Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chicks By the Book...

I love my wife! When all these crazy farm ideas started hatching in my head and we began talking about buying 40 bare acres and building a house/farm she was okay with it. When we talked about having wood heat (kind of dirty bringing all that wood into the house) she was okay with it. When we discussed the possibility that we would have to move into the house before it was done she was okay with it ... as long as it had a working bathroom! And, when it was her birthday a bit over week ago I knew that she would love getting "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by Carla Emery.

So, after I posted my question about chicks the other day I got to think, "Duh! I bet my wife's new book has information on raising chicks". I was right! The book had information on breeds, mail order companies, how to start chicks, brooders, feed, water, and so much more. I have combined all of that information with all of the great information that I received from you all (the readers) and the added bonus of having a wife that raised plenty of chicks and chickens as a child (what can't she do!).

I think I'm going to spend the next couple of weeks seeing if we can get everything cleaned out to do this properly. It isn't an issue of having the space or the right equipment, but rather the fact that we have boxes stored where we would put the chicks. Maybe getting chicks would be a win/win situation. The house would get a little closer to being completed and we could have a beginning to the end of store bought eggs (our chickens are pretty much old and on winter strike).

There is still plenty to think about and get ready, but it would be nice if we could add some egg layers to the farm. One thing that I do have a question about though is specific breeds. After doing a bunch of reading last winter I kind of had my heart set on Barred Plymouth Rocks, but I'm finding that they are a bit difficult to find (at least in the three Iowa hatcheries I know of). Beyond that we would like some of the standards. What are some of your favorite brown egg laying breeds and are there any heritage breeds you are especially fond of?


Steven said...

We got what was listed as "Large Brown Egg layers" and what was available when we bought. They were Buff Orpington (tend to be broody), Black Australorp, and Rhode Island Red.

I later found out that Salatin uses Black Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Barred Rock. (you may already know this) He rotates breeds so that he can keep track of their ages.

Some friends of ours have hundreds of Red Hybrid layers and are really happy with them but although they lay really well they don't look as good. I'd compare them to a skinny Jersey that puts all she has into her milk.

Anonymous said...

YMMV, but I've been very pleased with Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshires. I've usually raised them together and I think the Reds are slightly better survivors and egg layers and the NH slightly better for meat and the roosters are a little more aggressive.

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

Good pick on the book for Becca! I have that book too and it is awesome! I very much enjoy reading yours and Becca's blog. It is almost like looking in a mirror. We are probably a year behind you.
For Christmas we didn't do gifts to each other as far as husband and wife since we just bought 26 acres. But I did get another good book. It is called "Barnyard in your Backyard" Edited by Gail Damerow - Storey Publishing.
And one other book that we just recently got was "Root Cellaring Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables" by Mike and Nancy Bubel. Which when I clicked on the Amazon link for your book it was actually down in the bottom left hand corner of other book that might be liked.
This spring we hope to put up a building that we can live in just so we can get on the land. I have been encouraging my husband to write you and get your pros and cons on how things went for you and Becca. But as with everyone life is busy.
Sorry about all the babbling. I wish you and Becca many blessings! And the little that I have picked up on you are pleasing to God.

John said...

I sure do like my Rhode Island Reds. Just started laying again and went from 1 or 2 a day to now getting a dozen a day (27 chickens). Put a light in the coop. I bought these from a neighbor that wanted to get out of the biz. They were first year layers so this spring will be the second year. We have only lost 2 of the original 29, one to heat in the summer and one recently to a hawk. I keep them in a moveable hoop house that I move every few days in warm weather. Seem to be doing very good overall. This winter I moved them closer to the house and use a heated fount for water. We also feed them vegetable scraps. They love them!

All8 said...

Since you have young children, I recommend that you look at breeds that are touted as calm. We had Buff Orpingtons and our 2 year old carried the rooster around, much to my chagrin. They all were very calm and peaceable. It probably helped that they were hand raised, meaning that they were held and carried around as often as I, the mom, would allow. They also continued to lay through the winter. The spring roosters were just right that fall and were a nice addition to our freezer and canned goods.

Growing up my parents had White Leghorns. Flighty, highly irritable birds. Heaven help you if the rooster caught you down the gravel driveway to the bus. And I have the scars to prove it. {{{SHUDDER}}}

Have you looked at the Sand Hill Preservation Center? They're in Calamus, Iowa and have all manner of heritage breeds. They sell out, so make your order as early as possible.

Good luck! Can't wait to see what you choose. Cochins, Wyandottes, Orpingtons, Brahams, Rocks, or..........????

Rich said...

"...I kind of had my heart set on Barred Plymouth Rocks, but I'm finding that they are a bit difficult to find..."

I think that Plymouth Barred Rocks are usually sold as Barred Rocks (I think there is something about the naming in the same way that most Aracaunas are actually Americanas but they are sold as Aracaunas), and you should be able to buy Barred Rocks from somewhere like McMurray Hatchery.

Randy said...

We have used Ideal Hatchery in Texas( for all of our chicks so far. We have had exceptionally low mortality from shipping (except one order around easter-time in 2008, where we had 50% mortality probably due to unseasonally cold weather).

Our first layers were Rhode Island Whites, a very consistent bird that can take the heat of Central FL. We tried Leghorns since they're better layers, but they became canniblas in our heat (we gave them to some friends who free-range vs our Salatin-style moveable pens, and the chickens are doing fine now).

We were given some Buff Rocks when our Rhode Islands met with the soup pot and they've been doing great at 50-75% daily laying rate through our winter. We are raising a batch of Barred Rocks (including a rooster to breed our own replacements), they are doing fine but they haven't started laying yet. I can already tell I'll like the Rocks better than those darn Leghorns, they were so jumpy and mean!

We use Cornish Cross for our meat birds, but we tried some of Ideal's "Red Broiler" (which I think is an improved New Hampshire strain) and liked them for their more "natural" body shape. They were narrower, but they just seemed like more healthy and robust birds.

We've also had good sucess w/ standard breed turkeys (both white and black feathered). We want to try heritage breeds like Burboun Red if we can source them for a small quantity (Ideal has no minimum order on anything except on rare breeds, you must order at least 10 heritage breed turkeys and we don't want that many).

Hope this helps.

sweetpea said...

Thanks for your blog. It keeps me inspired to work with the earth even if it's just growing a garden. You show that even though it isn't easy at times, it can be rewarding and fun.

Ethan Book said...

Thanks for all the good tips everyone and for the encouragement sweetpea.

Rich - I'm not sure that they are the same thing. We have a Barred Rock now, but it is my understanding (or lack there of) that barred rock is as much as color as it is a breed ... or something like that.

Here is a link to an interesting article on the Plymouth Rock breed.

Plymouth Rock Chickens

Jena said...

I'm not sure if this would carry over if Barred Plymouth Rocks are different but I had a Barred Rock rooster and he was the meanest of the bunch. When I mentioned that to my friends it seemed to be common knowledge that barred rocks are mean! Maybe others have had different experiences. I still have the hen and she is okay, not as nice of the Rhode Island Reds. They are by far the most reliable and hardiest of the group we had. The others we have had so far are Americaunas & White Leghorns, neither of which did well for us.

I am ordered Buff Chanteclers, Buckeyes, and Hollands from Sand Hill to expand our laying flock. I tried to select for birds that are known to do well in a pasture situation and be hardy in the cold weather. The ALBC and Ark of Taste had some good info, and I also scanned Local Harvest to see what breeds are being used in my state.

Scott or Pam said...

We are big fans of Rhode Island Reds. Prolific layers and a hardy breed. YOu can check out Estes Hatchery in Springfield MO, for the Barred Rocks, if you like.

Mackenzie said...

I'm actually really glad you had your heart set on Barred Plymouth Rocks. I have about 20 of them that flit around my backyard. What's so great about them is they are basically the beginners chickens. Not only do they have a lovely laying cycle, but they get big enough to eat! I keep mine as just egg layers though because they are so sweet. When they hear my car driving up they get excited and like to peck around wherever I'm working.

Keep trying to find them, they really are a special breed.

sugarcreekfarm said...

My favorite brown egg layers are the Gold Star hybrids from Hoovers. They're small, prolific layers, good feed:eggs conversion ratio, great foragers, started laying the earliest compared to the other breeds we've had, handled winter just fine, and have nice personalities.

But if you don't want a hybrid, then I'd recommend White Rocks. We've had great luck with them as well. I don't remember if we got them from Hoovers or McMurray's. (Probably Hoovers.)

The "Easter eggers" from McMurray's have been great for us, too, the only ones that are still laying in the middle of winter. And blue eggs add a nice variety to the carton.

Anonymous said...

I have 8 Barred Rock hen that I got from Ideal Hatchery (Texas) last spring. They are wonderful birds (this is my first flock)! I've had ZERO problems with them-- they have a wonderful disposition, are great foragers, and dependable layers. I use them for eggs. Although they are dual purpose birds, I think that they're a bit small for meat birds. I agree with another commenter-- they are ideal for the first time chicken raiser. Good luck and I love reading your blog! CW in NC

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