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*This is a post from last year that I wanted to reshare due to the many questions I have received this week from readers and people I know locally. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.*
We’re farmers for the provision of our food, not as a hobby, so dual purpose poultry breeds are important to us because they produce both meat and eggs. Breed choice is one of those topics that every chicken keeper has definite feelings about. It’s just as important to consider as is the location, style, and construction of your coop and yard. The climate you live in affects your choice, since some breeds do better in colder climates than others. If you don’t want to butcher your chickens for meat, then you wouldn’t be concerned about dual purpose. We try to raise or produce as much for ourselves as we can, so dual purpose birds are our choice.
One time I was sharing about the breeds we have here on the farm and the way we feed them. A lady in the group asked a question about my breed selections. As I was answering her, a man said, “I am sick and tired of hearing people talk about the ‘old timers’ and how they did things. We don’t have the same birds or feed they did.” I must admit he took me back a little. In my best southern voice, I replied, “Well, bless your heart.” Being from the south, he understood exactly what I meant! The truth is, when we choose heritage or rare breeds, we are carrying on the preservation of the very same breeds that many of our ancestors had. I have two breeds that my grandmother had and yes, I do feed them like she did. She did not have GMOs, or organic vs non-organic to be concerned about like I do. What feed I do buy is non-GMO, organic feed just like hers was and most of their feed is from their free ranging and garden waste, just as hers was. So yes, you can have the same breeds and feed them the old timers’ way. Besides, I don’t think chickens change with the times…just sayin’. 🙂
That being said, what breeds are the best dual purpose birds and why? Remember, these are my choices and I don’t mean to leave out your favorite girls!
1) Black Australorp: This bird ties for my favorite. I love this friendly bird as did my grandmother. It set a record for egg laying- 364 eggs out of 365 days! This breed is one of the best setters and mothers I have ever had and the rooster is very watchful and protective of the flock. This bird will dress out between 5-8 pounds depending on whether it is a cockerel or hen. They start laying large brown eggs at around 5 months and I find them to be the best winter layers. Their ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) status is “recovering.”
2) Speckled Sussex: This bird ties with the Black Australorp as my favorite. They are beautiful and friendly. The roosters are colorful and very protective and watchful. The hens lay large light brown to beige eggs. They will dress out between 7-9 pounds depending on whether it’s a cockerel or hen. They will start laying at around 5 months old and barely slow down in the winter. Their ALBC status is “recovering.
3) Rhode Island Red: This is the other breed my grandmother had. I am so glad I added it to my flock. They are awesome egg layers and dress out between 6-8 pounds depending on if it’s a cockerel or hen. To me they start to lay a little earlier than the others, but only by a week or two. They lay well in the winter too. While they are a heritage breed developed here in the United States, in Rhode Island, they are not a rare breed as the other two are.
I am sure you have different thoughts and feelings about the breeds you choose. Like my grandfather taught me, “There’s as many ways of getting a farm job done as there’s farmers. Ya gotta be willing to listen, help, and learn from ‘em, even it it’s just to see what not to do.”
That’s just what we’re trying to do, share and learn from one another. What breeds do you have and why? Would you choose them again? What breeds are your favorite and why? Be sure to comment or email me. You can read this post and more at Backyard Poultry Magazine.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack