Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fowl Thoughts

Owning and caring for fowl can be really interesting, and I have learned a lot over the past 4 years or so. It really takes caring for a number if different breeds before you discover what you like and what you don't, as well as what you really want to look out at every day that makes you happy. I think I have come to a certain point where I can say what birds I really want to have on our farm of the future. So, here is our fowl story so far...

Several years ago we picked up a dozen chicks, after talking about it for a few months. We have always had an interest in heritage or unusual breeds, so we decided on some Dominiques (heritage breed) and Americauna (beautiful colored eggs) hens. We originally wanted Auracauna hens, but had discovered that they are super rare and expensive after doing a lot of research. The vast majority of hatcheries that supposedly have Auracauna chickens actually have Ameraucanas, which still lay blue, green and even pink eggs (they are also called "Easter Egger" hens, a name which I personally find irritating). The trait for the colored eggs seems to be dominant enough for the Ameraucana breed to stand alone. Plus they are a pretty bird with a wide variety of corporation and features that I find attractive.

We lived with them in our tiny suburban backyard for about 18 months, before deciding that we loved our chickens, but didn't want to live WITH them any more. They really needed more space than what we had, so we moved half of them to live at my in-laws place, on their half acre. Unfortunately, several months later, they were killed by a couple of dogs. It was so sad, especially because Claire raised them from chick-hood, carrying them in a sling like little babies. Truthfully, it was almost a year before I told her about it since I knew she would be devastated.

Some time later, we moved the rest of the chickens (and a few more we got from friends) to the in-laws as well, and reinforced the pen so they were more protected from dogs. Along the way, we picked up several other miscellaneous laying hens from a friend, as well as from someone who was moving and couldn't take his hens with.

Then, this spring we picked up a group of 30 chicks (Americauna and Barred Rock), supposedly all girls. Plus 25 free chicks (all boys, of course) that were Rhode Island Reds, some ducks (we adopted 3 runner ducks and their Buff duck buddy), and a group of heritage turkeys!!

Just a few birds around here this summer. Several weeks ago we started to butcher the extra boys (an altogether different story!), and I think I have a few tentative conclusions to make. I love my Americauna and Dominiques chickens. They are colorful, have good personalities, and are fairly mellow. Barred Rocks are ok, but the boys are a little loud. Rhode Island Red roosters are obnoxious - they are push toward the hens, and are rather mean to each other. However, they taste really yummy baked in the oven.

As for ducks, I love my little Runner Ducks. They walk upright and are sweet, but not really to have for a dual-purpose bird (eggs and meat). The Khaki Campbell are ok, and the larger Blue Swedish ducks are ok too, especially on the dinner plate for their size (the males, that is).

And I love my turkeys. They are hilarious to watch and listen to (and for the record, turkeys really do say "gobble, gobble".) Unfortunately we ended up with only two girls and about 8 boys!!!! So, obviously, several will be invited to join us for the holidays.


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