Joel and I have been on the farm five years, and we have practically had chickens for the entire time we’ve been here. Over the first few years we tried Delawares, Buckeyes, Speckled Sussex, New Hampshire Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, Seabrights, Silkies, Cochins, Black Jersey Giants, Dominiques and Chanteclers. We liked different things about different breeds but the breed we were drawn back to time and again was the Delawares.
Using the check lists established by The Livestock Conservatory ( http://www.livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/chicken-manual) we selected our Delawares over the past years for meat and egg laying qualities. Over time we decided to keep only Delawares and Silkies.
Two months ago a fox visited the farm in the middle of the day and brazenly killed almost our entire flock. It was heartbreaking to lose all the work we had put into the breeding a line of Delawares to be effective meat and egg producers as well as profoundly upsetting to lose so many gentle friends in a single day.
Since then Joel and I have been trying to decide how to move forward. Re-establishing our line would be difficult if not impossible. Buying new chicks was a possibility but quality of chicks can vary so we might not get the greatest specimens. Buying older birds from other farms was a possibility but bio-security is an issue.
After mulling it over for a while we decided to go in a somewhat different direction. When we had initially started raising chickens we were incubating chicks each spring. We enjoyed this, but it never came together or was as lucrative as we may have hoped. In part, this was due to our inability to sex chicks at hatch like the big hatcheries do. Sexing chicks is difficult and employees that work for the hatchery sexing chicks are trained to do so. Many farmers wanted only pullets (young females), and did not want to deal with the hassle of using excess males for meat production.
Although we loved our Delawares, and we still believe the breed is a great one we placed an order for the following birds which arrived this morning three weeks ago and are being cared for by our silkie, Michelle. Michelle went broody a few weeks before the chicks came in the mail. We put ping pong balls under her so she would keep sitting. The chicks came early in the morning and we snuck them under her. She immediately started making happy mother hen noises.
6 Barred Rock pullets
6 Cuckoo Maran pullets
6 White Rock pullets
14 Delaware straight run
10 New Hampshire Red cockerels
10 Buckeye cockerels
Red cocks can be mated to white hens and the offspring are white if they are male and brown if they are female. Red cocks can also be bred to barred females and the offspring can be told apart by spotting on their head. Being able to tell which chickens are female and which are male from the get go will be helpful.
We also had a Delaware go broody so we ordered some silkies and Naked Necks for her. The Naked Necks are supposedly good dual purpose birds although I find them a little bit ugly. Joel says they will grow on me and they probably will.
And now you know why they are called NAKED NECK.