So I decided to take a second look at what we actually want out of our chickens and came up with the following list of necessary attributes:
1. Foraging ability
3. Carcass weight
4. Mothering ability
5. Egg color
1. It's not that I plan to not feed our chickens, but their home will be somewhat of a distance away from ours (about 100 yards -- that probably sounds incredibly lazy, I know), and they will have ample space to spread out and peck around for all manner of invertebrates, grasses, and grains on our (mostly) native, undisturbed soil. I'm willing to trade off carcass weight for less store-bought feed as long as they remain healthy and happy.
2. They need to be able to withstand cold weather -- it doesn't get crazy cold out here, and I'm perfectly happy to supply them with a heat lamp if it gets really nasty out, but they should be able to thrive in an non-insulated, clean but primitive coop without much assistance.
3. Slaughtering and butchering chickens is not one of my favorite past times (yet), so I want birds that give us our time and money's worth. Hence, heavy birds are preferable over lighter breeds.
4. I don't want to incubate chicks. That sounds really scary and fraught with heartache because chicks sometimes die (something I haven't encountered yet with store-bought chicks -- crap, not to jinx myself or anything). I would like to leave all that up to a hen if I possibly can.
5. I do still want the green/blue and very dark brown eggs, but two of my choices are not necessarily good mothers; however, I'm willing to intervene and assist their future offspring myself if need be in order to achieve this attribute.
6. It's fun having pretty chickens. Thus far, I've had the following breeds: Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Delaware, Jersey Giant, Giant Cochin, and Golden Laced Wyandotte (I make it sound like I've had so many, but I've actually only raised eight chickens so far). It's nice to have a varied flock.
That all being said, this is what I'm thinking for our future lineup:
|Silver Gray Dorking|
I didn't show a picture of the Ameraucana because I'm still trying to understand the genetics and availability of trustworthy stock for that breed. Those birds are all about the green/blue eggs, and there's really no reason to keep them over any other similarly proportioned chicken breed, so it's going to take some research to figure out if they're worthwhile for our farm or not. (Keep in mind that Jay doesn't eat/might be allergic to eggs, and I'm not one to ever crave eggs anyway, so actual egg size/color/quality is not of utmost importance to either of us -- meat quality is far more critical. And yes, I know this totally contradicts my previous post -- what can I say, things change!).