I knew this would be hard. That's why I've been avoiding it for the last few years. I've had this email all typed up ready to send out to the Rosecomb list for about a week and a half now, but I am incapable of hitting the send button. Because I still don't really know what I want to do the birds.
Let's look at the facts:
1) I cannot hatch birds until summer. That's not ideal, but that's how it has to be with my schedule. It means I have no birds to show in the fall, and can't raise many birds (because I have to keep the hatching season short, otherwise they are too young even to show in the winter, and then what's the point)
2) I don't show/raise/sell enough to justify keeping the number of birds that I currently have.
3) I don't plan on showing more than 3 times per year.
1) I do want to keep raising and showing birds, just in a small quantity. All this thinking about cutting back to nearly nothing really makes me feel soooo sad, I don't want to be sad.
I have even been dreaming about this stuff lately. I dreamed I was selling my last two birds, Pablo and Diego (BBRed roosters). It was awful, I was heartbroken, I would have done anything to bring them back home. Now, in real life I've thus far parted with nothing, and those two old boys will never leave, they are keepers. But there seems to be this pretty overwhelming feeling of NOT wanting to do this, and potentially regretting the heck out of it.
Months ago, I had actually more or less decided to keep 10-20 totally random assorted birds, house them all together (no "breeding pens" of specific colors) and hatch whatever. But part of the appeal of this plan was that I actually wanted to free-range them, and have several roosters in the group. Due to not wanting to feed the local hawk population any more of my valuable birds, I can't do that. They have to be kept in, and if I'm going to do that I may as well keep them purebred.
See, two things that friends have said to me lately have really stuck. One is that if I've accomplished what I wanted out of my years of raising chickens, then it's okay to move on. But I haven't accomplished that. Oh sure, I've won shows, but I have not gotten the BBRed Rosecombs to the level of quality that I want them to be. Granted, all bird breeding programs are always a work in progress, always striving to be better, but I feel only half done (okay maybe 3/4) with the BBReds. And perhaps this is selfish, but if I sell them they will eventually cease to be my line. They become someone else's, as someone else fine tunes them toward their own ideal, which may not be my ideal. So I can hardly send them out into the world and expect someone else to do what *I* want done with them. Only I can do that, and that color in particular, well, it's kind of my baby.
The other comment was how weird it is not to see BBRed Rosecombs at the shows anymore. Yes it is! I didn't hatch any last year (because I had to outcross them to Black again) so it's NEXT generation (this year's hatch) that would produce showable BBReds again. It's really hitting me hard that I still want to do that. I want to keep working with this color. I'm not finished.
I think that despite the potential fun aspect of hatching a bunch of mixed-variety chicks, I would probably end up frustrated and trying to breed for specific colors anyway, so why not just stick with purebreds anyway, ya know.
So here's the start of a new plan:
Keep about 2/3 of the existing BBRed flock. They become the focus of my chicken efforts.
Keep about 1/3 of the existing Brassy and Blue Brassy flock, because I love Blue Brassy Backs.
Keep about 1/4 to 1/3 of the current Black flock. Genetically they are the basis for everything, therefore important, but if winning is not a priority then I don't need to be raising large quantities of them.
I'd still end up with about 20 birds, which is fine. That's less than half of the current flock. I would still end up selling a good number of really top notch breeder birds to really serious breeders who are active in showing and committed to raising them (yes I'm going to be REALLY picky). I could still sell eggs in the spring. And raise birds in the summer. And show a couple times in the winter. And rethink it next fall or in the early spring of 2011 if need be.
Hmmm, yes, something to think about. It doesn't solve the problem of me being rather tied down with the birds (you know, if Prince Charming rides up and says let's go to the castle, I'd be like "but wait, I need chicken coops there so I can take my birds!") but, I don't seem to be ready to do anything more drastic than sell more than half of the birds without turning into a blubbering blog of regret, so for the time being this may be a plan I can live with. And well, Prince Charming or otherwise, I'll just have to cross that bridge when I get there.
Oh, who's Pablo? This is him. He won Reserve Champion of Show at the Gold Coast Poultry Fanciers show in January 2006. Diego is his son. That was an awesome amazing win, but between you and me (don't tell the bird) I've never thought he had a very good head. See, he's not *my* ideal bird. That's why I want to keep trying. :-)