Go big or go home, right? Not quite sure how things have gotten so blown up on the bird front, but, here we are, a laying flock of 10 with 1 rooster and 1 cockerel, 9 meat birds, 9 fluffy chicks in the brooder, 49 eggs incubating and 1 turkey. Oh man, that looks more than a little nuts in writing.
Let’s break this down a bit. See if we can’t smooth out the crazy some. Our laying flock, it really consists of 6 hens, one of which seems to be constantly broody (as she currently is) another is molting and has stopped laying. we have a pullet who began laying, only to stop after 11 eggs. We have 3 pullets yet to start laying as they hatched on Easter. One pain in the a$$ rooster and one sweet, docile and quiet cockerel.
The meat birds, we have only just begun our adventure into raising meat birds with a small batch of Cornish Cross that are about 1 month away from processing. The commitment to time and space for meat birds is brief, 8 to 10 weeks. Raising meat won’t be a full-time activity for us but something will be taking on intermittently throughout the year.
The nine fluffy butts in the brooder? Well that is kind of cool, 8 of the 9 are the very first offspring hatched from our flock. We set 8 eggs in total, 7 Blue/Black Copper Marans and 1 Blue Copper Marans/Blue Easter Egger cross and they all hatched! The blue to black and the boy to girl ratios for the Marans is better than I expected. We have 3 Blue’s – 1 girl, 2 boys and 4 Black’s 3 girls and 1 boy. The cross is an Olive Egger boy. All the girls have a home already. We will keep both Blue Copper boys to see how they grow out, one shows promise of better features than his father and most likely will be his successor. The other boys will need to find a home or we will likely raise them to market weight and process them for the freezer. This hatch is a big step for our little homestead as we strive for more self-sufficiency.
Then there is the CRAZY – the 49 eggs incubating. We have placed 2 dozen under our broody girl as we hope to keep a few off this hatch to build our laying flock up a bit with some more variety. I really am a colored egg snob. But I am not alone in this. I have a wonderful friend who is just as big a chicken fanatic as I am. We team up on all the hatches, I do the in-house care, she supplies eggs, feed and vaccines. It is a beautiful working friendship. Of the 49 eggs currently incubating, we have 8 Croad Langshan with the hopes of at least a couple of girls to raise up for our Croad Langshan cockerel to call his own. He is too pretty.
The hope would be to get a small-scale breeding program together for these incredible birds. They are docile, curious, large birds. Rumor has it they are supposed to lay a plum-colored egg, but I am finding that more fiction than fact. No matter, what they lack in egg color they surely make up in every other way.
also incubating are some of our barred rock eggs. Remember, our only active rooster is the Blue Copper Marans. We have set only 6 to see what comes out. We also set 6 more of the Easter Egger’s in hopes there will be some keep-able girls. My friend threw in some Serama eggs, Super Blue Egg Layer’s and the prettiest spearmint green eggs. She has 2 active roosters, both blue egg gene. We finished things off with some ordered in Welsummer and Lavender Orpington eggs from Chicken Scratch Poultry I only plan to keep maybe 6 plus the Langshans from this entire hatch. Then my friend will take what she wants and we will hopefully sell off everything else.
And then we have the turkey…
We have only just gotten our toes wet in the big pond of raising our own meat with the Cornish Cross and now we have gone and accepted this most generous gift of a turkey poult. A Broad Breasted Bronze hatched on July 1, it will be ready to harvest in time for Thanksgiving.
For some, this is too much to think about when it comes to their food and would much rather remain disconnected from the meat they eat. As a family, our need to reconnect with our food continues to grow. The joy and gratitude we have received from the bounty of our small garden encouraged us to take a big step closer toward our goal of a more self-sufficient life as well as an eyes wide open approach to that which we consume. Raising the meat birds and now a turkey, we will do so with a kind heart and gentle hand, our animals, no matter the role they play, will be raised with respect and a grateful heart.
I will admit, there are some serious nerves about handling a bird as large as this turkey will hopefully grow to. It is already as tall as and heavier than our roosters and strong, oh my I was not prepared for the strength it would have for its size. I am definitely more than a little intimidated by this new venture. I have already been advised I will need to help it out of any bad weather as it won’t have the sense to get in out of the rain. I have fashioned a feeder and water specifically for a bird of this magnitude. But what is to come November? I can already feel that I will have a harder time, emotionally, preparing the turkey for eating than I will the chickens. NO matter, I will face it as I do every other one, with a heart heavy with gratitude and with a hand guided by respect and love.