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Chicks! What Breeds and Why

Why beautiful birds are a trap!

Today I went out and bought chicks. Again. I seem to be buying chicks every year and, unfortunately, but as usual, it's my own fault.

The first chicks I got were wonderful. I started with 12 birds. I went with White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and Americaunas (the ones from the feed store). I had 3 of each and ended up with 3 roosters. The roosters were mean so they were butchered as soon as they were big enough. The others were great! By mid summer we averaged 7 or 8 eggs a day and the mix in colors made a beautiful dozen.

We kept lights on the chickens for 15 hours a day in the winter and they just kept on laying. Life was groovy. Right up until the bobcat struck. I lost 9 birds in less than a week. The bobcat had taken advantage of my laziness. When Mr.Man built the coop he specifically asked me if we needed to cover the 4" gap between wall and roof beam with wire. I blithely dismissed his concern thinking that nothing could scale the wall and squeeze through the gap. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Life went on with 3 birds for a while before I decided to get more. This time I went adventurous! I went to local chicken swap and picked up what were sure to be 12 beautiful heritage hens. I also snagged a couple Maran roosters for free from the local feed store. Score! I brought them home and quarantined them and watched them grow. Slowly. Hardly at all. They were just not good doers. The roosters did well but the chicks just weren't thriving. A year later and a couple random additions and I have 22 birds that are giving me 2 eggs a day. One of which they eat. Seriously??

I had treated these birds for coccidia, mites, internal parasites and external too. I treated them for respiratory and fed them super chicken organic layer food that cost $$$! Nothing helped. Nothing made any difference and they were costing me a fortune.

Then the hawks found them. I don't let my birds free range as there are just entirely too many predators here in the middle of the woods. They have two 60' square runs that I rotate so they have fresh growing area to roam all summer. The runs are well fenced and I make sure the birds are in at night but I hadn't ever expected an air raid. I lost 7 birds in 3 days. UGH!!

So there I am, stumbling around the runs in the early dusk of winter with the fishing line that Mr.Man brought home for me, stringing fishing line from the top of one fence post across the run to the next, and then back. I can't tell you how often I clothesline myself now. It would be too embarrassing.

After that I lost my temper. I would like to tell you that this occurrence is few and far between but, well, I lose it with fair regularity. I was sick of these scrubby birds that wouldn't lay. They weren't beautiful and they weren't friendly and they weren't even healthy looking and they didn't lay! I decided I had had it. I was fed up. The next weekend I killed and butchered 10 of the 15 that were left.

I kept 5 birds that I liked and were healthy. One is a rooster and one is tiny Polish that is cute enough to be forgiven for not laying. The other 3 are just nice looking mutt birds that lay 2 eggs a day like clockwork. Hmmmmm, think of that, I culled 2/3 of my birds and gained an egg a day! I stripped and sanitized the coop and today I went out and bought 7 chicks. I got 3 White Leghorns, 2 Barred Rocks, and 2 Americaunas. Those heritage breeds might be pretty but now I know why they are heritage! On a place like mine, where everything has to carry their weight in some form or another, the new, specialized, laying breeds work best!

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