Tuesday, June 30, 2015
All of them are doing well. They're almost completely feathered, and starting to fly up onto the nesting boxes.
They're growing really fast, too, like creepy meats. Their vitality impresses me.
I discovered after they hatched, when the feed store was closed, that the leftover chick starter I had from last year had gotten wet and molded. These chicks were started on scratch with no additives. They're busy little foragers right from the get go.
Hatch #2 yielded 20 healthy chicks out of 24 eggs, for an 83% hatch rate. I think I hit the sweet spot on the incubator. One additional chick got stuck on the way out- part of another shell stuck to his egg. I gave him some help, but I don't expect him to live.
They moved to the coop this morning.
I'm only feeding this batch scratch as well. The floor is covered in weeds in both pens, and of course, bugs are readily available.
Both of these batches came from the chantecler mix pen that I hatched last year, with the second smallest combed chantecler mixed rooster. Most are mainly white, with one red tinted chick in each batch. A few have a few black wing and tail feathers, and I expect will look more like the Frey's dual purpose rooster I started with last year.
Since egg production is down right now, it'll be about a week before I start batch #3. That will be a mixed breed hatch with a chantecler cross rooster- the smallest, but pointed combed rooster, and eggs from all hens.
We butchered 8 roosters. I love the chanteclers. The white feathers and light coloured body turn out very clean carcasses. The red roosters have very yellow skin, and their quills leave noticeable marks. It never bothered me before, but it was somewhat surprising to see the difference. I didn't weigh them, but I would guess they were all in the 6-8lb range, almost as big as the Frey's roosters.
The red and Frey's roosters also had a lot of fat on them by comparison, leading me to believe the chantecler crosses have a better feed to meat conversion ratio.
We ate one. Delicious. The meat is so juicy and tender. The flavour isn't dramatically different from any chickens we've raised ourselves before, but definitely juicier. I've always preferred dark meat, because I don't care for the dryness of the white. With these birds the white is as juicy as most dark meat. The bird easily made three meals for 6.
For the time being, I will continue with my crossbreed experiment, but in the future I plan to add more purebred chanteclers to my flock. What's not to love? Heavy meat birds, taste delicious, brown eggs right through the winter, great foragers, good feed conversion, pullets lay early, no frost bite, excellent winter hardiness... These are the birds I was always meant to have!