Posts Tagged ‘hen


October Contest Results

3rd place goes to GomerParry for his Malay bantam.

2nd place goes to Decoyman for his blue light brown Dutch bantam rooster.

1st place goes to SOLTADOR for his orange red Oxford Game.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks for all the great pics that were submitted this month. If you want to enter your birds in our free monthly photo contest, just go to the Ultimate Fowl Forum, and sign up!


Improving your chickens through breeding

by Chuck Everett

The whole act of preservation of our rare breeds begins and ends with patience. It has often been stated that patience is a virtue. When dealing with rare breeds’ patience is not a virtue; it is a requirement! Certainly patience can be a learned behavior. Maybe it can even be acquired over time. I just wish folks wouldn’t try to learn or acquire it with the rare breeds with which I’m working. I don’t wish to sound harsh: just honest. This year alone I have mailed out somewhere between three and four hundred hatching eggs all of rare breeds. It is always depressing to here that the folks who were so eager to receive the eggs have dropped the said rare breed in a year or so because they didn’t realize how much patience this whole process was going to take. Many of our rare breeds have fallen into a state of mediocrity or worse. It takes years and years of work to bring them back from the brink of extinction to a place where they even approach the Standard description.

I’ll get calls that ask why the leg color is wrong, or why the weight is not up to Standard, or if there is anyone else raising the breed that is further along. Oh, might I add that most of these calls come from the folks that I felt sorry for and I sent them the eggs for FREE. All I ask for many times is the cost of the postage and about half the time that isn’t even sent back to me. I just figure they needed the money worst than I did and write it off: back to the calls. I usually begin by asking, ‘You know these are rare breeds don’t you?’

After I receive an affirmative answer, I then ask what attracted them to the breed. Nine times out of ten that is when I find out that they wanted to be different, to standout at the local poultry show, and to brag to all their “going green” suburban friends that they were saving a piece of living history. No where did I hear anything about patience or hard work or the challenge of breeding for improvement. I didn’t hear any of these things because these folks either weren’t aware of the need for improvement or it never even crossed their little minds. So, this article is meant to inform folks before they call for hatching eggs or chicks.

1. Rare breeds need improvement. The improvement could be related to health and vigor, type or feather color. Possibly it might include all of these things. It is important to remember that there is no perfect fowl. They all have some fault somewhere. Even the best of the show strains still throw chicks with faults. It is only more so with rare breeds.

2. Improvement requires patience. In the first years of working with a breed you will see some dramatic improvements that come about by simple selection processes. However, this all slows down after those first few generations. Sometimes, it even seems that you go backward instead of forward.

3. Improvement requires culling. Culling is a part of the selection process. It begins when the chicks hatch and continues all the way to the breed pen. The harder you cull the faster will be your improvement: provided you have hatched plenty of chicks. If you can’t cull a bird then don’t call me or any other breeder for stock. You are wasting our time and taking away potential birds from our breeding stock.

4. Improvement requires a basic working knowledge of the breed you wish to improve. This may seem rather obvious. Yet, there are lots of folks out there who don’t own a Standard and aren’t planning on breeding to the Standard. How else can you seek to improve a breed unless you have a Standard to guide you? If your breed of choice is not included in the APA or ABA Standard then you should research the breed and find out of there exist a Standard from the breeds country of origin or from another country that has written Standards.

5. Improvement comes with hands-on experience. I believe in research and study; otherwise I would never have done the hard work required for my master’s and doctorate degrees. That said experience is the best teacher. Reading about something and doing it are two totally different things. As a matter of fact, don’t believe everything you read: especially on the Internet. Any fool can put something online. It doesn’t make it true just because it is in print. Also, be very careful concerning old poultry material. Years ago there existed many opinions that reflected the wisdom of the day which has now been proven to be untrue. Even the description of our old breeds in these older poultry records can not often be trusted. During the 19th century many writers quoted other writers as if they were speaking from personal knowledge. What they quoted might not have been true at all.

6. Improvement requires an understanding of breeding and breeding systems. One of the great things about raising chickens is that I get to breed they way I want too: so do you. Yet, there are still some basic breeding systems that have been proven through the years. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Read about these systems, talk with others and decide what would be the best fit for you.

7. Improvement requires good management. Management includes everything from feed to housing. I have found that if I free-range my young stock they are healthier throughout the remainder of their lives. There is no substitute for green grass and sunshine. A good start is essential to good birds. Birds need to be routinely wormed and sprayed for lice and mites. There housing needs to fit your particular location. You’re not running a hospital, but the housing should still be cleaned and sprayed periodically.

8. Improvement is enhanced by sharing stock with other serious breeders. Now we were all new once upon a time. I don’t want to discourage you from sharing stock with new folks at all; just make sure they know what they are getting into. Whether you give stock away, trade it or sell it, you need to be honest about the quality of the stock. Sharing stock will give you a person to go back to should your line need freshening up or should something happen to your birds. The person you share with might be a better breeder even than yourself; thus, you can get birds from your on line that end up being better than your own.

It has not been my goal to discourage anyone from raising and breeding rare breeds of poultry. On the contrary, I have only meant to encourage and inform. Raising and breeding rare breeds is my passion. This year alone I have hatched over 400 chicks of the rare breeds I keep. I plan to keep only a few of these birds. The remainder will be eaten by my family, given away to friends, or sold at poultry shows I attend. I begin hatching each year during Christmas week and continue to do so until the first week of June. That means that I’m setting eggs every 7 to 10 days during that entire time. Poultry is my passion; improvement is my goal!

For more information on breeding, and preservation of poultry, visit the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. You can also reach Mr. Everett at the Ultimate Fowl Forum.


September Photo Contest

3rd place goes to Doc and his blue/red Asil .

2nd place goes to Stigy and his grey hen.

1st place goes to Cubakid for this wonderful pic of his Cubalaya flock!

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks for all the great pics that were submitted this month. If you want to enter your birds in our free monthly photo contest, just go to the Ultimate Fowl Forum, and sign up!


China Game Fowl

1930’s circa photo (courtesy of Toni-Marie Astin)

The China (Chinese) Game Fowl are truly a magnificent breed in their own. They sport massive tail feathers in length as well as height and saddles that drag the ground. These are also of aggressive behavior, however seem to show the intelligence of tactical defense as well as breed personality. They appear to be showing great vigor and disease resistance as well, producing chicks in numbers that hatch off quite well with little to no problems. These fowl, originating from China, were brought to the states in the early 1930’s. Mr. Herman Pinion had Chinese Immigrants who worked on his farm and these were their birds. It is not unheard of that these were also crossed to Mr. Pinion’s own American Game Fowl, creating some which had pea comb and long tails and saddles. The China Games come in a variety of colors and weigh in the range of 6-8lbs depending on conditioning. The usually have a pea to cushion comb and pearl to white legs. In the last year I have been hatching off mostly goldens, silvers, red pyles, some mahogany and several recessive whites. The hens are good layers of medium sized eggs that are usually white to cream colored and males showing great fertility levels as well as the hens. My intentions are to preserve this breed back to “saddle draggers” as well as keeping the game state. Selections for such type as well as pea comb birds with light colored legs will be my focus in the future. I am still trying to obtain information on these birds through international contacts to research their origin. So far all is inconclusive, but will keep up on the quest.

My  Old Grey Broodcock(in moult)


Nutrtion, Egg Production, and Chicks

By DocMoll

As I sat here thinking about a few things I could post to help some of the younger people that are just starting with fowl. My mind rolled back to late night when a young member asked in the shout box what to feed his fowl to help, or better there nutrition. Well there are several different answers to this, some of which you can get online from several different sites. None of which is wrong for the reasons it worked for them. But I will write on what I did for grandpa when his fowl stopped producing eggs, and the ones that were laid wasn’t fertile.

When I moved back to West Virginia grandpa hadn’t got more then 10 chicks hatched off each year for the last 4 or 5 years in a row. He had asked me if I would try to get them to lay, and get them to hatch at a better rate for him. So the first thing I did, was look at the feed they was getting on a daily basis. Well, it was far from what they needed in my mind, and I adjusted it to fit what I wanted them to get. I went and bought a good mixture of a grain feed that was around 16% protein. In this feed was a little of everything such as corn, sunflower seed, pigeon feed, Milo, dog food, wheat, oats, and so on.

I went the next day and bought several small bags of vitamins with electrolytes, a bag of all-purpose powdered milk, a bag of oyster shells, several bails of straw, a couple bails of hay, and one bag of grit from the local feed store. On the way home I stopped and bought several types of fruits and veggies from the super market. this is what they would receive for there daily feed from now on.

When I got to the house I went to the brood pens and wormed, and deloused all the brood fowl. While I had them in my hands I trimmed the feathers around the vent area on each cock and hen, down to the skin. Then I cleaned out each pen, and put fresh straw about 6″ deep. This is to keep them active digging, and scratching for food. I found enough milk jugs to place to in each pen for the grit, and oyster shells. (Just cut the front of the jug open to where there is about a 3″ to 4″ lip on the bottom.) I mounted them to the walls, so they would stay there and in a fashion to where they could be easily removed to clean when needed. I filled them up with the oyster shells and grit and left them.

Each day I would take some of the hay and place in each pen. Now you got to figure out what each bird needs when it comes to hay, as you don’t want it laying there getting wet. Hay will mold and isn’t good for them at that point. The way I had it running was about a 1/4 of a bat per trio. If it was raining, they didn’t get the hay on them days.

Now back to the feed, and how to feed it. First you need to figure out how much feed you need to feed each day. When you have the answer to that question, you will know what type of bucket you will need to feed this way. Grandpa had several brood pens so a five gallon worked well for me. Each day I would place the amount of feed I needed for the next days feeding in it. I put one cup of the all-purpose powered milk in it, and one big tablespoon of the vitamins with electrolytes. Now soak the feed mixture over night in water. You want it to be moist, not water logged. The best way I can describe the moister in the feed mix is you want it to be as moist as pizza doe. The next day before I fed I would cut up what types of fruits, or veggies I wanted in it, and place them in the mix and stirred it up. I fed this to them one time a day in cups, so they got it all. Now feed them just enough to where they eat it all. You don’t want it setting there all day. If they don’t clean it up in a half hour or so, dump it out on the yard.

Each day take a small amount of grit, and toss it in to each pen to get them to scratching looking for feed in the hay. The object is to keep the active, so they don’t get fat just setting on the roost poles. Fat fowl don’t produce as good as healthy fowl does.

I also built nests to where the hens could get into, so they could hide from the cock in the pen. Several times a cock will aggravate a hen while she is on the nest, and this will cause broken eggs, as well as causing the hen stress that causes a drop in egg production.

With the method above in place I hatched 339 chicks that year out of 350 eggs that were set in the incubator.

If you want to read more from DocMoll, you can at the Ultimate Fowl Forum!


Basic Feeding for Chickens

Ok, I get questions from people new to chickens all the time on how to feed them. I could write pages on feeding, but the following article will discuss very basic feeding methods.

There are basically 3 age groups of fowl; chick, young fowl, and mature birds. To match these 3 groups there are 3 different feeds; starter, grower, and finisher. (I know, I didn’t mention layer feed, but I will discuss this later) All you need to do is match the feed to your fowl’s age.

Now, what if you have several different age groups of chickens all together? Ok, this is simple, just feed them all the feed you would give the youngest birds in your flock. If you have adult birds with chicks, feed them all starter. If you have adult birds with young fowl, feed them grower.

What about my laying hens, how do I get them the calcium they need? Layer feed has the extra calcium that hens need to lay. The problem is, that the extra calcium is not good for roosters, young birds that aren’t laying, and chicks. The solution to this is to feed them all like I described above, but provide a dish of oyster shells for the hens that are laying. This will allow the hens to get the calcium they need, without the rest of your flock being forced to eat it like they would if you used layer feed.

What about grit? If your birds are on the ground, whether it is free ranging, or in a run, they won’t need grit. If your birds are not allowed access to the ground, you will need to provide grit to them for proper digestion.

What about treats? Treats should not be a regular part of your birds diet, but if you feel you must, try things like green vegetables, grass clippings, and fruits. Corn should be used very sparingly as it is high in fat, and low in nutrition. Corn should not be used in the summer months at all, because it will make your chickens over heat trying to digest it. On the same note though, whole corn is a good supplement in the cold months, because it will help keep your birds warm.

There is much more I could discuss, but this should give you a good place to start if you are new to chickens. You can see more about feeding, and nutritional requirements of chickens at the Ultimate Fowl Forum.



Home Use-Commercial to Heritage

The kind of chickens you want will depend on whether you want meat, eggs or exhibition stock. Most people keep chicken for home use. Hens from breeds and varieties such as Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red, and Single Comb White Leghorn can be used for egg production, but for maximum egg production and the best investment for your use, commercial stock would be the best. Now days, people are choosing heritage breed stock though to get back to the “old ways” thus making improvements and building up numbers where census was low. Not only do you see a liking for regular brown egg layers, but now we are seeing a fancy for the darker egg layers such as the Marans and Penedescenca. They are fast becoming a popular table bird as well. Other heritage breeds such as the Dominique and Black Java are beginning to make a come back as well, since breeders are becoming more motivated by nostalgia. So when you’re thinking of becoming that endearing chicken farmer, consider a wonderful heritage breed.


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