Friday 14 December 2018

What Chickens Are On The Homestead?

I seem to have a lot of chickens here at the moment.

I haven't spoken about them much this year on the blog so I thought I'd give a run down of what I've got and what they're for. 
School Chickens

The first batch is the school chickens. They're a batch of chickens the school hatched out, no idea of parents or breeds, although they look pretty and somehow they've ended up here.

This is the worst thing you can do for a school. They've been here for six months now, if I keep them alive it's never mentioned again. If they die for whatever reason then I'm the man that's forever remembered as He who killed the school chickens...

There are currently seven chickens, but only three are being returned to school (soon hopefully when the pen is built). The other four (cockerels) are going to finish their time here and then furnish our plates one Sunday dinner time. 

Laying Hens

I'm lucky in the fact that each year I get given a batch of laying hens from a commercial farm. I replace them each year and find them productive for 12 months after they've finished their time on the proper farm.

I was given this batch of 12 hens a month or so ago. They were the farm workers favourites and considering they had 40,000 there they must have done something to stand out. They didn't want them to go to slaughter and wanted them to live a bit longer so they ended up here. We all win that way! 

I gave two to a friend who had recently lost a few hens. This also works better for my pens that house 10 better than 12.

Some are moulting so look a little rough but they're all fit and healthy and laying well at the moment.

Meat Chickens

Ah, the true beasts of my little farm!

These monsters just want to eat and poop all day. That and peck me whilst I'm trying to feed them. I certainly don't let the kids in this pen!

I have them in pens I can easily move, they get moved once or twice a day and have access to food and water. This year though they've been a right pain in the bum, some have died for no reason and numbers have fell down to what I had last year far too quickly.

I'm planning to process them this weekend and fill the freezers. We'll mark up the biggest one and have it as our Christmas dinner. There are 21 of these guys to process, we've already eaten one that my eldest daughter and I processed after school one day for tea.

Next year I'd love to get to a different bred to try. I'm thinking a meat breed so I don't have to have the "racing horses" that are Ross Cobbs as they just seem a bit highly strung. I always fancied having a pure bred line I could develop and improve, as well as sell hatching eggs from.

What breed would you go for as a meat bird?

Does anyone cross their own, keeping hens of one breed and a cockerel of another?

How many hens have you got at the moment and are you reducing numbers for winter?


  1. I seem to attract other people's waifs and strays so I have about a dozen layers at the moment. The last waif I got is young, very healthy and also still laying so that's been a bonus as several of mine have decided it's far too cold and dark to be doing that.
    I have 4 bantams which I never intended to get but I got given a trio of which one hen died. I got another 2 pekin bantams to keep the remaining hen company and they're actually very endearing!
    I don't raise birds to slaughter- not enough room- and I don't cull the layers when they get old which I know isn't the most efficient use of space or resources but it's the way it works at the moment. And yes, they have names :-)) We did eat 2 particularly unpleasant drakes though. The current one is quite gentlemanly so he's staying.
    I've had all sorts of hens over the years- traditional breeds, commercial crosses, ex- caged hens and ex-commercial free range birds and the two with the most notable personalities was a dark brown ex-caged hen (Nora) and an ex-Happy Egg Company bird (Lola). In fact the whole of the HEC hens were characters. I thought Mollie was about to die last winter so brought her in the kitchen in a cardboard box. After 24 hours she was still there so I fed her, she got stronger and took to walking around the house, but like a penguin so I diagnosed ovarian issues and thought she wouldn't live much longer.
    When she started to steal the dog food out of their bowls I decided that she had to go back outside, so I reintegrated her with the flock, she staged a miraculous recovery and lived another year!
    If we had more space I could have some further away from the house that could be less like pets.

    1. I try to be strict with what I keep here, but I normally end up with a few that I shouldn't for far longer than I should! My neighbour from our last place messaged me the other day saying a chicken I gave them seven years ago had only just died!
      The ex commercial birds always seem friendlier than other which I find odd. they're great for kids!

  2. My cousin swears by orpingtons. they dont grow that fast though

    1. Someone I talk with lots on twitter says the same. Might be worth trying.

  3. I had the first hens that we hatched at school. They were a variety of types and I still have one eight years later. She is a buff Orpington and a real loveable character. I am really going to miss her when she goes. All last summer she laid three eggs a week despite her age. The kids christened the chicks after various chicken dishes and this old girl is Chicken Nugget : )

    1. I dropped the hens back off at school this week, just for a week and I'll have them back later today! But the head was so excited. Funny the kids faces as I carried them in by holding them upside down by their legs. Tehy all thought they were dead!

  4. I have six hybrids, the maximum I can keep in my garden setting. Two of them are three years old, four of them are two years old and right now NONE of them are laying! I know the logical thing would be to dispatch them but I'm too soft ... I usually get workhorse RIR hybrids but if I could, I'd get some more blue egg layers, the eggs are really popular. I can't have a cockerel, so breeding isn't an option.

    1. At our last place I always enede up cramming too many chickens into the garden. The most I had was 12 but then I gave some to the neighbours. One of these school chickens is a blue egg layer and I had some hens for years that used to lay them, but each year I'd breed and keep the hens and every year less and less would lay blue. Must be a recessive gene.

  5. We raise Freedom Rangers for meat. great meat, grow fast but not so faST that they have leg problems. Not aggressive and they taste fantastic!!

    1. I doubt they'd eb called that over here but I'm sure we must have the same cross. Might be worth me looking into! Thanks.


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