The Black Java Experience, Part II

by
Monte W. Bowen

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2001, 6(3):6-7

WOW! Every day of raising Javas brings me a new fascination with the breed. The sheer beauty of the birds is the first thing that attracts attention. They are large, black with a wonderful green sheen to the feathers, docile, and if one can judge from the current egg production, a super alternative to any of the "egg laying" breeds. From the original six pullets (two hatched October 5, 2000 and four hatched November 11, 2000) I have received four to six eggs daily. The first pullet started laying February 17, 2001, at four months and 12 days of age. According to the calendar (where Kansas fowl folks write important things like chicken facts) I have collected 149 eggs during the month of May, 2001. Not a bad average for six pullets, and excellent for a heavy breed fowl.

I aim for two goals with this flock of Javas. The first is to have enough birds for a laying flock to replace the current Partridge Rocks and Anconas. The second, and most important goal, is to keep this breed alive and out of the history books as just another of the poultry breeds that died from lack of interest. My approach to the first goal is not scientific at all, but one which I think will bring both goals to fruition. I have collected and incubated every egg I can find. This is fine for increasing the size of my flock, but trouble arises with the fact that three of the pullets have pink-bottomed feet, not yellow as called for in the Standard of Perfection. The cockerel with these pullets has good yellow feet. I'm hoping that yellow is dominant over pink. Whatever the outcome, the first part of my plan is underway. It matters not the color of feet when it comes to a hen's laying ability. A hen with pink feet can lay as well as a pullet with yellow feet, as proven by my six pullets.

The second part of the plan comes into play once the birds mature sufficiently to select all the birds with yellow feet to continue as a breeding flock. Only birds with good type, combs, color and foot color will be used for breeding. This flock will produce all hatching eggs after this season. Around here it is difficult to determine exactly what constitutes a hatching season, as I have been hatching Javas, Black Dutch, Barred Rocks and attempting to hatch Nankins, since last November when the hens started getting broody. The little scamps were broody all through the winter and spring. I had eggs all winter, so the hens figured it was time to start a family. At one time I had eleven hens (seven in the basement, as it was too cold outdoors) and a legal pad full of setting and hatching dates. There wasn't room on my calendar!

To date there are 72 Black Javas either in pens or brooders and more eggs in the incubator. Fertility is good with the cockerel I am using, and the hatches, even in the incubators, have been 75% and above. Never before have I attained such good hatches in an incubator, and I lay all the credit to the viability of the eggs and the health and strength of the parent birds. Quite often my setting hens will pull off a 100% hatch, but with my machines I feel fortunate to hit 75%. Hatches so far have been as follows: 13th of May, 9 chicks from 12 eggs (75%); 23rd of May, 25 chicks from 29 eggs (86.2%); 30th of May , 24 from 31 eggs (77.4%). I also set 16 eggs under an Ancona hen, but that is a fiasco I will relate later. I attribute these great hatches to the Javas. They are strong, healthy and hard working. Once grown they seem to eat less than Rocks and Anconas, perhaps because of their foraging ability. I have not measured or calculated to substantiate this observation, it just seems to me they eat less. It's a feeling you get from being around and watching your birds. By the way, if you are not watching and enjoying your birds, you'd best get to it, as you are missing over half the fun of raising poultry!

Now, the Ancona broody hen story! This may sound like the biggest fabrication you ever heard, but I swear it is true. As I live and breathe this happened just this way, and is another testament to the viability of the Java. On April 12, 2001, I set 16 Java eggs under an Ancona hen that had been broody for several days and resisted all attempts to break her up. (The Ancona is a breed that is supposed to be a non-sitter, but I have had two of twelve Ancona hens become broody this spring). This particular Ancona hen was meaner than 7 yards of Hell and wouldn't let me near the coop to feed and water without taking her pound of flesh from my hand and arm. She sat solid for three weeks on the 16 Java eggs. Never once did I observe her leave her nest. The morning she was to hatch I found the hen sitting in the middle of the coop, still mean when I reached in, but just lounging with not one chick beneath her. I looked in the nest box and discovered one fully hatched chick, dead no doubt from the cold night, and a partially hatched chick, also dead. Fourteen eggs remained, none pipped. I figured that the eggs started hatching during the night, the hen felt movement, became frightened and abandoned the nest. Between cussing that hen and feeling deprived of 16 Java chicks, I removed the nest box from the coop and placed it outdoors, figuring to bury the entire mess when it quit raining. Four hours later (still raining) I went out, got a shovel, dug a hole, picked up the nest box, looked over the eggs one last time, and to my amazement, saw an egg had pipped! I anxiously listened to the other eggs and heard two faint, sorrowful peeps. I rushed the three eggs into the house and put them in an incubator (seems like there's always one going around here). I buried the remaining eggs and dead chicks. I returned to the house, made a cup of tea, sat down and pondered that miserable hen and those unfortunate eggs. As I drank I reasoned that if three of those eggs were still alive, maybe others were, too. So I raced out (still in the rain) and disinterred those eggs. In the house again, I wiped off the worst of the mud and slipped the eggs into the incubator. After burying, un-burying, cleaning up, and cussing the hen, I hatched six of those eggs! Of the six, two had crooked legs that never straightened and were disposed, but I still had four lively, healthy chicks in a brooder from the "Ancona Escapade" that seemed doomed from the start. Six hatchlings from fourteen buried eggs, a 42% hatch rate. All this proves that YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD JAVA DOWN! Not even with a foot of dirt! One sure thing, I will never set another Ancona hen. The one in the hen house gets tossed off her nest every time I see her. She can just get over herself and go back to laying eggs.

Every day is a new experience with my Black Javas. I grow more impressed with them the longer I'm around them. I spend lots of time in a lawn chair by the pen, observing and admiring them. With careful selective mating I hope to develop a quality flock of this marvelous bird; one that I can proudly display at poultry shows and feel honored to keep another step away from the brink of extinction. (Editor's Note: At printing time -- September 2001 -- Monte's total hatch this season of Black Javas exceeds 90 chicks.)


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