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Breeds of chicken for free range

 
pollinator
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asmileisthenewak47 wrote:
this coming season I am going to try buckeyes, they are good layers that are bred with similar figure to a cornish, big, friendly, pea combed dark red birds.
Jersey giants get really big and are really good layers for the heavy breeds.



I've been looking into Buckeyes, and want to get some; I also plan to get some Salmon Faverolles.  Both were originally bred for meat/dual purpose and are supposed to be quite decent winter layers.  I've seen pictures of Buckeye carcasses and they look nearly as good as a Cornish Cross -- at sixteen weeks rather than eight weeks, but if you are raising some of their feed/having them forage (which the Buckeyes are much better at) then the cost of feed should balance out the longer growing time.  Both breeds are also on ALBC's Critical list, which is a factor in my decision -- I like New Hampshires, but they are doing fine. 

I think that an older chicken tastes better than an eight-week-old Cornish Cross; certainly it will give more flavor to soup stocks and stews.

Kathleen
 
                              
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So long as you build appropriate size for the large birds, switching from bantams to large would be fine.  I have noticed though that people often like to build the bare minimum size, in which case a large flock would have trouble with facilities built for bantams.

You say many of the bantams lay well.  What kind of size to the eggs?  Most of my RIR's are laying Gigantic jumbo eggs (to the point of not fitting in a carton appropriate for grade AA large or extra large eggs.)  I would be ok with medium to large eggs but I don't think I want to be trying to make egg sandwiches with teeny tiny eggs.

The other half has mentioned being interested in some of the easter eggers for some variety in shell color and to perhaps help keep track of who layed what.  Any tips on that and how well some of the other breeds are at foraging for food (not true free range but paddock style ranging.)
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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No bantam lays large eggs.  Some lay bigger eggs than others (quite a few lay small eggs, while some lay teeny tiny eggs, and one or two will lay a medium-sized egg -- check out the Henderson Chicken Breed Chart for some helpful information).  I haven't had very many bantam eggs yet, because a neighbor dog tore a hole in a pen and killed all six of my Silkie hens shortly after they started laying last spring, but what we did get, we just used two of their eggs where a recipe called for one large egg. 

As I've said before, where I think bantams would have an advantage is if you are limited in the amount of feed you can grow, or in the space you have available, but want to keep a BREEDING flock without getting too inbred -- you need a certain minimum number of animals in order to do that.  You could keep, say, fifteen, bantams in about half the space, and on less than half the feed, of fifteen large fowl chickens.  Otherwise, I don't think there is really much advantage to keeping the smaller chickens.  So, if you aren't limited in space or feed, get large breeds.  If you don't plan to breed, or have ready access in your area to other lines of your breed, then get large breeds.  If you have serious space and feed limitations, plan to breed, and nobody else nearby is raising your breed, then get bantams from at least two, and preferably three, different lines.

Kathleen
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