Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Australorp x leghorns

Ah, nice birds! I'm enjoying them a lot.
They were bred from what appear to be a pile coloured leghorn put with a straight utility australorp.
(Don't confuse 'australorp' with the beetle-sheeny fluffy round-bummed things that win at shows; those birds don't fit the 'utility' bill.)
I've got them in a tractor, and they're not flighty, they're maturing incredibly well (super fast, already developing combs at 13 weeks, should be laying by 19 or 20), and they're just plain wonderful in every way. (NB: The snapshot above was taken at 5 weeks of age. Look how well feathered they were!)
I'm enjoying having them around. They come to the door when I arrive, and take feed from my hand. Lovely creatures!
But of course, like all my birds, you'll probably see them and think: 'Ugh.. That's so drab.'
And they are, drab as pumpkins. Drab as moths.
Fantastic utility drabsters! Besides, they have the loveliest temperaments. You should have seen them mothering some smaller black crossbreds in the brooder, when the leghorn crosses were no more than a week old themselves.
I think they're the perfect backyard bird.

Noooo! A silly mistake: I just accidentally sold my favourite one of these crosses. It can be hard to stick to what's advertised for sale when visitors want something different. At least the birds went to a fabulous home.


Anonymous said...

I love your blog. So much good information thats hard to find. I want to develop a sustainable flock and these are my goals.
1. Good layers
2. Good broody mothers
3. Decent meat birds.
I have ordered some Buff Orphingtons and they are set to arrive in a few weeks, but I have been trying to find more information about crosses. What do you suggest? Where is a good source of information for further research?

Erica Bandanna said...

Hi there, and thanks for the comment!

Unfortunately I haven't found a lot of detailed good info about crossbreeding, except where people want to make sex-linked chicks (or create a colour or recreate a breed).

Having said that, there's fairly good information about Indian game (usually bantam for quicker growth) x layer or malay game x leghorn as dual purpose birds. I've never kept Indians, but Malay leghorns are very active and strong birds with good broodiness-to-laying ratio. The males (if fed properly) make useful table birds at 16 weeks, with great flavour, but I feel they may be a little light compared to crosses with Indian game. Typical dispatch age is 16 weeks but I imagine they could go earlier if on a high protein diet. Mine at 16 weeks were a little light but they weren't getting enough protein (in retrospect).

The australorp x leghorns have been terrific layers, but they're not exactly table birds. Best table birds are where the cockerels can be dispatched before they really take up crowing and jumping hens (after that they tend to get tough quickly). This is why crossbreds are better, because the lack of inbreeding depression (commonly known as 'hybrid vigour') makes them grow quicker and larger than purebreds so they can be dispatched earlier. However the leghorn x australorps I've had were probably crosses between two utility (layer) strains, so I doubt the males would have been particularly useful at the appropriate age.

I don't know if this is helping you at all... Hope I'm not just rambling! :-) FYI Indian game x light sussex was the original (English) commercial meat bird. The sussex were stronger layers than they tend to be now, and the Indian game were a little leggier and jauntier so they had more reach and agility. Unfortunately some of the usefulness of both breeds have been lost.

But if you could find Indian xbreeds where that first crossing has been done for you, that would be great (especially if the cross was a good layer). Simply keep the most useful examples and table the culls.

Leghorns were the commercial dual purpose bird of choice because the females laid well but the males were still acceptable on the table. (We probably have different ideas of 'acceptable' today.) A show-bred leghorn wouldn't be a bad start, even without outcrossing, because they've kept some of their utility.

But you might find your orpingtons are decent dual purpose birds. Unfortunately in this neck of the woods, they seem to have lost much of their utility and are a little slow to mature. But where you are, there might be a stronger practical emphasis in the breeding. They're a kind natured bird, strongly broody prone, and are certainly very beautiful!

best regards

ludwigonzaga said...

Hi...congratulations for ur blog.I live at brazilian southeast coast, and are begining a small chiken raising; and began it just with 2 breeds: white leghorn and Polish chickens. Now my question: would like to know what that interbreeding could result...Could you, please, give me some support? Would enjoy it a lot, before some disaster could occur...
Thank you very much.

Erica Bandanna said...

Hi ludwig, and thanks for your comment.
Leghorns are a great utility bird, if that's what you're into. For looks of course Polish are amazing. I'm not sure they can add much in the way of production, but you would know the birds better than me. Let us know how you go, if you do this cross! For me though, I'd worry that the extra head-gear will make it harder for the birds to survive under natural conditions. Do they sit on eggs? If so, you could always use them to introduce broodiness (though I've got a general idea Polish don't sit)... Sorry I'm a bit ill-informed about the breed; I'd love to hear what the traits of Polish are that you want to keep. And Polish in Brazil might be a much better bird than local Polish in Australia (which are purely for show). :-)
Good luck in any case,

ludwigonzaga said...

Thanks for the answer; I'll let you know...but it will take a lil time.
I have really in mind get some show-birds...
ludwig :-)