2021 into 2022 on the farm

Meat Birds

The large clearing we made in 2020 ended up being a chicken run in 2021, much to Bill’s annoyance. We had gotten a meat bird order with mixed breeds in March, and 35 birds hatched on our farm in June 2021 from “Sam” the Rhode Island Red rooster and “the girls,” who are Rhode Island red and Plymouth Barred Rock.

When those farm-born chicks hatched in June of 2021, I bought some Leghorns and Lavenders to raise at the same time. We ended up losing a lot of the new birds to predators in the fall of 2021. We saved some of the best meat birds from March 2021 for breeding with our hens, including a Plymouth Barred Rock, “Jay”, a Giant Buff Orpington, “Buster”, and a Speckled Sussex, “Spike.”

The 2021 Posse: our four Roosters!
The 2021 Posse: our four Roosters!

The roosters were getting noisy, and we moved the new 8’x4′ coop and all the 2021 birds deeper into the uncleared part of our forest just before the snow started to stick to the ground. Eggs went scarce for the deepest months of winter, because we don’t have a light in the coop, and we don’t heat it.

When spring returned , we got up to 19 eggs per day! We had twice as many layers and eggs as the year before. I started a new batch of eggs in the incubator, timed to hatch on Easter of 2022. It was a smaller hatch than 2021’s, but a much greater variety of chicks, coming from our 19 hens of two breeds and our 4 roosters, each of a different breed.

But then we had some more chicken losses near the end of June (2022) just as I was trying to fill up the main garden and rehabilitate the still-rough extra garden space, which had become completely overgrown with grass, weeds, and water sprouts around the 2021 tree stumps. All this, under the looming specter of food and fertilizer shortages.

… To be continued

2021 Meat Birds

Sunny Woodlands' meat birds at 5 weeks old

Our meat birds are about 5 weeks old. We have 24 “all heavies” from Murray McMurray Hatchery.

They don’t tell you what they sent, but there’s a list of breeds they are picking from. We have a definite positive ID on the Speckled Sussex, and some good guesses on most of the rest. I had been assuming that the really big one in the front/center was a New Hampshire or a Rhode Island Red, but then I was listening to a video on meat birds on the “Homesteady” YouTube channel, and realized that maybe that one is the “free surprise chick” that came with the order and could be a Freedom Ranger. Those mature more quickly than the heritage breeds and classic crosses like RedStar and Blackstar sex links that were on the list of possible “heavies” we ordered, and that’s exactly what this guy is doing.

We were going to save the biggest one for breeding, but if that one’s a Freedom Ranger, he won’t breed true, and <…doing the math…> he’ll be our Fouth of July BBQ chicken! My goodness, how, um… symbolic!

More about Red Rangers / Freedom Rangers:

“reaching their peak weight of 5-6 lbs in 9 to 11 weeks. These active, robust chicks are suitable for free range, foraging and pasture environments and produce tender, succulent meat with more yellow omega 3 fat and less saturated fat than fast growing breeds.” but also…
“I have found that they don’t range any better than the CC, took more feed and time to raise than the CC.”

The links above are for your enlightenment only, I have no affiliate arrangement with them!