Poul­try Pen

Util­ity breeds were de­vel­oped to avoid the need for keep­ing one flock for eggs and an­other for the ta­ble. In the sec­ond part of his mini-se­ries, Andy Cawthray looks at how these ver­sa­tile chick­ens can prove the per­fect com­pro­mise for the small­holder

Country Smallholding - - Inside this month -

Com­pos­ites at­tract, by Andy Cawthray

DUAL-PURPOSE chicken breeds hark back to the time be­fore in­dus­trial agri­cul­ture and large-scale poul­try farm­ing. They were de­vel­oped dur­ing the early part of the last cen­tury as a com­pos­ite of the two main breed types — lay­ers and meat birds — with the in­ten­tion be­ing to cre­ate an ac­ces­si­ble form of live­stock for the small-scale farmer. It would be one ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing both eggs and meat with­out be­ing heav­ily bi­ased to­wards ei­ther func­tion. This func­tion­al­ity also made them ideal for the pur­poses of breed­ing re­place­ment stock and avoided the need to run dif­fer­ent pens of birds for eggs and for meat. The hens would be used pri­mar­ily for egg pro­duc­tion, whereas the in­evitable sur­plus of males could be fat­tened to pro­vide a cheap source of meat pro­tein for the ta­ble. This cre­ated an eco­nom­i­cally vi­able op­tion for the small­holder and the breeds re­main an ap­peal­ing op­tion for the farm­yard or self­suf­fi­ciency life­style to­day.

The pos­i­tives

As an all-rounder, breeds from this group can ful­fil the needs of most house­holds. Many of the breeds tend to be less flighty than the layer breeds and they have the ca­pac­ity to put on a rea­son­able amount of weight to pro­vide meat for the ta­ble.

While they won’t reach the ca­pa­bil­ity of the sin­gle-purpose meat bird, they do pro­vide a good bal­ance be­tween the two.

They are a durable group and can be quick to trust the keeper, be­com­ing very tame over time.

An­other ap­peal is the di­ver­sity of colours and feather types across the breeds within the group, such as the stripes of the Am­rock or the many va­ri­eties of Sus­sex ( pic­tured).

They are tol­er­ant to­wards each other and other breeds, with a gen­er­ally placid na­ture, so mix­ing breeds to­gether can cre­ate a very colour­ful flock if there is no in­ten­tion of breed­ing.

If the plan is to breed then it is im­por­tant to en­sure that some within the group are non-sit­ters. How­ever, those breeds that do go broody make ex­cel­lent moth­ers who will rear al­most any type of poul­try as if they were their own.

Car­ing for them

Dual-purpose breeds tread the line be­tween the lay­ing breeds and the heav­ier meat breeds and, as such, their care and management takes el­e­ments from both of those types.

The key to car­ing for this breed group is de­pen­dent upon two things: the pre­cise breed be­ing se­lected and the purpose of keep­ing them. For ex­am­ple, some breeds in this group are light enough to take to the wing and will there­fore need a roofed run, whereas oth­ers are more along the lines of the meat breeds, be­ing heavy and eas­ily con­tained be­hind a low fence. If your in­ten­tion is to use the birds as a true du­alpur­pose breed then space for grow­ing stock needs to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Birds in­tended for the ta­ble should be man­aged in a sim­i­lar man­ner to the meat breeds as too much space to range will re­sult in them not putting on suf­fi­cient weight, whereas those that are to be used for the lay­ing flock should be given the chance to range and for­age for food. This is not only so that they can sup­ple­ment their diet with nat­u­ral food stuffs, but also be­cause it re­duces the pos­si­bil­ity of them run­ning to fat and re­duc­ing their lay­ing ca­pac­ity.

NEXT MONTH: The back­ground, char­ac­ter­is­tics and gen­eral hus­bandry needed for those breeds clas­si­fied as ta­ble breeds.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.