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!