I hesitate to use the word “plan” because we have learned that in homesteading, as in life, plans never stick for long and it is important to be flexible. But it is also good to have a goal to work towards and a jumping off point. So with that in mind, I will use the word “plan.”
We have been working on the new chicken plan for our homestead for a few months now. We started with plan A, then B, then C….and now I think we are probably on about plan V by now because it has changed so many times. But we have finally landed on a plan we feel good about. Of course, as with everything in homesteading life, it will be tweaked a bit here and there as we go – but at least we have a starting point now.
For those who haven’t been following long, here’s the background info: We were previously selectively breeding a few different breeds of chickens to each other to produce a dual-purpose breed of chicken that thrived well in our high altitude, cold climate. We made it three generations in with good progress, but then our baby had several surgeries and hospitalizations and I just didn’t have time to deal with caring for, much less breeding, chickens. So we shrunk the flock down to just my 6 favorite breeding hens, and our 1 best broody mama hen and called it good.
Now that Mr. Smiles’ health is stabilizing, we are hoping to increase the flock again early 2017, start selling eggs again in the summer/fall, and get back into breeding and selling chicks, pullets, and hens in 2018.
In my research of trying to decide what direction I wanted to go with which breed, I found a breed that seems to have almost all the traits we are looking for – the Buff Chantecler. It is a dual-purpose breed originating in Canada, smaller than the original White Chanteclers, but still a good size for meat, that lays about 4 eggs a week. They have extremely small combs and wattles, including the roos. They are friendly, calm, and docile. They are extremely cold tolerant, lay through the winter, and do go broody. These are all things we are looking for. The only additional thing for us to add to our breeding stock through selective breeding is high-altitude hatchability, which we can select for over time. As well as being sure to select for excellent conformation and functionality – being sure to keep the characteristics true to the Chantecler breed.
I also really like to have different colored birds in my flock so we will include partridge and red Chanteclers for my own viewing pleasure. The only “accepted” colors are the white and the partridge – the buff and red are not yet. In addition, I am contemplating breeding into my stock the color blue, which will also give be black and splash because that is what the blue gene carries. I will just be doing that for the fun of it and for the challenge, it isn’t something we are aiming for to make them better birds, obviously. And it will take at least 5 generations to get there if all goes well.
And because I like variety in my flock, we will also be adding some Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, Easter Eggers, and Salmon Faverolles hens just for laying, not for breeding.
The chicks arrive in February, right around when the goats are due to kid (let’s just pile all the work on at once – lol!). We will be back into selling eggs by the end of summer, and come 2018 we will be breeding Chanteclers and have them for sale as well. Fun, Fun!