Castle Farm.

Another year and another breeding season just a couple of months away.

I can only comment on the breeds I keep or have kept in the past.
Iv’e had the Exchequer Leghorns for many years. I have kept Scots Greys, Light Sussex, Rhode Island Red, Brahmas, Cochin,Orpington, Friesian Fowl, Seabrights, Gold Campines, Wyandottes (Large Fowl and bantam), Dorking, Warren, Spangled Hamburg, Sumatra Game bantam, Silkies and Australorp.

Of all those breeds I’d like to get some Rhodes back again,but, it would be difficult to find any worth taking on as a project, re-building them back to a top layer would take time I don’t have left.
I went to a championship show a few years ago and came back with a trio of RIR, they had taken the red card and cost me dearly, but they were really nice examples of the breed

The system I have here is now a closed flock..Nothing comes in here in live form, The odd batch of eggs now and then, but nothing else. The runs I have for segregation are away from the main poultry yard and are in an open fronted barn where she parks her car.

The birds went in and I fed and watered them. The next morning I got up and went down and she (who must be obeyed) went mental about that ******* cockerel that woke her up at 4am. She had arranged to have some anoraks come and stay over night and the birds had to go or else…been their lots of times and it ain’t nice, if she is having a bad day I am. So I let them go, as I couldn’t risk taking them into the yard in case they brought a bug in.

These birds were a lovely rich red, but not having bred them or knowing their pedigree I could only guess at their worth, they looked, except for the richness of color a good utility breed/strain.

The Rhode Island Red was at one time the top utility breed in the UK. It laid and stayed was the mantra, which was meant to say the laid all year.

It wasn’t the perfect dual purpose breed, as it carried it’s breast bone to high and at the time there were some very good Sussex around for table work. A cross mating of these two breeds were common and some strains of this cross could be expected to return up to 200 eggs in a season and roosters and ‘spent hen’ were saleable.

There are not many breeds that can be described as Utility anymore. If you look at that word in the real sense it meant eggs and meat, but when the hybrid layers and the commercial table birds became available it took it’s toll on the true Utility traditional breeds. Nothing comes near to the hybrid layer and white feathered broiler type if your looking for a return on investment in feed.

There hangs the thought, by a thread. Do these hybrid layers, claimed to lay 300+ eggs in a season, actually lay that amount, they may, if they were kept in optimum conditions, but who has conditions like those. How many eggs do they lay if they are stuck in some shitty coop at the bottom of some garden, fed left overs and called bloody Mee mee or mummy cluck. Love them or not they killed off the traditional breeds,except in the odd corners of poultry keeping and exhibitionists.

We need to look out for some of these breeds before it’s gone to far to bring them back.

If you have read any of this you will know I’m a traditionalist as far as poultry is concerned. Some breed are now are getting really beyond reason and going in the same direction pedigree dogs and cats have gone.Micro Pigs..Don’t get me started on about those silly buggers.

If say 100 people read this and just 10%  of those take up a breed and make it better by selective breeding for attributes other than fancy feathers I will have at least achieved something.

Australorp Large Fowl.

I’m in a position this year to have a go at my Australorps. Last season I had a few spare hens, but they were in the eating egg flock, birds that I concidered a bit below standard. It’s pointless penning every bird just because it’s the same breed, you’ll end up with a flock thats going downhill in a handcart. Pick only the best birds and breed from them.

Anyway..This season I have a number of very nice pullets that come March will be fully in lay and hopefully giving a good size egg. They were hatched last May and run on grass right through and are still out on range now.

I intend to make an outcross to another breed to tighten up a few points and bring some fresh genes into the ‘bloodline’

I don’t like feathers that are to loose and unless I tighten them up the birds are going towards the Orpington, which they at one time were. This breed were Utility Black Orpingtons and arrived back from Australia after being crossed with ‘other breeds’. It’s a long story and has a number of senarios both from here in the UK and Australia. I’m not bothered who called it what or really what went into making it a breed of high regard both as a layer and exhibition breed, Some strains were of a dual purpose type, but not all.

One way of getting the feathers closer to the frame would be an out-cross to a Croad Langshan.

But that would bring in feathered legs.Pink feet and a sickle that is much to long. It would put a larger cushion on the hens and  bring the feathers to low down on the leg,besides that I don’t know of any good ones with any history. All the above faults would take years to breed out. Putting Croad back in after all these years would bring back to the surface all sorts of things.

Even a Croad cross Orpington would take to long, as Orpingtons are now totally fluffy knickered and egged out.

I’ll pen a couple of promising pullets with a Welsh Black Rooster. No Feathered legs. White feet and toes, same coloured egg, good tight feathers and seriously black and back in the ‘bloodline’ lies Australorp at  50%.

The resulting birds will be 3/4 Australorp. I envisage a few Red/blacks in the mix, but I can over the next year or three breed back on black untill I can be assured it won’t show red in the hackles and cape.

To be continued.