Each year, we hatch a couple hundred chicks in our incubator. Thirty of them become next year’s laying flock, and the rest are put out on pasture to eat and grow for about four months. When they are grown, we harvest them, preparing them for the table.
We have dabbled with eight or ten different breeds, but we always come back to the one we began our chicken adventures with: New Hampshire Reds. This is an old-fashioned, dual purpose breed. They are excellent layers, but still gain well enough to be very good table birds. And because it takes them around four months to fill out, they are also extremely flavorful. Once you’ve tasted real chicken, you won’t know how you stand that bland, mealy, grocery store version!
The only other breed we may experiment with in the future is Australorps. We tried a small batch last year and ended up sending them through our processing line because they were quite small. They fooled us, though! The finished Australorps weighed in consistently at 3.5 lbs dressed! They weren’t big, but they were compact little meat producers. I think I’ll get some in the fall to mature for spring laying, and we’ll see how they work out.
We keep one other breed of chicken on our farm: Cream Legbars. They are an endangered breed, and we were gifted with two hens and a roo a couple of years ago. I have a significant number of them now, after our spring hatch, and I intend to raise up a flock of them in the house we built for the ducks. (The ducks never use it!) Why Cream Legbars? Well, they lay blue eggs! And I have to say, their disposition is far and away better than other, more common, blue egg layers we’ve met. I shant mention any names.