Chickens / Management

Which Rooster?

This year, I hatched three batches of chicks.  In early April, I incubated Basque Hens, Brown Leghorns, B/B/S Marans, and Dutch Bantams in addition to a number of mixes from my flock.  I sold the Marans and mixes, and no Dutch Bantams hatched.  I kept only the Basque Hen chicks and a Leghorn pullet as a layer.  A few weeks later, I was hatching German line New Hampshires.  Finally, I hatched out another batch of Basque Hens from a friend’s flock in June.

In total, I have grown out eleven cockerels this year.  One is an Australorp which I do not plan to breed, so he will be leaving pretty soon.  I had four recessive white Basque Hen cockerels.  I don’t want to encourage recessive white in my flock, so they are out, too.  One Basque cockerel had a beard, so I figured he was an accidental cross.  That leaves three Basque cockerels and two German New Hampshires.  I want to keep two males in case something happens to one, and it would be nice to potentially be able to propagate both breeds.  Therefore, I selected one of each.

Here were my German New Hampshire cockerels at 18 weeks old.  The boy on the left (in both top and bottom shots) had stronger coloring: His red was brighter, his tail was blacker, and his legs were a vibrant bright yellow.  He also had thicker legs, a trait I wish I could have kept him for.  However, the boy on the right had longer legs, longer thighs, a broader back from shoulders to saddle, a wider space between his legs, and a more open and widely-spread tail.  He was about an inch taller overall at this age, and I chose him because I think he will make females with more room in their abdomen for egg laying.  His larger frame may also support more meat.

I’m loosely following the method described in “Call of the Hen,” trying to breed first for egg production characteristics and secondly for meat.  For me, that means I am looking for open, wide hips and deep abdomens.  You can read about breeding for production type here.  The American Poultry Association Standards of Perfection describes specific types for specific breeds more in-depth.  I do have the SOP, but these are the primary reasons for my selection.

Here he is about three weeks ago, on the run!  I need some more current pictures, but you can see the length in his legs here.  He is filling out to be huge and looks like he will be as big as my Speckled Sussex rooster was!

Just grabbed another shot of him.  Here he is today:

I also need to select a Basque Hen cockerel and had three real choices.  Although he is too dark, I do like the shape on this Basque Hen cockerel.  He’s a half-sibling (at least) to the two pullets I am keeping from the younger group, so he’ll be finding a new home.  I need to opt for greater genetic diversity in the flock.

This second Basque Hen cockerel is from the older group of Basques and not so closely related to my younger pullets.  He had nice, bright yellow legs and a long, flowing tail (not really typical of the breed, but pretty).  However, he was very dark and narrowed noticeably towards his rear.

This is the Basque Hen cockerel I kept at the same age as the fellow in the previous picture.  He had a shorter tail, but lighter coloring and similarly bright yellow legs.  Interestingly, he was the smallest of the males as a young chick (2-6 weeks or so) but caught up around the 10-week mark and had better width in the back.  Here’s a shot of his back:

His comb is imperfect in that the points are not evenly distributed, but he does not have any side sprigs which is a common problem in the American Basques.

All in all, I am pretty satisfied with him although I expect that I will select a replacement from the next generation, hopefully with better overall coloring.  He is pretty good with the hens, but he doesn’t really dazzle me (or them!) with his poor attempts at dancing and his failing to call the girls over for treats.  He’s young, though, and he may still develop these desirable behaviors.  His tail has grown out to be pretty fancy.  Maybe his manners will improve as well!

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27 thoughts on “Which Rooster?

  1. They are all gorgeous birds. I can see your dilemma in choosing. If you hatach any black marans please let me know.

  2. Hello,

    I am thouroughly enjoying your blog. Though I have had chickens since I was 14 years old, I just recently decided to breed. I can’t tell you how much good information you have on your blog! In this day & age, it seems hard to find a “quality” blog with “quality” info about the things I am interested in concerning chicken husbandry…lol…but, I am finicky, of course…(wink). So, Thank you so much for writting about things that entertain my brain! And your chickens are beautiful…even the “bye byes”…which is what I call my non keepers (I have youg kids…lol).

    Your new BIGGEST fan

    • Your kind words literally made my day. Thank you! I really enjoy blogging because I love writing, researching little topics for fun, and hearing from others. It makes me feel really good to know that someone is getting something useful out of it. The “bye byes” is an adorable term! I like that is is friendly and sweet but makes clear that these are not birds to get attached to. 🙂 Thanks again, Kelley!


    • That’s a shame. It’s funny – During WWII, the government would print posters encouraging self-sufficiency like, “Uncle Sam wants you to keep chickens!” and recommending 2 hens per person in the household. Today, the attitude is the opposite, but more and more cities are changing their laws in respond to citizens’ interest and demand. Hopefully, the law in your city will change in the coming years!

    • I feel lucky as well. It’s amazing to say, “Hmm, I think I’ll incubate this one!” and a month later, you have an active, beautiful chick! Were you using an incubator or a broody hen? If you have difficulty with artificial incubation, I’d recommend trying a broody. It is so much less work from beginning to end, and a broody will always beat an incubator in hatch rate. Plus, it make a broody so happy. 🙂

  3. Such beautiful birds! We’ve had chickens only a few months and my daughter is begging me to let them ‘have babies.’ Not yet! I think we may have too many too begin with! I”ll definitely be checking out your blog for more information!

    • That’s great! I hope you are enjoying them. Spring is the best time for babies. If one of your hens goes broody in Feb.-May, that is a great time to let her sit on a few eggs. Hens usually have a good hatch rate, so letting her sit on just 3 or 4 will allow your daughter to get her fill of cute chicks and leave you with only one or two cockerels to rehome. Thank you for reading!

  4. what beautiful chickens. we just got 2 easter eggers to balance our 3 other hens who are not laying as much anymore. They are fitting in slowly but surely.

    • It takes time, but it sounds like you have a good ratio. Neither group is too outnumbered. I have a few Easter Eggers, too, and I enjoy their egg colors. They’ll be a good addition to your flock!

    • Your flock is absolutely gorgeous! I am thrilled to have a few of your grandchicks. I tried to select as well as I could with the few that I hatched, but anyone who wants to see them at their best should find pictures of your flock. I hope to do half so well with them as you have. Thanks, Kathy!

  5. I had to ‘dispatch’ 5 1-year-old roos of different breeds this spring. It was an awful loss as each one had great attributes and 3 had awesome coloring… just that they were ‘gift eggs’ to hatch and of unknown and mixed breeds (until they grew up). nly one was big enough to eat -but we didn’t. I still mourn their loss of life, no matter how practical the reason or humane the actual deed. In this neck of the woods you can’t even give them away… so no more home grown- hatchery/feed-store-sexed only! I currently have 2 roos for 18 hens, 5 of which are too old to lay at all, but I have no idea of exactly which ones, lol!

  6. hi there, how long was there in between the new hampshire cockerel growth in the first photo and in the last photo of him? thanks I have one that looks the same shape as yours and I am wondering what sort of time I could be waiting for him to mature. 🙂

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