When we decided to raise chickens for fresh eggs and meat we knew we would start small. My husband built a coop big enough to double our birds when we chose to do so (or when we needed to as our family grew older and consumed more eggs daily).

We ordered 5 Rhode Island Reds and 5 White Plymouth Rocks.

We chose RIRs because, again, it is an older breed that is well-established, cold-hardy and not overly aggressive. The Plymouth Rocks are as well, but the only reason we chose to go with a 2nd breed is because these ones are more prone to becoming broody (willing to sit on a nest and hatch eggs). Both breeds are dual-purpose. They lay a very good amount of eggs and are big enough to be meat birds when they are no longer good layers. They all have the same name, Dinner. Except our RIR rooster, who I call D.I. for Drill Instructor.

We have thought about also doing meat birds alone, but that decision will be made after our first (or second) batch of eggs hatches in 2013. We will be eating all the cockerels, so we have to see how many come from our 17 incubating eggs in order to know if it is worth the effort of also doing one batch of meat birds or if the number of cockerels that we get from a hatching will be enough meat on the table for the year. We only want to add around 5 more hens this year. Enough to help supply our neighbors with farm-fresh, organic eggs for the year.

Once again, we used a Storey book for research before deciding on the breeds we chose. Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow.

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