Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Smallholders ideal table bird- Stage 2

The weekend saw the arrival of our second ‘set’ of hatchlings. From the eggs we candled when we got back from Perth. 9 we due this week, the rest are younger than that so still have time to go.
I have discussed candling before. This is a process we use to determine whether the eggs are fertile, and/or progressing. Sometimes fertile eggs will stop developing, so we siphon these out too.
Basically by using a bright torch and carefully placing it against the egg, in a darkened room you will be able to see the silhouette (or lack of).  
So as I was saying from this ‘sets’ eggs we had 2 that didn’t make it- 1 non-starter and 1 that was just too weak. To be honest I would rather have a non starter than a chick that doesn’t make it because its too weak, so hasn’t developed properly... but I guess that’s why the saying goes “don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched”. And I think any bird breeder (not sure I think of myself as one, but guess that’s right) would agree with that statement.
So we have 7, fit and healthy chicks. These guys will be staying indoors until the rain has definitely gone.  I guess we learned a lesson this year, not to hatch any eggs over Christmas- New Year (or generally up til the wet season).
I am hoping to continue to photograph these guys regularly, and document them; in the hope that we can learn about their progress and potentially even sex them. And use that for future hatchlings too.
3 of these guys are pure Indian games, the others are a cross between Lavender, our Old English game/layer cross and Ronnie our Indian Game rooster. So potentially stage 2 in our long term experiment for the small holders ideal ‘table’ bird.
As a smallholder, we breed and rear chickens, both for egg production and meat consumption. It’s not for everyone, but this is the lifestyle we have chosen. Now many years of mass production has developed ‘hybrids’ designed for one or the other, but not both. Many of the traditional breeds are considered ‘dual purpose’ as they would have been more for the average family... though most would probably have had ‘mongrels’ or crosses too.
So the ultimate goal is to produce offspring, from which the roosters provide a good eating bird and the females fair egg production... minimising waste and flock numbers.
I am hopeful that these Old English Game x layer crossed Indian Game may produce an interesting ‘table bird’ line. Though so far none of our, well for want to of a better word- expectations (no that definitely the wrong word) have eventuated. Well any way, anything we suspected may result from this cross so far has been in correct. As I had, had an incling (I wouldn’t call it an expectation) that the Old English Game cross chicks may  differ in appearance from the other, as I suggested they would inherit the grey legs of the Old English Games, as the entire first cross did. And I have seen photographs of Indian Games crossed with Australorps- another grey legged chicken, inherit grey legs. As opposed to the dark yellow of the Indian Game. All the chicks have yellow legs!
Well here the background to our experiment, for those who don’t know.
Following my unintentional purchase of an Old English Game rooster last year. We did incubate 1 ‘set’ of eggs. The result of which was a poor fertility rate, but produced 9 crosses- mostly roosters, but a few hens.
All inherited varying levels of Dads colourful plumage... even the hens. 2 of the hens we still have- Lavender and Welly2, both are beautiful golden coloured birds; Lavender with a purple-y tail feathers and Welly2, was clearly the result of a cross with our Welsummer hen- if her markings are anything to go by.
Now whilst as a breed we found the Old English Games to be quite ‘wild’, in terms of their natural survival instincts. Dad, more so than our OEG cross hens, but even these practice these instincts...strange when compared to our experience with other domestic chicken breeds. They usually roost off the ground (usually in trees or on top of high fence posts/ wire) and are more than happy to forage for their own food. Also found the roosters to be quite aggressive, but then we only usually had contact with them whilst they were confined- so guess it could be that flight or flight instinct. But I could definitely see why they were used for cock fighting!
Anyway back on track, this cross produced a few roosters, all of which had fair meat quantity and quality for their size. Whereas the hens were smaller in size and smaller than our general laying flock, they have delivered a fair number of eggs, or at least so far.   Therefore we were hopeful that experimenting with this offspring and the Indian Game may produce a fair (or at least improved) laying, table bird... every small holders dream.
Well this is stage 2, guess we will keep documenting our progress.