Archive for the ‘Flying the Coop’ Category

Pickin’ Chicks

No, Modern Ma isn’t trying to marry off her sons in elementary school, we spent the Ides of March deciding how to update our small flock of laying hens.

Oh and we had our 1st REAL 4-H meeting (the 1st and only one our club in Beadle County had was a Christmas party… that didn’t give the kids a functional or realistic view of what 4-H club and meetings are about, so we changed clubs & counties to enroll Charles and eventually Henry (he attends and participates, but is techincally a Cloverbud until he’s 8 years old) in the Redstone Valley 4-H Club (Kingsbury County, SD) that meets at their school.  Lori Wehlander (our former school principal, who stepped down after having a baby about 4 years ago, but is still a teacher at the school) and Daphne Mohler (Charles and Henry’s preschool teacher from several years ago) are the 4-H leaders and familiar enough with Charles’ special needs that they know how to help him be functional in this new activity.  At yesterday’s meeting, we had the county 4-H director come and teach the boys and girls “how-to make a poster” for the County Achievement Days (aka County Fair) that will be coming up in early August before the 2012 SD State Fair (always held starting the Thurs prior to Labor Day Weekend though Labor Day).  Charles was antsy and slightly disruptive during the power-point presnetation (but then baby sister was also fussing about a wet diaper, so he’s wasn’t exactly causing a problem), but really did a great job when it came down to the worktime in which the kids were all given posterboard and art materials to practice poster making.  He made 3 posters.  1st one he drew a tractor and made a “tractor safety poster” (we are going to keep working on and refining this idea for his county fair entry). 2nd was more of a display actually, about construction equip. and the 3rd was about meat eating dinosaurs.  Henry also made a poster of Tractors and Dinosaurs (together… he probably missed the point, but he’s only 7 and still a Cloverbud and this was their 1st real meeting.)

After the meeting, we drove to the Farm & Feed store in Huron, SD and let the children pick out some new chicks to refresh our flock and be one of their 4-H projects.  Henry chose to get 6 White Rock pullets (female baby ckickens) and Charles chose 10 (straight-run, a mix of males and females) cornish cross broiler chicks.  I picked out 6 Buff Orpington pullets (but unfortunately these were lost overnight due to poor placement of the chick’s waterer… Pa placed it right under the heat lamp in the brooder last night and the chicks got wet and went into shock when they couldn’t get dried off under the heat bulb.)

Yesterday, we also ordered 25 chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa.  Pioneer Pa wants to develop a crossbred chicken that can be gender-sorted by feather color at hatch (thus he can brood the males and females separately on different rations, broiler chick feed for the males and laying chick feed for the females.)  He also wants the females to be excellent winter layers, as we want to increase our sustainability in this area and not have to buy eggs during the winter.  And for the males he wants a bird that matures at a medium-fast rate with strong legs that can be raised on a pastured poultry system.  He intends to try using a Light Brahma rooster on Buff Orpinton hens and hatching the eggs in an incubator.  This cross should produce feather-legged white pullets that have black feathers on their necks and tails and clean-legged cockerals that are buff/yellow with some black feathering in the neck and tail feathers. He also wanted to have a few of the Light Brahma hens for laying this coming winter, so we ordered 15 straight-run (mixed males & females, as hatched) Light Brahma chicks and for 4-H projects we also ordered 10 straight-run Blue-laced Red Wyandotte chicks, which are a relatively new rare breed chicken that was recently developed in England by crossing silver-laced and gold-laced Wyandotte chickens then mating the offspring to each other and occassionally back to parent-stock in order to set the new color type.

I, Modern Ma, am a bit of a genetics buff and like working with advanced color genetics, as you might find in some birds and in my lovely Australian Shepherds (Aussies can come in over 20 colors and patterns, not including colors that involve color dilute genes.)  So along with our mail-order chicks, we also bought the book, 21st Century Poultry Genetics (the book should arrive early next week, while the birds are not scheduled to arrive until April 23rd).  The above book is a good reccomendation to intermediate to experienced poultry owners with an interest in genetics and hatching their own birds rather than purchasing day-old chicks via mail-order or a local farm & feed store (both of which I reccomend as a good starting place to those who are new to chickens or other poultry.)

Excellent books on poultry for begining poultry farmers are:

*Chickens in your Backyard

*Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

*The Chicken Tractor (2nd edition)

*Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry

*Modern Free-Range

These books are available ay www.mcmurrayhatchery.com and may also be available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble as both regular books and possibly some of them as e-books for Nook and Kindle etc.

*The drawings in this post of chicken breeds were copied and pasted from the Murray McMurray online catalog and are for demonstration purposes only, as some of our followers may be unfamilar with what these animals look like.

*Pastured Poultry Profits

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