Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Scurvy Elephant Flock.....December 2013

We expanded the flock on the farm this year to include Pekin Ducks, more Buff Geese, Turkeys and more Delaware Chickens. Of these, the only purchased were the eleven Pekin Ducklings. The Buff Geese were from eggs hatched from our original pair. The Turkeys were eggs from a friend that we hatched out. The Delaware Chickens were from eggs from a breeding flock of 5 hens and one rooster that we selected from our original mixed flock. This was our first year incubating and hatching our own eggs. We learned a lot!

Our flock is housed together. We are currently using three mobile poultry tractors enclosed in electric poultry net energized by a portable solar unit. The poultry are secured at night in the tractors. They voluntarily segregate themselves. The chickens and turkey go up in one, the ducks and geese each have their own. At dusk they go to bed and we shut the doors. Usually every goes to bed without coaxing. In the morning we open them back up to graze within the poultry net. The tractors move up each day within the poultry net and the entire net is moved once a week. We work the poultry around the pasture behind the horses and cows. This keeps them on fresh ground and improves the pasture in the process.

Our original flock was a mix of Delewares, Buff Orpingtons, Wyandotts, New Hampshires, Marans, Welsummers, and Barred Rocks. They came from a local breeder as chicks. We ate the roosters and kept the hens to start our layer flock. We quickly decided we really liked the Delawares which had the best growth rate, are a tall multipurpose bird with an excellent laying record. We set up a seperate breeding colony with five hens and a rooster and hatched out around 60 of their offspring this summer. The white birds with black tail feathers are what is left of these birds that have not made it to the freezer yet. Our plan is to start culling the assorted hens and end up with a flock of exclusively Delawares.

These boys up front are ready for the freezer.

Some History and Background on the Delaware Breed.


In the early 20th century, crosses of Barred Plymouth Rock roosters on New Hampshire hens was a common choice for producing broilers. Occasionally, this mating produces sportswith light coloration. By breeding these white (genetically silver) sports intentionally, George Ellis of Delaware created the breed in 1940. He first chose to call them Indian Rivers, but later the name was switched to match its state of origin. At the time, the Delmarva Peninsula, where the breed was created, supplied chicken to the entirety of the East Coast of the United States through companies such as Perdue Farms.[5] The Delaware rapidly became the premiere broiler fowl in use in the region,[2] thus affecting the industry at large.[4] In 1952, it was recognized for exhibition by acceptance into the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection.[5]Beginning in the mid-1950s, commercial farms began to use the White Cornish-Rock cross that would come to dominate the chicken industry into the next century. The speedy adoption of the Cornish-Rock saw the decline of the Delaware, though it persisted in some areas into the 1960s. In the 21st century, the Delaware is considered a critically endangered breed by organizations such as the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.[2] It is also included in Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, a list of heritage foods


With males weighing 8.5 pounds (3.9 kilos) and hens 6.5 pounds (3 kilos), the Delaware is a medium sized breed. They have rather large, bright red colored single combs and wattles. Delawares appear in a single color type: a white body and breast, with light black barring on the ends of the hackle, wings and tails. It is similar to the Columbian color seen in some breeds, but has barring in the dark portions, rather than uniform black.[1] Also of note is that all feathers have a white quill and shaft, which, combined with yellow skin, makes for a cleaner appearing carcass.[2] Like most standard breeds of chicken, the Delaware has a miniaturized bantam version; however, these are rarely seen.
Delawares are hardy birds that mature quickly. Hens are good layers[3] of large to jumbo brown eggs and will go broody. Unlike the most common commercial meat birds in use today, the Delaware does well in free range operations. In temperament, it is a calm, but not a very friendly bird although they can be friendly.[4]

The Pekin Ducks tend to stick together.

The big white guy in the back is our sole Embden Gander. He was given to us along with our Buff pair.

Our sole remaining Turkey.

The lovely lady below is our Rouge hen. Every morning when the tractors are opened she immediately flies over the poultry net and spends her day foraging all over the property. Every evening she flies back in and puts herself to bed with everyone else.

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