The hens have been laying consistently at 9 a day this winter, and things are beginning to amp up, even with the cold weather we’ve been having. In mid-February, we start selecting eggs to incubate for our Spring hatch. Twenty little mysteries are going into our incubator this week, and we’ll expect baby chicks in March.
How do I pick the eggs? Well, it’s about form and size. Not too big, not too small- just right. I look at shell thickness, shade of color (which can tell what kind of minerals the hen who laid it has), and overall quality of form. Big eggs come from older hens, meaning lower overall quality for breeding stock. Too small an egg may not even develop a chick at all, and was probably laid by a young hen who has not reached her own maturity yet. Last year I selected only light colored eggs to try to maximize the Ayam Cemani probability in the chicks (the light cream colored eggs are from the pure Cemani stock). This year I am going for wild cards- all colors to produce a diverse flock.
Above is a picture of last year’s incubated clutch, all black and mostly Cemani genetics. I say mostly because there were still traits from the diverse hen population. Our ladies are still a rainbow of colors and breeds, which add fresh genetics to the flock. We’ll eventually be a Cemani dominant farm, but still need to bring in outside birds to keep the gene tree broad and healthy. A little line breeding with our best stock is ok, but the DNA wheel has to keep turning to keep health and productivity present.
In sorting breeds, I’ve taken a liking to our speckled Sussex. They are calm, good brooders, great foragers, and tend to get on well within the flock. You can see an example of this breed in the picture above, center stage in her specked glory. We may soon only select one or two other breeds to mix into this flock, but are still experimenting with a few other hardy, larger laying hens, like buff orphington. I do know that Americana crosses with Ayam Cemani are not great- the hens tend to be small, with too much wild streak in them. Great for overall survival, but not for a home flock of hens.
BlackJack is still our breeding rooster, for a second year in a row. His genetics are great, and giving us a dominant Cemani genetic boost in the flock. In the picture above, you can really see his green sheen. In Java Indonesia, where this breed originated, that green color is very prized, and shows the health and character of the bird. BlackJack is a great rooster too, with little to no aggression shown towards people, but plenty of protective spunk when aerial or terrestrial predators threaten the flock. This is the temperament desirable in a rooster, so we’re giving him another year to show off his prowess in the coop and on the farm.
Next year’s genetics will come from a younger rooster we’re cultivating as our next breeding cockerel. Ayam Cemani roosters do not get along, no matter how many ladies are around, so our younger roos have to be penned separately for the main flock. Right now our young one is in the shop where it’s warm, with a lady friend to keep him company. With luck, this up and coming star will switch places with BlackJack next fall, integrating into the flock through two seasons before we select eggs next winter. This young rooster will receive a name once he’s part of our breeding stock. Any ideas what we should call him?
Leafhopper Farm is committed to the continued development of an Ayam Cemani flock. In future, we hope to sell good breeding pairs of this unique bird for other small farms seeking a good homestead breed that is hardy, productive, and unique genetics. The Cemani continues to shine, and it’s genetics are growing stronger here on the farm. We look forward to seeing this year’s newly hatched chicks, and sharing them in future blogs.