It is amazing how fast chicks grow. In 1 month they went from being totally helpless, to foraging for food. With every passing day the chicks move further away from the chicken house.
The more I watch chickens, the more I understand why the species has been so successful, and why humans have grown dependent on them. While cats, dogs, humans,,, are still dependent on their parents at one month old, chickens are pretty much independent. At 4 – 6 weeks old chicks need protection from full grown chickens and predators, but they do pretty well at foraging and looking for food.
The colors of each breed are becoming more defined. The Barred Rocks are getting their distinctive white specs, Rhode Island Reds are getting a deeper colors red, Australorps are still black as they should be and the Buff Orpingtons are turning a bright yellow gold color.
At around 4 weeks old the chicks have shed their soft birth feathers and have got their real feathers in. Some of the chicks have bald spots from shedding (molting) one set of feathers and getting another set in.
Best Four Chicken Breeds
Now that we have talked about how the chicks have changed over the past 4 – 6 weeks, let’s talk about why my wife and I picked these 4 breeds of chickens.
When my wife and I started out chicken flock in February – March of 2012 we bought a mix-match of various breeds. We got Black Jersey Giants, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Australorps and a Speckled Sussex. All of those are good breeds of chickens. But when my wife and I decided to get more hens we wanted to focus on certain breeds rather than a mix-match.
The Australorp is a dual purpose chicken. During its development in the 1890s and early 1900s certain breeds were picked for exact traits, such as egg laying. The breed is docile, excellent egg layer, handles summer heat well, cold hardy and does well with confinement.
Between 1922 – 1923 a team of six Australorp hens set a world record by laying 1,857 eggs in 365 days. Which equals 309.5 eggs per hen. The egg laying capability of the Australorp is one of the main reasons why I picked it for my chicken flock.
With hens weighing 7 – 8 pounds and roosters weighing anywhere from 8 – 10 pounds, the Australorp makes a good meat chicken as well. Through the Australorp may not be as large as other breeds, the egg production offsets its slightly smaller size.
The Barred Rock, also called the Plymouth Rock is a good quality dual purpose utility chicken. Developed in the mid-1800s the Barred Rock has remained popular because the breed is cold and heat hardy, makes a good meat chicken and is a good layer.
Besides rarely going broody, the Barred Rock has one bad trait. The Barred Rock deals well with confinement if it is never let out of the run or chicken yard. Once the Barred Rock gets a taste of free range, it will never want to be confined again.
This is not a breed to let out for free range from time to time. Once it is let out to free range and forage, it will look for a way out of the chicken yard or run from then on out.
When my Barred Rocks are free ranging I have seen them travel over 100 yards away from the chicken house. This is the type of chicken you can let free range and they will not be on your backdoor begging for food. I say that, but when the backdoor of my house is left open, my Barred Rocks go into the house and start eating the cat food. They know where the food is and are not afraid to go get it.
The Buff Orpington yet another good dual purpose chicken breed. The Orpington lays around 175 – 200 eggs a year, which is considerably less than the Australorp. But the Buff Australorp makes up for its mediocre egg production with other desirable traits. The Buff Orpington hen may weigh around 7 – 9 pounds, the rooster may weigh upwards to 9 – 10 pounds, has a reputation of going broody and making a good mother.
My wife wanted Buff Orpingtons in our chicken flock and I fully agreed with her.
If you are going to have a chicken flock for SHTF, you need at least one breed of chicken that will go broody, sit on eggs and will be a good mother. Without reproduction your chicken flock will slowly die off. Buff Orpingtons ensure new chicks will be born and cared for. After the Buff Orpington pass their laying and parenting years they make a good meat chicken.
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is an all American favorite chicken breed. While it was developed for egg production as well as a meat bird, the Rhode Island Red a little on the small side when compared to other breeds. It makes up for its size with hardiness and egg production.
A lot like the Barred Rock the Rhode Island Red deals well with confinement as long as it is not allowed to free range and forage. Once the Rhode Island Red taste freedom, it does not want to be confined. It deals with confinement better than the Barred Rock, but when given the choice the RR would rather be out foraging than stuck in a run or chicken yard.
This is the type of chicken breed that can be let out of the chicken house to forage all day long, and it will be happy.
One drawback to letting the Rhode Island Red free range is that it will start laying outside the chicken house. The hen will find a covered place, such as under some bushes or in a shed and will make a nest there. But then again, it seems all of my hens will start laying outside the chicken house. So far I have 2 clutches of eggs outside the chicken house. The only hen I saw leaving one of the clutches was a Rhode Island Red.
For comparison with the first video here is one from when my wife and I first got the new chicks. They sure have grown in the past month.