Sonali Chickens

I was checking the breeds of the chickens in my mixed flock against a hybrid list. We have a big Rhode Island Red Rooster of local stock named Big Red Oed and a smattering of different breeds selected for egg laying ability and heat tolerance making up his flock of hens. When you live in a place that will be regularly above 100°F for 6 months or longer, you have to be mindful that, even though the books all tell you that a breed is heat hardy, you must always account for extremes. So, it helps to start off with one or two each of a few different breeds that have your preferred traits. This way, if you miscalculated or received faulty information, one or two of your birds will fall over dead from heat stroke instead of 50.

I bought a few specific breeds as they came into my local feed store, as well as a few non-breed-specific chickens hatched locally to compare them to. We even got a local mutant one… 9 toes, naked neck with a mohawk, but more about her later…

I discovered that I was creating a hybrid known as a Sonali (♂ Rhode Island Red × ♀ Fayoumi). This was one of the breeds that, in 2007, they ran disease resistance tests on in the poorest neighborhood in Bangladesh: regional Fayoumis, Sonali and ‘Mixed.’ Most of the real information was locked, but since I was putting very little of my own effort into making them (and Big Red Oed wasn’t complaining), so I would just keep my eye out for them.

Fayoumi eggs are on the smaller side, so the chicks come out quite tiny. Their chick down is this weird red/grey that looks like Oxblood Dr. Martins. Their feet are a slate color and their beaks are black. They are also very tiny, and the longest I have kept one alive was 3 days. I cannot even get them to hatch in the incubator, and when they do, there is blood. A pretty fair amount, too. I’ve never even heard of such a thing before, and I couldn’t find anyone on the internet who had had this problem.

One possible issue could be that our seasons here have changed. Southern Arizona is a sub-Tropical desert, and when you were dealing with snow at the end of winter, I was getting the cooler fixed because it was already in the mid 90’s. The cooler is a telling sign itself. Using technology originally developed by the Ancient Egyptians, an evaporative cooler (or Swamp Cooler, as it is known) cools the room by blowing damp air at you. That’s it… and it works.

Our seasons here have just changed, just like yours, but ours has just changed to the blistering hot that you think of when you think of the desert. The air gets so dry that people develop seasonal asthma because their lungs get too dry to breathe.

That’s the kind of dry that a wet sponge in the incubator isn’t going to help much, and that might be the same problem that the broody hens are having outside.

So, for now, I suppose I’ll be eating a lot of scrambled eggs and we’ll wait for the monsoons. Maybe then, I’ll be able to get some of these Oxblood chicks to grow.

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