Ornamental, Eggs, Meat and Dual Purpose
By Frederick J. Dunn
It's like puppy shopping; never buy that cute little rascal, without first understanding what sort of adult he/she will be when grown.
Maybe you live in the city and don't have readily accessible County Fairs or 4-H Exhibitions. I love being in our poultry barn/tent during the fair season here in Pennsylvania. It's not hard to locate the poultry... someone is always crowing, or squawking about some egg she just produced!
Bird HouseWhat I always find interesting, is the sudden urge some have to buy "that" chicken! They are stuck by the amazing feather coloration, or a timid disposition. "Look, that one looks like it has fur"! (That would be a silky). Not the least bit interested in the "purpose" of the breed, looks win over substance time and again.
If you're keeping chickens, you're spending money. All chickens have to eat and be adequately provided for. Some chickens give very little back in the way of eggs or meat... those would be your ornamentals. Lawn flowers, as I call them, earn their keep by looking fancy as they fluff in the dust, lie in the sun, or line up on your porch railing in the morning sun. What are they good for? Well, just look at them... they seem to know that they are not in line for a stew, or expected to produce an egg of any size or with any regularity... let's say they are super models. I have far too many of these beautiful free loaders on my land. No one is standing around waiting for their d'Uccle to lay an egg for breakfast. Who could dismiss the Phoenix, with his six foot long tail feathers trailing behind? What of the tiny Serama... chicken equivalent of a tea-cup poodle, often weighing less than 350g. as an adult..
Egg laying breeds are those which do one thing with great regularity, produce an egg almost every 25 hours. Top of the list would be Leg Horns and the Rhode Island Reds. We won't go into hybrids for this article... The Leg Horn beats out the Reds in thrift, more eggs on less feed.
Meat birds are good at getting fat and plump in very short order and with very efficient feed to flesh conversions. Some produce one pound of flesh on 2 pounds of feed. They amazingly are often harvest as table fare in as little as 5-6 weeks! They are almost all derived from the Cornish breeds.
Dual Purpose... my personal favorites, do very well on open range and are moderately suitable as both meat and egg chickens. Because of their great utility value, these are the breeds most often seen roaming door yards of most rural keepers. They would include the Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, New Hampshire Reds, and Orpingtons.
Chickens of pure breed, each have a specific purpose for which they were produced and continued. Understand what purpose they are to fill in your life and then set out to get the chicken most suited to your needs.
Frederick J. Dunn is a retired Navy man and a life long poultry man. He raises bees, emu and chickens in rural PA and is the author of the DVD Regarding Chickens. Fred is a contributor to Mother Earth News. Check out his website: www.fredsfinefowl.com to learn more about him.
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