December 5, 2010

"Going to the Birds" was a great trip, man!

Things around here are 'goin' to the birds'! 
I have canaries!  :)   Waa-hoo!
After several years of  'if I find one, I'll buy it'..... I determined to get a bit more serious.
Pet stores were clueless, and the various 'grapevine' sources of information came up empty-handed.
Finally, I got the name of a breeder in Billings.
Thanks to Anne, I had a phone number! 
After a few weeks of phone conversations, and some planning.... we had agreed on the birds I wanted, and a money order was sent! 
Many of you know how hectic things are around here... and how there never seems time to get away from the ranch!  Now you know it really is true:  I couldn't see how I would have even one day free to drive to Billings!
I made arrangements with a local trucker, who makes regular trips to the Billings Livestock Yards... to pick up the birds.  But that wasn't very satisfying!
Besides, Bruce Thompson (the canary guy) sounded interesting, and I wanted to see his Sanaan goats, chickens, and other animals!
Winter hit Montana mid November, and the road conditions hadn't been great!  There were days and days of 'emergency travel only' in either the Billings or Harlem areas!
Last week, everything seemed as fine as could be expected, and with an approaching storm due to arrive the next day, we took off for Billings.  My son went along to share in the driving!  We left at 6 am and got home just after 8 pm. We didn't do a single other thing than drive and visit with Bruce AND LOOK AT THE CANARIES! :)
Bruce said let's go look at the canaries.. .and a blind man would have been able to find his way to the canary trailer! :)
You could hear the singing by LOTS of canaries from some distance!
The three of us went in the trailer... and found ourselves in the first little 'bedroom' filled with double and triple stacked cages with a narrow U-shaped aisle between!!!! Later, we went through a little bathroom crowded with supplies, etc. trash... into the 'kitchen/living room' where there were even more canaries. Bruce said a friend was in advanced cancer stages, and Bruce had 'adopted' his canaries.
Bruce apologized for the 'disorganization'... saying he had been spending time with his other barnyard animals, getting them ready for the cold weather, and had much to do in the canary trailer.
Yes, I saw seed on the floor, and lots of cages stacked up willy-nilly....... but every water dish was sparkling clean... and the birds just never stopped singing.... EVEN WITH TWO STRANGERS in the cramped quarters! I don't think the trailer has many visitors other than Bruce, but those birds were not scared a bit, and kept talking/singing even as Bruce caught the ones chosen for us!!!

He said 'disorganized', but actually, he knew each and every cage... which hatch it was, and from which parents, and how each cage was related to other cages. He had a breeding/hatching chart for this year.. on the back of a seed sack... and he used it for reference once or twice.... but he didn't need to refer to the records of band numbers to know which were hens, males, and which month they were hatched in!

He will soon put all the females in several large flight cages, and the males (singers as he calls them) in individual cages. He does a fall 'deep clean' and assessment of birds.
We had sent a money order for 7.... but I found a Gloster male that gave me a 'flirting look' and I was in love... so also bought him and a female Gloster.
Here is what we came home with....
  • A white male and a grey/white female for my mom.
  • A yellow male and yellow female for my cousin.
  • A yellow male and two females for me... one solid yellow, and one with small variegation on the head.
  • A grey/white Gloster male (consort plain headed) and green/yellow crested female for me.
After delivering everyone else's on Friday... I have 7 canaries in my house.  :)
Mom and I compared notes tonight, and all the 'singers' had sang today!!!
They settled in very nicely and have surprised us with their conficence and calmness... while being so alert and busy.
They are different than the canaries we had before... these are not spooked by even the dog shaking himself a foot from their cage! and these are so alert and happy!
A few more photos:
There were BEAUTIFUL reds: 
 These four cages were Bruce's friend's canaries:

September 15, 2010

Catching up with other work besides 'chickens'!

My 'extra' chickens are all sold, and most of the fall work with the chickens will be the fun process of selecting which ones to keep!  :)
So, it is on to other work!
I didn't do much, if anything, with the yard and garden this summer.  It 'feels' like fall, with cooler temps and rainy, wet weather.  I am clearing weeds, pulling and digging grass, spreading manure and mulch, and generally 'catching up'.  I won't be able to go back and redo the summer in the yard, but I can make sure I am ready to go ahead in the spring!!!
I have taken time to try a few new recipes, start violet leaves, root other houseplants, and read a book or two!!
Computer time is also easier to find... so am back to my 'online' fun, such as The Violet Voice group, and working on the group's webpage, this journal and the website!!!
Oh, and my camera is working again!  Expect new photos soon!

August 25, 2010

Updated list of what is for sale: (8/25)

Silver Leghorns

These I purchased from McMurray Hatchery... not sure why they have grey legs!!! I am betting the flock owner was working on improving color, and is in the process of using some other breed to bring in desirable traits. AT ANY RATE... these are not show quality Silver Leghorns!!! In fact, I think they act like a cross between the leghorn and Silver Phoenix!!?????
But, color and type aside, they are very quiet and curious, not easily spooked. They do not appear to want to be pets, but they are gentle. Overall, their body size will be larger than the Phoenix, and with much of the Leghorn look. I am keeping about half, to see what they do this winter... they should lay like a whiz in the winter.. as both the Leghorn and Phoenix were great layers for me last winter.
I have (10) pullets and if you buy all 10, you may take your pick of rooster from the 8 males.

The Black Without A Name pullets are GREAT!!! Even though they aren't part of my plans for breeding/mating next spring, I am keeping one of these Black SexLink cross with a grey rooster.
Read about these here. Very worth reading.
There are (4) of these pullets.

Austra White/California White.... second generation.

These have been very nice... and I am changing my plans a bit. I HAD planned to order first generation cross chicks again in 2011... but I think these 2nd generation pullets are so nice, I am going to try a third generation! :) I have 4 month old Austra White 2nd generation pullets that have begun to lay like crazy!
I have (2) 3-3 1/2 month old pullets, and (7 to 8) 2 month old young pullets... several are barred, which would be one side of the California White cross.

My 'handed down' speckled hens
You can read about these here. I am keeping several of these along with the grey pullets. My year, and 2-year, old speckled hens were my best setters and mamas... plus layed very well as soon as warm weather settled this past spring!
I just found that there are at least three farmsteads in the surrounding two counties that have descendents from 'Mom's chickens'... a testament to their value!!!
These are 2 1/2 to 3 month old pullets; I have (2) extra for sale.

August 15, 2010

Updates and Redesigns... Coming Soon!

Montana Ranch website has moved to a new server, and the website and this Journal will be given an update and a new design!  Watch for changes coming later in August!!!

An African Violet TEASE!

It's been FOREVER since I have posted something about African violets!!!!  Well, 12 + months to be exact!
The truth is, my violets have suffered from neglect.  My mind and efforts have been elsewhere.
July 1st, I had three AV plants... THREE!!!  Shocking!
I ordered a few leaves, and several plants.... so now have 10 plants and 30 leaves... looking nice and healthy.  By the end of August, I may see little babies!
My camera is 'on the fritz', so here comes the tease!!!
Here is a photo of my African violets.....
..... in July 2009!!!!   That's the tease!!!
I'll be back with violet photos, I promise!!!

July 29, 2010

Chickens For Sale!!!

It was inevitable!  I had big plans and now I have big flocks of chicks, pullets, and hens!!!
You name it, I have it!!   Grey, white, speckled, barred, solid, and shaded.
Young, old, and everywhere in between.
I do have most of the young pullets chosen for my own personal flock this winter, and am ready to sell any extras someone may want.
I have yearold hens of Austra White, California White and Black Australorp.  These are purebred that I ordered from a hatchery last summer.
Here is a photo of several Austra White hens for sale:  I have an orange band on any hen that I find laying in the nest, and I will sell the ones that are laying.
I have 5 Black Australorp year old hens, and one 4 month old pullet that is 1/2 BA, and 1/2 AW, that looks and acts like BA.

I have 6 young AW and CW pullets (aged 3 1/2-4 months), as well as 2 1/2-3 month old Grey/Black Star pullets..... Later, I will have Silver Leghorns and Partridge Rocks as well as more AW and CW.

I also have 2 week old chicks, if anyone is interested.  They are with hens at the moment, but they are not breeds I want to keep and if someone wants them, without the hen, let me know!  They are:  3) Buff Orphington and 7) Silver Laced Wyandotte and SLW/Dark Cornish cross.
Here are four of the SLW/Dark Cornish or SLW:
The story behind these late chicks is that I wanted to take a 'hen and chicks' display to the Phillips County Fair, so asked my sisterinlaws and their mother for eggs, and set three hens with four different breeds of chicks.  When they hatched, I moved the chicks around until one hen had three of each breed, and took her to the fair! 

Anyone want to buy a nice hen with no name????

In all the hatching and experiementing with incubation... and seperating my roosters, marking eggs, pedigree hatching cages, banding baby chicks, etc... I had lots of fun with 'known parentage' chicks.
BUT, there were also a few eggs from other hens, especially the neighbor's hens.  I had given her one of my 'handed-down' grey roosters last fall, and since 2/3rds of her flock were hens from my 'handed down' speckled hens.... I bought some eggs from her, hoping to get a grey rooster from one of her older hens of my 'old breed'.  I did.
BUT, I also hatched some chicks from the remaining 1/3 of her flock which were Black Star hens.  I don't want to keep them for breeding next year, but these Grey/BlackStar cross pullets seem so nice and gentle.
No, you can't have this one, I promised it to the neighbor, thinking she would love to have such a pet!!!
But this hen, and one rooster from the same hatch, are so gentle!!  I didn't give them any different attention than the rest,  (I have so many chicks, I don't have time to spend in any one coop!)... but, they just naturally hopped up on my foot, or knee and just love to be 'scratched' on the breast!  You would think it would feel funny/awful to have your feathers pulled forward and rubbed around, but they seem to love it!! 

California White -- 2nd generation hatching -- Summer 2010

The second hatchery order of  'Austra White' was actually California Whites, as I did some internet research and after the first incubator came off!  I had 1/4 barred chicks that looked exactly like one of the parents of the California White, body shape, size and coloring.
I enjoyed the California Whites... they probably layed one more day per week than the Austra White, and their eggs were round and pure white, while the Austra White had tinted, oval eggs.  Two CW hens ended up being such pets they just seemed to deserve names!!!
They are beginning to molt the first of any of the rest, however... and the AW pullets began to lay several weeks before the CW pullets.
Here is a California White 2nd generation pullet:

Austra White --2nd generation hatching -- Summer 2010

Since the Austra White is a hybrid, as opposed to a breed, crossing a Black Australorp rooster and a White Leghorn hen, I wasn't sure just what I would get hatching their eggs.  I had AW hens and an AW rooster.  My mom had kept the same flock for many years, gradually noticing a change in leg color, etc. but still the same good qualities.  Eventually, their size diminished to a typical Leghorn size, and the occassional black feather disappeared. But we are talking 35 years!!!
I found I got approx. 1/4 chicks that looked exactly like the original cross:  with moderate black feathering, black legs, and a bright red, rounded comb and wattle. 
Approx. 1/4 look typical White Leghorn, with narrow, high combs, and yellow legs.
Approx. 1/2 are like the original cross, body shape and size, but with smaller comb and wattle, and white/pink legs.
Here is a photo of a hen like the 1/2:

They are great.  They began laying at 3 1/2 months of age and have the same easy-to-get-along attitude as the parents.

Partridge Rocks -- Summer 2010

I also tried Partridge Rocks... I will update this post later... no photos today.  The chicks are average in most points, although they definitely are blockier than the other lighter breed chicks.  But in actual length and width, they are about the same, although a bit deeper.  I will compare these with the other for length of time to butchering, first egg, and how well they do during our cold, cold winters.

Silver Leghorns -- Summer 2010

I also ordered Silver Leghorn pullets with a few cockrels this spring. This photo doesn't do them justice: they really look sweet... with their soft salmon breast coloring! So far, they seem calm, gentle and very friendly!! Size wise, they are not as large as the Dark Brown Leghorns I ordered at the same time, so will keep this in mind as a point to compare at butchering age.

Dutch Bantams --- new for 2010

I am trying three new breeds for 2010.  I was pleasantly surprised with the Porcelein Dutch bantams.  This breed was an after-thought as we were ordering other chicks, and I had originally ordered a different color.  But the hatchery substituted Porcelein.   And it turned out nicely!!!  A neighbor and I split up the chicks when they arrived, and just recently swapped back and forth until we each had the pullets and cockrels we wanted! :)  The rooster pictured here, Porch, was handraised by the neighbor and loved to perch on top of everything, just to see what was going on, hence the name Porch!! :)  Here he among his girls.

I also have a pair of Light Brown Dutch bantams.  I don't have a great photo of them but will add them later as I watch and review the breed.

July 11, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The last set of the incubator came off... and I was resigned to the fact that here was yet another batch of chicks I would have to raise without the help of a mama hen!!! They stayed under a light in the porch for four or five days, simply because the older batch of chicks were still in the little pen that was the usual 'first brooder'.
One morning, while milking, I realized I had been seeing a speckled hen in the barn for several mornings... I expected her to have come in the open door, as many do.  But today, I had closed the door immediately behind myself.  The hen came out to the cat milk pan and wandered around... soon, it dawned on me, she was acting like a setting hen does... out for her stretch, bathroom break, and a bit of food!!!
I watched her carefully, and from behind the cow... and soon saw her disappear in the west corner of the barn.  That night, I did a little exploring, and found her sitting on a nest of 28 eggs!!!  I candled them and either they were just started or were not going to be good.  I think she had just begun remaining with them that night, although I remember seeing her in the barn many days in the past.  I had the great idea to give her my incubator chicks, even though this 'grafting' often doesn't work with a hen that hasn't set on a nest with eggs at least a week!
The next night, I slid a chick under her, and the next morning, I gave her one or two every couple of hours.
After noon, I took the rest to the little brooding pen, and then gathered her and the 6 that she had... and put all the chicks together, and set her in with them.
For the next twenty minutes, I watched, and soon began to worry.  She was still acting like a setting hen going for her stretch and activities!  She wandered all around the little pen, then slowly jumped over the front board, walked past me and began to explore all corners of the little shed.  Soon however, she came back, took a few good looks at me, and jumped back in with the chicks.  She stood and stared at them, still and silent for about 5 minutes, then picked up a bit of 'chick mash' and dropped it and began to break it up with her beak.  I knew then it would probably all work out.
However, the chicks had to learn to be with a mama, every bit as much as she had to get used to the idea that she suddenly had 23 chicks!!!  They had not been used to going under a hen!
Later that night, as it was cooling off, 2/3rds of the chicks were huddled in a corner, some distance from the hen.  I waved my hand over them, trying to get them to peep, move, run to her, or something.  They were used to me, from being in the porch, and didn't move.  Soon, the hen couldn't stand it  any longer, lifted up a few inches, shuffled over to the big huddle of chicks and just sat down on them!!!  Then she gave me the 'stay away, they are mine' look.  I knew then it was going to be okay!
Here is the GOOD hen:
Now to the BAD:
I ordered bantam chicks from a hatchery, planning to put them under a setting hen due to hatch that same week.  I had four eggs under her, and she hatched 2, so added 11 bantam chicks to her brood.
She was an okay mama, but not very vocal.  In about two weeks, she stopped clucking to them at all, and at three weeks, she laid several eggs.  I had them in a small coop and locked into an attached run, so she couldn't have left even if she had truly wished.  But when I moved them to a little pen close to the main coop, she flew over the fence and left... and didn't want back.  I had to move the bantams into the feed room of the main coop, because of the gnat problem, and so I put her back with them for the first night, to keep them calmer.  She wasn't mean to them, but she surely didn't want to be bothered with them either!  Today, I put a band on her leg, and let her go back to the main bunch.  The chicks are 6 weeks old and I will keep them protected, so they can go on their own!
Here is the BAD hen:
Last, the Ugly:
My sisterinlaw loaned me a setting hen, a few days before one of our hatchery orders was due to arrive.  I have done this 'grafting' of chicks onto a foster mama many times, but this time the hen just would not leave her nest!  She loved those eggs, and didn't want a 'ready-made family'!!!  So, I put eggs under her and let her work for her kids!!!  She came off last week, and is a very good mama to her 7 chicks!
But she had set at my sisterinlaw's coop for about two weeks before I brought her home, and she sat for another week while I tried to get her to take the hatchery chicks... PLUS, she then sat for three weeks on the eggs!  So, she had been setting twice as long as usual... and she does look like a bedraggled mama!!!
Here is the UGLY Hen:

Update on Black Australorp...

Update on the Black Australorp hens...
During late winter, the shell quality deteriorated rapidly on the Black Australorp eggs.  They became gritty, and very fragile. None of the other hens in the same coop, on the same feed, produced eggs of thin shells or uneven texture.
HOWEVER, the egg shell quality returned to normal in a month or six weeks, and has continued just fine.
They lay well!
Of the five hens, I had only one set during the spring season... and she was not as 'dedicated' as a good hen should be.

June 21, 2010

Observations After Hatching!!!

With all the hatching, I did learn a few things!  Well, maybe I should say:  I learned enough to have more questions!!!!  :)
>> The Blue Andalusian rooster was gone January 4th.  I began to save eggs for my mom's incubator 22 days later... and yet now that the youngsters are  4 months old... there is one young pullet that shows very much Blue Andalusian traits!!!  She is definitely from the Blue A. rooster.
SO:  Hens and roosters must be seperated more than three weeks to insure 'clean' eggs.
>> Two week old eggs may hatch as well as one day old eggs.  In one incubator, I had the same percentage of eggs hatch from two-week old eggs as from one-week old eggs, and more of the older eggs hatched than eggs laid the day they were placed in the incubator.
>> At least here in Montana, 65% humidity in the incubator during incubation is the minimum for good results.
>> At least in our experiences this year, hand turning 6 times a day is somewhat better than hand turning 2-3 times a day, but the auto turner does as well as hand turning 6 times a day.
I think there may be more interesting observations, but at the moment, as I type, I can't remember them!  :)

The MOST IMPORTANT OBSERVATION, so far, is that my GREY over GREY produced 100% GREY.  I didn't specifically know if I hatched a speckled over black egg... in fact, I don't think I got a single chick from my good old speckled rooster, over any hen.  But if our old 'heritage' grey were 'blue', there should have been at least one or two black or speckled chicks.  My speckled hens gave me speckled and greyish chicks when with the grey rooster, and the black hens gave me black chicks when with the grey rooster.  But all the grey/grey ones produced grey chicks!

May 14, 2010

Working on my "Chicken Plans" in 2010!!!

I haven't updated my blog FOR A LONG TIME, but decided I should update the chicken posting.  These posts have been a great reference/record for myself.
My GOALS for 2010 are: 
1)  See what 2nd generation Austra White chickens do.  Austra White is a 'hybrid', so the sucessive generations will not be the same.  Mom kept hers through many generations with some changes, but the good traits remained.
2)  Hatch eggs from our 'heritage' greys/blacks/speckles to improve and increase my flock.
3)  Seperate my hens/roosters in such a way to see how breeding grey to grey, and speckled to black, hatch out.  This will be one step to determining if our greys are 'blue' or 'self-blue/lavender'.

In January, I made three pens within my coop.  I kept the Austra Whites and Black Australorp chickens in the largest pen, and divided my 'old heritage' chickens.  One pen had the grey rooster and my grey hens. The smallest 'cage' had the speckled rooster with my black and speckled hens.

Right and in the foreground, are the Austra White chickens. Left is the 'cage' with my speckled rooster and hens. In the back, behind, is the grey chickens.

Mid January, my sisterinlaw gave me back three grey and one black hens that I had given her several years ago.  They would be getting some age on them, but still laying and I was very glad to get them.  I thought it would 'increase' the genetic pool ... even though they would have been chickens I hatched, they would be a different generation, and more distantly related from my rooster.

For nearly a month, the grey and speckled hens stopped laying many eggs!  They were not happy about any part of my plan!  They could still see the nests they were used to laying in... and tried desperately to get back to them.  They didn't like different roosting places.  And the speckled rooster was used to being The Boss and he was so hurt that he was penned up with only 7 hens! 

In February, I ordered a new incubator, and my mother and I began setting the incubators.  I had so many questions!  I marked each egg as to which pen it was from (sometimes, I knew exactly which hen laid it).. and the date it was layed. We could tell by color and shape, which type of hen had laid which egg.  The Austra White #1 bunch had a tapered tinted egg.  Austra White #2 bunch had a nearly round white egg.  The Black Australorp hens laid a dark brown egg.  The black hens of our old ones laid a darker, almost pink egg.  The speckled hens laid a very, very light tinted egg with a defined pointed end.  The grey hens gave us a pinkish-beige smaller egg.

I built a set of wire dividers to put in my incubator when I took out the turner near the time of hatching, to act sort of like a big 'pedigree cage'. Each type/breed of egg went into a different section.  I put little rubber bands on the chicks hatching in each section.  We kept track of which eggs hatched best: fresh, average, or old.   We kept track of percentages of hatch, length of incubation, etc.

From February to May, we set an incubator 8 times.  I must admit that Mom's old Brower galvanized incubator with hand turning, did very well.  And my old Little Giant incubator 9 years old, did terrible.  The new Hovabator incubator didn't do as well as it should have the first three times... about 44% hatch.  The last time I set it, I decided to throw away all the instructions and follow my instincts as far as temperature and humidity, etc.  The hatch was 62%.. but the Austra White, Black Australorp eggs hatched 100%, with the very poor hatching of the eggs from our hens bringing down the overall average of that set.

Last year I had 11 hens go broody... this year, I had very few, and they began late!!!
The hens I set had a better percentage of hatching, but again... the Austra White eggs hatched much, much better than the ones from our 'heritage' hens.

January 7, 2010

Summary of 2009 Chicken Experiments

I tried some 'experimenting' with my chickens in 2009.      I found a hatchery selling Austra Whites, which my mom had originally started her flock with, and was a major part of the 'heritage' of my 'handed down' hens I like so well.  So, I ordered chicks of Austra Whites.
     My mom also had a grey rooster of unknown breed as part of her flock, and we have had a great admiration of the grey hens/roosters in the 'handed down' chickens.  And I have had a type of black hen that is very nice.
     I had a few questions:  was the original blue rooster a Blue Andalusian and would that have explained the few greys and blacks, plus the speckled ones we are now getting in the 'handed down' flock?  Are the speckled ones similar at all to the Austra Whites?  For the past 18-20 years, I have kept a 'closed flock'... in that I didn't introduce any new breeds, just kept hatching eggs from my hens.  But prior to that, I had purchased a few chicks from the local feed store, not remembering their breeds, but am guessing by past photos that I had a few Brown Leghorns, and possible Black Stars, etc. etc.  Over the past 18-20 years, I have culled any young fryer that showed traits of the above, but maybe they had some input into our flock.
    So, I decided to try chicks of several breeds, at similar age of chicks hatched from my 'handed-down' flock, and have some fun. 
    I tried Blue Andalusian, and discovered body shape and disposition, as well as feather-growing patterns (I am not sure of the term for this!), were different than our 'handed-down' greys, blacks and speckled.  I tried the Black Australorp and the Black Star, and can be reasonably sure that these are not in the good black hens of mine.
    The Brown Leghorn pullets are nice, and fairly close in temperment and body shape/size.... so some of the good traits in our 'handed-down' flock may have come from a rooster I had 20+ years ago??
     The Austra White did  as expected.... we are very happy with them.  They acted and looked, from the day old chicks to laying pullets, as Mom remembered.
     The Blue Andalusians were okay, but not what we wanted, and so I gave them away a few days ago.
      I lost the Phoenix rooster, and so also gave away the Phoenix pullets.
      I have some young breeding stock of my 'handed-down' greys and blacks.
Here is a photo of my coop in November, before The Fox and culling the Blue Andalusains:
In the front, left is the one Brown Leghorn pullet.  Next roost back, l to r:  2 Austra White pullets, with black legs, one of my grey pullets, and a Blue Andalusian pullet. Behind them:  starting on the right:  my young grey rooster, to his right is the young speckled pullet, and a Austra White with yellow legs. In the back, facing the wall, is the Blue Andalusian rooster, and facing front is the Silver Phoenix rooster.

Doing what they should be doing:  Laying!
In December, I had 48 chickens in the coop, 44 hens, young and old.  Six of the 44 were molting.
All of December, I would gather 24 + eggs one day, and 32+ eggs the next! WOW!
I was feeding them alfalfa hay and wheat, plus the coop was warm and I turned the light on.

My Greys -- 1/10

Final Report on My Greys "Heritage/Handed Down" -- January 2010:
I have had some nice pullets from my greys and the other 'heritage/handed down' hens!
They were nice, sensible chicks, and grew up well.  Matured quickly and butchered into a nice fryer.
The pullets began laying at 3 1/2 months of age.... and have laid well:  approx. 4 eggs per 7 days.
Their eggs sized up quickly from the first smaller sized ones.
    The grey and black ones from 'My Own' eggs are similar/identical.  The speckled ones from 'My Own' eggs are slightly smaller, especially in the head and amount of feathers, possibly in body width.  Other than shape, they seem similar in laying, attitude, and community behavior.  Possible... maybe... the speckled hens are not as happy when the temps drop in the high minus zeros.
    I had saved 3 grey 2008-hatched hens and 4 grey pullets from 2009... but The Fox took a few.  I now have 3 young grey pullets and one older grey hen.  The nice NICE grey rooster survived and has all my future hopes planted on him!
    I also lost one black hen to The Fox, but still have 2 black 2008-hatched hens and 1 black pullet from 2009.  I have 3 speckled 2008-hatched hens and 1 speckled pullet from 2009.  I also kept the speckled 2008-hatched rooster.


Austra White -- 1/10

Final Report on Austra White -- January 2010:
The Austra White chickens were great! I can only praise and highly recommend them!
They have no flighty-ness, and are wonderful foragers and live well with other chickens, even in crowded conditions. They have taken the cold VERY well, and have laid VERY well.
They matured early, and began to lay at 3 months of age. The roosters were okay for butchering... light as expected for a hybrid cross including White Leghorn, but very acceptable.
     The roosters matured VERY VERY early, and began to crow and look for hens at 2 months of age. This is the only 'fault' I can find... because it is a fault. The roosters began to hunt for hens, harass any hen they found, and in general caused quite a 'ruckus'. I began to butcher the 'cull' roosters at 2 1/2 months of age, and they were light, as expected for that age and the breed. I saved two roosters until 4 months of age, when I chose one to keep and one to butcher, and at that age, the butchered one produced a nice well-meated body. Next year, I will simply have a seperate pen for the Austra White males... and I am expecting them to gain a bit quicker, when they don't have the opportunity to range 'hen-hunting'.
     I read somewhere that Leghorn meat tastes differently than the meat breeds'..... and in comparing notes/fried chicken with my sister-in-laws', who have Buff Orphingtons and Light Brahmas, as well as Cornish Rocks.... we have to agree that is very much true! When someone says: oh, I remember farm fried chicken... it tasted so good, we are betting they remember eating a 'egg-laying' breed, and are comparing that flavor to the flavor of the commerically produced 'meat-breed' chicken. There is a difference... hard to describe, but we generally summarized it as: leghorns crosses have a bit more 'dark' meat, and that flavor while the meat breeds have larger white meat portions, and generally all their flesh tastes a bit more like white meat. I definitely found I preferred fried chicken from my old 'heritage' flock or the Austra Whites/Brown Leghorns over the Orphingtons/Brahmas/Black Australorp.
    The hens began to lay early, and have laid very reliably since.  The eggs remained small, pullet-sized for a bit longer than my old 'heritage' greys.
    The Austra White chickens were not 'pets'... they didn't want to follow me back to the house, yet they would come greet me if they thought I was carrying the scrap bucket.  In the coop this winter, they have been very vocal, greeting me with a low clucking and talking as I clean the coop, etc.  They come to look at my overshoes, and see if there is any bits of hay to pick.
   Overall, these Austra White chickens are just what I want!  :)
    I received chicks from two hatcheries.  One hatchery sent chicks with pullets/black legs and scattered black feathers and roosters/yellow legs and all white feathers.  The other hatchery sent chicks with pullets/yellow legs and a few small black feathers ... roosters/yellow legs and all white feathers.  From all I can read and learn from growers... the 'breed' is actually a 'hybrid cross'... and the chicks with the black legged females were either a first cross or close to the first cross.  The chicks with the yellow legs were from a flock some generations from the original mating of a White Leghorn female and a Black Australorp male. Or maybe they were a mating the opposite way???? White Leghorn male and a Black Australorp hen???
      I am not sure what I will get from mating an Austra White with an Austra White.
     The hens in front of the rooster and at the very front/bottom of the photo are the yellow-legged hens.  The rooster is from the first batch of chicks.

The two white hens in this photo are Austra Whites from the first batch.  The grey hen is one of my 'heritage' greys.

Black Australorp-- 1/10

Final Report on Black Australorp-- January 2010:
   I have enjoyed the Black Australorp hens!  I have 5 and plan to keep them with the Austra White flock/rooster.  They were very placid... more extreme than calm, so placid seems more appropriate.  They didn't do anything cute or clever, but neither did they do anything bad.  They seemed to stay close to the coop, but seemed to stay out later in the evening... they seemed to like the dark!  I thought I would lose some of them to predators, but didn't... even The Fox didn't get a single one of these!
   They sized up quickly, but matured slowly.  Our neighbor had Black Australorps also, and had two roosters in her bunch.  They were very, very difficult to tell which was pullets and which was roosters!  We had to go by the starting spurs and the longer feathers at the base of the tail.  This would be a negative thing, if I had many of these to sort and butcher.  I didn't have any roosters, so cannot say what they butchered like.  The neighbor's BAs appeared to butcher out similar to the size and shape of my old 'heritage' greys. (She had one of my grey roosters of approx. the same age.)
    They began to lay at 3 1/2 to 4 months of age, and have laid very, very well since.  In late November, I turned a light on in the coop, as I wanted to see which breed was laying which eggs, and how many they would lay under optimal conditions.  The Black Australorps had been laying several months, and so of course, two decided to set!  I eventually convinced them to stop, and am hoping they have the same idea when it is Spring!  I think they would make great setting hens and very good mamas.
    I do not plan on keeping a seperate flock of Black Australorps, or very many hens, but I will see how they set and hatch... and what they produce/add to the Austra White line.  The Austra White is actually a cross between a White Leghorn hen and a Black Australorp rooster, so I don't think knwo what I would get with a cross between the Black Australorp hens and the Austra White rooster... but the eggs from the AW hens and the BA hens will be obviously different, and I can sort out the BA eggs  when setting a hen or incubator.

Brown Leghorn -- 1/10

Final Report on Brown Leghorn -- January 2010:
     I sold the first 5 Brown Leghorn as they were rose-comb, and butchered the rose-comb rooster.  I kept 5 of the single comb Brown Leghorn pullets.  They were very strong as chicks, and fit comfortably in the coop with the others.  At one time, I had 98 chicks/chickens in the big coop, and that means everyone must get along!  Even being turned out during the day, too many in the coop is a situation that brings out even tiny tendencies toward aggressiveness!  But the Brown Leghorn pullets 'played well with others'.
     When The Fox came to visit, I lost four of the Brown Leghorns.  The only one remaining was the darkest colored one, as well as the only one with an over-grown comb.  But her attitude, body shape, and laying abilities are okay, so I will put her with my grey rooster, as planned.  (Remember, the original intention of having Brown Leghorn pullets was to see if they produced hens similar to my old brown favorite.)
    They butchered fine, wide and deep, with ample meat at an early age.  They began to lay at 4 months, and have layed very reliably... this one hen has layed 5 eggs in the last 7 days.  She is off the roost and eating early, even in the cold temperatures.
    She is at the far left, in the very front, in the photo included in the Summary of 2009 post.

Blue Andalusian -- 1/10

Final Report on Blue Andalusian -- January 2010:
   The Blue Andalusian chicks were lively and very brave:  they would wander away from the hen with the attitude that they were safe from the World.    I lost three chicks at two months of age, and I think they just wandered far enough away from the hen and the coop, they could not find their way back.  They were not friendly, but were calm and alert.  In September, when I moved them to the big coop, they became very, very spooky.  For nearly two months, they would hit the walls and fly around every time I entered the coop and/or poured grain in the pans!  None of the other chickens were concerned a bit, but the Blue Andalusians were very easily spooked.
    I intended to keep a good blue rooster, and several blue pullets, as well as one of each of the other colors:  splash and black, so that I could compare their growth, body shape, and attitude to 'my old' heritage speckled, greys, and black  hens.  I chose two other roosters, one black and one blue, as well as two splash pullets, and two blue pullets... and offered them free to any 4-H member who would use them for a 'blue color heridity' project.  After two months, with noone interested, I butchered all but 9 pullets and the best blue rooster.
   These were not good chickens for butchering!  I am used to butchering egg-laying breeds of chickens, but these Blue Andalusians were VERY, very lean... I mean long legged, and very thinly muscled.  They butchered out to look much like a wild pheasant.  Their meat was soft and dark when raw, and seemed lacking in flavor when cooked.  At three to four months of age, they were still very small and slight.
    In December, the Blue Andalusians calmed down and became very nice.  They were happy to see me and began to gain weight.  About half of the pullets nearly doubled in size since October!  They were still not a 'broad, meat-type', but they got some wider and taller.  I am not sure if it may have been mostly feathers... as the Black Australorp look much larger than they actually butcher, because of having so many feathers.  Maybe the Blue Andalusians gained more weight as well as more feathers.  They did take our minus 30 temps well.
    They began laying later than the other chickens.  They were nearly 6 months old before they began to lay.  The last Blue Andalusian pullet to lay was 7 months of age.
     When I began my planning for 2010, I decided to give the Blue Andalusians away.  I can always buy more chicks.  But, I am sure my mom's old greys were not Blue Andalusian, comparing bone shapes, and body stance and head shape.  I was disappointed in the Blue Andalusians, and must give them a Negative Rating.
     They were beauties though!  Here are photos taken in November... they were very clean, smooth, and seemed to 'pose' for the camera!

Phoenix -- 1/10

Final Report on Phoenix, both Golden and Silver -- January 2010:
     In September of 2009, I had two Golden Phoenix pullets and one cockerel.  I had a pair of Silver Phoenix. The Silver Phoenix pair were very sweet, beautiful coloring and the Silver Phoenix pullet was a 'darling'... she looked like she belonged in a silver cage in a royal castle!
     The young chickens that had been in the 'box' coop under the tree had been roosting in the tree instead of going in the coop, so I had begun packing them, each night, into the barn to roost.  By September, about half of them were going in the barn by them selves, and I would pack the stubborn ones still roosting in the tree!  We had no sign of predators, and the chickens were safe from most of them so long a they stayed in the tree.  SO... one night, coming home late from a shopping trip to town, I decided to leave the six chickens in the tree for 'this one night'.  Yes, you guessed it:  the next morning, The Silver Phoenix pullet was gone.  It looked to me, that an owl came by.  Our yard light is about 40 feed from the coop and tree, and I thought they were safe enough.  I know nothing is safe unless it is locked in a coop... but I was taking a chance ... and I guess I paid the price.  :(
     I kept the Silver Phoenix rooster and he was really a beautiful bird.  He is in the background of the 'group photo' I will add to the 2009 Summary post.  The Golden Phoenix rooster was a 'wimp'... he had some really bad 'faults' if you looked at him using the breed 'standard'.... and using a 'practical' view, he had all bad faults ... as far as looks, actions, and attitude.  He was small, cowardly, acted and looked like a hen, and was horribly colored.  So I butchered him, and decided to keep a 'mixed Phoenix' bunch, just to test their laying and attitude.  I went into fall 2009, with two Golden Phoenix pullets, and the Silver Phoenix rooster.
     In December, the Silver Phoenix rooster was one of the casualties of The Fox.
     Below is a photo of one Golden Phoenix pullet on November 2009:  Behind her is a Blue Andalusian pullet... the Phoenix is about 2/3 the body size of the young Blue Andalusian.  I butchered the 'wimpy' Golden Phoenix rooster... he was smaller than the other breeds, and although he was a month older than the Blue Andalusians, he produced a better fryer.
     The Phoenix layed early and very often.  I had two Phoenix pullets and gathered four eggs every three days.  The eggs were small but not tiny.  The Phoenix were very calm and fit in well with the other chickens in the coop.  They seemed to take the cold well:  we had temps in the minus 30's and they did very well.
     As I began making plans for incubation and hatching in 2010, I decided to give away the two Phoenix pullets. 
    I WILL TRY THE SILVER PHOENIX AGAIN!!!  I liked their attitude and their appearance.