Monday, 20 February 2017

Chickens, chickens everywhere

The next batch of chicks is due to hatch on Tuesday and I am starting to get excited about our chicken breeding plans for the year.

In the chicken field, we have now separated the Australorp breeding group from the White Jersey Giants, so in two weeks time the eggs of both will be ready to start hatching as pure breeds. It also means that we will be able to offer hatching eggs for sale. Both the White Jersey Giants and Australorps are in groups from different bloodlines, so the offspring should be strong and healthy.

We have two Australorp boys, one is with the girls and one is going into his own house and pen with a few hybrid girls for company. We want to keep the second male as insurance, in case anything happens to our first choice of breeding male. These two cockerels were selected from the seven we hatched last year, I hope that we've made the correct decision about which ones to keep.

The Jersey Giants (JG) have Little White (who has now become known as Big White) as our breeding male and three unrelated females and there are also two young JG birds in the nursery area of the chicken condo. They are around 14 weeks old and as yet, still a little young to be certain of their gender. It matters little what their gender, they have a different bloodline to the adults of the little flock and will add another set of genes to the group.

One of the young ones has the wrong colour of legs, so sadly will only be joining the flock for a few weeks before being dispatched as I don't want to add poor traits to our flock (or to anyone else's for that matter). A Jersey Giant should have olive colour legs with yellow underfoot and not a blue leg with pink underfoot that this little chicken has. It has occurred to me that it looks more like a Gauloise chickens than a JG, but it's character is the gentle, friendliness of a Jersey Giant rather than the flighty feistiness of a Gauloise (or at least what I've read about them).

In the chicken condo we have more birds than I want. We have decided to reduce our Cream Legbar group to just two girls, so we still have some blue eggs in our egg boxes and we will rehome the boy. I also want to rehome the two white bantam girls, who are great egg layers but small, as a bantam would be and not any use for us to breed from as we are focusing on large birds. I will be advertising them (to be homed for free) on a local poultry group on Facebook. We don't need as many hyline girls as we have now so they can either be rehomed or as they die naturally we won't replace them. They have been great over the winter period, but now that the JG and Australorp girls are laying, I don't want to become overrun with eggs. The young birds that are currently in the nursery pen will become part of our mixed flock as they grow up.

Mr J and I continue to have discussions about how, what and where to build pens in the chicken field. We want the birds to be able to free range, but are also aware that we want to keep some birds in separate groups and to do that, we will need separate living arrangements for them. 

If money was no object, I would have a series of covered pens built with a raised house in each pen, with a covered pathway (for humans only) that ran along the back of them. We could leave them open when the birds are allowed to free range and close the pens during periods of lockdown or when we want specific breeding groups kept together. However, money is a factor and we don't have the cash lying around to invest a considerable sum in pens and housing. So we continue to discuss how best to make suitable pens and housing for the chickens for the long term and will trundle along creating walkways, runs and pens as and when we can.

When I looked at the incubator a little while ago, one of the eggs was wobbling which means that the next batch of chicks are on their way! To follow their progress you can follow me on Twitter (click the link to the right of my blog) as I will give updates throughout the hatching period with the hashtag #hatchwatch2017.

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