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Australia Quamby backyard chooks are a new breed made in Tasmania and great for both eggs, meat

22:42  18 november  2019
22:42  18 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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The new breed named Quamby is both a prolific egg producer and meaty bird which is good for Sunday roasts. A former biochemistry lecturer from Tasmania has spent the past seven years of his retirement, full-time, developing the new breed . Dr Gil Stokes said the modern poultry industry over

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a man sitting on a bench: Dr Gil Stokes has spent years developing his new Quamby heritage type breed. (Supplied)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Dr Gil Stokes has spent years developing his new Quamby heritage type breed. (Supplied) Dual-purpose backyard chooks for both eggs and meat were nearly lost with modern agriculture, but after seven years of solid work one man is bringing them back.

The new breed named Quamby is both a prolific egg producer and meaty bird which is good for Sunday roasts.

A former biochemistry lecturer from Tasmania has spent the past seven years of his retirement, full-time, developing the new breed to be a heritage bird.

Dr Gil Stokes said the modern poultry industry over the past 50 years has hybridised chickens, developing them separately for their eggs and meat.

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Keeping a diverse backyard chicken flock with different breeds is a pure joy for any chicken keeper. Keeping chickens is a wonderful adventure imprinted with a flap of activity, a medley of clucky conversations and an egg basket overflowing with fresh bounty.

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Fanciers were left with the heritage breeds which they have maintained for shows.

"As a result, the productive traits of these birds have wasted away," Dr Stokes said.

He wanted to tap into the old breeds, which were robust: The hens laid eggs for several years and the roosters were great eating.

'Enormous amount of work'

Dr Stokes holds a degree in agricultural science and a masters in animal nutrition.

He took two heritage breeds: the English Sussex and American New Hampshire, known for producing as many as 200 eggs a year.

Working every day, for the past seven years, Dr Stokes built nest boxes that would help him separate and analyse the breeding values of each chick.

His work paid off: The Quamby is much more productive, as the hens can lay an average of 300 eggs per year.

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He described his Quamby as a very gregarious bird that foraged well, was not flighty and enjoyed human interaction — a "lovely bird to have around that doesn't get sick".

Developing a new heritage breed gave Dr Stokes naming rights.

For that he looked to the rocky outcrop of Quamby Bluff, near his Tasmanian farm.

Backyard farmer

Dr Stokes' own father bred and showed the Australorp and Rhode Island Red heritage chickens at the Royal Melbourne Show.

Interest in organic farming and the origins of food has grown, and he hoped this new heritage breed would also take off.

"Now is the time to recreate the kind of bird that was around in the 1930s, laying lots of eggs, and the utility breeds also provided meat for the families, so the excess boys would all go into meat."

Quamby meat, he said, was darker than commercial chicken meat and the birds live for longer.

Commercial broilers are slaughtered at around five to six-weeks-old, but the Quamby chook can be eaten at about 10 months.

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Raised on a "deep litter system" of sawdust, which helped build resilience, the chickens were fed a specially developed diet which included the fermented milk, kefir.

"The chicks don't get any antibiotics, they don't get any vaccinations, so if they don't have a good immune system they don't make it," Dr Stokes said.

"Turns out I'd lose maybe five percent of chicks and possibly one percent of my adult birds."

Continuing the legacy

This year both the male and female Quamby chickens were finally released for further breeding.

At 78-years-of age, and after several medical procedures, Dr Stokes no longer breeds, but has carefully selected three breeders from across the country to continue his "legacy project".

One of those was a retired mental health nurse, Eugene Meegan from Heathcote in central Victoria.

After reading an article about the Quamby, Mr Meegan got in touch with Dr Stokes, and spent three days on his farm in the middle of winter.

15 birds arrived at Heathcote this year, and the eggs have begun to hatch.

Using Dr Stokes's guidelines, he is selecting the top five per cent for breeding and recording all the information about productivity and behaviour.

"Gil wants to see this chicken breed to go out across Australia, and for people to have the benefit of a 'good doer' of a chicken," he said.

They plan to get Quamby registered as a recognised breed.

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This is interesting!