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which breed of chicken for dual purpose small producer?

 
tim Trammell
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If you had to choose one breed of chicken to develop into a great dual purpose bird for the small producer, say 2000 meat birds a year and 50 egg layers, which one would you pick. OR would you do one breed for meat and another for eggs, and which would they be?
 
Chris Gray
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Location: Kentucky Zone 6
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Victoria,

I was just about to post a similar question, so I'll be watching this with interest. My question was what meat birds do you most recommend?
 
Anna Hopping
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HI, Victoria,

i am looking for a meat and egg breed of chickens that do well on forage and raise their own chicks. family size operation. the conditions are dry here high desert. with temps cold at night into the spring and can get -30to-35 below but normally zone 4/5. In summer temps get to 90 some, mostly cooler and if we get summer rains it cools down.

i do not have a large area for them to forge in and i will have to grow their food. 1/4 acre. i also would like some ducks under the same conditions. i know there are breeds of cattle that produce milk well on forage. i do not seem to get enough info on the chicken breed descriptions.

several years ago we were having trouble with breeds that typically were setters not setting. i became very concerned and wondered if i needed to do some cross breeding to re-establish the trait in a meat bird. Do you have info on this? it seems people just buy chicks and do not keep a flock sustainably or they incubate. i want to have hens raise the chicks each year for the family meat production.

when there is a space designated per chicken for their house is that for chickens which live in their house mostly with foraging out here in there? Can the housing be smaller if it is only used as night roosting and they go out every day?

thank you for your time
anna
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I would also like to get only one breed of chicks. I want eggs 1st, and then I would eat some chicks too!
I do not want any incubator...
So the hen must be still "natural"....

I thi8nk I read that Orpington was a good choice?

 
Ludger Merkens
Posts: 171
Location: Deutschland (germany)
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Well I don't know if this chicken is availiable for you, or if it even is suitable for your climate, but in germany this breed would be probably first choice:

(german) http://www.huehner-haltung.de/rassen/bielefelder-kennhuhn.html

weight of rooster: 4 kg
weight of hen: 3 kg
number of egs (1st year): 230
number of egs (2nd year): 230

It is a relatively young breed from 1980. It is called "kennhuhn", because male and female chickes can be differenciated immediatly after hatching.
 
Renate Howard
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So would you do 5 batches of 400 or 4 batches of 500? Either way, that's a LOT of chickens, more than an average-sized chicken tractor could handle. I think it would be best to stick with breeds that have been bred to be adapted to crowding. The more heritage breeds might get sick and suffer under that kind of crowding.
 
Natalie McVander
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Wow - so you want to butcher 2000 birds a year and have 50 hens?

It depends on what you are looking for in meat birds, I would think.
I'm guessing you want to sell eggs and sell butchered chickens.
With that many chickens going, I'd set up two different operations.
You really need a hen house for egg production - simple and clean.
And for that many meat birds, you should have a system set up specifically for raising large groups of chicks in about 3 different stages, then out to a big yard.

So you might as well order separate breeds to fulfill the differing needs.

Brown eggs are not better than white eggs, but people think they are, so you can sell them either faster or for more money if you choose a quality brown egg layer.
There are lots of opinions on which chickens are best but honestly, all breeds that are bred to be egg layers produce roughly the same number and size of eggs.
Yes, leghorns will do more, but the breed can be a a little more challenging to deal with. So you might get 6 to 10 more eggs from one hen a year, giving you an extra 2 bucks, but you have to decide if that's worth having that kind of chicken. You'll be clipping more wings, chasing birds a few more hours.
If you want a nice, docile chicken, Orpingtons are great, very little trouble and more like pets, a couple fewer eggs.

All that to say, pick the laying breed temperment you will be happy with. I don't think the small difference in egg numbers is much of a factor.

As for the meat breeds. If you want heavy, unnatural production - if it's all about the production and the money, look into Cornish Rock Cross birds.
They do have problems, however. You will deal with broken and splayed legs, heart problems, etc. about a 30% mortality rate.
It may be worth the hassle to you to get them butchered in less than 2 months - they eat a lot, though.
Tasty because they are young and tender because they are physically unable to become very active.
You can't even give them perches because of the fragile legs they have.

If you want an easier meat bird the Dark Cornish is a good one. Nice broad and deep birds. Pretty good egg layers as well, if you want to use them.






 
Anna Hopping
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adding to questions from above:

I am not so interested in a big meat bird than i am in sustainable production. if a bird type does well on foraging i can live with a smaller bird. but just being smaller dose not mean it is a good forger or thrives on forage verses grain. i read paul's write up on different chicken production methods and i want to do the paddock one. it seems more natural and in my experience we had the free range which did not negatively effect out life as he said a few stated but i also have experienced the negative effects in smaller spaces. so it was good to get a run down on what others have been doing. The write up helped me a lot.

i do not want the bread up kind that grow off quickly and i do not want to depend on buying chicks.

i am not really interested in having to have eggs all the time. i can do without eggs when they are not laying or are slow. that is natural. we eat fruit when it is ripe.
so a good forager that has not breed out its instincts to reproduce that has some kind of size. not subject to getting out is a plus and even if they will protect them self is a plus. although gentle is nice as well.

i like to watch a momma hen protect her chicks and guide them to their food.

i know bannies are great brooders and can raise sever bachus of chicks a year. but they are small. so a little larger would be nice. bannies we had as children were feral and tended their self. we of course had actions that brought food available to them. they fly out so that would create a different type need.

i do not like the bare ground pens. and i will not have land for grazing. maybe at the beginning but i have food forest planed and begun.

also the number will depend on my ability to provide forage for them. so i figure we will grow together.

so knowing a good number to have to have good genetics and ratio to roaster is important.

 
tim Trammell
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Ok I realize I needed to add more information. I'm not interested in franken-chickens, only heritage breeds. The 2000 number is best case in a few years, I will start out slower, until I develop the market to handle that number a year, of quality (higher cost) meat birds. I'm thinking maybe a Chicken CSA where I will slaughter and deliver 100 a week or less. so if I have a 18wk grow out period I would have at most 1800 chickens during the peak weeks, and for most of the year much less, because I would start 100 a week, until I'm 18 weeks away from final delivery for the year. I have a 7 acres to move them around on.

The eggs layers would be more of a draw to get folks used to thinking of me as a chicken guy at the farmers market. In our market I don't see selling more than 10-20 dozen eggs a week. Take best case, and I do sell 20 doz. a week, that's 240 eggs, dived by 7 (days a week) thats 35 eggs a day, so 50 hens should do it.

Of course if I were hatching my own meat birds I would have to adjust my hen numbers to reflect the number of hatching eggs I need during the meat season.

Again I'm going to start out much smaller. maybe 50 total birds this year, egg layers and meat birds, and I totally expect to put most of the meat birds in my own freezer, which will be fine with me. But as I learn and develop the breed I want, and develop the market to accept quality meat birds I will grow my operation.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Location: Augusta,Ks
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Ok, my answer is;

I don't know, but I am working on it, too. First I will tell ya a couple things I read in your post Tim, that I do know that ya might have trouble with. I only mean this as constructive criticism, so if I come off like an ass, I am, but not necessarily meaning to be this time;

1) Only people who have never dealt with 1800 chickens in a pasture setting, think 1800 is not very many. I have never hadd close to that many at one time, but close enough to know it's alooooooot. Especially is you are doing this alone.

2) 7 acres aint close to being enough to do what you are wanting. Unless carefully , and I mean very carefully, as in I damn sure dont know how, you will ends up with a big chicken yard, if you are running 2000 a year.

3) 50 hens should lay 35 eggs a day, and most will sometimes. Heck sometimes they will lay 50, but 25 is better average to plan on, especially after the first year.

Be a skeptic looking at your potential, and maybe your surprises will be good ones!

Ok, now to the stuff I kinda know;

I am trying white rocks this year, at the recommendation of Mr. Adam Klaus. You should look up his threads on here. Very, very interesting! This is my first time for white rocks, so I will let ya know. I have done barred rocks, and was a little disappointed for meat chickens, but pretty good layers. I have also tried RI reds, new hamps, white wynadottes, black australorps and buff orpingtons. Of the bunch, the buff's were my favorites, so far. They didn't have any breast to speak of, but really nice legs and thighs. I will say that the buff's were probably the worst layers of the bunch, but still satisfactory and just a wonderful chicken to raise.

I think getting good stock is just as important as the breed. I really wish there was more chicken breeders out there. I would really like to try a first generation cross between quality white rocks and a dark cornish. The dark cornish is one that I have not tried, because of the low egg laying ability.

also,

I started this year with plans of only raising 100 cornish x's, but the people I raised chickens for are fighting the heritage breeds for meat. Like in so many other instances, beauty is more important to today's america, then substance. I have decided to do at least 200 now, and maybe more, depending on demand. I am still doing 50 white rocks for myself, so we shall see.

My point being, make sure ya got a market. heritage birds are not like what folks are interested in, in many, many ways.

I raise my birds in salatin style pens, if that helps any.
 
mick mclaughlin
Posts: 200
Location: Augusta,Ks
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Anna Hopping wrote:adding to questions from above:

I am not so interested in a big meat bird than i am in sustainable production. if a bird type does well on foraging i can live with a smaller bird. but just being smaller dose not mean it is a good forger or thrives on forage verses grain. i read paul's write up on different chicken production methods and i want to do the paddock one. it seems more natural and in my experience we had the free range which did not negatively effect out life as he said a few stated but i also have experienced the negative effects in smaller spaces. so it was good to get a run down on what others have been doing. The write up helped me a lot.

i do not want the bread up kind that grow off quickly and i do not want to depend on buying chicks.

i am not really interested in having to have eggs all the time. i can do without eggs when they are not laying or are slow. that is natural. we eat fruit when it is ripe.
so a good forager that has not breed out its instincts to reproduce that has some kind of size. not subject to getting out is a plus and even if they will protect them self is a plus. although gentle is nice as well.

i like to watch a momma hen protect her chicks and guide them to their food.

i know bannies are great brooders and can raise sever bachus of chicks a year. but they are small. so a little larger would be nice. bannies we had as children were feral and tended their self. we of course had actions that brought food available to them. they fly out so that would create a different type need.

i do not like the bare ground pens. and i will not have land for grazing. maybe at the beginning but i have food forest planed and begun.

also the number will depend on my ability to provide forage for them. so i figure we will grow together.

so knowing a good number to have to have good genetics and ratio to roaster is important.



Anna, where are ya getting your chicks from? There should be any number of types that will "go broody". I would recommend buff orpingtons. They probably will not go broody the first year, but almost always do the second. It will be the second year for most hens. this is one of the downsides to the traditional breeds for me. I can hatch an egg, I can't manage to make one!

I would recommend getting a catalog from "sandhill preservation" and reading through all the options. There are not any pictures, so you will have to look them up, but there is good info and he supplies good stock. he is not a real "business" though, so you will need patience, if ya order from him.

Good luck!


 
Natalie McVander
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Anna,

I've never had any chicken not know how to forage, unless you are talking about flying into trees and having a larger range of... ranging.

The closer you get to a wild game bird, the less you are going to be able to keep track of them and find the eggs.

I've raised all sorts of domesticated chicken breeds and, locking grown birds up at night, after making sure they know where home is, and letting them roam all around the farm all day, I never had to feed them anything. Only during times of predator load (and being locked up), growth, or winter did I supplement them.

Always keep cracked corn around as a lure, training tool, and supplement.

If you aim for 12 - 15 hens per rooster, your flock will be a much happier place.
Yes, an occasional egg might not be fertile, but the only time that would be an issue is one egg in a clutch might not hatch.
Just throw it faaaaaaar away into the woods.

I like to recommend the Buff Orpingtons to people who want nice, pretty hens in their yard. Great all-around bird!
But they are so docile that they will get picked off sooner.
Rhode Island Reds, and others are very similar but a smidge more opinionated and they will last longer in places away from people.

Am I understanding correctly that you only have a little space and you want your chickens to eat mostly from foraging?
If you will only have a small, yard-sized food forest, I wouldn't get more than a couple of birds, unless you want to add food.
 
Renate Howard
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One more thing to keep in mind re: starting chicks weekly - once they get bigger they're not always nice to "strange" chickens being added to their group - as in the bigger ones might kill the smaller ones you just added! So unless you want a LOT of different pens and brooders, I'd do them in bigger batches and only process some of them each week. Like if they're ready at 8 weeks old, do 1/3 at that age, another 1/3 a week later, and another 1/3 the week after that, then have the next batch ready. Doing it that way, you would start with the biggest ones in the group and give the slower-growing ones some time to catch up (like if you had straight-run you could do the roos first and give the hens maybe 4 more weeks).

The 3 acres around my house support around 50 chickens free range. Some are youngsters and some are banties. If it were a food forest it might be able to support more, but you have to factor in that there are seasons and some of them are leaner food-wise than others. I think it's very important to the health of free range chickens to have leaf litter with fungus growing for them to eat - that's the majority of what my hens feed the chicks, besides bugs. So wooded areas where they can scratch and dig in the leaf mould are pretty important for foraging ones.

One more thing, you'll need to put some thought into predators. That many chickens will bound to be noticed by roaming dogs, hawks, foxes, even raccoons and possums (which can climb and are pretty dexterous!) Some surround their chicken areas with electric net fencing which does a fine job of keeping out most predators, tho chickens do get stuck in the net and get shocked until dead from time to time, along with turtles, snakes, etc. that you might not want to kill.
 
Tony Hill
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I am not very knowledgeable about breeds, but I have to say our Buff Brahmas have been very hardy, quite gentle, but also seem to have a more independent attitude.

Ours are strong foragers and seem to be very good brooders. (as advertised, when we bought them) We've had to chase them off eggs a number of times, and currently are allowing one of them to sit on a clutch.

Their egg production was sparse at 6 months, when the others were laying strong, but after a while they were just as steady as any of the others, laying 5-6 eggs a week. And they are big, meaty birds.

Just my experience.

-TH


 
Kevin Young
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Thanks all for these ideas. Any thoughts on breeds that can deal with extreme heat? I live in Yuma, AZ where we emphasize our world record of being the sunniest city on the planet but try to ignore the fact we are also one of the hottest places on the planet. I'm interested in eggs first, meat second. Also curious about ducks. I have read much about permaculture but am a real newbie when it comes to actually putting systems into place.
 
Anna Hopping
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thanks on your experience. i want a camouflage coloring because white is a target here and we have lots of hawks. White anything does not last long. I even make sure cats are of a color. i have new dogs so i do not know how well they will do with the skunks. i will check out the sight. i have been interested in the buff orffingtans but i would like a bird capable of protecting their young when foraging.

 
Melissa Nicole
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For tough birds that can tolerate extremes I would look for stock from some of the Basque landrace varieties or Icelandic chickens which have a different chromosome count that other chickens and are heat and cold hardy. Both are excellent at foraging and brooding. There are many good dual purpose chickens out there, personally I like Welsummers.

After keeping chickens for over ten years I tried ducks and decided to start phasing out the chickens cause the ducks are much easier to manage during the intense heat of the summer. Plus they are much nicer to my garden.

 
Angelika Maier
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the taste is different ; light sussex are good dual purpose and ducks are even better, muscovies, nice good taste and fat yum!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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tim Trammell wrote:I'm not interested in franken-chickens, only heritage breeds.


The thing about heritage breeds, is that they were developed a long time ago, in far away places with different climates and ecosystems, and the farmers didn't share your sensibilities about what a chicken should be. In my world view, the only way I can envision getting a really good flock of chickens that perform just as I like them to, and thrive in spite of my weather and my management, is to go through a franken-chicken stage which I use to develop a breed specific to my farm and way of doing things.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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