Romeo never ceases to amaze me. He started out by keeping our Cornish Cross chicks safe from harm. When they moved outdoors he followed them. Now that I allow the chickens to free range with supervision for part of the day, he helps to herd them in and out of the greenhouse. As the chickens forage around the lawn surrounding the greenhouse, Romeo watches and interacts with them. I am not sure if he is being a good farm dog or if he thinks he is a chicken.
Chicks round two
We decided that keeping chickens is not particularly difficult. So, the commitment to bring in hen for eggs was made. We searched through many chicken magazines and Storey’s Ilustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds to decide on which chickens would suit our needs.
The original plan was to bring in 10 pullets—ideally Black Australorp and Speckled Sussex for eggs and a straight run of New Hampshire reds for meat. Then we saw that Tractor Supply had Black Australorps, Barred Rocks, and Ameraucaunas. All are decent layers. They are supposed to be all pullets.
We decided to purchase 24 chicks—eight of each. This was to save on money, it was way cheaper to purchase the chicks here than it was to order from a hatchery. Eventually we would cull out 15 pullets for meat. It would take a while for them to mature. We will call this plan B.
Several issues immediately became clear to us. The chicks were in a combined bin which contained Australorps, Barred Rocks, Ameraucauna, and Golden Phoenix. We were not interested in Golden Phoenix because they are an ornamental/show bird. The staff could not tell the chicks apart. We knew that the black chicks had to be either the Barred Rocks or the Black Australorps. The other two looked way to similar to each other and two different employees gave two different opinions as to which ones were which.
Now that the new set of chicks have been with us for almost a month, two things are becoming very clear. There are at least two cockerels in the bunch—maybe more. All cockerels will be processed as meat birds as soon as they start to make crowing noises. We are not allowed to keep roosters. The other issue is that the eight supposed Ameraucaunas are looking more and more like Golden Phoenix.
So we have come up with plan C. We will cull out any and all cockerels as soon as they reach fryer size—sooner if they start to crow. Golden Phoenix will be next on the list. Hopefully they can get to broiler size, if not, then fryer size it is. The nice thing about chickens is if the meat is tough, it can be stewed or used in pot pies. The carcass and wings make really good stock.
Chicks to broilers
Back to the Cornish Cross chickens. I am not sure how Romeo will handle the day when we process the chickens. These are his friends. He will have to be kept indoors while the event takes place. A good farm dog has to learn that livestock comes and goes. I think that Romeo will miss his little white chicken friends. They should be ready to process in about two weeks.
He will have another flock to look after. This time around, some of his friends will stay and hopefully provide us with a wonderful supply of fresh eggs. It will be interesting to see how he handles it all. For sure, he is a good dog around the chickens. I never would have thought a Bedlington Terrier would be the dog guarding my chickens.
A City Chick gone Country (or crazy depending on who you talk to)