Well, I’m home, and my incubator is full. I really can’t wait to start walking you through this incubation, but before that, I want to share some things I learned on my trip to Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch
Mr. Reese was so nice to take time to talk to a relative newbie about breeding these Barred Rocks and even how to cook the extra roosters! I was so enthralled listening that I forgot to take pictures and even to jot notes (real smart for a blogger, huh?). But I think I remembered most of what he had to tell me. Here are some of the things he shared.
- “Go buy an old black and white copy of the APA Standards of Perfection and just keep looking at those pictures then look at your birds. That’s how you will learn what you’re looking for.”
I’d looked at the Standards book on the APA website before but couldn’t see spending $60 bucks for one. I thought “surely I can find this information on the internet”. Mr. Reese told me I didn’t need the new $60 color book. I just need to find the old black and white version and he thought I could find one for about $10. I looked online and wasn’t able to find a print copy, but I did find a copy on the Barnes & Noble Nook bookstore for FREE! Click here to get it.
- “A good Barred Rock looks like a box on legs”
He explained that this meant it should have a deep breast, a long flat back and legs near center.
When I got back to the truck, I drew this in my notebook:
Because it reminded me of this:
But in reality it looks like this:
- “You want a rooster with a good head”
My next question was “huh?” LOL
A good head is a wide masculine head with a medium comb. Hens should have a wide head also.
- “Barring is important, but you don’t eat the feathers”
Look for fine, even barring. Equal black and white bars. Perfect straight rings are the ideal
Next I asked about culling the extra roosters, since I know I don’t have room here to keep them all. His advice was that I look at the roosters at 16-18 weeks. If roosters are crowing or have big combs they are maturing too fast. Slower maturing birds will grow larger. His breeding roosters are about 9 1/2 pounds! If you cull the ones that are maturing too fast now, they will probably dress out about 3 pounds and be young and tender enough for frying. Keep at least 2 roosters. The roosters you keep should take 36+ weeks (up to even nearly a year) to fully mature.
I told him Nanny’s old story about her mama who could hear that the preacher was headed up the hill to visit, grab a rooster and have it in the pan by the time he knocked on the door. That led to a discussion about how cooking heritage birds is different from cooking the chicken you buy at your local grocery store. He said when you are going to cook one of these Barred Rocks you should think 2 hours, not 20 minutes. If you are frying young roosters, you should bread them, put them in the hot oil to brown a bit. Then turn it way down, put on a lid and walk away for an hour or two. When the meat is falling off the bones, it’s ready. Roast or stew older birds. Low and slow is the key.
We had such a good time and learned so much during our short visit with Mr. Reese. I can’t wait to see how many chicks I get from this hatch! I’ll be posting again soon a step by step guide to hatching your own eggs. Bye for now. I have to go turn some eggs!