It has been two weeks since we collected the chicks from the airport and there have been no deaths. In fact, the chicks are very strong and curious. The jærhøns wings are quite developed at two weeks and they fly! I’ve read that jærhøns are ‘flighty’ but no one has really made it clear just how much they can fly. Our chicks are already flying out of their cage in a single bound. And they are quick – very promising for potential goshawk attacks.
The chicks have quickly out-grown their first brooder (chick cage) and we decided to separate the cockerels and the pullets into their own cage. Also, at this point, we chose our 4 cockerels for our flock roosters. We read that big isn’t always best when choosing breeding roosters for your flock. The main things to look at is the size of the beak – if it is too big it could cause a lot of damage during breeding as the rooster pecks at the hens neck when he is on her back. Another thing to look for is the size of feet. We have found that the cockerels with the longer toes have some trouble with curling or a slight clubbing. We have seen this kind of thing sort itself out when the chick gets older but we don’t want to take the risk of breeding this. So we chose cockerels with straight, good feet, smallish beak, and by variety – light and dark jærhøns.
And the other 25 cockerels? – we had planned on turning them into fryers (for the dinner table) but we have been trying to find a way of keeping them. The cockerels, and we find roosters in general, are lovely birds. Our cockerel jærhøns are so settled and majestic. Since we separated the pullets and cockerels we have noticed different personality traits between the males and females. The pullets are very skittish, they chirp and flutter around, and scatter when I put my hand in the cage. As soon as the girls were taken out of their cage, the cockerels sat down and gave themselves dust baths. All of them! The cockerels are very quiet, calm and are not flighty at all. They enjoy roosting up high (and I think they enjoy being separated from the girls). They keep their drinker and feeder bottles cleaner.
We discovered a movement that encourages ‘all cock flocks’ as pets and pest controllers. Roosters that have grown up together are very hospitable to one another and therefore they can become a rooster only flock. (It is the hens that encourage roosters to fight.) The flocks can roam free-range on land and farms finding their own food and taking care of mosquitoes and flies. This would be ideal to save our cockerels but only if they could be outside all the time. Just the mere fact that in wintertime you have to house your birds inside makes the idea of rooster only flocks hard to sell to Norwegians. We would have them running free on our land but they would find the pullets and we would not be able to control breeding and fighting.
When we got our chicks we counted 27 pullets and 25 cockerels. In separating them we have now counted 29 pullets and 23 cockerels. Some of the dark jærhøns were the ones that tricked us:
For dark jærhøns we read that both have dark colouring. The pullets have a small light circle on the top of their head and cockerels have a larger circle which can be patchy and extend down the neck. This sounds straight forward but it was a lot harder to pick out.
As you can see on this cockerel below he has a white patch on his head and in the picture underneath you can see the white extends a little down his head. The comb gives his sex away. Even though is is small and still yellow, it is the thickness of his comb that is the identifier.
This next chick we thought was a cockerel – white patch on the head that extends down the back.
Apparently, by the comb in the picture above – small, light yellow and thin – this jærhøns is actually a pullet.
Light jærhøns are much easier to tell a part. Firstly their colouring is more definite – the pullet with a brown, thick stripe down its back. But the early development of the comb on light cockerels is an easy give away. The comb on the heads of the light cockerels are more distinguished than on the dark cockerels. They are large, thick and red.
By two weeks the light pullets still have their stripe down their head to their backs. However, they start to develop more colouring around their necks and body.
In two weeks we will be getting another shipment of jærhøns from a different breeder. We thought it would be best to try out a few breeders and to diversify our flock. This will be important for the future of our flock. And we will enjoy lots of eggs by the end of summer.
The Egg Production situation in Norway
As we plan to go into egg production, a u-pick operation for locals and visitors, we have been following the controversy of the egg industry. Apparently there is an over production of eggs and there are new egg farms opening up regularly to the dismay of the egg packing plants in Norway. The plants are required to receive and pay all incoming shipments of eggs, even when there is an over supply. They are trying to quickly get a law passed to prevent oversupply with quota purchases, something that has worked well with milk. At the moment egg farmers are taking advantage of the egg packing plants but when the law passes many egg businesses might go bankrupt. The oversupply certainly doesn’t make egg prices cheaper at the supermarket. The prices are still high – around kr.38 for a dozen. Most of the egg farms are in the south where the egg packing plants are and so the eggs have to be shipped to the rest of the country which ups the price. Norway only requires so many eggs – Norwegians just don’t eat enough of them. So what happens with all the surplus? They get destroyed! I think this is the time where Norway should stop its flight into super-farms and return back to its humble beginnings with community supported agriculture – the rest of the Western World is.