Problems are Opportunities (4): Raise Chickens for Eggs and Meat (Part 2)

The Farmer Entrepreneur - Larry LocaraWhen my friend got angry with the street vendor who sold him male white leghorn chicks, passed off as fast growing chickens, I immediately seized the opportunity of using these roosters as a brood cock to improve my line of jolo or asil chickens raised for meat. White leghorns were first imported from the US for table egg raising in the early part of the 20th century where it had been the backbone of the egg industry. But it originally came from Livorno in Tuscany, Italy where it was noted as a good egg layer. Constantly improving the breed, US farmers were able to genetically manipulate the breed by selection and thus come up with efficient layers that we have today.

Genetically, the male white leghorn possesses all the traits of good egg-laying and theoretically, it can pass on these traits to its offspring. Also, the geneticists aspire for hybrid vigor which naturally imparts all the traits looked for in an individual. Thus when I saw the cocks grown by my friend, I immediately bartered for one and bred it to my asil/jolo hens. Jolo chickens are natives of both continental Asia and the islands of the Pacific where for centuries, mainlanders, basically the Chinese, Indians and Malays journeyed for trade and sometimes to escape tyrannic rule. They often brought with them domestic animals for food, pet and pastime. When bred for sport, they are bred pure and by selection these breeders come up with fowls they strive for.

Whiteleghorn flock on free rangeJolo/asils are a hardy breed. They can thrive on pasture or free range. Compared to exotic chickens like the Sasso, Kabir, Egyptian, the Rhode Island, etc., they can simply be allowed to roam the yard or farm and they will find their own food as well as reproduce vigorously. The cocks are fiercely territorial and can fight for hours if only to defend its harem and territory. So are the hens. They will protect their brood from everything, humans to animals. They will even kill other chicks that compete for food with their own brood. However they would sometimes go to the extent of killing their own just to survive and if they are ready to mate again and would like to drive the current set of offspring away. Hens are also good sitters and would start incubating their eggs after laying 9-12 eggs, depending on their current state of nutrition. With good feed, they can lay more than 12.

I have already 50/50 cross hens which have started to lay eggs and I have introduced a new brood cock, this time coming from another friend who was duped into buying these chicks from a street vendor. Mathematically, the next generation would be a 75/25 cross with the leghorn blood dominating. But like in game fowls, excellence or superiority is a matter of the selector’s or breeder’s eyes. He should have a set of criteria to base his selection of the best breeders for his next generation. The present mixed-blood hens that I have, had been trimmed further. I lost three good layers which have started to lay eggs. Since last November, they were able to lay more than 30 eggs each before they became broody, an indication that somehow, they have inherited egg-laying traits from their father, a pure white leghorn. I hope to further improve the egg laying performance by mating them to another pure white leghorn cock which came from another source.

Jolo chickens can be fed with any edible and nutritious feed. They give the best eggs that are deep yellow when ranged freely and allowed to scour around for their feed. I usually feed them with a high protein ration only in the afternoon while I allow them to range the yard throughout the day. This practice has two objectives: to save on feeds by making them look for their own feed and to force them to go back to the pens where the feeds are given and that when they have entered, the door is locked for their safety against predators and thieves.

Jolo and their graded offspring can feed on chopped African Giant Snails (taklong) and the golden Apple Snail (kuhol) which should be cooked first then chopped finely and mixed with rice bran and some cracked corn. If coconuts are available, grate some and add to the ration for its oil and protein. I also use probiotics profusely and which I attribute the health of my flock to this method. The best concoction I have made so far is the mix of malunggay, pineapple peels and noni fruits which I think has made the concoction more nutrient dense. I give it daily at a ratio of 1 teaspoon per 2 liters of water, or mixed to the wet feeds that I give in the afternoon. (to be continued).