Wow, thanks for all of response and positive energy. Lots of considerations and energy. I guess I will bullet point my thoughts and replies- I can't find a way to reply to each email, maybe I don't know how to use the site yet?
- Fiji does get cold in the Winter, down to 15C here on the farm on rare nights, but commonly 18C for June through September, highs of 25-28C. We are also on the Sigatoka Valley and the nights are cooler here even in the summer. The hottest it ever gets is 35C, but most summer days it is 32 high with a low of 27 day after day. Never so hot like Australia. I find that all living things acclimatise over time ( I need to put on a sweater when it drops below 20C). Because our weather is more stable and constant than NZ I think acclimation is a lot more strong- the extremes are not there to have to deal with. Egg production is the same pretty much year round. Fiji is super wet sometimes with 3-4 meters of annual rain over many places- so I thought feathered feet would be a no-go.
- I wanted to try silver laced Wyandottes mainly from the perspective of the feathers being so pretty and the women here make lovely feather fans and I they will just go crazy over the feathers! I also wanted to use them for crossbreeding to sex link the birds (with RIR or NHR) . Guineas also have vivid patterns on the feathers and I imagine they would do much better here than NZ.
- I don't want too much broodiness because we want good egg production, so we plan to raise some local wild-type chooks along with each flock and to replace their eggs with the better breeds... We are also planning on using the surplus roosters to improve the semi-wild village flocks.
- the breeds we need to be "smart"- able to fend for themselves part of the time, the project model has a small cool house (with ceiling to keep it cool and vets), an enclosed pen where we throw bulk garden waste etc for the chickens to pick through, and then they are let out every afternoon as well.
- There are lots of small farmers who have invested in these small cages for egg production (which I am against) but instead of the Hyline birds, leghorns could be used... at least they could be produced locally. BUT I will demonstrate that feed costs goes down with the more humane methods because you can throw all sorts of waste foods in: pumpkins, sweet potato leaves, whole coconuts cracked open, (they pick the flesh right out), fresh grass clippings, etc.
So I need some small productive breeds for egg production- but we are up against the Hyline which produce 340 eggs a year! I figured leghorn was the best option. For the communities who will be following our lower tech model dual purpose breeds will be more suitable I think. When I lived on Pohnpei, we had a cross breed between RIR and Australorps that performed wonderfully in even more hot and wet conditions. I was thinking for genetic diversity we could run some experiments with hybridization, as long as I maintain some pure stock. I read that the blue egg colour of Auracana was passed on through the male, and so i was also going to try to produce a good layer by crossing Auracana roosters with leghorn females to produce Fiji Blue eggs (like our flag and rugby team) Not sure if it will work well, but if it does it would be super and everyone would go wild on it! Whatever breeds I am able to get, I will need to keep them alive and distinct for a decade or so... and I imagine that tens of thousands of birds will be their descendants. Hopefully others will be able to keep them going. I don't think I can handle more than 8-10 distinct breeds at the farm, but I could potentially get other nearby farmers to take on a breed or two if I agree to buy some of the fertile eggs.
-Theft can be a major problem in some areas, so we had thought that a goose or two raises with the chicks in each pen might make sense.
- Fiji originally had the biggest dove species on the planet- bigger than the Dodo bird (same family too), but it was eaten to extinction long before the Europeans came. Mongoose have wiped out most of the ground dwelling species of birds and so I was hoping the turkeys would be able to resist them ad fill the niches left vacant for so many years. But that is another less important plan.
- New Zealand does not have any diseases that Fiji does not already have, so it is the only country that Fiji Biosecurity will allow us to import from. I think that if there is a lot of genetic difference between flocks that we had better get some of it- the vets say that Fiji might as well be considered part of NZ as far as diseases, we have everything you have and apparently the same strains of disease too.
- I plan on buying a 1,000 egg incubator as we will need lots of chicks... that will give us about 200-300 per week hatching. Any suggestions? I have found lots of models from China and one in Korea as well.
Well that is about all I can think of at the moment at this time of night. Thanks very much again and keep the ideas coming!