came from which birds and so i cant record which hen laid which egg. Any hen that goes broody gets a leg band and usually gets to stay in the flock longer than usual and contribute an extra year of genetics towards the flock. When I set eggs I always set the biggest ones first, then the perfectly shaped but smaller size ones. I set 96 eggs and about 85-90 usually hatch. Ill sell or butcher all the males except for the best couple. All the females stay with the flock for 18 months through one chick hatching season and then are sold in the fall if they dont make weight.
I dont really have enough room to do a clan mating type of breeding program, its just too much space and infrastructure. I pasture rotate my 3/4 acre lot with a chickshaw type of device, and theres turkeys and geese coming in march and july respectively. Before that it was goats in the rotation, and i think i want to do sheep or pigs next. Im always looking for land, but its really hard to get a big spread in OC for a decent price. The land thats cheap enough to farm in the county is the land that you cant build houses on in the fire zones, so id have to commute about an hour up dirt roads to get to it, lol. Im trying to convince myself that ill enjoy driving 2hrs every day or it wont be that bad.
 
Caitlin Mac Shim
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Marco Banks wrote:I'd be interested in seeing how "duel" these birds really are.  We raise Plymouth Bar Rocks and Rhode Island Reds -- both of which are commonly called "Duel Purpose".  In fact, they take a LONG time to reach maturity and start laying, and when you butcher them, they are pretty scrawny without much meat on them.

Don't get me wrong -- we love those breeds.  But you'd go broke raising them for meat.  You'd also go hungry -- not much bite on that drumstick.  

Details on this new breed, please.

1.  How quickly do they grow to a butcher-able size?
2.  How soon do they go from chick to egg production?
3.  How long do they remain productive layers?  (Our 3+ year old Bar Rocks are still laying 4+ eggs a week)
4.  When butchered, how large of a bird are they?
5.  How good at foraging are they?  As efficient as a Freedom Ranger?  Better -- worse?

Thanks in advance for the information.



Hiya Marco!
Thanks for your comments and questions :)

My understanding is that Dr. Gil was motivated to create the Quamby due to the same disappointment with the modern performance of ‘duel’ breeds (or what were once duel breeds). He was searching for the chicken if his boyhood and couldn’t find it. Above I said this was 1950’s but I just looked back over my past correspondence with Dr Gil and actually it was 1940’s. So he decided to re-create the chicken he was looking for - a truly duel functioning chicken. This is a chicken for the homestead rather than a chicken for commercial production of meat chooks. It’s purpose is to be useful in the family setting at producing lots of eggs, and a tasty meal from the spares (as well as all the other great things hardy healthy chickens can do), and to do well in an unmedicated, free range/ish environment on simple feed.  
I’m not sure that this is the chicken for a commercial operation, although Dr Gil said that they do rival commercial breeds in egg production.

I’m sorry but I can’t answer all your questions! I don’t have these chickens (yet!). My intention is to get some, perhaps 8 hens, a roo, and a couple of Buff Orps for broody purposes, and see what they are like. I must say that their qualities make them much more attractive than any other heritage breed or single purpose hybrid that is available to me out this way, as they have had 7 years of improvement for duel purposes bread into them by someone much more knowledgeable than myself!

Anything else I am looking at are more show/single purpose heritage lines (even if from historically duel purpose breeds), or single purpose hybrids. Or attempting to slowly develop my own lines that suit my purposes - but that requires a lot of time, and a lot more chickens than I can have here. Not to mention a whole lot of experience and knowledge I don’t have. But Dr Gil does!

I had a look back through my emails with Dr Gil and found a bit of info though that you might find interesting:

On the topic of meaty-ness, Dr Gil says that they reach 2.5-3kg at 4 months. I don’t know if this is the Roos and/or the hens and I’m guessing it’s live weight.

On the topic of laying , Dr Gil said: ‘I now have a breed that performs in egg laying approaching commercial hybrids, but which is more immunologically robust, does not require special housing, continues laying over many years and is a delight to be around. They breed true for appearance and deliver boys for the pot reminiscent of the flavour of meat birds that I grew up with in the 1940s’ . I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing that - it’s such a great achievement!

I appreciate you have unanswered questions, and need details that I’m not qualified to provide. I absolutely recommend emailing Dr. Gil to have a chat. He has done all this work (7 years worth) to benefit people who, like him, want an old fashioned style duel purpose chook. He published his email publicly, and responded to my enquires with patience and generosity. He’s since handed over the stewardship of the breed to others, but is a wealth of knowledge on all things chicken breeding related, and of course everything to do with this particular breed.

When I finally manage to get some I’ll be sure to post here about what they’re like :)
 
Caitlin Mac Shim
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Strider Wardle wrote:I’ll admit my breeding program could be improved. This guy’s system he describes where he catches every hen that lays an egg and records it...amazing. I havent been selecting for speed of weight gain in particular, just total weight and size right before the fall molt. Any birds that are scrawny get sold to people for egg laying/backyard pet. Most cities in Orange County have a maximum of 4 hens per lot, so its not too hard to sell any hen of any age. Therefore I rarely eat the hens and 99% of the time its roosters were eating. I keep about 10-15 to stay through winter and be the mothers if the next generation. I keep the same rooster for a couple seasons and bring in new blood from more professional breeders. The males are usually cheaper so I buy a bunch and keep the best. Again Im only selecting based on size of birds, and size of eggs. I dont really have a system for identifying which eggs came from which birds and so i cant record which hen laid which egg. Any hen that goes broody gets a leg band and usually gets to stay in the flock longer than usual and contribute an extra year of genetics towards the flock. When I set eggs I always set the biggest ones first, then the perfectly shaped but smaller size ones. I set 96 eggs and about 85-90 usually hatch. Ill sell or butcher all the males except for the best couple. All the females stay with the flock for 18 months through one chick hatching season and then are sold in the fall if they dont make weight.
I dont really have enough room to do a clan mating type of breeding program, its just too much space and infrastructure. I pasture rotate my 3/4 acre lot with a chickshaw type of device, and theres turkeys and geese coming in march and july respectively. Before that it was goats in the rotation, and i think i want to do sheep or pigs next. Im always looking for land, but its really hard to get a big spread in OC for a decent price. The land thats cheap enough to farm in the county is the land that you cant build houses on in the fire zones, so id have to commute about an hour up dirt roads to get to it, lol. Im trying to convince myself that ill enjoy driving 2hrs every day or it wont be that bad.



Wow thanks Strider that’s great info! It’s helpful to see how you improve your lines through a few consistent processes. I too don’t have the space or infrastructure (or knowledge in my case) to manage the development of a breeding program as Dr Gil has, but if attention to a few more easy to manage selection processes helps over time, then that’s great news for me.

I’m moving my family back to my folks place, which is about 2 acres, with less than an acre of it suitable for domestic animals and gardening. The rest is steep riparian Bush. And what’s available is still quite heavily treed, And steep, so it’s great to find out more about what can be achieved on a smaller place. I’d love goats and pigs, but would be courting trouble with the council. Goats maybe if I’m careful. No chance of a pig sadly.

Thanks again for the info!
 
Strider Wardle
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Caitlin Mac Shim wrote:

Wow thanks Strider that’s great info! It’s helpful to see how you improve your lines through a few consistent processes. I too don’t have the space or infrastructure (or knowledge in my case) to manage the development of a breeding program as Dr Gil has, but if attention to a few more easy to manage selection processes helps over time, then that’s great news for me.

I’m moving my family back to my folks place, which is about 2 acres, with less than an acre of it suitable for domestic animals and gardening. The rest is steep riparian Bush. And what’s available is still quite heavily treed, And steep, so it’s great to find out more about what can be achieved on a smaller place. I’d love goats and pigs, but would be courting trouble with the council. Goats maybe if I’m careful. No chance of a pig sadly.

Thanks again for the info!



The hillside forest is perfect for rotating chickens, goats, sheep, and pigs through. Make sure you put feed or water at the top of the hill and the other one at the bottom, this ensures they travel more, exercise, and have to walk by the most bugs, forage, etc. I dont have any hillside, but all the animals love the forested areas.
 
Michael Moreken
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Marco Banks wrote:I'd be interested in seeing how "duel" these birds really are.  We raise Plymouth Bar Rocks and Rhode Island Reds -- both of which are commonly called "Duel Purpose".  In fact, they take a LONG time to reach maturity and start laying, and when you butcher them, they are pretty scrawny without much meat on them.

Don't get me wrong -- we love those breeds.  But you'd go broke raising them for meat.  You'd also go hungry -- not much bite on that drumstick.  

Details on this new breed, please.

1.  How quickly do they grow to a butcher-able size?
2.  How soon do they go from chick to egg production?
3.  How long do they remain productive layers?  (Our 3+ year old Bar Rocks are still laying 4+ eggs a week)
4.  When butchered, how large of a bird are they?
5.  How good at foraging are they?  As efficient as a Freedom Ranger?  Better -- worse?

Thanks in advance for the information.



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File size: 392 Kbytes
 
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Hi Marco

My name is Dr Gil Stokes, developer of the Quamby – let me respond to your queries:

From the late 1890s through to the mid 1900s when the hybrids were introduced, the typical farm bird was a ‘dual-purpose’ or ‘utility’ fowl. These birds served the farmer and family with eggs and meat, the surplus being sold. During that time, commercial egg producers mostly farmed white Leghorns, and by the 1920s, they were recording an increasing number of ‘300 eggers’ – exceptional birds that laid 300+ eggs over a full year. My data is from birds that are not given artificial lighting to increase day length in winter, and down here in Tasmania we are at a latitude similar to Oregon.

Developing utility breeds was far more involved that improving either egg layers or meat birds, since both qualities must be included in the selection criteria. And breeding for meat is far easier than for eggs since the heritability of live weight gain is over 40% whereas for eggs production, heritability is less than 20%. This means that gains from generation to generation is rapidly achieved for improved meat production by selecting the fastest growers. No gains in egg production were achieved by breeding from the best layers until the trap nest was invented around 1911. This innovation was in response to the recognition that lasting improvement comes from selecting for productive genes, and with low heritability, improvement had to be based on the average performance of full-sister families. Now each egg had to be attributed to the bird that laid it so that each chick hatched, and hence each pullet, could be assigned its family affiliation in order to calculate family averages. The best birds from the best families were then selected into the breeding pens. Cockerels for breeding were also selected from the superior families, with their live weight gains also considered to improve growth rates each generation.

My 5th generation Quamby boys weighed 3 kg at 22 weeks, the pullets weighed 2.3 kg on average. The boys were not aggressive toward us as I had culled those boys in previous years. The girls start laying around 22 weeks, do not go broody, and lay an average 280 eggs in a year (my best pullet laid 310 eggs).

I have retained birds from the first cross, and they appear indistinguishable from later generations. Birds tend to lay 15% fewer eggs each year, but egg mass increases. Birds in a flock that lay the most eggs tend to lay the smallest eggs, so selecting for egg number will inevitably lead to decreasing egg weight in the flock. In my selection criteria for the Quamby, I compensate for this by giving a weighting for egg mass.

Dressed weight of the Quamby is around 2/3rds of live weight, so at 22 weeks of age, the dressed weight of boys is around 2 kg.

Quambys have been raised on deep litter from hatch, have never been given antibiotics (eg, against coccidiosis) or been vaccinated. They free range and are always very busy in the field, and are retained by 3 foot wire netting fencing.

I trust that this answers your questions, which I thank you for posing. Unfortunately the Quamby is only available in Australia at present, though that may change with demand – the Australorp was bred in Australia and is now appreciated around the world.
 
Caitlin Mac Shim
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Welcome Dr. Gill!!
Brilliant to see you here
 
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