South Arkansas chicken choice

Discussion in 'Beginners Forum' started by mdirks, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. mdirks

    mdirks New Member

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    I live in the very southern part of Arkansas. I am going to start with 4 or so chickens in the spring after I build my coop. I want something dual purpose that does well in my are. It is only my wife and I so we don't need large amount of eggs. Any tips from you pros out there?
     
  2. fuzziebutt

    fuzziebutt Flocker

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    Well, hi mdirks and welcome!! I don't know about dual purpose birds, because I am a bantam and silkie fan, and they are just fuzzy and goofy. South Arkansas is the Memphis area, isn't it? We are about 3 hours from Memphis. Anyhoo, welcome to the forum, and hope to see you around here alot more!!
     

  3. mdirks

    mdirks New Member

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    Thanks for the welcome! We are about a 4 hour drive from Memphis but about the same climate wise. I'm sure I could ask around on a good breed for the area. Was just new on here so I figured I'd get a conversation going. I plan on building a coup this winter (wife thinks I'm nuts cause I already have plans drawn up) and starting small with chicks this spring. We have 27 acres and I'm huge in gardening and chickens only seem like the next logical step
     
  4. Bird_slave

    Bird_slave Junior Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    I am in SW Arkansas. The breed I have owned the most, and favor over all other breeds, are large fowl brahmas. My old gals are nearly 5 years old. You wouldn't think being such a large, heavily feathered bird they would do well here, but they actually excel at it. You have to consider the breeds origins in this - they are originally from the Brahmaputra region of India. They can withstand both severe cold and the hot, humid conditions we have here in Arkansas.

    Caring for my own brahmas - I give them no special winter care, other than a draft free coop. They have pea combs which are much less prone to frostbite and their foot feathering keeps their toes from frostbite. They are great winter layers since they have to put less energy into staying warm.

    In the summertime I give them fans (just cheap old box fans) and when the temps. hit 90°F, I add poultry electrolytes to their water; along with special treats like ice cold watermelon and cantalouple. They have a summer behavior that serves them well - during the dog days of summer they will forage in the mornings, find a shady spot to doze the afternoon away and resume foraging when it starts to cool off a bit in the evenings. I have yet to lose one to a heat related illness.

    They are long lived and without using light to force to them to lay when their body needs a rest, you can expect eggs for many years. My old hens still provide me with an average of 3 eggs a week.

    Now for the cons: They are good layers, but not on par with a leghorn or a sex link. They are slow growing and most (hatchery quality) ones won't start laying until they are in the 6 to 8 month old range. Some references mention that they are not economical feeders, i.e., they eat too much for the number of eggs they produce. I have not found that to be the case. When allowed to forage for part of their daily intake, they eat no more than any of my other birds.

    The absolute best part about brahmas is their calm, gentle nature. Spend some quality time with them as chicks and there's not a single one of my brahmas, from the youngest pullet to the oldest hen, that I can't reach down and pick up anytime I want. Mine come when called and the old gals follow me everywhere. So sweet is their nature that last spring my husband (a former commercial chicken farmer) got me to agree to re-home all my other breeds - with the exception of my serama show birds - in favor of more brahmas.

    They do come in a bantam form if the LF are just more chicken than you want to deal with. I only have experience with one bantam brahma, my Maggie. She started out a bit more flighty than my big girls, but eventually settled down.

    As you can probably tell, I am a HUGE brahma fan. ;)
     
  5. Bird_slave

    Bird_slave Junior Member

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    Some pics of my brahmas, past and present:
    Thor, my original (and BEST!) dark brahma rooster, Sunny and Lilith (buff hens), Loki - Thor's successor, still a baby at 7 months old, and Snowy (light brahma). Finally, Lil' Bit II; a slightly spoiled chick. As a chick she would peep loudly whenever I made her stay in the brooder and be a chicken and would get a definite smirk on her face when I gave in and picked her up.
     

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  6. mdirks

    mdirks New Member

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    Well Bird_Slave, you gave me way more info than I ever expected and I greatly appreciate it. You just may have talked me into that breed.To be honest with you the con of not being a great layer I think will fit us just nice. Me and the wife love eggs but we don't need an abundance right off. And i love the picture of the feathers on your birds foot, i never imagined having it that thick, good lookin' birds. Now to just get the stuff together to build a coop and then i can focus on some chicks. Did you all build your own coop?
     
  7. Bird_slave

    Bird_slave Junior Member

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    I have three coops - the brahma coop, the waterfowl coop and a tiny coop for the serama flock (they are tiny and can't be housed with other, bigger birds).
    We did build the brahmas coop. The waterfowl coop is a storage shed that I "stole" from my husband and we retro-fitted to suit birds.

    The brahma coop is not pretty to look at, but it has served them well for 5 years. Two things to keep in mind when building a coop, if you do decide on brahmas -
    First, don't build your roosts too high. Brahmas are heavy birds and can sprain a leg jumping down from too high a roost. And second, you'll need large nestboxes. I've found the best nestboxes to be the large covered kitty litter pans secured to two 2X4s with a couple of screws to prevent them from tipping over.

    Things to keep in mind no matter what breed you decide on - you want your roosts at least slightly higher than your nestboxes. Chickens instinctively go as high as possible to roost at night. You want them to roost on their roosts and not on the nestboxes, to prevent them from pooping on their boxes.
    Also, with hot summers, you want alot of airflow. The brahma coop is built with large "windows", really just large openings in the front and back covered in hardware cloth/welded wire. Chicken wire is useless against predators like coons. We attached large shutters made out of plywood that we can drop down and latch in the wintertime. We did insulate the interior of the coop with 1/2" insulation board; more to reflect off heat than for winter warmth. You do need to cover any styrofoam insulation with something to prevent pecking. I haven't met a chicken yet that didn't love to eat styrofoam. :rolleyes:

    Hope this helps.
     
  8. BigECart

    BigECart New Member

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    Www.carterslegacyfarms.com will have light brahmas in the spring. I have been in contact w/Scott Carter several times and he has been very helpful. I am planning on ordering from them if/when I get chickens because they are changing their operation to focus on quality birds for the backyard chicken owner. The larger hatcheries do a lot of business with egg farmers so I suspect that high egg production is their priority, at the expense of healthy long-lived birds.
     
  9. mdirks

    mdirks New Member

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    Great thanks for the info, i know i have much to learn but am excited to jump right in. Hopefully by this time next year i can add eggs to the growing list of groceries i get right off my acreage!