I began raising chickens over 20 years ago with our first little backyard flock and a desire to feed my own family. Through that time, I’ve found that though I can’t necessarily afford to buy the best food with which to feed my family, I can afford to grow it. That is what we’ve sought to do on our small farm.
As we’ve continued to raise chickens, over the past few years we’ve been looking at ways to make our flocks more productive and more sustainable. There are lots of pieces to this puzzle: feeding and nutrition, housing, care, breeds, and how to reproduce our flocks on our farm. As we’ve begun delving into all these things, this quest has taken us down a path of finding birds that can be adapted to thrive in our local, Texas climate.
We currently raise about ten different breeds of heritage chickens plus turkeys and guineas. We are also working with other local breeders to supply our customers with additional breeds of day-old chicks. All of our fowl are able to reproduce naturally on your farm.
Taking Care of the Birds
One maxim I have continually found to be true is: if we take good care of the birds, they will take care of us. So we’re always seeking to improve the care of our flocks. Proper housing with good ventilation, daily interaction with the birds and a watchful eye, clean water and waterers, gathering eggs multiple times a day—these are all things we’re doing to continue to improve the care that we give our birds. The result is robust, healthy, productive breeding flocks that produce excellent quality offspring.
A No-Kill Facility
We’ve made the choice to be a no-kill facility. By that, I mean that we don’t arbitrarily kill half of our birds at hatch just because they’re males. Instead, we want all of our birds, both males and females, to grow out to their full genetic potential. Female chicks will grow to become egg producers or will become part of our breeding flocks. Once they reach an age at which they are no longer productive as layers, they’ll become table birds. Males will fulfill their potential by either becoming part of our breeding flocks or by being grown out for table use.
For this reason, we’ve decided to work primarily with dual-purpose breeds (breeds that are both good meat producers and good egg producers). Such birds are well-suited for use on family farms and homesteads and are the type that traditionally produced most of the meat and eggs in this country prior to the 1950s.
Interaction with the Birds
Taking care of chickens is a seven day a week job. Each day while we’re feeding and watering them and gathering the eggs, we’re interacting with and observing them. Our time spent with the birds makes them more use to human interaction and lets us see and fix any problems sooner.
We intentionally keep our flock sizes small and avoid unnecessary mechanization, so there’s a lot of hands-on interaction. As we’re walking through the coops and pens, we’re talking to the birds, we’re using our noses to smell the air quality, we’re examining the condition of the bedding or pasture that the birds are on, we’re listening for any sounds of distress and our eyes are constantly scanning, looking for any chickens that might need a little extra care or attention.
The Selectively-Bred Difference
When people come to our farm and see our Barred Rocks, they are amazed because they’re so big and so beautiful. And when they see our New Hampshire’s, they say, “My New Hamps never looked like that!” Seeing us interact with our Delawares, they can’t believe that chickens can be so friendly.
What makes these birds different from commonly available fowl? Care and selective breeding. Hygiene, clean water, good quality feed, clean bedding, good air quality, proper housing—these all make a big difference in how well a chicken will grow to fulfill its genetic potential, but we have also found that genetic heritage makes a huge difference. For example, having raised typical, commonly available Barred Rock chicks side-by-side with Barred Rock chicks that were selectively bred for 15 years, we’ve seen a very visible difference in size, plumage, behavior and beauty, and the same has held true for other breeds as well.
How Selective Breeding Works
When we started raising our current breeding flocks, we went and found the best starter stock that we could find (and afford). Now, every year, we practice selective breeding to improve the flocks while still maintaining their diversity. We do this by hatching a large number of birds for our own use. Then we select as breeders only the best that have the right body type, size, conformity to the breed standards and production-related traits, along with vigor and vitality. This way, our flocks continue to improve each year.
Raising chickens is an investment. Beyond the initial purchase of chicks or started chickens, you invest your time and money on feed, housing and care. If you start with mediocre birds, it takes about the same effort and expense as it would to raise birds with good heritage—good genetics—but the end result is remarkably different. That’s why we’ve chosen to start with the best stock that we can.
What We Offer
At Claborn Farms, we sell day-old chicks, guinea keets, and turkey poults. For local customers, we provide fertile hatching eggs that can be hatched in your own incubator. For local purchase, we also have frozen, processed chicken and turkey meat raised here on our farm and processed in a nearby approved-for-resale facility.
We also have a good variety of started pullets (female chickens that are approaching laying age).
In addition to these products, we offer a variety of classes and consulting services because we want to be sure that our customers, too, will be successful at raising their flocks.