Roots 'n' Shoots: SISTAS IN DA COOP!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

SISTAS IN DA COOP!

So we have finally gotten chickens! I thought over it for some time, then researched chicken keeping to death and we decided that it was economical J and a good idea to get chix for fresh eggs – the eggs we buy (free range, organic and all that) you can’t beat stiff! No matter which trick or additive you try, it ain’t happening!

This is not one of my ‘full’ profiles, since we only have had the chix for two weeks and I am waiting for the mother-of-all chicken keeping books to arrive J.

So during my quest for chickens, many local sites suggested that if you’d like to keep chickens, try and do so with indigenous ones. I did not even know you get chickens indigenous to Southern Africa! J It is hard to find information on these and most of the information is usually cut and pasted (sometimes directly) from two main resources namely ‘South African Country Report On Farm Animal Genetic Resources, Department of Agriculture (South Africa)’ and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of SA. So I will provide a combined summary (with no plagiarising J) from both sources. Anyways, the main indigenous and possibly endemic (endemic = only found in certain local areas, like “Fynbos” biome only found in SA) breeds are the Ovambo, Potchefstroom Koekoek, Naked Neck (probably not endemic), Matabele, Venda and Boschveld.

Ovambo

The Ovambo is originally from Namibia and Ovamboland (Northern Namibia). Ovamboes are generally small sized, black chickens with additional streaks of white and/or orange. The colours and small size of the chicken helps it to avoid predators, especially from large birds of prey. They are quite robust chickens and are known for agile hunting of small rats and mice. Their roosting behaviour is similar to Guinea Fowl, where they roost in trees at night to avoid predators (small wild cats, foxes…). They are known for their hardiness and ability to withstand harsh conditions (heat, drought, food shortage – typical Southern African problems).

Ovambo Chickens
Photos: ARC: Indigenous poultry breeds of SA


Averages
Weight at 16 weeks (kg)
1.32
1.74
Weight at 20 weeks (kg)
1.54
2.32
Sexual Maturity (days)
143
143
Egg weight (g)
52.5
-
Eggs produces (per year)
129 ± 5
-



Potchefstroom Koekoek

The Potchefstroom Koekoek (Pot-chef-stroom Koe-koek, ‘oe’ pronounced ‘ooh’ J, its Afrikaans, my mother tongue J). It was bred in 1960 by Prof. Chris Marais at the Potchefstroom Agricultural College, by crossing the Black Australorp, White Leghorn and Barred Rock chicken breeds. The name ‘Koekoek’ refers to the spotted ‘guinea fowl like’ patterning of the chicken’s feathers. Males and females are sexually dimorphic (physical feature separating males and females of the same species) at a young age. Day-old female chicks are completely black and males are black with a white spot on the head. This clearly makes distinguishing the two for easy separating genders and breeding. The Potchefstroom Koekoek was bred to create a more robust chicken to cope with the South African climate and therefore they are good chickies for both meat (apparently an attractive yellow colour) and egg laying (eggs are large and brown). They are good commercially and for household/backyard chickens.

Potchefstroom Koekoek (Potch Koekoek)
Photos: ARC: Indigenous poultry breeds of SA


Averages
Weight at 16 weeks (kg)
1.4
1.84
Weight at 20 weeks (kg)
1.7
2.4
Sexual Maturity (days)
130
130
Egg weight (g)
55.7
-
Eggs produces (per year)
198 ± 8
-



Naked Neck

So, these originated in Malaysia and was likely distributed to the rest of the world through the Dutch East India Company. They arrived in SA in the 17th century and are popular amongst rural SA farmers, but not commercially. Their patterns vary, but there are two distinguishable ‘nakedness’ for these birds. Homozygotes (carrying both genes for the naked neckness J) or purebred (‘pure’ for a characteristic), have a neck void of feathers. The Heterozygote (carrying one gene for naked neckness) or not purebred, have a few fly feathers on the front of its neck. They do well as meat and egg laying chickens.

Having a naked neck is advantageous to French commercial farmers, because (1) A lot of nutrition/protein is required to produce feathers, thus less feathers = chickens eat less/nutrition redistributed to other areas, (2) they are easier and quicker to pluck for eating and (3) they are apparently more heat tolerant (probably due to increased heat being lost through the naked skin).

Naked Neck
Photos: ARC: Indigenous poultry breeds of SA


Averages
Weight at 16 weeks (kg)
1.1
1.5
Weight at 20 weeks (kg)
1.4
1.95
Sexual Maturity (days)
155
155
Egg weight (g)
55.1
-
Eggs produces (per year)
? ± ?
-



Matabele

They are ‘big and burley’… and that is all I have. Seriously, I can not find more on this chicken, not even a picture. The Matabele (or Ndebele) people are from once Eastern Transvaal or now Mpumalanga province – so that would suggest that the chicken *may* have originated in eastern South Africa and is *probably* a hardy breed such as the Ovambo. Seen as it is ‘big and burley’ it would probably make a good meat chicken.


Venda

Venda chickens are named after the region they originated, the Limpopo province (the northern-most province in SA). These multi-coloured white, black and red chickens were first described by a veterinarian, Dr Naas Coetzee in 1979. Later similar chickens were seen in the Southern Cape and Free State. An interesting characteristic that pops up every now and then, are rose-coloured combs and/or five-toed chickens. The chickens are large and mothers are good brooders. They lay tinted eggs of a decent size and are therefore mainly used for egg production. Apparently more information is being collected about these chickens.

Venda Chickens
Photos: ARC: Indigenous poultry breed of SA

Averages
Weight at 16 weeks (kg)
1.24
1.57
Weight at 20 weeks (kg)
1.4
2.01
Sexual Maturity (days)
143
143
Egg weight (g)
52.7
-
Eggs produces (per year)
? ± ?
-



Boschveld

This is another breed developed in SA. The Boschveld contains contributions from the following indigenous breeds in its genetic pool, which include the Matabele, Ovambo and Venda. Each breed was chosen specifically by Mr. Mike Bosch (a local farmer) to ensure certain characteristics in the Boschveld. He wanted a chicken that is hardy and can withstand the harsh South African climate (Ovambo) and is (I suppose) relatively large (Matabele). The Venda chicken made their contribution by producing hardy hens that are great mothers and egg producers. – Oh! They seem to be ‘dipped’ less for external parasites as well, so they are more pest resistant too! They are good meat and (obviously) egg laying chickens.

Boschveld Chicken
Photos: http://www.boschveld.co.za/Chicken.htm

Averages
Weight at 16 weeks (kg)
?
?
Weight at 20 weeks (kg)
?
?
Sexual Maturity (days)
?
?
Egg weight (g)
?
-
Eggs produces (per year)
240 ± ?
-

What I can say is that hens start to produce eggs as 20 weeks of age.



OK, so that covers indigenous breed – phew! Now to our chix. We read that it is a good idea for backyard chicken keepers to get a good selection of different breeds. So, we have 6 chickens, 2 of each – Boschveld, Koekoek and Australorp.

Now, the Australorp:

Australorps are an Australian breed known for their hardy yet docile behaviour and are good meat/egg laying chickens. So there is a lot of info on these – yay! They have soft feathers, white toenails, black (or rather grayish – we have white Australorps) legs and beak. Chickens come in standard and bantam (small/miniaturised) sizes with a multitude of colours, most recognisable is Blue, Black and White. These have a good egg laying capacity with one hen laying 364 eggs in 365 days!!! They are broody and very instinctual mothers J. They are good chickens for meat and egg laying, and just all-round hardiness, especially to cold.

White Australorps Chicken

Averages
Weight at 16 weeks (kg)
2.5?
2.9?
Weight at 20 weeks (kg)
3.1
3.5
Sexual Maturity (days)
154
154
Egg weight (g)
60
-
Eggs produces (per year)
275 ± 25
-

Point of lay starts at 20-22 weeks.

We aimed to get chickens that were 4-6 weeks of age, as we have cats and do not want to raise one day old chickies in incubators with cats around J. We got three 6-week chickies and three 10 week chickies. The Australorps were R50 and the rest R30 per chicken, fully vaccinated against Newcastle disease.

We managed to build the coop for under R500, re-using a lot of wood and spare parts in the garage. Only new things was the wire and roofing plates. Not the prettiest coop, but definately functional J





Makes for a sturdy cat proof coop!

Conveniently we have a “FarmCity” just 2km from us, so we got all the chicky supplies there: chicken feeder, waterer, mite/tick dust, grow pellets…
Chicken Water Fountain


Chicken Feeder











Here are the sistas in da coop

I have not given them names yet, still deciding...

They believe the camera to be a monster –
hence the nervous and quizzical expressions J


Since we got them at 6 and 10 weeks, we will have to ‘socialise’ them. So I established a feeding routine and sit every now and then in the coop so that they can get comfortable with humans – Cause when I need to dust them for mites or other ‘services’ they should be calm and not flutter about. J

They were mostly fed pellets at the farm we purchased them from, so I even had to get them used to other types of foods (like some squash seeds, banana, carrot leaves). I introduced the new food one item at a time (not mixing of carrots with apples or such J) and mix some pellets in there as well – they quite enjoy their snacks now J.


I will keep you updated on the chix and probably do a full profile in the future!
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9 comments:

  1. Wonderful information and photos!

    Thanks for visiting my fantasy painting!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Shroom, I am a koekoek starter farmer and I would really like to talk to you with regards to the sexing at young age. Most important question: till what age can you tell the dif by the white spot on the head?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I scratched around a bit and found a few more sources on information about sexing chickens at a young age. I found a website and a scientific article - so check out http://www.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/sexing_chicks.html and they have a link to the article on their website: Sexing day-old chicks: A case study and expert systems analysis of a difficult perceptual-learning task (Journal of Experimental Psychology 1987, Volume 13, Number 4, pages 640-645). This is the best information I could find and the website is hosted by the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture.
    It seems that the spot on the head will remain there until the chick 'feathers it out'. So that would be ... 6-8 weeks for the chicks to be completely feathered out and also ready for the outdoors it seems. I am not sure if this applies to the feathers on the head, so maybe 2-4 weeks? I hope this helps :) I have added two more books to my reference section, the Storey guides are really good for chicken keeping all round and for diseases - we had a problem with mycobacterium not to long ago - awful thing, but the chickens we have now are strong and mycobacterium-free :) Good Luck! Btw, where is your farm based?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanx for your info, very interesting :)

    Another question if I may....is it 100% certain that a , lets say, 3 week old koekoek with a white spot on head , is a male?

    Our farm is on the west coast near melkbos

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry for replying to your comment so late, stupid blogger put it under "Spam" only realised that today. - The white spot on the head is a sexually linked characteristic; this implies that the gene responsible for the white spot on the head is carried on the sex chromosome. Sex chromosomes in birds are different to mammals, so females are ZW and males are ZZ. So the gene responsible for the white spot is carried on the Z chromosome, I am not sure about the exact method of expression, but it is possible that both Z chromosomes are needed to get the white spot (else it has something to do with biochemistry, where even if the gene is present on the Z of the female it is not expresses as it requires another male-based characteristic). So I think that it is fairly safe to assume that a white spot on the head = male chick.

    ReplyDelete
  6. hi there, i've just started with my chickens and i have purchased 4 x new hampshire's from a local farmer, he also had australope's (black only) and rhode island reds, however, no point-of-lays and so i did not purchase from him.
    what i'm really wanting to obtain are the same breeds that you already have but i don't know where to get them from - where did you get your stock from and please can you supply me with any contact details.
    many thanks
    sally

    ReplyDelete
  7. We have had quite a large change in our chicken flock. 3 of the chicks above were cocks and we took them back to the original farmer to swap for hens. Sadly all but one of those hens had succumbed to Mycoplasma, due to the farmer's flock being infected by the bacterium. So I would not recommend him to you. We have found several other people who sell chickens (and their flocks are Mycoplasma free).

    You can get Hylines from (another :) ) Sally in Midrand: 0823322358. She has a lovely flock, all of them raised free-range, so they won't be intimidated by the great outdoors. 5 of our 9 hens we got from her and they are a real spunky healthy bunch.

    There is another lady in Strubens Valley, Ellie, I will need to go scratch around for her details. She told us that she won't be keeping chickens anymore, but a friend of ours got some chickens from her just the other day. I will post her details shortly.

    Then I saw a advertisement board that said 'Live Chickens' and a number on the M5 (Beyer's Naude) near Garden World opposite the Valley Road (has a street sign with Hakunamatata hotel). I don't know which type of breeds they have, but that is another option at least :)

    If you are going to get chickens make sure to ask the sellers whether their flocks are Mycoplasma free and that they aren't going to sell you spent battery chickens (we got fooled by one farmer, ended up with no chickens and were very upset for the rest of the day after seeing how they treated the chickens).

    I will get back to you with Ellie's details and good luck with your chicken hunt! :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. The "Live Chickens" in Beyers Naude drive phone: 0828241276

    ReplyDelete

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