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developing a new homestead chicken breed

 
Adam Klaus
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I have talked about it a bit in other threads, that I have been working on developing my own homestead breed, which I call the Eldorado. I started with Blue Jersey Giant hens and a Heritage Dark Cornish rooster, six years ago. I have been crossing and re-selecting each year, aiming to develop a bird that had the best of both breeds.

My goal is to combine the large size, good laying, and docile temperment of the Jersey, crossed with the broad breast, dark meat, and compact comb of the Cornish. I just finished my culling for the year, and have to say I am pretty happy with my 'rooster of the year' for generation six. I have three other backup roosters, and about 27 Eldorado hens at this point. In the spring I will setup a breeding pen with the boss rooster and 7-10 of the very best hens. The project continues...

Here are some pics of my boss roo, and also some of my hens in the background. Enjoy!

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Eldorado rooster of the year, generation six
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Eldorado rooster and hens
 
Ann Torrence
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Beautiful birds! Can't wait for the call for beta testers.

AT
 
D. Logan
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I second the statement. Absolutely beautiful birds. I love that people are still developing out new breeds with a focus on the small farm and homesteading. Keep up the great work and thanks for the chance to see pictures!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Several of our roosters lost their comb to frost bite when I was a kid living near the south shore of Lake Huron. Is this why you want a reduced comb ?

For about 20 years my dad's farm had free ranging bantams who were left pretty much to themselves. Coyotes and dogs were their main predators. They took to tree nesting in summer and flying to the upper floor of a barn in winter. Good flyers with good winter plumage survived. Parigrin falcons have made a big come back. The chickens have disappeared.
 
John Polk
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I like the pea comb idea for cold climate breeds.
I have toyed with the thought of Buckeyes & Dark Cornish as a good cross for cold regions.

Delawares, Rhode Islanders & Plymouths do fine in their climates, but not the real cold regions.

Since the egg laying trait is carried by the roosters, and not the hens, perhaps using the Cornish as the hens might be better than using them as the roosters?



 
Adam Klaus
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John Polk wrote:
Since the egg laying trait is carried by the roosters, and not the hens, perhaps using the Cornish as the hens might be better than using them as the roosters?


That is interesting John, I hadnt heard that before. Where did you learn that insight?

In my case, it was only the first generation that utilized purebred birds (Blue Jersey Giant hens with a Dark Cornish roo). The second generation was the F1 hybrids from the original cross for the hens, with a new Blue Jersey Giant rooster for the male. From third through sixth generations, I have used the hybrid offspring of the previous generation for both males and females.

My goal has been to eventually blend the traits of the two original purebreds into a new, homogenized breed. Slowly but surely, the Eldorado breed is establishing stable traits. I believe it will take many more generations to become fully stabilized into a true breed. The going is sure fun....
 
John Polk
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Where did you learn that insight?


The egg farm I worked on always chose their roosters from the best laying hens.
They raised their own birds, so were very choosy about their selections for the breeding pens.
They had a three year 'rotation', and no hens made it to the breeding pen until after their 2nd year 'online'.
(They claimed that pullets gave them a 60:40 ratio of cockrels, but 2 year hens gave them closer to 50:50)
They did chose good layers, but contended that it was the male who passed on the genes.

Also, I recently heard Kelly Klober mention that it was the rooster who passed that trait along to future generations.

 
Adam Klaus
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Thanks John, interesting information. Kelly was my biggest influence in starting the project, having talked extensively at the Acres conference in 2007. Good guy for sure.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I think with most animals, the quality of the male is more important because males have the capacity to produce far more offspring. So, even if trait inheritance were 50/50, a male that breeds with 25 females is going to have a far greater impact on the future herd. There are farmers who will breed every cow, regardless of quality. The quality of the bull is then quite important to the future.

Adam, is part of your motivation to develop the breed to suit your climate ?
Are you also looking for strong foragers that are less reliant on supplemental feeding ?
Are you going for a particular color that works as camouflage, for heat collection or heat resistance ?
Do you tailor the diet to the birds or will you try to tweak the breed to thrive on what you find easiest to grow ?
Although I'm not normally a fan of genetic monkeying, chickens bred with centipedes would satisfy my desire for drumsticks.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Cool stuff!

The guy at www.sandhillpreservation.com has done a lot of similar type stuff.

I have been looking for a suitable combo chicken, with emphasis on meat, for years. The closest I have found is the different types of orpingtons. I do not have the room, and have not dedicated the time(different priorities) to developing my own. So I am very interested in other's insight and experience. I have raised the cornish crosses, and just can not do that in good conscience. The Le Poulet, or "freedom rangers" look interesting, but I am ashamed to say I have not tried them.

On the male versus female impact on the line, I will give ya my two cents from breeding dogs, and yes I know it is not an exact equation. Yes, a quality male can influence more, cuz they can just flat breed more females, but breeding a sub quality female can influence your stock for a long time. It has also been my experience that a good female is more likely to cover the less desirable traits of a male, then the other way around.

And yes again, apples and oranges. I am just saying, I would never breed less then exactly what I wanted to meet my goal, male or female. It's a tuff road breeding critters, but rewarding.

Checked out your fb page, and have been following your posts, Adam. Keep up the good work!
 
Adam Klaus
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
Adam, is part of your motivation to develop the breed to suit your climate ?
Are you also looking for strong foragers that are less reliant on supplemental feeding ?
Are you going for a particular color that works as camouflage, for heat collection or heat resistance ?
Do you tailor the diet to the birds or will you try to tweak the breed to thrive on what you find easiest to grow ?
Although I'm not normally a fan of genetic monkeying, chickens bred with centipedes would satisfy my desire for drumsticks.


Hi Dale,
Yes, I want birds that are suited to my climate, with subzero winter nights in an unheated henhouse.

I want birds that grow from hatching to maturity during the length of my growing season. So hatching in May and harvesting in October, plus or minus a month. I want the birds to thrive without chicken mash or other unnatural feeds.

The color is really unimportant to me. I do cull birds for color, only as I believe that color patterns can indicate a deranged endocrine system. As long as the birds have what I percieve to be healthy plumage patterns, color doesnt affect my selection.

Their diet is based on what is easily available to me, and what I believe will produce the most flavorful and nutritious meat. That is pasture, raw milk, triticale and corn, in that order of preference. If the bird wont thrive on that, then they wont make it to the breeding pen.

I hear ya on the drumsticks. But I like wings too. So its a stalemate there for me.
 
John Polk
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I would never breed less then exactly what I wanted to meet my goal, male or female.


Exactly. As Kelly Klober points out, don't get into chicken breeding unless you like chicken salad, because culling is a constant practice. Whenever you spot something you don't want, it's time to 'break out the mayonaise'. Only the very best should make it to sexual maturity.

 
Adam Klaus
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In response to some renewed enthusiasm about the Eldorados, generated from Paul's mention in the daily email (Thanks Paul!), I wanted to give a quick update.

This year's breeding pen is getting setup this week. Fertile Eldorado eggs will follow shortly.

For folks who are interested in coming out to the farm, I will be offering hatching eggs for sale, starting at the beginning of May. Hatching eggs will be $10 per dozen, and shipping is not at all a possibility (unless you really, really want to make me an offer I cant refuse $$$$$).

Send me a PM if you are interested in hatching your own Eldorados this year, I am excited to be able to share.
 
Jay Hunter
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It might not be so much that egg production is carried by the male. In a typical 4-way cross (of any species) the meat/growth characteristics come in the sire side and maternal/laying on the maternal side. I suspect the reason to pick roos from only the best layers is not only because of their disproportionate influence, but because it is easier to loose the maternal characteristics on the male side. Meat/growth and maternal characteristics tend to be antagonistic. IOW a really good looking male (meat production) might have a depressing affect on egg production and so you have to be more careful about that.

The other aspect is that if you're running a rotational linebreeding system the ONLY genetics passing between lines is the male, so thats the sole progenator of maternal and growth traits.
 
Jenn Andersen
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John Polk, you should give Buckeye's a try. I have them and find them to be a very good all-purpose bird. They have small pea-combs (good in cold weather), are good foragers and very friendly. I don't recommend getting the ALBC line of the breed as they tend to be lighter-weight birds for some reason. The best Buckeye's that I have found available to the public are from Shumaker Farm (Joe Shumaker) and Crain's Run Ranch (Jeff Lay) both of Ohio. Jeff has worked particularly hard to develop birds that lay well, but both lines are reasonably meaty for a dual purpose bird. For breed contact info on this breed see www.americanbuckeyeclub.blogspot.com.
 
Dave Hawkins
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How do Buckeyes and Eldorados compare?
 
Peter Ellis
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Adam, how big are your Eldorados running? The pic shows a handsome bird, but no sense of scale.
 
Adam Klaus
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Peter Ellis wrote:Adam, how big are your Eldorados running? The pic shows a handsome bird, but no sense of scale.


The only measurement I have is that on average, a 5 month old dressed cockerel weighs 5 pounds. They are big birds for sure, slow growing, but big birds.
 
Peter Ellis
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Thanks Adam. Dressed weight at harvest is a good metric for me.
 
Dave Hawkins
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I wouldn't mind 5 months if I'm not buying feed.
 
Ann Torrence
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Adam Klaus wrote:
For folks who are interested in coming out to the farm, I will be offering hatching eggs for sale, starting at the beginning of May. Hatching eggs will be $10 per dozen..

Now that might be worth a road trip....
 
Adam Klaus
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Dave Hawkins wrote:I wouldn't mind 5 months if I'm not buying feed.


The reason I have chosen to utilize a slow growing breed is actually for its economy in feed.

Fast growing birds require high protein commercial feeds, which are expensive.

Slow growing birds can grow much more economically on forage, with a relatively small supplementation of whole grains.

My total feed costs end up being less than $1 per pound of dressed bird.
With organic feeds.

Its like the tortoise vs the hare, slow and steady wins the race.
 
Jenn Andersen
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Adam, I think you have developed a very nice looking bird. The Buckeye also was developed over a hundred years ago with game cock for the same thrifty reasons (great foraging)! In fact, other than color, your boy looks a lot like a Buckeye!
 
Jay Hunter
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Adam Klaus wrote:
Dave Hawkins wrote:I wouldn't mind 5 months if I'm not buying feed.


The reason I have chosen to utilize a slow growing breed is actually for its economy in feed.

Fast growing birds require high protein commercial feeds, which are expensive.

Slow growing birds can grow much more economically on forage, with a relatively small supplementation of whole grains.

My total feed costs end up being less than $1 per pound of dressed bird.
With organic feeds.

Its like the tortoise vs the hare, slow and steady wins the race.


The SW ate my reply but it the other shows up again take this one as a better restatement.

Thats a trick, especially with organic corn at $21/bu. For that to be so the amount of feed they forage would have to be more than that lost to the increased maintenance and displace a fair amount of grain as well. And thats not easy. That and there are other costs than feed such as time, equipment, land and overheads which all go up dramatically with slow growing birds.

I desperately want what you are saying to be true. Unfortunately I've yet to meet someone working with slow growing heritage birds who actually keeps good enough feed logs to definitively state what the actual feed costs are. You sound like you do? Do you mind sharing some logs or at least detailed summations including feed consumed, age at butcher, live and dress weight, etc.

Is there something about this cross which is resulting in this or is it true of the parent breeds as well? Everyone I've talked to who tried to produce meat with heritage breeds to any scale found out once they got into it it wasn't economic, even at very high prices.
 
mick mclaughlin
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http://www.permies.com/t/30250/chickens/meat-chicken-return-investment

Lots of good info in this thread. Even records and statistics, if ya like that kinda thing.

I have 79 in the brooder right now. I can not do a completely free range, I do a kinda modified pasture with tractors very similar to salitins.
 
Adam Klaus
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Jay Hunter wrote:
Thats a trick... And thats not easy...I desperately want what you are saying to be true. Unfortunately I've yet to meet someone working with slow growing heritage birds who actually keeps good enough feed logs to definitively state what the actual feed costs are.... Everyone I've talked to who tried to produce meat with heritage breeds to any scale found out once they got into it it wasn't economic...


Hi Jay,
Nothing makes me feel like I am truly doing something remarkable, like people doubting that it is even true. Love it.

Check out the thread that Mick linked to above, I had a bunch of doubters there too.

Shared some numbers, served some crow.

Doing the 'impossible', since 1979...

 
Jay Hunter
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Thanks for that link Adam. Let me see if I have your system understood correctly...

You feed 20% commercial chick starter for about a month until they leave the brooder. Then they free range in your bug rich, clover dominated, orchard for another 4 months at which time you butcher for a 4-5# dress weight. While ranging they are (free choice?) fed sprouted organic wheat/corn and fed lactobacillis cultured skim milk.

The key to making this work is a slower growing, better foraging bird which due to the slower growth plane doesn't need the high protein to grow. The Jersey genetics give you more meat and slightly better growth rates and the cornish double breast and compactness. The inefficiency in longer growouts and energy consumed in exercise is made up for via self harvested protein. The grain provided or you is you feed lower cost energy grains while allowing the birds to gather their fiber and protein through foraging. The skim also provides energy, minerals, and probiotics.

Is that right?
Are you feeding any mineral once off the starter feed?
How many birds/acre are you running on those pastures?
How much skim how often?
Only sprouted grains? What is your sprouting procedure? I like to do that as well but the winter freeze and summer heat shuts me down.
How does the carcass compare to conventional CCs and to the slow growing pasture broiler crosses?

I tried using excess milk instead of beans for feeding hogs. It didn't pencil out. Growing beans to feed them would have used less land than it took to raise the cows. Even if I hand harvested I would have had less time into it. Since my milk is $10/gal I only see that part working when lots of cheese is being made.
 
Jay Hunter
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Adam Klaus wrote:
Dave Hawkins wrote:I wouldn't mind 5 months if I'm not buying feed.


The reason I have chosen to utilize a slow growing breed is actually for its economy in feed.

Fast growing birds require high protein commercial feeds, which are expensive.

Slow growing birds can grow much more economically on forage, with a relatively small supplementation of whole grains.

My total feed costs end up being less than $1 per pound of dressed bird.
With organic feeds.

Its like the tortoise vs the hare, slow and steady wins the race.


Looking forward to your answer on that last reply. This one is the deconstruction; let me know if I got it wrong somewhere.

In the linked thread you said it took 21# of feed to get a bird to 20 weeks with a 4 to 5# dress weight.

My last batch of Rainbows from Mt. Healthy took 24lbs of feed to about the same size as yours but did it in 17 weeks and that result was fairly error prone; there was lots of room to improve significantly. At 21lbs of feed/bird you're not really saving much feed and feeding way more than an 8 week cornish cross would require. Is it sustainable to double the land required to grow chicken feed? But it is cheaper feed and the result is higher quality. In reality your 21lbs of feed is only the energy protein and a complete feed equivalent would be 32 lbs of a corn/bean ration. IOW, way way less efficient.

But herein is a HUGE bugabo. If you're feeding dryland CO/WY spring wheat instead of corn, that will be 14-16% (vs. 8% for corn). I grew up in MT and we'd feed straight wheat to layers with better results than folks here in KS get on mixed/balanced feed despite the worse winters up north. In other words, it has almost all the bulk protein you need (though not balanced at the AA level) and is very nutrient dense and so you need very little from pasture. Clover and fermented milk out to easily balance most of the rest of the AAs. But if someone out east tries to grow birds or produce eggs on pasture with 10% winter wheat its going to fail; hard!

Welp claims 10lbs and 6 weeks to produce a CC. My local organic grain is $.54/# (a typical midwest organic price) before shipping so thats $5.40/bird. Local corn is .38 and wheat .2948/#. So going with wheat for yours thats $6.1908/bird BEFORE skim milk and extra labor cost of sprouting and fermenting and the extra labor and opportunity cost in tripling your time to market. But with 5# dress you're still at $1.24 on just the grains. Not under a dollar by any means. Last years wheat price would have pulled it down to $.97; but thats before your extra labor involved with sprouting/fermenting which must be included for an apples to apples comparison. Welp says 17# and 12 weeks for a Red Ranger which is probably accurate. That would be $9.18/bird on mixed organic feed. How that compares to your bird will depend on the time inputs involved in your alternative feed regime. Now grow a hand harvestable OP variety of corn that pushes 12%p and use that with your regime and you might have a winner from a sustainability standpoint.

So it doesn't look as rosey a picture as you paint. BUT if your numbers are accurate then it looks like marketing heritage birds is at least doable; which is something as the only one I've known thus far who has pulled it off is Frank Reese and he requires quite a premium to do it. A true breeding meat bird with high quality carcass is a huge missing piece of the sustainable puzzle and I'm thrilled to see you taking a crack at it. Though from a business standpoint I don't look at it as a way of saving money as breeding and hatching takes time and on a small scale should be more expensive than hatchery birds. But it is very useful as a way of reducing risk, controlling quality, and increasing profits through vertical integration. And on a sustainability/societal level we need to break free of the dependence on large multinationals for our chicks.

However if you're feeding western dryland wheat I don't think the birds are really getting all that much from the pasture.
 
Peter Ellis
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Wow. Jay, I think you are on the wrong side of the line, by a pretty big margin.
 
Josh Wells
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How does your selection process work? Do you have objective metrics of some sort that you use to determine which birds make the cut and which don't?
 
mick mclaughlin
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Chicken's nature means they don't get a lot from pasture. 5-10% best case in a meat bird. Adult hens can forage more, but I do not see that forage can account for much in a meat bird.

What part of kansas are ya in, Jay? I don't see heritage birds taking off any time soon, here. I give a few away, but folks do not like the looks of the carcass. They are used to the cornish cross. That is why I raise some cornish cross, as well. The heritage birds I raise are for me, and to give a few to folks. I realize that is not helpful to the conversation, but I am just saying I agree with ya, kinda.

I think the only way to currently make a buck in Kansas, is on cornish crosses. Ain't no way in Haiti, we can sell enough heritage birds to make it profitable.

Kansans don't give two hoots about sustainable. They would eat a roundup /gmo/ petroluem made bird , if it saved them ten cents.

Did you like the dixie rainbows?Do you have any for layers? I looked at them. I like the idea of a mutt. I personally do not have the time to develop a breed.

Rumor is, that Kansas is gonna shut down pasture broilers for resale completely. That was the talk at the local farmer's market meeting, by a guy that should know.

We shall see.
 
Adam Klaus
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yer right about everything Jay.

You see my numbers, I'll leave it at that. I like what I do, so do lots of other folks, farmers and customers. Enough said.

 
Rob Kaiser
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This has been a great thread. I saw Adam speak at the Permaculture Voices Conference and am proud to say that I met him and was able to talk with him afterwards. He is incredibly humble and very intelligent. I've got this thread marked for future reference as I hope to begin keeping some chickens this year. Many thanks for the information, Adam. Keep up the great work, bro.
 
Linda Potter
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Wow. What a wealth of information on this thread...some of it way over my head. I am getting some chickens this year with a view to becoming slightly more self- sufficient on our small smallholding in Spain, so any info on a good meat and egg hybrid that you can feed naturally and cheaply is very exciting.... I know, I'm a saddo.
 
John Polk
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Adam pretty well explains how he does it HERE .

AND: let's try to keep on topic: Developing a chicken breed.
 
Isabelle Gendron
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Nice birds Adam...

My question regards your breeding objectives. Why looking for a subzero type if you want them for meat and culling before winter?

I guess you know but there have been birds develop for harsh cold season like the Chantecler (cushon comb) the meat is very delicate (pheasant taste) and are good laying winter breed....I breed them and they very are cold hardy. But before that, all the small comb birds (pea and rose) are good in winter...You also have the dual purpose birds already bred for this like the Brahmas, Buckeye, Orloff that are also good foragers.....

For the meat, the Marans is quite something but not really cold hardy...

As for the laying...it is transmitted from the mother to the son...then to the girls.....carefull here. Not from the mother to daughters.

But everything said, pretty nice work. I guess it is very exciting to create something new....Bravo!

Isabelle
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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