I was chatting with a friend about incubating eggs and it has got me thinking and planning ahead. I really want to get the basics of my chicken system going ASAP now so that I can get started with some hand reared indigenous chickens.
I have decided I want to start with the Australorp as a foundation bird. They are good eating and prolific layers. The black colouring is desirable too. This is a breed that has been developed in Australia and produced an average record egg-laying per year of309.5 eggs per hen in 1922-23 before intensive methods of today we introduced.
In time I want to breed them to a local indigenous breed called the Ovambo. This is a feisty bird that can roost in trees to escape predators. They will kill mice and rats. They reach sexual maturity at 143 days and have large eggs…. an average of 52.5 grams. Although characterized as layers they also puts on meat quicker than any other indigenous breed and the flesh has a very high fatty acid content. ” The highest proportions of 16:1 fatty acid were observed in the Ovambo, New Hampshire and Naked-Neck lines (Table 3). The proportions of linoleic and linolenic acid were highest in the Ovambo, Koekoek and Lebowa-Venda lines. Diet and dietary fat content may influence the proportions of these fatty acids (Hrdinka et al., 1996). Since the chickens in the present study received the same diets, the differences in the proportions of unsaturated fatty acids were probably due to differences in eating behavior. The Ovambo, New Hampshire and Naked-Neck lines tend to scratch while eating and were observed to pick up food particles more selectively than broilers.” 
These are indigenous chickens that can survive really harsh conditions and still produce. They are thus highly prized for low-input systems. My main interest is sustainability. I want to breed a bird that not only produces large, good quality eggs, builds meat relatively fast that is high in fatty acids, and is able to protect itself… but a bird that can survive without coddling if necessary. Breeding back to Australorp to increase egg production might prove interesting. Will see…
I also have an interest in the Potchefstroom Koekoek. This is a favourite eating bird of the locals and was originally bred from the Australorp as well. “This breed is a composite of the White Leghorn, Black Australorp and Bared Plymouth Rock. This breed can therefore be considered as a locally developed breed. The name Koekoek refers to the barred colour pattern of the birds.” 
These are easy birds to raise and very broody…. readily hatching their own young… good traits. This bird would be easy to sell locally as the meat of this breed is still very popular among local communities and is preferred to that of the commercial broiler hybrids. The colour pattern is a sex-linked gene….something that could be useful in cross-breeding.
Until next time,