Why should you consider the Australorp for your backyard chicken flock?
Tolerate heat well – they were developed in Australia in the late 1800s.
High egg production – in 1922-23 a team of six Australorp hens set a world record of 1857 eggs at an average of 309.5 eggs per hen for a 365 consecutive day trial (from wikipedia). Australorps also hold the world record for egg production. In trapnest testing, a Australorp hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days.
A trapnest is a nesting box that closes after a hen has entered the laying box. This traps the hen and allows inspection and marking of the egg to a specific hen. If a hen is eating eggs, a trapnest allows the farmer to know which hen is eating the egg, as the hen will be trapped in the laying box with the egg.
Heritage Chicken – This is something that we need to pay attention to, or at least take into consideration.
According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the definition of a heritage chicken is as follows:
APA Standard Breed – Breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) prior to the mid-20th century.
Naturally mating – let nature takes it course.
Long, productive outdoor lifespan
Slow growth rate – You may be asking “why do you want your chickens to grow slow?” Chickens that are bred for meat production put on weight faster then their legs can keep up. As a result, certain breeds of meat chickens may become lame and not able to walk. Certain breeds of meat chickens do not tolerate heat well. The chicks have to be bought in early spring and butchered before the summer heat kicks in.
The slow growth rate is for the chickens growth to match the rate the legs, bones and muscles to develop.
Friendly – Australorps are friendly and are easy to handle.
A couple of days ago two of my hens escaped from the run, one was an Australorp, the other was a Barred Rock. My daughter tried to catch the hens to put them back in the run. The Australorp hen let my daughter pick her up and put her back in the coop, while the Bared Rock ran away.
When the Australorps are in the laying boxes I can get close to them and they never make a sound. Rhode Island Red on the other hand, I got too close to one while she was in the nest and she took a chuck of meat out of my hand. This was not a little love tap, this was a “get the hell away from me” peck. The Rhode Island Reds make a raptor sound as a warning to stay away while she is laying her egg. My Australorp has never made such a sound.
Quiet – Out of all of my hens, the Silver Laced Wyandotte and the Australorp have to be most quiet hens in the flock.
Sometimes the Rhode Island Reds and the Barred Rocks get upset about something. When they get upset, they make a lot of noise.
Being quiet may not always be a good thing. A couple of months ago a chicken snake was hanging around the chicken yard. When one of the Rhode Island Reds saw the snake, the hen got in the chicken coop and started making a lot of noise. This makes me wonder if the Rhode Island Red have a stronger survival instinct than the Australorp? After my wife and I get moved to the homestead I will be able to see which breeds have a better survival instinct.
To someone living in an urban setting, warning about predators may not be a big issue. How many bobcats and coyotes are going to be in the middle of a city? And most people living in the city probably have a fenced in backyard.
Broody – Broody is when the mothering instinct kicks in. The hen lays a clutch of eggs, sits on them until they hatch, then she takes care of the chicks.
If you want a self-sustaining chicken flock, broodiness is essential.
Some breeds have had broodiness bred out of them, as sitting on a nest slows down egg production. If all you want is egg production, then you do not want your hens sitting on a nest.
When this article was written my Australorps are 11 months old. During the past 11 months they have not gone broody a single time, but then again I do not have a rooster. When my wife and I get moved to the homestead we will be getting a rooster. After we get a rooster I will be able to tell just how broody my Australorps are.
Foraging – During a complete collapse of society / post SHTF / TEOTWAWKI, a chickens foraging skills will be essential to its, and your survival. When commercial feed is not available, chickens will have to find their own food.
This video shows a Barred Rock, Speckled Sussex and Rhode Island Red foraging in a tree line.
From my experience with my Australorps, they are just as good at foraging as my Barred Rocks, Speckled Sussex and Rhode Island Red. I think the Speckled Sussex is a little better at foraging then the other breeds, but just slightly. When the hens are let out of the run, the Speckled Sussex focuses on foraging and finding something to eat. The other hens seem to be a little less intense then the Speckled Sussex.
Why do I recommend the Australorp?
What more could you want for a homestead or backyard chicken flock?
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