My 12-yr-old son has an interest in getting some heritage breeding stock (assuming we can find some at this point in the spring) so that he can experiment with raising & selling chicks. He has been reading and researching this morning and is considering Chanteclers. I've read a little more & it sounds like they could have a tendency to fly and be lightweight.
We have the book "The Small-Scale Poultry Flock", as well as other various books on chickens, so we have lots of book information, but I like to also get the opinions of those with 'boots-on-the-ground', especially since this is something for a 12-yr-old.
Thanks for your reply, D. I was just reading more about Sussex this morning and it looked like a breed with possibilities. I think we are going to have to try 3 or so breeds and see which one is easiest to raise. There's a lot to know! We keep a mixed flock of layers now (no roos), but he wants to get a little more serious and try to raise/sell some chicks, and maybe help an endangered breed while he's at it.
For such things as egg production, If it's a named breed, it's probably being breed by fanciers to breed standards for showing, looks rather then performance. "Old Joe down the Hollar" may have the best laying, tastiest birds in the county, but they could be his own culled and selected flock of mongrels chosen from years of breeding as commercial poultry raiser, but they'd never be known to people outside the local poultry community.
For example, my Minorcas (bought as fertile eggs and hatched) come from a breeder in Nelson who regularly wins shows, taking Best of Breed and Best Light Breed Overall quite often, they lay well and look good. another breeder in Christchurch also wins shows, but his birds don't lay as well or as long... By focussing on the looks and winning shows breeders can lose sight of the original performance goals the breeds were famous for.
I would go haunt local poultry shows and see whom the local grapevine regards as having good production birds.
If someone reccommends Wyandottes (I would) but you get your birds from a breeder with poor performing but great looking birds, your son might be disappointed at the result, show ribbons don't lay eggs.
Another thing you might consider is what people in your area want. If the purpose is to raise chicks to sell it does you no good to raise a breed that nobody wants to buy. If your area has mostly backyard flocks with folks just keeping a few birds for eggs than you would want to go with a breed that is known for its egg laying ability. You might also consider the friendly/flightly characteristics of the breed as many folks want a tamer chicken in their backyard. Also how does the breed do with confinement, as the reality of many backyard birds is that they will be kept in smaller coops/runs at least some of the time.
If your market is going to be more of a rural area where folks have a bit more land and are more likely to keep a free ranging flock then the breed you want to invest in is going to need better foraging skills and predator avoidance.
I prefer a good foraging chicken and am happy to have dual purpose birds even if it means fewer eggs. My reasoning for this is that I have a property where the chickens can free-range and I want the insect control and gardening help from the birds. My bird do get a significant about of their food from foraging and that matters more to me as I live on a remote island in AK where shipping in anything is expensive (both in $$$ and environmental impact) so the less feed i need to buy the better. In a farm region where grain is plentiful and feed is cheaper this might not be as big a factor. I would hope from a permie standpoint that everyone would want as much of their food/their animals food to come from a local source. However if you're selling to a suburban population they might not be able to allow their birds to forage and may not want to accept the reduced egg laying from a true dual purpose bird if they're going to have to confine and feed it grain anyway.
I have mutt chickens, they're a mix of Wyandottes, Easter Eggers, and Black rock. Mine came from a local keeper who has had a free-ranging flock for years and sells some chicks and eggs as a small business. I don't care that they're mutts, I kind of actually prefer it as I know they've been breed to do well under local conditions, forage well, and are good egg layers. While it's great to want to breed and help conserve a rarer chicken you might want to consider if that's really the way you want to go.
You mention that you already keep a mixed flock of layers. If you add a breeding flock do you have plans to keep them apart. If you go with three breeds do you have the setup to keep three (or four if you count the laying flock) separated? If not then you're going to end up with mutt chickens anyway. I would suggest that you invest in a good roo, from a good production line, with a good temperament. Looking at fairs and shows in your area is good advice. Let him take care of your girls to start and see how raising those chicks works out for you and your son. If he's still interested and the project goes well you can always expand to keep a pure breed flock in the future or you might find a good mix that you can develop into a locally adapted flock. Selling a mixed bag of chicks might also work in your favor as many casual chicken keepers like have a few different breeds, different colored eggs, different looking chickens in their flock.
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Gracie's backyard - a film about permaculture farming in the far north with Richard Perkins (stream)