We're still here, it wasn't our turn yet..I never thought I would believe that a chicken was better off in an indoor rearing unit than as a free range bird, but this breed is. When I collected the chicks, I visited the unit. It was a high-tech chicken palace. I've had apartments in college that weren't as nice.
The temperature and humidity are regulated by computer and it was pleasant, not too hot or stuffy. There are skylights to let natural light filter in. Food and water is ad lib, measured out by computer so drinkers never ran dry, and bigger birds didn't push smaller ones off the feed. The shavings on the floor were spotlessly clean and dry. The chicks weren't cramped, and as they grew half were taken away to double the floorspace and accommodate the remaining birds. In fact it was the perfect environment for a lazy, quiet, fast-growing chicken with no desire to range about exploring.
Forcing a healthy outdoor lifestyle on this bird was a mistake. One had a heart attack. Most of the others we killed had corns, or bumble foot, from carrying its own weight. One had feathers missing from the back of its neck where it looks like a buzzard attempted to harvest it first, but was defeated by the size of its potential meal. The meat chicken was too big to have taken any evasive manoeuvres, if it even noticed it was being attacked.
They didn't show any curiosity in kitchen scraps, so they only ate pellets which is less efficient economically speaking. When I drove them back into their hen house at night, they needed a rest stop to complete the whole 5 foot trip.
Even if the end result is exceptionally tasty, I think we're putting this breed in the 'no' pile as a future table bird for Milkweed Farm.
I put 20 buff orpington eggs (and some hybrids) in the incubator as our next test case, but the fertility has been poor - only 25%. We used our neighbor's stock and he has a new cockerel. We will see if we can figure out what's gone wrong and try to set another batch.
The wild birds in the hedgerows are having a bumper year of chicks. I have to re-home a fledgling on a near daily basis that's fallen out of its nest onto the road. Usually it's easy to find the nest and tuck the chick back in to it. I found a swallow fledgling on its back in the road, exhausted from whatever endeavours a swallow gets up to. I put it in an empty hen house overnight and it recovered enough to take flight when put back in a tree. Success!