We currently have New Hampshire Reds and Silver Laced Wyandottes as our egg laying flock. We also raise Black Australorps in rotation with the other two breeds. All of these are heritage breeds and lay brown eggs. They are considered dual purpose breeds and produce both meat and eggs. The dressed bird has a smaller breast and takes to long to mature to make it a viable bird to raise for meat anymore, but at the end of their egg laying career (2-3 years) the added age increases the flavor profile and they make excellent stock or slow cooker birds. Unfortunately even though they can lay eggs for several more years after their 3rd birthday, the frequency drops to a level that no longer makes sense economically to keep them around.
People will often ask why these three breeds, simply put it makes it easy to age the birds. All three breeds look distinctive and make it easier to pull out the older birds when the time comes. We could raise some of the hybrid egg layers but they require a bit more management when it comes to their feed requirements. We also like the idea of possibly working on improving the other older birds through breeding for better egg production.
We use Cornish Cross for meat production. These birds are hybrids with an amazing growth and large breast. These are the same type of birds used in the large production buildings and really can’t be beat for the amount of meat they produce in a short time. We feel that raising them outside and letting them get more exercise does improve the texture and flavor of the meat compared to a confined bird raised inside.
Currently we are experimenting with Midget White turkeys to see the feasibility of offering a smaller turkey to our customers. Their flavor is excellent but they are taking a bit longer to mature than I had hoped. The Midget White, with its broad breast, has the appearance of a miniature of the commercial Broad Breasted White turkey. They can grow to 14-23 pounds.
We do keep a few ducks around to patrol the orchard for insects and occasionally have duck eggs for sale. We also keep a few geese around. We use them to protect the young chickens when they first leave the safety of the brooder. We suffer much less loss to aerial predators when the geese are present.
The birds get moved to fresh pasture on a weekly basis. We use electric netting to control the areas the birds can get to and prevent predators from getting to the birds. All our livestock buildings are portable and move across the farm as needed.
We feed non-GMO grains to our birds, give them access to oyster shell and grit, and supplement them with fruit and vegetables from the garden beds.