John Polk wrote:Rhode Island Red is a good dual purpose (egg/meat) breed.
About the only breeds that will out lay an RIR are generally too small to be considered meat birds.
The best meat bird breeds are the product of specialized breeding programs, and they cannot be re-bred.
If you want to have a sustainable operation, it is best to stay away from any breed that cannot reproduce itself, (ie the Cornish-X's or Freedom Rangers) or you will be buying new chicks every year. The RIR's or New Hampshires would be good for eggs, meat, and regenerating your flock.
Make certain to provide them with some good shade for those Texas summers.
John Polk wrote:The RIR's have been around as a breed since the 1800's, so they are used to being 'yard birds'...run around the yard and find their own meals. It is best if you start them very young eating greens and bugs. If they are raised with a bucket of grains dumped in front of them every day, they will grow lazy, and expect to be fed several times per day.
A common method that works for most people is to just let them out in the morning. They will hunt/forage to fill their bellies. Then just before dark, sprinkle some feed at/near their hen house. They should come home for the free supper, then go to bed as the dusk takes over. This also helps reassure that they don't stay out in fox/coyote land all night.
If they are not pampered/spoiled as chicks, they should grow up into self sufficient chickens. Their first +/- 6 weeks will help determine how they act as mature birds. But, do pamper them enough that they know who you are. You want them to run up to you when you visit their home, rather than run in fear. Just don't turn them into 'pets'.
Jay Green wrote:For free ranging and foraging it is desirable to have "flighty" and "unfriendly" birds. They will survive better than chickens that are used to being stooped over and picked up for "friendly" time. You really don't need friendly birds to have great egg layers and meat. Chickens are a prey species, so it's best if they are a little jumpy, a little wary, in order to survive being outdoors and hunting for their food.
Friendly, un-flighty chickens are those that don't have to go further than their coop and run for feed and water. If you are truly wanting a flock that survives on forage, this is something of importance...survival instincts are important. A chicken that squats when you go to pick her up and doesn't struggle a little, is the first one that will be picked off by a hawk, fox or coon. We are predators, they are prey...we are their first experience with predators. Make it a good one...do not expect them to be moochy and easy to pick up.
I've free ranged white chickens of different breeds for many a long year and have never had one taken by a predator, so color is of little significance. That's our own figuring..we think, if it's easier for us to see, that this will be the first one to be seen and targeted by a hawk. Actually, the first to go is docile, slow moving loners...those waiting by the back patio for a hand out~no matter what color she may be.
Jay Green wrote:
My favorite free ranging breeds are RIR, Black Aussies, White Rocks, New Hampshires, Barred Rocks, Speckled Sussex, White Leghorns, Partridge Rocks.
Breeds that I have found that do not do well on free ranging or work for sustainable, hardy flocks: Buff Orpingtons..actually, ANY Orpingtons, any of the sex link layer breeds like Comets, Black Stars, Red Stars, etc., Wyandottes, hatchery Dominiques(the old bloodlines, yes, not the newer Doms).
Prior to development of the commercial birds, there were several types of birds that everyone recognized – the broiler, fryer, roaster, and stewing bird. These types were based on the traditional points where pure (heritage) chicken breeds were processed. All of these heritage breeds were expected to produce meat and eggs for the table; and depending on the bird breed, the farmer would decide when best to process it as a broiler, roaster, fryer, or stewing bird. Although commercial supermarket birds are still called these names; there is no relationship to when the birds were processed.
Traditional broilers were from 7 to 12 weeks old and weighed 1 to 2 ½ lbs.; fryers were 14 to 20 weeks old and weighed 2 ½ to 4 lbs.; roasters were 5 to 12 months old and weighed 4 to 8 lbs; and anything older than a year was a stewing fowl. Broilers and fryers were often excess egg breed cockerels (young roosters) because they wouldn’t attain the carcass size necessary for roasters, and roasters were typically excess cockerels from meat or dual purpose chicken breeds. Stewing fowl were hens or roosters being culled from flocks as older birds.
Although the heritage breeds could all be butchered young for fryers or broilers, in the past it was preferred to take time to produce roasters because they had such superior flavor. Today, few remember or understand that the traditional roasting chicken was a meat or dual purpose breed cockerel. The number of eggs produced by young hens made them too valuable for the table, particularly when there were extra roosters that could be used. I’m often asked why we would bother raising roosters as well as hens – well it’s for the roasters!
The original stock used in the development of the Australorp was imported to Australia from England out of the Black Orpington yards of William Cook and Joseph Partington in the period from 1890 to the early 1900s with Rhode Island Red. Local breeders used this stock together with judicious out-crossings of Minorca, White Leghorn and Langshan blood to improve the utility features of the imported Orpingtons. There is even a report of some Plymouth Rock blood also being used. The emphasis of the early breeders was on utility features. At this time, the resulting birds were known as Australian Black Orpingtons (Austral-orp).
Benjamin Bouchard wrote:With the massive surplus of cockerels it makes me wonder why caponization isn't more commonly practiced. If I get to the point where I decide to bother with breeding chickens instead of just ordering in flocks I'll be investing in a kit.