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Reconsidering Australorps

We've had a variety of chicken breeds since we started homesteading: Delawares, Welsummers, Ameraucanas, Barred Hollands, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex, and Black Australorps. Our intention was to try out different dual-purpose breeds and eventually choose one as our permanent homestead breed. We wanted to stick with one breed because we raise our own replacements, and we want our replacements to be full breed chickens. Eventually we settled on the Australorps.

The Australorps have been excellent chickens. They provide lots of eggs and the oldest are still laying well in their third year. Besides good production in summer, they give us a small but steady supply of eggs all winter. They are good foragers, have been excellent with the compost, and produce good meat. Our Australorp rooster is an excellent fellow, everything one could want in a good rooster: keenly watchful and protective of his hens, yet respectful of the humans. His only fault is that he dislikes a couple of the youngest hens and is relentless in chasing them away. Other than that, he's perfect.

So why are we reconsidering the Australorps? For one reason and one reason only - hatch rate. Every year we have at least one broody hen, often two or three. The problem? They keep switching nest boxes. They'll set in one box for a week or two and then abandon it. Sometimes for a different nest box, sometimes they just give up being broody.

Last year was our best hatching, with four hens hatching nine chicks. I suspect this success was because all nest boxes were occupied by broody hens and there was no where else to go! The Australorps do make good mothers when they have chicks, it's just getting them to stay put until they hatch them.

We keep a small mixed-age flock, hatching a few new chicks every year to replace the oldest. We have fairly predictable egg production this way. This year, however, we've gotten no chicks but should be replacing our oldest hens. Dan has suggested perhaps we ought to consider a different breed, one that hopefully will be more consistent in brooding.

Some people do well in the hatching department with Australorps, so I can't say this is a breed trait. As with all animals there are breed tendencies, but there are individual tendencies as well. And sometimes those individuals have very different personalities!

Of all the hens we've had the Buff Orpingtons were the best at brooding and chick raising, so they're a consideration. Dan's favorite chicken was a Speckled Sussex named "Sister." At this point, though, I don't know what breed he'll want to go with. I think he's interested in trying a chicken tractor next year, so it looks like I'll have all kinds of upcoming chicken news. Stay tuned.

Reconsidering Australorps © Sept. 2018 by


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