Katie's Journal

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Chickens, Chickens, Everywhere!

by @ 10:52 am on March 24, 2014.

Every few years I get new chickens. Partly to keep up peak egg production but mostly just to get new breeds. Always before I just picked whatever the feed stores had to offer. Ordering chicks gets pricey, and usually the minimum is more than I need. Those things are still true, but this year my parents offered to buy the chicks as a birthday present, and I figure I’ll just sell the extras. I chose to go with Meyer Hatchery. They’re close for quick shipping, and had good prices and variety. Every hatchery has good and bad reviews, but on the whole Meyer seemed to be more good than bad. I poured over the catalog for hours, going through list after list of what breeds I wanted. In the end, I narrowed down to 3 (pics from Meyer):

Speckled Sussex:

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Black Australorp:

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Salmon Faverolle (which I also choose for a rooster):

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Mom and dad also picked out a favorite each to add to their flock. Mom went with the Golden Laced Wyandotte:

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And dad liked the Columbian Wyandotte:

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I placed the order back in early January to make sure what I wanted was reserved. But I selected a ship date of the first week in May. Originally I was going to do April, but with Baby due the 15th, I decided to push it back. I’m still super excited for these chicks to arrive. Adding them to my 12 I already have will end me with too many chickens. But I’m sure I can sell or give away some hens this fall to scale back once the new girls start laying.

So the 25 new chicks is already way more than enough. But then I was talking to Ern about how I miss eating chicken. He’s a little afraid to buy any store meat at this point, even organic, so we’ve been more and more focusing on raising our own. That led me to think again about meat chickens. We looked up canning chicken and it doesn’t sound too bad. Ern says butchering the chickens is easy if you skin them instead of worrying about plucking. So next thing you know, I’m researching meat breeds.

The commercial meaties seem to be some kind of Cornish cross. Apparently they have leg, heart, and other health problems and make terrible foragers. I definitely want something healthy that will free range. A lot of people just butcher the dual purpose heritage breeds. I saw claims that rocks, marans, or buckeyes (among others) all have the best flavored meat. And then I found a link to Freedom Rangers. Their name and advertising is an admitted gimmick (something to do with natural sustainability in France). That aside, I read several positive reviews about them, giving them high marks for flavor and placing them somewhere between a dual-purpose and a Cornish. They are said to grow faster and get heavier than most heritage (but not to the extent of a Cornish) while retaining the health and forage abilities of the heritage.

I found Freedom Ranger Hatchery out of Lancaster, PA. It sounds like just a small, family run hatchery and I read good things about the hatchery itself. So as soon as the credit card recycles today I’m going to order a group of 25 from them (the minimum order) and hope I can get them big enough to leave the brooder before my next group of laying chicks arrives. Never thought I’d have more than a dozen chickens, let alone over 60. ?

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