By Bev Sandlin
Adolescent Chicks (feathers coming on) & Pullets are what we are going to address today.
Just what you expect from teenagers – they are bullying and picking/pecking (literally) on one another. Yes, they will kill another and they are cannibalistic!
Please keep this in mind, what you are raising are small descendants of the dinosaurs!
The chicks strike me as adolescents once the true feathers start appearing. Depending upon the breed you have purchased they will “mature” in anywhere from 6 weeks to a year – meaning that they are ready to eat or the hens will start laying as pullets defined by the breed you have chosen and then there are the versatile breeds raised for eggs and meat, and the fancy’s are a whole ‘nother game.
Actually, I think we are addressing breeds and temperament here. Reality is that I only expected to write a little, light article on chicken doctorin’ and the more I get into this the more I remember… Old people… But if you are dependent on your own resources for survival the egg provides soooo much protein that losing a chicken can actually be life threatening. So I’m writing this from a preparedness standpoint at this time.
Maybe we should have a word here about breeds of chickens and personalities. And where do I start? There are probably more than 2,000 breeds of chickens out there!
From hatch to the table in 6 weeks as a fryer. Personally, I take them to 8 to 12 weeks and go for roasting as I have made the investment of almost $4 a chick and the more meat I can get, the better. These birds go under a variety of names, the last ones I purchased were something like Hy5s. White, ugly and all they do is eat, drink and poop. A little husbandry tip here, put the food on one side of the pen and the water on the other side, so they at least have to get up and move to do one or the other. It also helps if you order in a few other breed chicks at the same time to keep these creatures moving. The problem with these birds is their legs. They are absolutely notorious for their legs going on them and now you have just lost not only your investment in the chick, but also everything they have eaten to date – did I say they EAT! These are the birds you are eating at KFC and from almost all grocery stores. Not suited to organic raising as they need those antibiotics and medicated feed. However, you can raise a winter’s worth of chicken over just two months in the summer. They are suited to warm weather.
Leghorns are the factory farm white egg laying chicken – they can have them! They start laying early at 4 to 6 months and usually killed at their first molt when they stop laying. Very aggressive hens and roosters – as a breed; individuals can be just fine. This is the reason that every hen is kept in her own cage and the roosters are just butchered.
The brown egg layers, like say the Red Stars, are usually a bit more docile personality wise, but still quite aggressive. Aggressive – what does that mean? They are prone to attacking their flock mates and even you! Usually minimum chick orders are 25 birds. Many people, me included, don’t want 25 birds of just one breed, so we order a mix. The egg layers will be the dominants in that mix. They will kill more docile (almost everyone else) chickens by pecking them to death. Egg layer breeds are suited to different climates as they are meant to live 1 to 3 years. FYI, the average chicken can live up to 30 years. Yes, we’ll go into pecking; we are still on breeds.
I see these as the homestead breeds as you will find one or more that you will fall in love with. These birds are bred by caring breeders for the most part who cull the mean ones. This is not to say that you won’t still have problems – they are small dinosaurs after all – but far fewer problems. Lots and lots of breeds from the heritage breeds like the Dominikers that traveled with the settlers across the plains in Conestoga wagons (Barred Rocks are descendants of these hardy chickens.) to the heavies that are suited to cold climates and laying eggs for several years and being an excellent roasting or stewing hen after that like the Austolorp and Cochin *feathered legs, anything, to the half-naked hot weather breeds (read about them but I’m in Minnesota) to the Easter Eggers that lay blue and green eggs sometimes termed Americunas.
Oh, are there fancy breeds of chickens! Any color or look you can imagine including the Polish Top Hats! These birds are usually gentle but flighty. DON’T expect meat or eggs from them. :-D
Banties are basically miniature chickens of every breed. What banties are really noted for are being very good mothers. Put your fertile eggs under your banties! FYI, of all the chickens banties are noted for doing very well on their own and often roost in the trees. Excellent to have under horses to keep them (the horses) from being flighty when a grouse or turkey flies up in front of them. Super for picking out worms from the manure. A few banties running wild around the farm is what every homestead needs – IMHO. :)
So, the bottom line is that the breed of chicken you choose will often determine how many problems you will have with your flock.
Part 3 will be on adolescents and pecking, because pecking is just huge with chickens.
I’m tired now.
Tomorrow we will have Rourke’s video of the week, this week on potato planting.
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