Each February we gather around our Murray McMurray catalog and marvel over their remarkable variety of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and other fowl. Actually, we like browsing the catalog any month, but February is typically when we get down to business and place our spring and summer poultry order. Before I reveal this year’s chicken choices (poultry picks?), a word about the Ten Apple laying flock management plan.
We keep a laying flock of 20-24 birds. Our first flock included 12 chickens (11 hens and one rooster, an Australorp named Larry) of several different breeds: Buff Orpingtons, Araucanas, Australorps, Plymouth Barred Rocks, and Rhode Island Reds. We decided that we would keep the layers for two years and then process the spent hens for soup and stew. Each year we replace half of the flock (the mature birds) with 12 new birds. After that first year of various breeds we decided that each spring we would choose one breed for the year and get 12 chickens of a different variety than the year before. That way we would always know which half of the flock would go the way of the stock pot and which half would stick around for another year. To our initial flock we added 12 black and white Plymouth Barred Rocks. The next year, we thought, so long as we’re alternating breeds, let’s also alternate the color of the eggs that they lay so we can see exactly how productive each half of the flock is being–and get a nice rainbow in our egg basket. When we said goodbye to the Orpingtons, Australorps and Reds, we said hello to 12 colorful-egg-laying Araucanas. Last year, we replaced our aging Barred Rocks (who are brown egg layers) with a dozen brown egg-laying Australorps, who I remembered being particularly good layers. They have proven that to be true. So far this week we’ve had daily egg counts of 14, 15, and 13 eggs from our flock of 12 Australorps and 7 Araucanas–not bad for gloomy late winter. This fall we’ll process the Araucanas, but first, this spring we’ll say hello to 12 day-old Buff Minorcas, who will eventually lay white eggs.
So without further ado… the 2010 Ten Apple Farm Poultry Order:
12 Buff Minorcas (plus a straight run of 13 Buff Orpingtons that we’re going to brood for some new friends in Unity)
Murray McMurray’s BBQ Special (a mix of 25 Cornish Cross Rock and Cornish Roasters)
15 Rouen Ducks