Friday, January 8, 2016

A Shout Out to my Rhode Island Reds

So we, for many reasons, used to have a mish mash of a chicken flock. We started with Production Reds, a hybrid breed, no doubt with lots of Rhode Island in them, that was a sex link breed. This meant you could easily identify the males at hatching due to the absence or presence of a dot on their heads. They were also supposed to be superior layers.

Great.  Year two, in order to know the age of our birds, we switched to Black Sex Links. So far so good. Year 3 we went to Barred Rocks. Somewhere along the line, I also brought in Americanas for the green eggs, maybe some other random breeds like Silver Lakenvelders, that I thought were gorgeous. They turned out to be terrible layers and very unfriendly birds.

Somewhere in there, WiMo farms gave birth to their first little dude, and decided to get out of the egg business for a while. They brought us 40 gorgeous chickens, and a few roosters. We had Brahmas, Astralorps, Wyandottes, Hamburgs, even Fang, the fabulous Polish rooster. In the midst of this I also started hatching some birds. Oh lord, the things we hatched. They were gorgeous, but of complete unknown heritage, so many roosters, and our flock became colorful and unidentifiable. Aside from the Americanas, we didn't know who was laying what, or where.

When it came time to eliminate the flock and start over, I decided to settle into one breed. ONE. This way I could hatch them true, know what I was going to get, and replace my own flock by incubating right here on the farm.

I settled on these guys.

Aside from hybrids and White Leghorns, you know, this guy...
Image result for Foghorn LEghorn

Rhode Island Reds are the best egg layers of brown eggs. The White Leghorns lay white eggs.   So I decided to give these guys a try - supposedly good layers, even in winter, calm, nice birds. And how I could hatch my own replacements because I would know what I would get every time.

Like these little ones... who grew into these not so little ones...

And got to go outside when they were these not at all little ones.

So what's the big deal, and why am I so excited?  This is their first winter as FULLY mature birds. My flock is maybe 40 birds right now. We used to manage 300 because we sold to restaurants. I don't have data all they way back to the beginning to compare to that original Production Red flock. All I know is that with about 40 hens, I collected 20 eggs last night. Usually, this time of year, with temperatures like we have right now, I am lucky to get 2 or 3 eggs. 20. TWENTY.

According to me records, in 2012, I was getting NO EGGS AT ALL in January - 300 chicken flock of mixed nuts. In 2013, I was getting 3 per day, still, probably 200 chickens that winter. This is amazing and awesome, and I love my Rhode Islands!

And a tiny shout out to my mini backyard flock. It's 1 Speckled Sussex Rooster, 4 Sussex hens and 2 Rhode Island Hens (they jumped coop, I need to move them back before I start incubating again), so 6 hens in my little backyard coop, and I still get 1 egg a day from them. I suspect it's the two Rhode Islands! You go Girls!