Sunday 26 January 2020

A Chicken-ey Sort Of Sunday

The girls and I have been looking at all different sorts of chickens that we'd like to hatch out.

The Meat birds from last year - Ross Cobbs
We've had ex commercial birds for the few years (probably 5 or 6 to be honest!) and they've done brilliantly for a second year of laying for us, so long as you know not to keep them past when they rapidly go unproductive. But it's not given us a self sustaining flock.

That has never been more obvious than this year. We're down to our last few chickens and they're meat birds. The laying hens have all gone, so for the first time in about 8 years we're buying eggs! I can hardly believe it!

So with our new incubator it's time to begin some new flocks of birds. and to be a little more adventurous in our choices. I'd love to be able to breed the birds to a high standard and maybe even let the children show them, so we want to choose some with good potential for these things as well as the being good examples of the purpose of the breed.

A key one for us is to have a good meat bird first as we can always pick up laying hens easily from some of the bigger farms when they clear out their birds every 16 months. We don't eat huge amounts of chicken but when we do we like it to be our own. The last few years have shown us that we can comfortably survive on 25 chickens a year, bought in as day old chicks, although these are quite big by the time they come to slaughter.

One that has always caught my eye (and the eye of my eldest daughter) is Indian Game. Good solid looking birds, with plenty of meat on them. talking to a breeder he says they lay a fair number of eggs and have a surprisingly good temperament as well. Luckily I was speaking to someone on Twitter and they suggested I came round to pick up a dozen Indian game eggs they had put by for me.

I took the girls as well (the boy had a party to go to) and we ended up having a brilliant morning being shown around lots of chickens! The couple had such a great collection of many different breeds. Unfortunately I took no pictures as it was raining and I was too interested in what he had to say!

So we went there for 12 eggs to hatch out and came back with 30 and two bantams! Such a good morning! The bantams are happily roosting in a converted rabbit hutch outside my workshop and the eggs are set to go in the incubator tomorrow!

In the afternoon my younger daughter and I converted the rabbit hutch and then set to butchering 4 chickens that I had slaughtered earlier in the week. We have a good system going, I cut the bird into portions while she bags them up and vac packs them. Considering she's only 6 years old she really speeds up the process and can happily managed the vac packer.

Because my jaw and other things slowed everything up over Christmas, the birds have got huge. the picture above shows a single breast off one of our biggest birds! I couldn't quite believe it!

So with lots of eggs about to go in the incubator it feels like there's lots of potential for the coming months! Should be fun!

What chickens would you hatch out if you could hatch any breed?


  1. We have ex-commercials for our main egg supply but it’s nice to have a few traditional breeds in the flick. We have a few but one to highlight is the French Copper Marian. They are attractive but they lay the darkest of eggs, like chocolate. We also have some leghorns for blue eggs. Children are always fascinated by the different coloured eggs.

    1. I meant cream legbars for the blue eggs.

    2. A few years ago I paid good money for some fertile eggs for copper marans as loved the egg colour. As I went done the field I could see that the broody hen I was banking on was outside not broody at all! She'd gone off it in the time it took me to drive to get the eggs! And no incubator meant no backup. In the end I sold them to a neoghbour who manages to hatch them, but he didnt keep them in and the crowd got the chicks! We had leg bars for a long time, but they got crossed over a number of years and in the end gave way to brown eggs! My own fault!

  2. Sounds like excellent team work! So nice that everything worked out better than expected!

    We're going to replace our small flock this year as well. Our Black Australorp hens are 5 this spring and still laying well, but they haven't stuck to their broodiness long enough to hatch out replacements. We don't have an incubator, so we'll start with chicks.

    1. Yes, I'm tempted to keep a good reliable bantam for broodiness to be honest. Be handy to have one in the warmer months that I could put eggs under. Tried last year with hatching slikies but only 1 hatched out of six unfortunately and he turned out to be a cock.
      The incubator is going to open up lots of possibilities. Need to find some indian game from elsewhere now to bring in different blood for breeding.

  3. if I could have some, it would be black orpingtons. I read somewhere in an older book black hens are taken the least by foxes and other predators. I have no idea if this is correct.

    1. I have to admit kve never heard of that one! Maybe because they can hide easier? Seems unlikely though as most foxes would hunt with smell as well. Interesting theory, how would you test it!

    2. Hey Kev I am reading a lot of older Scottish books for help in my garden and I have a few on kitchen gardens that include chickens. None of them mention it, but I am sure it was an English book now I have some shelves up I will look through the books as I put them away. it was in the same book that I read about planting onions in between roses and to plant feverfew far from the house, chickens and bees. I cant even remember why I remember this! ha ha I will look it up. They are really old books, the bindings are fragile and someone has written all over them in the margins


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