Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's chick time!

Our Ameraucana chicks arrived at the post office this morning! Yes, I know most people think of chicks in spring, but I'm totally sold on the idea of fall chicks. Spring chicks wind up laying very little in their first year, whereas fall chicks lay more and bigger eggs their first year. Spring chicks mature in the summer at four to six months, depending upon the breed, and they lay tiny pullet eggs for months. Fall hatched chicks start laying in the spring when they're six or seven months old, and they lay full-size eggs from the beginning. Ultimately, spring chicks only lay for about five or six months their first year, and the eggs are not very big, whereas the fall chicks provide nine or ten months of large eggs.

I mentioned a couple years ago that I had this experiment planned to become self sufficient with chickens, but I'll recap again. Last year, we butchered all of our old hens, which were three to five years old and averaging an egg a week, which was not exactly cost effective. Over the years, we would get four different breeds every spring so my daughters could show them in 4-H at the summer fair -- two breeds per daughter. After they quit showing, we quit buying chicks, and we wound up with a flock of mostly older hens with a few young, mixed-breed chicks that had been hatched by them. We had no idea who was laying what or how much.

Last fall, I ordered 50 New Hampshire red pullets, knowing there would be a few roosters in the bunch to provide us with the capability to make more. We wound up with five or six roosters. This year, I ordered 25 Ameraucana pullets, and I'm sure there are a couple roosters in there too. (I don't know anyone who has received 100% pullets in their pullet orders.) Depending upon how the New Hampshires lay next year, I may or may not add a white egg layer to the flock. You see, I'll know how the New Hampshire girls are laying because they lay brown eggs, and the Ameraucanas lay blue-green eggs.

Next year, we'll hatch 50 eggs from the best New Hampshire girls, assuming they will be 50% cockerels for meat and 50% pullets for replacement layers. We'll keep them separate from the older hens, and in December when the older girls stop laying, they'll become stew meat. The following year we'll hatch 50 Ameraucana chicks and do the same thing. I'm still debating whether or not to add a white egg layer and make a three-year cycle. Everyone says they really don't lay well in their third year, but since we've never known who was laying what, I really don't know for sure. And I'm always one of those people who wants to test things, so there could be some white egg layers in our future. And I am rather enamored with silver spangled Hamburg chickens.

Sorry the photos are not great. I'm still using my cell phone, and the chicks are in a horse water trough, which makes it kind of tough to take photos.

14 comments:

rachel whetzel said...

GREAT idea to color code your egg laying! I may use that one. Have you thought about French Black Copper Marans? They lay chocolate colored eggs.

SkippyMom said...

Easter eggs ::clapping:: YAY! Sounds ambitious, but if anyone can do it, you can Deborah!

Chicken Momma said...

We have bantam amaracaunas and the kids just love the little eggs they lay. I know, not as cost effective but it's worth it for us. Our standard flock lays everything from a rich brown (but not chocolate) egg to a barely tinted. Oh, and I my pullet order of 25 two and a half years ago was all pullets. I think I just got lucky.

LindaG said...

Wow. That's a lot of chickens! How many are in your family?
I need to remember that. Fall chicks, better egg production. :)

And what a great idea to determine egg production. So chickens only lay for two years? I didn't know that.I would have thought longer, but I am clueless, which is why I read so many chicken blogs. :)
Thanks for the info and ideas!

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Rachel, I hadn't really considered marans. I guess I was worried that a light maran egg might be too close to a dark New Hampshire color.

Chicken Momma, I bet bantam Ameraucana eggs are adorable!

Linda G, chickens lay longer than two years, but their production goes down considerably, so it's really not cost effective to keep them longer than two or three years. When we had mostly 3 to 5 year old hens, they averaged an egg a week, compared to young hens who give you four or five eggs a week.

Rachel said...

This is an exciting and ambitious experiment! I am eager to see how it turns out, and I love the idea of the color coded eggs.

LindaG said...

Thanks again, Deborah.
So rough estimate, how many chickens would I need to get 2 eggs a day? I know you can't give me specifics, but is that why you have what, roughly, 50 layers? How many eggs a day did/do you average given that many factors go into egg production?

Kathy ~ Cackles and Berries said...

Hey! I have chicks coming tomorrow. Glad to know I'm not the only one who does things a little different then the rest. I have 75 RIR's coming in. Glad we are going to have some nice warm weather for growing chicks. Enjoy your Americanas they are beautiful birds and gorgeous eggs. :)

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Linda G, if you only want two eggs a day, you would only need three or four hens under the age of two. If you plan to keep them until they die, which could be eight or nine years, then you'd want a couple more hens every couple years.

Kathy, good luck with your RIRs! We've had them before and really loved them. They were one of the breeds that my daughters showed in 4-H.

Alan said...

"Linda G, chickens lay longer than two years, but their production goes down considerably, so it's really not cost effective to keep them longer than two or three years. When we had mostly 3 to 5 year old hens, they averaged an egg a week, compared to young hens who give you four or five"

Quite true; but for those that can't bare to slaughter a 'pet'- as long as you do not need many eggs a week, keeping a couple young hens to a couple older hens will essentially "average out" the costs. (I would prefer to slaughter the older ones rather than buy chicken meat (even organic/uncaged) but my wife can't stand it. We use about 2/5 YOUNG chicken's work of eggs a week, so getting 1 new chicken a year, to increase the egg count prodced by the older chickens, it evens out. (This is obviously for a small suburban flock (we have 6 girls and 1 rooster ATM), not a more rural larger flock like you have, which i quite envy! :-)

LindaG said...

Deb, Alan, thanks so much for all the information. Much appreciated.

Alan, I am mostly looking forward to my first home grown chicken dinner. It will be hard, but I'm hoping if I can eat fish, and I've eaten wild duck, that I'll be able to help the hubby with slaughtering the chicken.

Thanks again. :)

Debby said...

I took your advice for fall pullets and have 2 week old chicks. Seven Amaracauna pullets, one Amaracauna cockerel and seven Rhode Island Red pullets. They are growing like weeds. I have them in an empty 100 gallon aquarium and am wondering where I will put them when they outgrow it and are not yet ready for the hen house. I might have to pick up another livestock tank.

Susan Ryan said...

We have a silver spangled hamburg roo, and we love him. He is beautiful with his rose comb, eyes and coloring.
He takes great care of his girls and is one of our favorites.

Penny said...

I'm doing the same thing but on a smaller scale. My 2 Buff Orpingtons each lay a different color of cream colored eggs. The 2 Red Stars lay large dark brown eggs.
Next spring I want to add 2 or 3 Ameraucanas. I would like to add 2 more of another breed but haven't decided as yet.

I wish I had a larger coop that I could heat so I could raise fall chicks .. maybe next year.

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