Raising Birds to Maturity
by Nikki Stetson
article © Nikki Stetson
"Don't throw the baby out with the bath water", a saying
we've all heard. Never did it take on so much meaning to me as when
I saw another breeder use that term. She was so right.
We all know silkies are a wonderful hobby and rewarding animal to
raise. All it takes is a little patience and dedication, right? Dedication
I have, it's the patience part I found myself lacking in. I've learned
some valuable lessons along the way and I'd like to share this one
I've been seriously breeding silkies for about five years now. Before
that I was content to let hens hatch and raise their babies, I don't
ever remember being anxious to see how they turn out. I enjoyed each
stage of development. Then I met Janet, the birds were the least of
what we had in common and we enjoyed sharing eggs, birds and ideas.
Then it got serious. We wanted what we wanted and we wanted it yesterday.
At least I did. I hated to hear a breeder say "they'll be ready
in the Fall" or "I won't sell chicks and absolutely no eggs",
"adult stock ONLY", etc. I had no idea why, but again, patience
is not a virtue of mine. Now I understand.
A couple seasons ago when Janet and I met in the Fall to swap birds
I decided to take her my "culls". These were decent birds,
no faults. At the time I had alot of extra pullets and my space was
somewhat limited. They were roughly 4 months old, I kept a few that
I thought were the best and packed the rest up for Janet to sell at
the shows and swaps she was attending. These were "average"
birds in my opinion and I was sure I wouldn't want them. A few months
later I saw some stunning birds in photos Janet sent to me. These
were my "culls" who had reached maturity and bloomed into
knock out birds. I was amazed and a little annoyed at myself. If I
had just hung on a little longer. But I was certain at the time that
they were just average birds.
Then this past Summer we went to Janet's place for a few days. I immediately
fell in love with a splash hen, she looked just like the hen I had
at home, just like what I had been trying a couple seasons to achieve.
I asked Janet about her, and you know where this is going, "she's
one of your culls" she said. I was floored. I couldn't believe
I actually parted with her and what's even more sickening is, how
many more like her did I sell off as "pet quality" and never
gave the chance to mature? Needless to say I brought her home along
with a very valuable lesson.
We're all in a hurry to get things done. Raising silkies unfortunately
is not one of those things that we can speed up the process on. Sure,
I've replaced my trusty broodies with a couple of incubators, because
in my mind, I can do it better and do more of it. I still spend hours
going over the birds and yes, I still label them as to quality, but
I am not quick to judge a bird. It may be a late bloomer or it may
be the "ugly duckling" who matures into bird you're proud
to show against your peers. So when a breeder tells you no chicks
or eggs, adults only, this is why. No one wants to sell a bird they've
been trying to achieve and a buyer doesn't want a 4 month old lanky
cockerel with the promise that one day he'll be a stunning bird. In
the case of silkies, it takes time and patience and without that,
the only place you'll go is nowhere, fast.