Poultry - Beware of cheap chooks...

Beware the isa brown chooks sold at the market or cheap in the paper. 

Often I see these birds being sold for between $5 & $7 each,  the problem is they are ex layers who are usually about 2 years old  and have spent the last 18 months laying continually . This is achieved artificially by using lights and curtains to trick them into thinking the day length is not getting shorter.

Day length is the natural trigger for these birds to have a rest over winter after their Autumn moult and get ready for spring to commence laying again. In Organics this practice of unatural lighting is not allowed.

But with good design we face open sides of our chook pen to the east so they get max daylight length and it can extend the season by a few weeks ( this applies mainly to our cool climate where chooks would die if more exposed as you can do more north above Sydney)

The result of the unatural extended laying period is the bird is exausted and this can be seen in the feathers looking like a really bad hair day.

While they are able to recover they will never lay like they could have, the Isa brown is just a brand name for the first cross hybrid bird that is produced by the industry as a commercial layer, it is a pretty bird which lays a brown egg,  when we crossed with a red rooster most of the  white feathered offspring seem to be males in my experience. ( they taste good)

 I have a number of reasons not to buy these left overs the first is

1.    It gives an income to a bad animal husbandry practice and I would not like to encourage it or add to its profitability,.

2.    These birds have had their top beaks cut  (or more precise burned off with a hot wire and cauterised) I first witnessed this practice of burning off the beaks of chicks a few weeks old as a 9 year old working in the small chook farm behind our property, the smell of burning beaks on chicks a few weeks old will stay with me forever.

3.    This also makes most birds unable to forage in the garden for bugs (good protein) while they can sctratch them up they cant pick up anything smaller than a chook pellet, it also stops them from picking up small stones to use in the gizzard to grind up the grains (if it can get them in its mouth) all this so we can house thousands together in sheds and reduce their pecking of each other.

4.    The birds that are born from these Isa Browns crossed with a pure bred rooster will maintain good hybrid vigour for laying and meat production.

5. Interestingly the Isa Brown is supposed to hold the record for egg laying at 273 in one year, prior to the increase in chicken fancying after world war I, their were lots of breeds that could lay over 300 eggs per year. how come modern technology cant even now reach what we had naturally before, its such a pity we focused on pretty birds rather then maintaining the traits of production and versatility.

One of the prefered X breeds we have had since around 1990 are the Australorp X New Hampshire this gives a bird with good laying but a docile temperment ( from the Autralorp, I think) we can buy them locally as day old chicks with NO DEBEAKING and grow them on to make a great bird, the subsiqant X breed has been with us ever since using the back up Gold Laced Whyandotte or the Wellsummer roosters to produce heavy carcass roosters to eat and good well mannered & pretty layers.

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