As late summer is coming to an end, and spring chicks are now full grown birds, its time to introduce them to an established flock.
I like many backyard chicken keepers, acquired new chicks earlier this spring and are now in the processes of introducing them to my established flock. While this process is rather easy, it takes time and must be approached with care.
It is in a chickens nature to resist any new members to the flock, if done too hastily, it could spell disaster or death for the new kids in the flock. In this post, I will explain why chickens are resistant to new members and how to introduce them so that this process is done successfully.
Why do chickens resist new members?
To understand why chickens are so resistant to new members, we need to get into the head of a chicken using a bit of chicken psychology.
Chickens are highly socially organized creatures. Their entire lives revolve around a hierarchy. Within this hierarchy each member knows their place and what this assignment means in terms of flock activity.
Typically the flock hierarchy begins with the alpha rooster, under him will be any subjugated roosters in the flock, these boys will then assume the beta rooster positions. Following the roosters will start the order of the hens. The head hen or alpha hen will occupy the top position in the order. The Alpha hen is a bit bossy in regards to the other hens in the flock. She is the individual who will often roost next to the roosters at night, and is commonly the “favorite” of the alpha rooster in terms of mating. This may be due to her size, receptiveness to mating, or her fertility as judged by the roosters.
Occupying the hierarchical positions under the alpha hen will be the other hens in the flock. Order and status is determined by the “pecking order”. Members in a flock literally peck each other on the back indicating status. The pecker is above the peckie in flock hierarchy. This competition for position flows from the alpha rooster down to the member that is at the bottom of the pecking order.
Once established, the order is strictly maintained. Any breech of position will be met with a firm reminder of this order and each individuals place within it. Once in a while, a member may challenge and higher hierarchy order individual for their position. This is usually met with a skirmish which will decide if the challenger successfully raised their position, or is put in their place. This behavior is not just found among the roosters in the flock, hens will also fight for position and status in the flock.
Once the flock comes to an agreement on the order, all activities within the flock revolve around this order. Everything from who roosts where, to the order in which they exit the coop in the morning, and the order in which they return at night are all determined by the pecking order. The alpha hens will often eat from the feeder first in the morning. After she get their fill, the other hens will then get their share. The roosters most commonly eat last despite their hierarchical position in the flock. It is by evolutionary design, that the roosters know that the hens need the nutrition for flock procreation. A good rooster will always let the hens eat first, he will then eat any remaining morsels.
As organized and structured that the flock hierarchy may be, it is fluid, always in flux. Many activities can affect the pecking order in a flock. Events such as an illness or death of a member. If a member is injured and can no longer defend their position, they will often times find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order. Once they recover, they can sometimes regain their previous position, although this is not guaranteed. In the case of the death of an individual, the hierarchy reorganization can be quite sophisticated.
For example, when we lost our rooster, Roy, the flock found themselves suddenly without their top member, the Alpha member. It took the girls a while to come to a decision on who was going to occupy the position at the top of the pecking order. After the decision was made, the rest of the girls had to reestablish their position in the flock. It took several weeks for the girls to finally come to an agreement on the new pecking order. Once it was establishesed, peace reigned once more in the coop.
It is for this reason that chickens are so resistant to any new additions to the flock. When a keeper introduces new members to the flock, they interfere with this sophisticated heirarchical social construct within the flock. Knowing this, a keeper needs to take care on how and when to introduce new individuals to an established flock.
There are several things that a keeper to can do to make this transition as least stressful on the flock as possible. I will dedicate the rest of this post to the process I have used for over a decade of chicken keeping.
Brood new chicks in the flock environment or close to their enclosure.
If using broody hen to hatch and rise a clutch of chicks for you, she will take care of the introductions of her new chicks to the flock. In the absence of a broaden hen, it falls on the keeper to make this social transition. The easiest way to do this, is to brood the chicks in the pen if possible or near the established flock’s habit.
When I get a new clutch of chicks, I will keep them inside for the first two weeks. This allows me to monitor them so for health issues, physical issues, or other behavioral issues. Once I am confident that they survived their trip and have acclimated to the brooder environment, I move them outside to the girls pen.
Inside The Kuntry Klucker I have a wood pot shelf that I will set the brooder on. The girls are unable to gain any access to the chicks but are aware of their presence and activity. This does several things, this allows the established flock to get to know the new kids in the flock early on. Over time they will become accustomed to their presence in their environment, they will begin to ignore them and just associate them with the daily hum of flock activity.
Once the chicks are large enough to run in the pen, I will take them out of the brooder, and give them access to the larger pen environment. During the phases, I will cut off the girls access to the pen from the coop, and will open the external access door on the Kuntry KIucker coop. The established flock will then exit and enter through this secondary external access door. Meanwhile, the chicks will be confined to the indoor pen. This allows the established flock to see and interact with the chicks while forbidding any contact.
As the chicks grow, the established flock will be allowed visual access only. Over time, the established flock will once again ignore the presence of the chicks, as they become a daily presence in their lives.
Once the chicks are roughly the same size as the established flock, around 18-20 weeks, I will then, allow the established flock access once again to the indoor pen area where the chicks have spent the last several months. By this time, the chicks have reached egg laying age and are put on the same layer feed that the established flock normally consumes.
By this time, the established flock is so used to the chicks being present in their lives and environment. Thus, the transition is much easier on both flocks.
This method works best if you are introducing a groups of new individuals to your established block. I try to introduce groups of at least 5 or more. This year I am introducing 12 new individuals to my flocks. The larger the new flock the better.
The Pecking Order Begins:
Once the two flocks are allowed to contact each other, the new pecking order begins. The establish flock will begin pecking the new flock members on the back, indicating they are at the bottom of the pecking order. It is for this reason that the new kids in the flock need to be roughly the same size as the established birds. This allows them to handle the pecking order initiation process much better.
The pecking order at first may seem brutal. The established flock is putting in their two cents on the new hierarchical assignments. As long as it is just pecking on the back, I do not intervene. If the pecking order takes on more of a harsher bullying quality, I will then monitor the pecking order assignments for several days till the flock seems to come to an agreement on positions.
The initiation process usually receeds in a few days. At most my flock wrestles with the pecking order decisions for a week. It usually does not take long because the new members generally reside at the bottom of the pecking order. Very rarely do new members challenge established members for a higher position in the flock hierarchy. Even new roosters will often take a subjugated position at the bottom of the pecking order vs challenge the alpha rooster for his position.
Once the flock comes to an agreement on the place of the new members, flock harmony reigns once more. For several month there may be a bit of pecking as reminders of position. But for the most part the hard part is over.
As time goes on, the flock will act more like a single flock rather than two individual flocks. By the 4-6 month mark, the two flocks will work as one. The new members will most likely reside at the bottom of the pecking order for the first year of their lives. After that point they may try to challenge another member for a higher position, but even this is not usually an issue.
At this point, if you have a rooster in the new flock, they may begin to fight. I have had this go both ways. I have had a new rooster after several months challenge one of the established roosters for their position, and I have had new roosters just sit happily at the bottom of the order. This all depends on the temperament of the new rooster. He may assume the beta position well or he may not. It is during this time that you need a plan for your extra roosters. I typically put my roosters in bachelor pens where they bunk with other roosters. I will link the post here where I detail how bachelor pens work.
I hope this has helped many fellow “spring chicken” backyard chicken enthusiasts merge new chicks into an established flock.
Chickens are very simple creatures, one just needs an understanding of their nature and habits. They ask little, but give much in return.
If you still have questions, please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me at email@example.com I will get back to you a soon as I can. You can also find us on Facebook @ Kuntry Klucker Crew.
As alway, thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing.
First and foremost before you get chickens, know your zoning restrictions. Many cities, states, and counties have different laws regarding keeping livestock. If you are in the city, if you are allowed backyard chickens, you will most likely be restricted to a small number of hens omitting roosters.
In the county or country you may have more freedom, but you will still need to abide by guidelines.
For example, where I am located, I am not restricted on the amount of chickens I can have but I am restricted on how far my coops need to be from my neighbors front door. My animals must be confined to my property either by a fence or pen attached to coop. I also need to practice good manure management to keep my coops from causing fly, rodent or odor issues for my neighbors. So even in the country their are guidelines that need to be followed.
If you are unsure of what your zoning laws require, you can find out simply by calling the State Veternian for your state and asking. They will be able to tell you based on your location what your restrictions are.
As the saying goes, “You can’t have just one”. This more than applies to owning chickens. I started out with 17 Buff Orpington chicks and now have ballooned to a flock of 50+ of various breeds. I totally underestimated the addiction risk of chickens. I absolutely love my backyard divas and have plans for more.
Today my flock is a thriving multicultural mesh of different breeds. Through acquiring a variety of breeds I am able to profile the behavior of various breeds along with any advantages and drawbacks. After owning several breeds, I can honestly say that the Polish is my favorite breed of all my Backyard Divas.
Chickens require time and daily care. Like all pets, chickens require dedication. However, chickens require little but give much in return.
To illustrate. My flock of 50 and 7 coops require about 30 minutes of my time every morning. Daily chores consist of cleaning the coops, filling feeders, filling waterers, collecting eggs and maintaining nesting boxes. All of this, while sounding like a lot does not require much time out of my day.
However, like a dog or cat, maintenance needs to be performed on a daily basis. Also, like your cat or dog, if you go on vacation, care will need to be arranged in your absences.
Most people keep chickens for the farm fresh eggs. However, this pursuit, although positive has some drawbacks.
First, once you get a taste of farm fresh eggs, it’s hard to eat any other type of egg. For example, store bought eggs after eating farm fresh eggs taste like plastic. You will find yourself becoming an egg connoisseur of sorts, an egg snob if you will.
Second, you will come to realize that at first, your flock will produce the most expensive eggs that you ever collected. Allow me to explain.
Once obtaining your flock it will be about 20 weeks or 5-6 months before you collect the first egg from the nesting box. But during the “waiting period”, you will have to feed your flock. Egg laying or not, feeding your flock is a necessity. By the time you get your first egg, you will have spent a hefty amount in chicken feed, flock supplies and coops/pens. However, once the flock starts to lay dependibly, your cost and reward ratio will begin to align. But until then, you will be putting money into a “time share” of sorts without any benifit. Many people do not realize this, they falsely assume that chickens lay eggs right away and do not factor in a period of egg drout.
Egg drouts do not only happen during devolpment/maturity of the hens toward laying age, but also at various times throughout their lives. Yearly molt, the coldest part of winter, or the hottest part of summer depending on the breed. Point being, your flock will go through dry spells where they are not laying but you will be spending money on chicken feed. During these times of declined egg production, I humorously refer to my girls as “free-loaders”. All in good spirits of course. I understand my girls need a vacation every now and then and grant them time off.
Third, they will find you. When an egg recall or egg ration is suffered by the egg industry, backyard chicken keepers become everyone’s favorite neighbor.
For example, during the past egg scare when the bird flu raged havoc throughout the egg industry, I got a few unexpected visitors at my door. It takes quite a bit of guts to knock on a strangers door and ask for eggs.
The situation of this particular visitor was rather unique. She was a friend of a friend, who worked with a friend who told her that she knew me and that I had a fairly large backyard chicken flock. Her husband was on a a strict diet, eggs were his primary source of protien. Being that the bird flu forced many egg producers to recall eggs and euthanize their flocks, he was practally starving.
I gave her what eggs I had. I offered them at no charge given their unique and desperate situation. She insisted that she pay for them. This was the first day that a stranger knocked at my door and the girls turned a profit, but it was not the last.
All procidees the girls make on the eggs, I turn back to them in the form of feed, treats, and other necessities.
This was when I first realized how self sustaining my little farm really is. A massive egg recall raging the nation, had I not watched the news, I would have no idea. Now, when egg recalls or egg scares make the news I am prepared for a few visitors looking for eggs. The humble backyard chicken keeper to the rescue.
Illness and the importance of a Chicken first aid kit:
Just like kids and other pets, chickens too get sick. However, unlike a pediatrician for little humans and vets for cats and dogs, most vets will not treat chickens since they are technically “live stock”. While backyard flocks are rapidly reaching pet status, for now they are categorized as livestock.
Thus, the backyard chicken keeper has to become a chicken doctor. Althought this sounds scary, chickens are simple creatures. Most conditions that plague a backyard flock are relatively simple to treat.
The more common health conditions that a backyard chicken keeper will encounter are things like mites, lice, bubble foot, fly strike, respitory illnesses and sour crop. The good news is, good flock maintenance practice will eliminate many of these conditions. If your flock has fresh water daily, fresh feed in clean feeders, and a clean dry place to call home, most of these potetional illnesses will be greatly reduced.
In my 10 years of keeping chickens, I have only had a few illnesses to tangle with. Mostly I have had to treat for mites, worms, and bumble foot. If your chickens are allowed to free range, at some point they will come down with a case of red fowl mites. You can think of mites as a badge of honor because your flock has access to grass, fresh air, and sun. Treatment is simiar to flea/tick treatment for cats and dogs. Only with a method for chickens. My favorite product for this purpose is Epernix. Found a Feed/Farm stores in the cattle section.
Although made for cattle, Epernix at low dose is safe for chickens. I use 1/2 cc for bantoms and 3/4 cc for standard size birds. With a syringe I drop the liquid behind their neck, just like treating a cat or dog. I repeat again in 14 days, and that’s it. After two doses, lice and mites are history. Treat every single flock member. I do this maybe 1 to 2 times a year. I treat only when symptoms are present. Note when using this produce there is an automatic egg withdrawal of 20 days while the girls are in treatment.
Worming is the same. I use safeguard for goats, at small doses it is effective for chickens. This time, with a different syringe I use 1/2cc for bantam and 3/4cc for standard size birds. Drop the wormer on a piece of bread and feed to each member of the flock, repeat in 14 days. There is also a 20 days egg withdrawal for safeguard like Eprinex. That is it, crises averted.
The most complex issue I have had to deal with is bumble foot. I will link my method for dealing with bumble foot here.
Although a chicken keeper needs to take their flocks health in the own hands, it’s not hard. Most things you need to treat your flocks are found at feed/Farm stores. If you can find a vet to treat your birds, the price will be very high. However, most vets will put a gravely ill chicken down. Some keepers prefer this to putting their own sick hens down. I humanly euthanize my own sick members, but most people are not able to do this which is fine. Most vets will assist in this event.
Things to keep in your chicken first aid kit:
vet wrap, gauze, triple antibiotic cream, salve, plastic knives for admistering salve and creams, steril scizzors for cutting gauz and vet wrap, hydrogen peroxide, syringes without needles for admistering medication orally, Rooster Booster poultry cell (great for poviding sick birds with iron, amino acids, and minerals for recovers), Rooster Booster B-12 (good for providing sick birds with essential vitamins for healing, high in B-12), VetRx for poultry (great for birds with respotiry issues, similar to vicks for humans. Drop in water or place under the wing to help birds recover), bleach to sterilize instruments.
Most of this things are household items accept for items specific to poultry. Keeping a first-egg kit (pun intended) ready and stocked makes it easier to treat on the spot rather than waiting till you can get the items you need.
Have a plan for winter
When acquiring chickens, most people are so focused on brooders and bring their flock to laying age that they often find themselves frantic when cold weather approaches. Preparing a flock for winter takes time, preparation and some expense. However, due to the fact that chickens come factory installed with down coats, it’s not the cold keepers need to worry about but wind and moisture. To adequately prepare your flock for winter a keeper needs to take measures to keep the coop/pen clean and dry. Installing heater or heat lamps is not needed or recommended. Coop fires are often started by good intentions to keep flocks warm. The rule of thumb is to never judge your flocks comfort by your own standards. Chickens evolved to live out doors, all a keeper needs to do is keep them clean and dry, warmth is not necessary, the chickens take care of that on their own. I will link here the methods I use to prepare my flock and coops for winter.
Coops and Pens: There are so many options.
Before you get chickens, decide what kind of coop you want to get. Before shopping for coops you need to know how many chickens you intend to get and how many coops you want to have. There are lots of resources for acquiring coops. If you are skilled at wood working you could build your own coop and pen. If you’re like me and wood working is not your cup of tea, there are many prefab coops on the market. Contraty to popular belief, prefab coops can and do make great homes for your flock. I will link here my post where I talk about prefab coops, hacks, and how to get the most out of your prefab coops.
Finally and most importantly: Brooder set up
In order to have a successful flock, your chicks need a good start, and the best place to get this start is in the brooder. Before you get chicks, you need to think about their brooder and how you plan to brood your clutch. Just about everything you can think of has been used for brooders, kiddie pools, Rubbermaid totes, dog crates, boxes, bathtubs, garages, attics, and so on. The possibilities are endless. At the end of the day, a brooder is just a heated home for your growing chicks, what you use to achieve this home is up to you. I started out using large boxes then switched to puppy play pens as my preferred brooding container. Everyone will have their own idea on what to use and how to brood. The size of the flock will also affect the type of container use I to house the flock. I will link my brooding method and supplies here.
I hope that this post has been a helpful addition to the information gathering phase on starting your own backyard chicken flock. Chickens are a great asset to any farm, homestead or city backyard, they ask little but give much in return.
If you have any questions not addressed in this post, feel free to ask. You can leave a comment, find us on facebook, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!
Flowering bushes and gardens are most definitely atheistically pleasing, I have flower gardens a plenty but edible landscaping is a joy that is unique in and of itself.
Just about everything in my backyard is edible. Going to my backyard is like going to a farmers market on my property. There are lots of options when it comes to landscaping.
In this post, I will reveal how I use plants to landscape my backyard into an edible mini paradise.
There are lots of ways to add edible landscaping to your property. Blueberry bushes are not only producers of wonderful deep blue berries but have beautiful spring green leaves. When planted in a row they creat a hedge of greenery and goodness. In the fall their leaves turn to a beautiful red that are stunning in the fall landscape.
As the blueberries ripen throughout the season they add a lot of beauty to the yard. They turn from a green to a deep blue or purple depending on the verity.
When planting blueberry bushes, plant at least 6 of 2 or 3 different verities. Doing this will ensure adequate cross pollination and a large yield. Blueberries need a few different varieties nearby to cross pollinate well. If too few are planted the harvest will be reduced and they will not be as prolific.
Arona Berry Bushes:
Arona Berry bushes are another great way to add edible landscaping to your property. Topping out at about 8-10 ft tall and a spread of 5 to 6 ft wide, these bushes are show stoppers.
In the Spring that are filled with white delicate blooms that turn into dark purple berries around mid-summer. They have a sweet/tart taste, somewhere between a cranberry and a cherry. They are dense little berries that are great to add to smoothies or other berry dishes. My chickens absolutely love the Arona Berries. They will readily pick all the berries they can near the bottom, luckily these bushes are tall so there is plenty to go around.
Unlike blueberries, Arona Berry bushes do not need another bush to cross pollinate. Given their size 1 or 2 will be enough. I have two of these bushes in my backyard, both are beautiful and a lot of berries come mid-summer.
Black Berry Bushes:
Another beautiful trailing berry bush to add to an edible landscape are Black Berries. Unlike Blueberries or the Arona Berries, Black Berries do best on a trellis. While they can grow independent of a trellis they do better if they have a support to keep the branches off the ground. If too low to the ground the berries tend to rot before they can be picked.
If you have tasted Black Berry jam or Black Berry pie then you know exactly what to do with these prolific little berry producers. Black Berries are great in many things from smoothies to jams to pies. If the bushes produce an abundance, then frozen Black Berries are a treat in the winter months when all the bushes are dormant.
The possibilities are limitless with what one can do with a bushel of Black Berries. I have my Black Berries bushes near the Grape Arbor so they can trellis along with the grapes as they grow taller and have longer branches. Instead of keeping them pruned to a smaller size I allow them to grow long and just attach them to the Arbor as they need more support.
If you are granted the room, grapes are another great plant to add to your edible landscape. Grapes are very versatile, they can grow on fence posts, poles, trellis, or even chain link fences. As long as whatever they are growing on can support the weight of the vines, grapes are a possibility. Uncultivated, grapes vines will grow up trees and other vertical shrubs that can support the weight of the vines.
A Grape Arbor is not necessary to grow grapes just the method that I chose. But if you are interested in building a Grape Arbor, a Pergola Arbor is a great asset as it can double as a place to hang Hammock swings, a porch swings, or even a hammock. If you are interested in how we built our Grape Arbor I will link that post here.
Unlike Blueberries and other berries, grapes need something to trellis on. To have a successful grape harvest the vines must be kept off the ground. Grapes also need lots of pruning. I prune my grapes every January, cutting off the dead vines and securing the previous seasons growth to the trellis. Come March/April when the grape vines come out of dormancy, they will grow on the dormant vine and continue their journey up the trellis.
you will need to spray your grape vines to keep insects at bay. I use an organic gardening spray that works well at keeping the bugs off and will not harm the chickens or other wildlife in my backyard (just the bugs). It can be found at Tractor Supply or other farm/feed stores.
Neem oil is also a good option but will need to be sprayed more often. I spray my grape vines 3-4 times a year. Once as the grape vines start to bud, then again after they leaf out, once in the mid season (June-July) and once a month or so before harvest. This spray schedule keeps the bugs from eating the leaves and stripping my vines throughout the growing season. Just make sure to spray early in the morning or later evening to keep from burning the leaves.
Another beautiful plant to add to an edible landscape are raspberry bushes. Newly planted this year, I have the raspberry bushes planted at the back of the arbor. As they grow (like the black berries, raspberries need a trellis) I will attach them to the grape arbor and let them trellis up the arbor along with the grapes and the black berries. I have one raspberry bush that survived our cold winter, the rest sadly perished. So this year a bought a more hardy variety that is cold hardy down to -20. Hopefully, with these new varieties I will not suffer any more losses of my raspberry bushes.
Although not edible (by humans anyway), butterfly bushes are a great plant to add to an edible landscape. Not only are they beautiful, but a stately butterfly bush will attract pollinators to your yard. Everything from butterflies, hummingbirds, bubble bees, honey bees, and hummingbird moths will flock to the butterfly bushes to feed off the nectar of the butterfly bush blooms.
In mid-summer when the bushes are in full bloom there is a frenzy of activity around the butterfly bushes. In close proximity with the berry row many of these valuable pollinators visit the neighboring berry bushes and continue to pollinate creating a high yield.
Spices and Herbs:
Another way to add edible plants to your property is that of herbs. Most herbs are flowering plants that have beautiful blooms that attract bees, butterflies and other important pollinators.
I grow just about the herbs and spices that I use in cooking and for inscene making. I rarely have to by herbs because I harvest and dry the herbs that I have here on my property. Everything from Basil to lavender I grow on my property.
In the fall I harvest the spices and herbs and use them in cooking, teas, baking, and incense. At the end of this post I will share one of my favorite dried herb incense recipes that I have constantly fragrancing my home.
Veggie gardens need no introduction, these gardens no matter the size are a great way to add edible landscaping to your property. I have several veggie gardens. One that I use as more of a kitchen garden, the other I grow corn, pumpkins, sunflowers and other fall/winter goodies.
In all my veggie gardens the girls patrol the rows of veggies eating the bugs off the plants and tilling the soil in search for worms. My girls are a great asset is organic gardening, their natural talents reduce my need for any bug ellimitating regiment. I may lose a tomato or two to a curious chicken, but I plant enough for everyone to get their fair share.
Although not edible (by humans) I do have an abundance of flower gardens that surround my home and property. These gardens provide food for necessary pollinators such at butterflies and bees which in turn assist me in increasing a high yield from the edible landscaping. It is through these beneficial insects that we are able to feed our families and put food on the table.
In attempts to aid the bee populations, I do not spay any insecticide near my home. Many of my gardens contain herbs and spices which naturally deter may pest insects that would otherwise enter my home.
Given that this is a blog that is primarily focused on raising backyard chickens, how do my girls factor into edible landscaping.
The simple answer is composting. The girls create a very nutritious compost in their coops through their digestive processes. Due to the presence of a gizzard in their digestive system, chickens process everything they consume. When added to the coop shavings and composted, the girls produce the best plant food that money can buy. Because my girls are fed an organic diet by way of their feed and whatever delictibles they find out when free ranging, their compost is also chemical free.
Every spring I spread the compost the girls have been making throughout the winter. Because chickens poo is high in nitrogen and other minerals beneficial to plants, my gardens are lush and produce high yields.
Many visitors to my farm ask me what I feed by gardens to produce such beautiful blooms and large vegetables. My answer, chicken poo. My homestead is literally powered by my girls. They are the secret to my success.
As promised, I leave my recipe for natural incense that I created using spices and herbs from my garden. This recipe is very versatile and can be tweaked given aromatic preferences.
The Kuntry Klucker’s Home Herb Insence
For this recipe you will need an electric wax warmer or a wax warmer that is warmed by a tea light or other source of heat.
1/8 to 1/4 tsp olive oil
1-2 TBS dried rosemary
1-2 TBS dried sage
1-2 TBS Dried lavender
1 TBS Basil
Other things that can be added: Tree resins such as frankincense, dragons blood, myrrh, copal, or benzoin. Drops of essential oils can also be added.
In the wax warmer place a small amount of olive oil, just enough to just cover the bottom of the wax warmer. Mix all the dried spices in a small bowl and add to the wax warmer on top of the oil. Turn on wax burner or light tea light under warmer. After a few minutes of heating, a spicy yet calming aroma will be released by the herbs simmering in the oil in the wax warmer. You can add other aromas as well, such as essential oils or resins to bring the aroma to your liking. This is an all natural way to fragrance your home without releasing harmful substances in the air such as chemicles that are often added to candles and other wax or oil fragrances.
As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!
I hope that you enjoyed and found value in this post. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments or shoot an email my way. Kuntryklucker@gmail.com I can also be found on facebook.
Forget their bad rap, let’s take a fresh look at Roosters.
For those who have followed me you know that I have two central passions within the backyard chicken movement, conservation of Heritage Breeds and Roosters. Roosters have acquired a bad rap that they are not totally deserving of. Much of this reputation started in our grandparents day when keeping chickens was a basic way of life. The breeds available for this purpose were few and most were considered game birds by our breed standard today. The rooster were a bit cantankerous and aggressive. Not of their own volition but due to the lack of breeding for demeanor, temperament, and docile attributes.
The backyard chicken hobby has come a long way since the day of our grandparents starring the nightmare bird that tormented us. Much has been done in the way of breeding that has produced roosters that are much more docile and friendly. Make no mistake, a rooster has a job to do and takes it seriously, but as a general rule many breeds today possess roosters that are much better suited for the backyard chicken hobby way of life. I went into the hobby carrying with me the traumas of the dreaded backyard bird on my grandparents farm, I have since then learned much about these creatures and come to appreciate and admire them.
The first rooster that I had was Roy. Roy was a Buff Orpington rooster that came with the first batch of chicks that I ordered. I was terrified to have a rooster but nonetheless went forward with raising him alongside the other chickens in the clutch I ordered. I feared that Roy would grow up to be the vindictive bird so often elapsed from generations past. All I had was the working knowledge of the many association attributed to roosters.
As Roy grew into an adult rooster he showed me another side of roosters, a side that I have never thought possible. He showed me that roosters are effectuate, approachable, friendly and even docile. I was blown way by the unchartered path the Roy was taking me down. Not only was he not aggressive he was a gentlemen. When I brought treats to the back yard he would feed the girls, when I came to visit the flock he was more often than not my welcoming committee. Through Roy I was able to witness the selfless service that he offered to my hens. Even giving his life if necessary.
One early spring day, I was in the house going about my regular activities. Due to the temped weather, I had the windows open. Out of the silence of my otherwise quiet day, I heard Roy crowing. This crow was different, instead of his usually “just checking in” crow, this crow had a timbre of urgency. Throwing on my boots and rushing to the backyard, I saw a scene before me that I was not prepared for. In the middle of the backyard stood Roy, he had sounded the alarm because a large raptor had laid siege upon the flock. All the girls were safely hidden under a tree but Roy was alone in the backyard preparing to take on the hawk alone, thus giving his life for his hens. As I approached the backyard and took in the reality of what was unfolding, I too took action and grabbed the closest thing to me waving it in the air. With my hoe in hand I approached Roy, striking the Raptor, scaring it, it flew over the fence scratching into the distance. Once Roy was freed from the predators talons I saw that he was injured. He sustained injuries to his head and back. I cared for him, nursing him back to health and returned him to the flock where he lived on several more years as a decorated war hero. I learned that day the ultimate value of a rooster. Roy showed me that a rooster is more than a reputation that hinged from a long ago era. A rooster is a sentient being that gives more than he will ever receive. Even giving his life when necessary.
Roy has long since passed, buried under a white butterfly bush in my backyard, but he is not gone. I still hear his crow echoing in my backyard amplified in the 13 roosters that I now have the honor to care for. He was the first of many roosters that I now own and will own in the future.
The lessons I learned from my Rooster Teacher will never fade. I take what Roy has taught me and now advocate for roosters. Roosters are amongst the most abused and forgotten creatures, a singer of the songs of the ancients, with a heart of gold he cares for and even surrenders his life for his friends.
This post is dedicated to Roy and his legacy, but most importantly its the story of my journey with roosters and proof that roosters are indeed sentient beings worthy of admiration and respect. Here are my top 10 Reasons why Roosters Rock.
The most common attribute possessed by roosters is that of protection. When free ranging, a rooster will keep an eye to the sky, looking out for any danger that may threaten the flock. When a danger is detected he will sound the alarm, send the girls running for cover and if needed give his life for his flock. This is what I witnessed on that fateful day when Roy sounded the alarm. Had I not been home when I was, I often cringe at what would have been. But luckily I was there to save Roy’s life just as he was preparing to save the life of my girls.
It is often said that a rooster is a better watch dog than a watch dog. After owning many rooster, I have to concur. Roosters will keep you up to date all on that goings on in the backyard or chicken yard. They are a real live and up to date news service on the condition of their surrounding. If there are multiple roosters in a flock, they will check in with each other by crowing communicating the “all clear here”, echoed by a “clear here too”. This banter will go on throughout the day as the boys on duty keep the flock updated on the air traffic in the area or other important announcements. I delight in hearing my boys check in with each other, I feel good knowing that the guys are on duty.
Singing the song of his people, a roosters crow is an ancient song, a song of a world long ago past. He sings the ancient song long before our time, a time when his larger ancestors roamed the earth. His is a song from a world that long ago existed before his song was drowned out by our modern way of life. His song is a song of purity, the reminiscence of a day when life was hard but simple, a time when a rooster’s crow ushered in the beginning of a new day. Greeting the sun, setting the world around him in motion. Our modern life drowns out the sounds of nature and the past. His song has a purity that money cannot buy but few will hear. His song is a relic of the ancients, linking us to his past and to ours.
3. A Dancer:
A rooster is a gentlemen. Before he mates with a hen he courts her with a shuffle dance. As he approaches her in anticipation of a date he will dance for her, shuffling his feet, displaying his wings and at times shaking his waddles, the ultimate display of a rooster “stud”. If she accepts, he will then mate with her and then make plans for his next date. Watching this mating dance within my own flock by my roosters is such a delight. I never thought that roosters could have such killer moves, but nonetheless, my backyard is a dance floor with some of the best dancers I have seen. I never get tired of watching my boys dance for my hens.
4. Fertilized Eggs
Linked close to number 3 (dancing) is fertilized eggs. When a rooster mates with a hen, it is his aim to pass long his genes to the subsequent generation of chicks. If you want to procreate your flock, fertilized eggs are a must. Not only that, but if you sale your fertilized eggs you can make a small profit on the side. For example, when the covid-19 pandemic hit the US, lot of people wanted to keep chickens. Seeking to be independent from the supply chain many began seeking a more self-sufficient way of life. A lot of people reached out to me asking if I would sale some of my hens or chicks. Being that it was January when covid impacted my area, chick season was a bit far off yet. However, I did have fertilize eggs that I could sale which they could hatch and start their flocks. As a result I earned a profit by selling fertilized eggs from my flock. All the proceeds went right back to the girls whether be it feed, treats, or other things they benefited from.
5. Hunting for his Hens:
A rooster will hunt for his girls. When free ranging, a rooster will actively look for things to offer his hens. When he finds something of value, he will call his girls over to eat it. When they heed his call, he will then pick up the morsel and drop it showing them what he found for them. As they eat, he will keep watch looking out for any danger deemed to be a threat to the flock. If his hunts come up empty, he will lead his girls to the feeder when he feels that it’s time for them to eat. After the girls have had their fill, only then will he eat if there are any remaining morsels. It is by evolutionary design that he knows the girls need the extra nutrition for the procreation of the flock (egg laying).
Roosters are known for this chivalrous behavior. I spend much time watching my boys as they hunt and call over their girls as the proudly watch as they eagerly eat his find. This was a behavior that I least expected to see in my roosters. Even when I bring treats to the backyard for the flock, the boys will be up front ready to receive the treats to distribute amongst their appointed hens. I will often give the treats to the rooster and watch them then feed their ladies. In this process, the roosters have learned that I am the supplier of sustenance and will often squabble in anticipation of getting the first hand out to then offer to their hens. When multiple rooster are in the flock this behavior is even more interesting to witness.
6. Keeping his friends close and his enemies closer:
When out free ranging, the presence of a rooster in a flock will keep the girls from wondering too far. In my backyard, the boys have divided the yard into jurisdictions. Each head of the flock knowing where the boundary lines are and which girls belong on which rooster team. Given that my backyard is large providing much roaming space, each rooster keeps his girls within their section of the vast yard. When the girls start to wonder too far from their coop or into “enemy territory” he will herd them back to home base. When roosting time approaches, he will also herd them to the coop in preparation for night fall. I have multiple coops in my backyard, each rooster knows which coop is his and will see to it that all his girls are accounted for before I lock up. If I find one of the roosters wondering in the backyard I know that one or more of his girls are in the wrong coops. I assist him with finding his missing hen in one of the other coops, put her on the ground and let him lead her to the correct coop for roosting (it is apparently a violation of the rooster code for him to enter a suspect coop in search of his hen). I have often times gone to lock up the coops for the night and found one sometimes more of my boys waiting for my assistance. They know that as I lock up coops I will discover any misplaced hens and reunite them with the correct flock and corresponding head of flock management.
7. Keeping order in the ranks:
As the head of the flock, a rooster will keep order in the ranks. Contrary to popular belief, chickens are very intelligent and highly organized creatures. Phrases that we often use in our everyday language are derived from the complex social structure of chickens such as, “pecking order” and for good reason. The social hierarchy of a flock is established by literally pecking another member on the back indicating placement in the social order (the pecker is above the peckie). Starting with the alpha rooster, below him are the subjugated roosters in the flock, then flowing throughout all the hens to the last member at the bottom of the pecking order. All activities are then performed around this order, such mundane flock activities such as who roosts were at night, the order in which the flock leaves the coop and the order in which they return.
As predicted, there are often squabbles amongst the hens when someone acts out of turn or challenges another member to renegotiate their position. When this happens a conflict often ensues. During these times, a rooster will step in and quell any disruption within the ranks, establishing peace once again in the order. Left in isolation, conflicts among the flock can result in injuries to the contenders. It is a roosters job to see to it that no injuries are sustained by breaking up any fights that may break out among the hens. Once order is reestablished the flock can then carry on about their day hopefully without further disruptions.
Before I had roosters I never stopped and examined them. What I have found is that although all my girls are stunning my boys are just absolutely beautiful. From the iconic 80’s hair band atop my Polish boys heads to the elaborately long tails and stunning colorations, my boys are just beautiful. They take pride in their crests and long tails to. When molting season is upon them and my boys loose their tails, I can almost visibly see their egos affected.
They will strut their stuff in the backyard while shaking their waddles just to let everyone know they are the heart throbs of the backyard. My boys take great care in their looks, I assist them in making sure they stay pest free aiding them in their grooming regiment. I have a few that are the pride of my backyard and know it. When multiple roosters are in the flock the eye candy appeal is even more enticing. They just add a beauty to my backyard flock that is hard to miss. I thoroughly enjoy watching my backyard studs as they strut their stuff and care for the hens.
Roosters create an interesting dynamic in the flock. As they each care for their section of the hens in their agreed upon juristicion, things can sometimes become entertaining. Ocassionally a hen or two will wonder off too far, so the associated rooster needs to fetch them while keeping an eye on the rest of the flock.
Or this scenario, a hen or two will cheat on a rooster by mating with a rival rooster in another part of the yard. Or a young roosters who has yet to establish his harem works to try and siphon off a few hens from other roosters. This often leaves the backyard in a state of confusion for a few days. My boys are very well behaved so fights are usually limited to short durations. Typically when two roosters start to squabble one or more of the other roosters will hear the disruption and break up the confrontation. Basically, backyard life is never boring with roosters around.
Even funnier still is when I bring new items into the backyard. Last year we put in a grape arbor in our backyard which entailed many items coming to the backyard which all needed inspection by the boys. An auger to dig the post holes, large timbers to frame the arbor, more wood to create the canopy, and finally the grape plants themselves. The boys each had to make sure it passed inspection before they felt comfortable with the hens going near it. The year earlier we put in a large backyard garden shed. That too had to pass rooster inspection. This year we plan to give them a break. I cannot imagine my flock with out my boys, they are a great joy and bring much happiness to my soul.
When I observe my flock free ranging in my backyard I see a balance. The Yin Yang, the Yi Jing, all in balance flowing as nature designed and intended. Many city locations will not allow roosters due to the noise issue related to crowing. However, many city chicken keepers are posing challenges to this discriminatory precedent being allowed one rooster. Roosters whether in a fenced backyard or a pasture bring a completion to the flock that is often missed when a rooster is absent. I am thankful for every summers eve that I am able to sit at watch my flock as they bring to an end the days activities. I cannot imagine my life without my boys, they have taught me so much.
I hope that this post has brought some clarification to the subject of roosters. It is my aim to challenge the stigma, the bad rap that is often unfairly attached to roosters, and to instead present them as the amazing creatures that they are. Yes, the rooster of our grandparents era were bad barn yard birds, they were often closely related to the game cock which is a very aggressive species. But as the backyard chicken movement has taken hold in this country so has the demand for a bird that fit this purpose. No longer needed to sustain a family farm, chickens today are assuming more of a role as a family pet much like a dog. The poultry industry has responded by providing more and more breeds that are docile and even down right lovable.
Take the Silkie for example. Silkies are known the world over as the teddy bears of the chicken world. They live up to this reputation as lovable, furry feathered friends that are great to have around kids. One of my boys has a flock of Silkies that he is very attached to and absolutely loves to care for and interact with. There are many other examples such as the Silkie which are chicken breeds that meet this need for the backyard chicken hobbyist.
In this post it was my aim to take a fresh look at roosters. Gone are the days of our grandparents barn yard rooster that terrorized us as kids. Meet the roosters of today, and start your adventure with backyard chickens.
As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!!
Roosters are amazing creatures, however, they unfortunately fall prey to a negative stereotype. In reality roosters are not as aggressive as many think. The rooster of yesteryear that haunt the dreams of those who have had negative encounters with them are often played by the game cock or other game birds. Yes, those breeds can be high strung and aggressive. However, due to the variety of breeds available the majority of rooster today are very docile and calm. Gone are the days of your grandparents flock which contained the rooster that starred in your childhood nightmares. Many people today keep chickens for fun and eggs and are hobby enthusiasts. Thus, the breeds available today are suited to these purposes. That being said, below I will detail my argument for why keeping a rooster or two is an asset for a backyard flock.
Protector of the Flock:
Roosters are often unfairly stigmatized as being fearsome, blood thirsty, mean and nasty aggressive birds. While they do have a job to do and take it very seriously, they really are amazing and gentile creatures. When out free ranging, a rooster will keep watch for any dangers that could impact the flock and sound the alarm when needed. If there is more than one rooster in the flock, they will take turns keeping an eye to the sky, each taking up part of the watch as the rest of the flock scour the grass for any available bugs, worms, or greens to dine on. If a threat appears one or several of the roosters will sound the alarm, alerting the hens to the impending danger, and if needed sacrificing himself for the safety of his girls. I have witnessed this first hand with my first rooster, a Buff Orpington named Roy.
One afternoon while out in the backyard he sounded the alarm. I heard his cry from the house, rushed out to the backyard in time to see a large hawk fly away. Standing alone in the center of the yard, he was prepared to sacrifice himself for the safety of the girls. All the girls were safe under a large tree, Roy on the other hand was injured. Had I not heard his cry and come to his rescue, it pains me to think what would have happened to him. Luckily he recovered from the hawk inflicted injuries and lived for several more years as a decorated war hero. It was on this day that I learned the true value of a rooster. You can read his story here.
2. Tend to nutritional needs of the hens:
In addition to protectors of the flock, a rooster will hunt for his girls. He will actively look for food, things such as a big bug, juicy worm, or vegetation for them to eat. Once he finds something of value, he will call the girls over to eat it. He will stand watch as the girls eat what he found. He will only eat what is left, he is self sacrificing looking out for the nutrition of his hens. It is as if by evolutionary design that he knows the girls need the extra nutrition for the procreation of the flock (laying eggs). If not much turns up on his hunt he will lead the girls to the feeder in the coop when he feels that it is time for them to eat. Again, he will eat after the girls have had their fill, looking out for their interest first.
3. Breaking up any squabbles in the ranks:
Chickens are very highly socially organized creatures, contrary to what many people think. A flock of chickens are organized into a hierarchy, each member knowing his or her place. The term “pecking order” is derived form this complex social system and for good reason. At the top of the pecking order is typically the alpha rooster, under him will be the subjugated roosters in the flock. The roosters determine who is the alpha by competing for this position.
Following the roosters will be the alpha hen, this is the hen that has earned her right to be at the top of the order directly under the roosters. The alpha hen is usually a little bossy in regards to the other hens in the flock. As for the rest of the members, position is established by literally “pecking” another hen on the the back indicating the the “pecker” is above the “peckie”. This behavior flows from the alpha hen all the way to the bottom of the order. Each chicken pecking someone else on the back indicating their position in the order.
Once the order is established all activities within the flock revolve around the order. Simple activities such as the order in which the flock exits the coop in the morning and the order in which they return. As long as all individuals stick to the order as originally established, all is peaceful in the flock. However, at times one or more members will challenge or act out of turn as dictated by position.
In cases such as these a battle or competition generally ensues. It is in times such as these that a rooster will step in, inspect and cease any unrest amongst the hens. Not only are fights disruptive to flock dynamics but injuries can be sustained. It is the job of the rooster to see to it that peace is instilled within the ranks. A rooster will also act as a protector of any members that are unfairly picked on. If there is a hen that is smaller than the rest or at the bottom of the pecking order, he will see to it that she is not picked on insensately.
4. Procreation of the flock:
In addition to protection, finding food, and keeping order in the ranks, a rooster will service the flock through the act of mating. A rooster will mate with the hens in order to pass on his genes to the subsequent generations of chicks.
There is a common misconception that hens will not lay eggs unless a rooster is present in the flock, this is obviously false. A hen will lay eggs regardless if a rooster is present or not. The eggs laid in the absence of a rooster will of course not be fertile, but there will be eggs nonetheless.
If you want to propagate your flock, a rooster in this case is a must. However, if you cannot have a rooster due to city ordinances or other zoning restrictions you will still receive farm fresh eggs from your hens without any issues.
If there is more than one rooster in the flock, the boys will divide the hens amongst them. When free ranging they will then divide the roaming area into jurisdictions. Each rooster will know the boundary lines and which hens belong on which rooster team. It is possible to keep more than one rooster in a flock large enough to sustain multiple roosters. To learn how I keep more that I rooster in my flock click here.
Roosters will have “favorite” hens, these are hens that he prefers to mate with the most. Different attributes make a particular hen a favorite. Hens that are easily submissive to his approaches, hens that the rooster deems as most fertile, or hens that are larger and lay larger eggs will most likely make the favorites list. These hens run the risk of sustaining the most injuries during mating. For these reasons it is the owners responsibility to provide provisions to make this process easier on the hens. For example, an easy protective measure to incorporate in a flock is that of a hen saddle.
Hen Saddles provide protection from the trending of the rooster during mating. In addition to keeping your roosters nails trimmed, hen saddles help protect the wing and back feathers of hens that are mated often. They are vey easy to make and require nothing more than thick fabric, a little elastic and basic sewing skills (needle and thread) a sewing machine is not required. Although simple in design they provide much needed protection to your hens. In addition to the practicality they can also serve as an easy form of identification. If you use different colors of fabric, hen saddles allow hens to stand out amongst each other.
Another method to protect against over mating is to separate a rooster from the hens for a period of time. During the molting period and particularly when the ladies are having a dreadfully tough molt, I will separate the roosters from the flock for a period of time. This allows the hens who are missing more feathers than usual to recover from the molt easier. By restricting the mating process till after their new feathers have grown in reduces further injury to the hens. While spending a little time away from the hens I will check the boys into a bachelor pen. To see how I incorporate bachelor pens in my flock click here.
5. Singing the song of his people.
There is just something about a rooster’s crow in the early morning hours that has an indescrible purity to it. In the busy rat-race-pace of our lives, we are often not still enough to appreciate the purity and stillness of a quiet morning interrupted by the crow of a rooster. Breaking the silence, the crow of a rooster is a sound of a by gone era. A sound from our past when the crow of a rooster was a part of the audio landscape. A time when farming was not just a hobby but a way of life and your animals were how you survived. The crow of a rooster symbolized the arrival of a new day, the start of another work day. A time when working the land and plowing the fields was how our ancestors survived. Its a sound from the past, a past that has been lost to the progression of time.
In the stillness of the early morning hours, I like to sit on the back porch, my morning coffee in hand, and listen to my boys sing the song of their people. It’s a song of the ancients, a song that traces back to a time when their great ancestors roamed the earth. It’s a song that not only reminds us of their past but our past as well. A song that fills the air declaring a new day has begun. It’s a song that in our day and time rings with a purity that money cannot buy but few will hear. It’s a song that reminds us of a simpler time, bringing to mind that there is much value in simplicity. In our day and time, its a lesson that we all need.
A rooster is selfless, often sacrificing himself to save his friends. A fearless warrior with a big heart. A natural born singer of the ancient songs. A dancer, a true gentleman. The most beautiful and unwanted of all the creatures.
Roosters are amazing creatures and worthy of our admiration and respect.
I hope that this post was useful in determining if keeping a rooster is right for you. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can. As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!!
Buff Orpingtons are a Heritage Breed that was kept by the generations of yesteryear and has been a staple of the homestead and backyard chicken enthusiasts alike. There are many aspects about the Buff Orpington that make them an excellent barckyard companion, I will list my top 5.
Buff Orpingtons and all Orpingtons are prolific layers of large to X-large light brown eggs. A single hen can lay up to 3-5 eggs a week, making her yearly output 156-260 eggs a year. They are hearty and will often lay through the winter only ceasing during molt. I have 3 of these lovely “golden girls” remaining of my original flock of 17. 10 years on they still lay eggs. Their rate has dropped as they have aged into their twilight years but amazingly these lovely ladies still lay eggs.
When you think of a mother hen raising a clutch of baby chickens the thought will often conjure the image of a Buff Orpington, this is because Buff Orpingtons are renowned for making great mothers. The Buff Orpington as a breed are very broody, hens will often go broody in the spring and want to raise chicks. I have one particular Buff Momma Hen, Miss Katie who has raised several clutches for me. She even adopted a little White Crested Polish chick that was failing to thrive, raising her as her own she did what I could not do. If you are one who likes to procreate your flock from your parent stock, Buff Orpingtons are a great asset to have on your farm. They will encubate, hatch and raise the baby chicks for you. Teaching them all that there is to know about being a chicken, you as the keeper get a hands off approach to raising baby chicks on your farm.
3. Friendly, calmanddociledisposition:
When starting with backyard chickens it is typically of upmost importance for new keepers to have a docile breed. This is one of the reasons that Buff Orpingtons are a great choice for beginners . They are hearty, resilant and very docile. Even the roosters possess and good demeanor. Buff Orpingtons are known as “the golden retrevors” of the chicken world and for good reason. They are very calm and loyal.
When I first starting keeping chickens, Buff Orpingtons were the breed that I started with. 10 years on, I still have 3 of these lovely “golden girls”. Buff Orpingtons are a great breed for new backyard chicken enthuesists for several reasons. They are a very patient, calm and friendly breed. Orpingtons enjoy interacting with their keepers and are not flighty. They bear confinement well but are very resourceful when allowed to free range. Due to their large size they are unable to fly making it very easy to keep them confined to a backyard or fenced in chicken run. They are hearty and do well in warm climates as well and cool climates. They have very few inherent illness or other breed specific issues that presuppose them to health issues. All in all, they make a great breed to begin your backyard chicken adventure. Since they are very popular they are readily available at most farm and feed stores.
They often build strong bonds with their keepers and make great backyard companions. They are very friendly, approachable and social. They will often follow their keeper around the yard clucking and squawking the events of their day. They often make lap chickens due to their desire for attention from their keepers. If you want a pet that makes you breakfast, the Buff Orpington is the breed for you.
Due to their calm, docile and friendly temperament, Buff Orpingtons are a great breed to have around children. If kids are going to take apart in the chicken chores or upkeep of the flock, these golden girls make a great breed to have. Due to their large size they are easy for kids to pick up and hold. They are not flighty, thus they make the perfect pet chicken that children can easily bond with. As layers of large to X-large eggs, they are easy for children to collect and hold. My boys will often pick up our Buff hens and place them on their laps for some bonding time. Buff Orpingtons love to be held which further makes these big balls of fluff and feathers a great breed to have around kids.
If you love to garden whether it be veggie or flower, a flock of Buff Orpingtons will be your best friends. With their innate ability to forage for worms, bugs, and other delectables they will rid your gardens of pests and other unwanted nuisances. As they till at the soil in search for worms they aerate the soil, bringing many benefits to the plants.
As your garden matures, the flock will patrol the gardens picking bugs off the plants to dine on. In this, the flock is your own personal extermination crew. This allows you to grow organic produce eliminating the need for chemicals to rid bugs from your plants. They enjoy eating all the bugs and worms from your garden, you enjoy eating organic produce tended by your Buff Orpington crew.
In addition to the tilling, aerating, and extermination supplied by your backyard garden helpers, you will reap the added benefit of compost. Due to the high concentration of nitrogen that is contained in chicken poo, your girls will provide you with excellent fertilizer.
Chicken manure is far superior to cow or horse manuer due to the presence of the gizzard in the body of the chicken. The gizzard grinds everything the chicken consumed down to a singularity, produceing a pure source of fuel for your garden. Cows and horses on the other hand do not process everthing they eat, passing weed seeds into their manuer. Many novice gardeners are often surprised at the abundance of weeds in their gardens after spreading cow or horse manuer. Due to the absence of a gizzard in the digestive system of a cow or horse, these very fertile weed seeds are then introduced to your garden.
Additionally, most of the manure sold at garden stores are sourced from the factory farms. The chemicals that are fed to the animals are passed into their manuer which is then introduce to your garden. By using the compost provided by your own backyard flock you can be assured that what is spread on your garden is organic and benifical for both you and your plants.
The Buff Orpington is an all purpose breed that is great for many functions on the homestead or backyard farm. They are a great breed for beginners as well as seasoned keepers alike. I will always have a small flock of Buff Orpingtons on my farm because I love their enduring personalities and beautiful color. They lay well, are great with kids and make a great companion in gardening and providing compost for my plants. If well cared for, these golden girls can make it to 10 years of age and beyond. Of the original 17 chicks that I started with I still have 3 of these believed ladies. I don’t know how much time they have left, but I do know that they will spend their twilight years basking in the sun’s rays, chasing butterflies and digging for worms.
I hope that this post was helpful for anyone looking to start a flock of backyard chickens.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
As always, thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing.
There is something about color that brings happiness to our souls, whether it be the soothing color of flowers or the majestic masterworks of a sunset. As spring transitions to summer, Mother Nature’s paint brush explodes with colors that ignite our inner artist and imagination. Although this blog is primarily dedicated to raising backyard chickens and the backyard chicken enthusiast way of life, I like to mix in a few gardening hacks as I discover them. Today I will share with you a few very simple and inexpensive ways to add a pop of color to your backyard or garden. All that is needed is a can of spray paint and a bit of imagination.
Most gardeners are familiar with these iron stakes sold at garden or home improvement stores. They go by a myriad of names such as shepherd staffs, hanging basket stakes, garden stakes and so on. As a staple of any well tended garden, they serve a multitude of functions. I have them all over my property and use them for a whole host of purposes. Plant stakes, tree stakes, chicken wire stakes, lattice board stakes, plant hangers, and so on. I lost count of how many I have years ago. As a decorative accent to any landscape the uses are endless. But for the purposes of this post, I am going to show you how you can use these little wonders to add a pop of color to your gardenscape or backyard. Typically sold painted an iron black or dark charcoal, they can be painted to fit any preference.
My favorite colors are pink and purple. Armed with a can of hot pink spray paint, I formally endorse, adding a pop of color to this garden accent. Situated in my blueberry row adjacent to the Grape Arbor, it stands out against the backyard colors bringing a bit of personality to the berry row.
Again, with the same can of hot pink spray paint, I add a pop of color to this small shepherds staff situated between my Black Berry Bushes. These brightly colored garden accents and staffs offset the green of the surrounding vegetation, adding a bit of a boho vibe to the garden or backyard setting.
Approaching the Grape Arbor, I transition to another color to add a pop of personality to the Pergola. A fitting color for a Grape Arbor setting is a bright purple. Situated around my Pergola are numerous plant stands, garden accents and flower basket hanging staffs. Armed with a can of Purple spray paint, I work my magic adding a pop of color to the Arbor setting.
A bright purple adds the perfect pop of color to the Pergola. Standing out against the surrounding greenery, purple hanging basket staffs provide a polished look.
Another hack I have discovered is a repurposed use for chicken feed bags. Hanging plant baskets are usually displayed with coco basket liners. For as simple as they are, these coco basket liners are pricey and do not retain the essential water needed by the plants. Using empty chicken feed bags, I cut small drainage holes in the bottom, fill with soil and use as liners for the hanging baskets. Feed bags are tough, made of a thick material sufficient to contain 50 pounds of chicken feed or more. As hanging basket liners they are perfect. They are tough, weather well and do not break down like the coco basket liners. Additionally, they retain the crucial moisture needed to adequately keep the plants hydrated. They add the perfect accent to a backyard farm setting.
In addition to spray painting hanging basket staffs, I paint garden accents to add a pop of color to the surrounding area. This little detail adds to the whole fun boho vibe of the garden or backyard setting.
Plant stands topped with a terra cotta pot saucer serve as great drink tables. Painted a darker color of purple for contrast, these plant stands add a bit of ease and laid back vibe to the Pergola.
Even a garden bench when painted can be used as an outdoor dining tray. Painted the same dark purple as the repurposed plant stands, these accessories add to the overall fun atmosphere of a backyard garden.
Got a beloved outdoor decor item that is looking a little bit rough around the edges. A can of spray paint to the rescue. Breathe new life and love into outdoor decor items while coordinating them with your garden setting.
The final look of the Pergola Grape Arbor is stunning!! With a can of spray paint and a bit of imagination, you can transform your garden or backyard setting into a lively atmosphere. In addition to adding a pop of color to your backyard garden, spray paint with added primer will protect your garden accents for years to come.
I hope that you have found some of these hacks useful and can implement them into your own gardenscape or backyard setting. Adding a pop of color to your garden adds a bit of fun and personality your space. Have fun with it and remember that there is no limit to creativity.
Thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing!
There is just something about collecting farm fresh eggs from your backyard. In a day when we can literally buy everything that we need from the store, there is a purity in raising your own food. Farm Fresh eggs are one of the main reasons that people keep chickens. They are far superior to the eggs supplied in the stores. Additionally, you have the satisfaction of knowing that the eggs collected are from happy hens who are treated well even spoiled. If the flock is allowed to free range and forage for bugs, greens, and grains the nutritional value of the eggs are further increased. Additionally, high Omega-3 feed is also available in most feed stores further adding to the nutritional value of the eggs. The chickens are what they eat, as a consumer of the eggs we too are what they eat. Having control over our food supply brings a purity that money cannot buy.
Not only will you get nutritious, organic eggs, but you can rest in the knowledge that your omelet is served up cruelty free. It’s easy to think that the eggs that are labeled “free range” found in stores are laid by hens who have access to open pasture and sunshine. This sadly is not the case. These eggs do not have the happy origins that the Industry would have you believe. The hard truth is that these eggs are laid by hens who are cramped in a shed much like meat birds or turkeys. They have no access to green grass or anything of the like. Many of these birds never see the light of day much like their battery hens counterparts. Less than 1% of chickens raised in the US are considered to be free range. Most free range chickens are raised on private family farms or are kept as pets by backyard chickens keepers and enthusiasts.
When you acquire backyard chickens you also get a pest contol crew. Chickens love, love, love to eat bugs! They will happily rid your plants and yard of all available bugs. This allows you to grow organic veggies on your property with chickens tending the plants the use of pesticides is no longer needed. Your new pest control crew will tend all your plants both veggie ornamental alike. Additionally, they will tend the soil by tilling the dirt looking for worms ariating the soil in the process. Chickens are one of the best natural pest control experts I have ever had. They even riddled my backyard of a yellow jacket nest. They destroyed the nest and ate all the larvae evicting the occupants virtually rendering the nest unlivable. It was one of the most interesting and amazing things I have ever witnessed.
If you want great gardens the first place to start is fertalizer. Chicken fertalizer is superior in many ways. Due to the gizzard, chickens process everything they eat. All seeds and other matter are broken down to usable susbstances. Thus chicken manure contains no weed seeds. Contrast that with manure from cows or horses which do not process everything they eat down to a singularity. Thus the manure from these animals contain weed seeds. Not just weed seeds but fertile weed seeds. When using manuer from these animals gardeners are often horrified at the amount of weeds that pop up in their gardens soon after. Thus chicken manure is far superior than manure from other animals. When it can be obtained organically is it specifically valuable.
Chicken manure purchased from stores often in large bags are sourced from factory farms. All the chemicals that are feed to the chickens are passed into the manure. That manure is then spread on your gardens containing all the chemicals that were consumed by the chickens. So even though you intend to grow organic produce the manure spread on your gardens is anything but. Sourcing this precious liquid gold from your own flock that is feed a high quality or organic feed will be far superior. If the flock is allow to free range the benefits compound further. The coop shaving or manure from these well tended animals will be an excellent source of nourishment for your gardens. You can be assured that what you are putting on your gardens contains no chemicals or otherwise dangerous ingredients. Manure from orgaincally raised chickens is sought out for this very reason. I have several people who ask me for my coop litter whenever I clean out the coops. They know the value of this material and use it for composting and/or spreading on their gardens.
As a backyard chicken keeper you will have first hand access to this wonder product. I compost and spread the litter from the coops on my gardens. I am rewarded with a handsome yield. People often aske me what I am feeding my plants to produce beautiful flower gardens and abundant veggie gardens. I tell them that my secret is the poop from my chickens.
In fact, coop litter is one of the fundamental reasons why I wanted to keep chickens. I have always been around gardens, gardening is in my blood. After purchasing my home I wanted to start some gardens. The hard clay here made growing anything virtually impossible. In order to condition the soil to produce a yield I had to cultivate it for my intended purposes. That meant getting my hands on a good source of manuer to turn this land into something that could produce crops. After some consideration I decided to get a small flock of chickens to produce the fuel that I needed for my plants. Years later, I have multiple coops and 50+ chickens that I richly enjoy. What started as a need for a sustainable farm fuel has turned into a hobby that I thouourly enjoy.
Nation wide food scraps make up about 17% of land fill waste (29 Million tons). Yard waste, items such as grass clippings, weeds, and leaves make up about slightly more at 33 tons. Chickens can reduce this needless waste by a large amount. Chickens are natural compsoters, eating most food scraps and turning the rest into nutritious fertalizer for your gardens. My girls are my compost tenders. In addition to their coop litter, I add food scraps and yard waste such as leaves or grass clippings to my compost pile. The girls will readily eat the food scraps and much of the grass clippings leaving the rest to naturally compost. They will tend my compost pile daily by turning the contense over as they scower the pile for worms and other deletcibles. Using their natural abilities I allow them work my compost pile into usable fuel that I then put on my gardens. As a result the amount of waste that would otherwise go to the landfill I instead offer to my chickens.
Chickens can eat just about anything from veggies, fruits, pastas, and cooked meat as long as it is not spoiled. The only things to watch for are raw onions, garclic and potato peals. Outside of that, chickens can eat most of what is seen as food waste. Instead of putting these waste items in the trash I collect them in a small bucket and run them out to the girls. They absolutely love kitchen scraps and readily dispose of them for me. By having chickens not only do I get compost attendants I also reduce my food waste by a vast amount.
Because todays chickens are breed for different functions they look different from their ancestors. With the meat industry and the egg industry selecting out different traits to meet their needs, todays chickens are far from what they used to be. Heritage breeds are those breeds that exist outside the of the meat/egg industry.
As a backyard chicken keeper you can take on the role of conservationalists by adding to your flock heritage breeds. By adding some of these rare or very rare breeds, you are keeping them from becoming extinct. Since the meat and egg industry only needs a few breeds for production those left will become endangered without keepers propagating them. I have several of these breeds on my farm. I have a few very rare breeds and plan to add a few more heritage breeds over the next few years. Some of these breeds are what settlers kept as a food source for meat and eggs when first coming to this country. Others such as the Silkie which date back to the Chinese Han Dynasty around 206BCE were brought to the America’s via the Silk Road a major training route through Asia. In fact, the Silkie was first mentioned by Marco Polo in his journals on his trip across China and Europe around 1290-1300. He recorded in his journal referencing a “furry chicken”. After Silkies made it to the Western World the breed was recognized and officially was accepted in North America in 1874. Today the Silkie is one of the most beloved heritage breeds kept by numerous backyard chicken enthusiasts.
It is through the interest of backyard chicken keepers that the Silkie has remained pure to its heritage and is propagated through hobby keepers and hatcheries. Another example of a beloved heritage breed is the Polish.
The Polishes have a complicated history, its not really clear where they came from. Their name is derived from the Dutch word “pol” which translates as head. Contrary to their name they did not come from Poland. It has been hypothesized that they originated in the Netherlands, while other enthusiasts think that they were brought to Europe during the time of the Mediaeval Mongols. Other fun loving chicken lovers such as myself ponder if their origins are not of this world at all. Possibly like H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, they came from Orion or another world out there, just kidding :-). In all seriousness though, no one really knows where these Crown Jewels came from. Even today a lot of mystery surrounds their origins. Maybe we will never know, but for rare breed chicken lovers that does not really matter. If anything this mystery makes these cuddly backyard buddies even more loveable . One thing is for certain, it is through the dedication of backyard chicken keepers that this fancy breed remains true to its ancestors wherever they came from.
In addition to the Silkie and the Polish, there are many other Heritage breeds such as the Orphington, Australorp, Wyandotte, Brahma, Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Sussex, Leghorn, Dominique, Jersey Giant, New Hampshire Red, Delaware and Welsummer.
7. ALessonin Self–Sustainability:
There is just something about keeping chickens that brings us back to our roots. Times of old, days gone by when just about everyone kept a flock of chickens to supply eggs for the family. A time when gardening was not just a hobby but a way of survival. Cleaning coops and collecting eggs has a feeling of purpose that many are seeking today. In a world where we can literally buy everything we need at the store, being able to supply and grow your own food has a purity that money cannot buy. Knowing that you are eating a product that is not only organic but supplied by animals that are well cared for and happy brings happiness to the soul.
It’s this feeling of self-sustainability that many are seeking today. Growing produce is much more than just putting a seed in the ground and waiting. There is tending, feeding, and caring for the plant that has sprouted from the seed in order to gather a yield. Chickens provide much of those services for you. With their manure and coop litter they condition the ground making it fertile. As the plant matures they eat the bugs and till the soil around the plant aerating the soil. Finally, as they work your gardens they will continually feed your plants throughout the growing season by their droppings.
It’s this cycle that allows one to be self-sustaining. By keeping chickens, your farm whether hobby size or plantation size provide all that is needed to grow and harvest your own food. Additionally, along the way that will provide you with farm fresh eggs and plenty of companionship.
Chickens are amazing creatures and can teach us much about their world and ours. Many associate chickens with meat and eggs but nothing more. Chickens contrary to popular belief are not bird brains, they are in fact highly intelligent creatures. Did you know that chickens can distinguish between 100 different faces both human and animal, they have full color vision, dream while they sleep, feel pain and distress, love to play, and mourn for each other. As you can see we have more in common with chickens than previously thought.
Chickens are very affectionate, they love to be held and enjoy human interaction. I have several individuals that are lap chickens, jumping on my lap as soon as I sit down. They have personalities just like humans along with likes and dislikes. They are complex creatures that are able to teach us much.
Keeping backyard chickens is an educational endeavor. It is astonishing how much keeping a few of these marvelous creates can teach you. Many of our phrases today come from the complex social structure of a chicken flock.
Pecking order for example. This phrase used in everyday figurative language is derived from chicken behavior and for good reason.
A flock of chickens have a very complex social structure. The term “pecking order” comes from this highly structured hierarchy. A flock is organized into a hierarchy each member knowing their place within the group.
At the top of the pecking order is the alpha rooster. Answering to him will be the other roosters in the flock. Directly under the roosters will be the hens. The alpha hen is usually a little bossy in relation to the other hens in the flock. As for the rest of the members, position is established by literally “pecking” one another on the back indicating superiority. This behavior flows from the alpha rooster to the poor individual sitting at the bottom of the pecking order.
Once the pecking order is established all activities within the flock revolve around this order. Simple activities such as who roosts where in the coop. The order in which the flock exits the coop in the morning, and the order in which they return.
Observing this complex animal behavior in my own flock is very interesting. It brings home the literal and most descriptive meaning to the term “pecking order”.
Other everyday terms such as cocky and hen pecked are also very well explained by watching a flock of chickens. It’s amazing how much figurative language we as humans have adopted from the humble chicken.
Chickens also teach us about where our food comes from. After witnessing what is actually required by a hen to lay just a single egg, I have much more appreciation for my morning omelet and no longer take a simple egg for granted.
In the case of children, chickens teach responsibility. If children are involved in caring for the family flock they will learn valuable lessons. Getting up as the roosters crow to feed and tend the coops. Then locking up the coops at dusk and collecting the days eggs. Children learn an appreciation for the chickens as they tend and interact with the flock. If they have a small coop of their own with a few hens to tend, they will quickly become pampered pets. Chickens can be as much of a family pet as a dog can. They are affectionate, intelligent, and enjoy interacting with their care taker. The girls on the other hand will quickly learn who their human is and look forward to seeing them every morning.
Keeping backyard chickens is a source of therapy like noting else I have experienced. No matter how bad my day has been, my girls are always happy to see me.
In the morning when I enter the backyard, opening the coops for the day, they are delighted and greet me with anticipation. Clucking with joy as I prepare their food, water, and clean their coops. They are genuinely happy to see me. After a long hard day, I can always go to the backyard and find happiness on their faces. They flock with excitement as I enter the backyard. Sometimes flying in from the far corners of the yard, thrilled at my presence. Their joy in response to me entering their world lifts my spirits and brings joy to my day.
Like dogs, chickens love affection. I have several ladies and a few roosters who readily jump on my lap eager for attention as soon as I sit down. They enjoy the companionship from their human keeper. Once on my lap they tell me all about their days, clucking all the details as I eagerly listen. It’s hard to be sad around a flock of lovable backyard companions who are so happy to know that I am apart of their lives.
On days when I feel blue or down in the dumps a simple trip to the backyard is all that I need. Happiness for me does not come in a bottle , from the store or in a bank account. Happiness for me is a pair of boots and a flock of happy chickens.
Others have expressed the same in relation to their flocks. Chickens really are an anti depressant with feathers.
Chickens are clever creatures, each possessing a different and unique personality, because of this they are very entertaining creatures. Even as a flock chickens will capture your attention.
One of the funniest interactions that a flock can engage in is something I call “the chicken keep away game”. The game commences like this. A hen finds something delectable such as a juicy bug or big worm. She will announce to the flock with glee that she has found a prize. With the object in her beak she will run around the yard while the others chase her, wanting a piece of her find. Depending on how large the trophy morsel is, this could go on for some time. Changing beaks several times till finally someone eats or looses it, which ever comes first. This is just about as close as a flock of chickens can get to touch football. If you have a flock of mixed breeds the entertainment value is increased. Some breeds have quirks or unique things about them that separates them from others. Take the Polish for example.
A funny chicken oddity is the Polish. Out of all the breeds that I keep, the polish holds the crown for comedy. Due to the feathered crests atop their head their vision is limited. Unable to see what is above them everything spooks them. Simple things in their environment can get a rise out of them. They have a tendency to be flighty and high strung for this reason.
In addition, they are a very curious breed, always getting themselves into trouble then not able to see well enough to get themselves out. They will often call for other flock members to come a rescue them from their predicament. Typically one or more of the rooster will come to their aid. I have 14 Polishes in my flock of various colors, all of them possess this particular niche for comedy.
I have spent many hours being entertained by my flock. At times its better than prime time TV. Before I had chickens I would have never equated them with comedy. My girls are now my go to for a happy hour with the hens. I have to admit at times I will bring a few grapes just to stir the pot and watch their antics as they play the “chicken keep away game”. Let the games begin.
There are many others advantages of keeping chickens. The list could go on, I have only listed my top 10 reasons. I hope that you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions please post them in the comments. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
As always, thanks for reading. Till next time keep on crowing!
Building a Grape Arbor is something that has been on my to do list for the past 10+ years. Grapes are a wonderful crop to grow on your own land as they grow very fast, are fairly pest resistant and easy to grow. They do require regular maintenance pruning being the chief requirement.
As a child I remember visiting my grandparents during the summer and eating ripe grapes from their vine. It is a memory that I cherish and look forward to eating from my very own grape vines once more.
Building a Grape Arbor is a DIY project that you can tackle yourself. It takes some hard work, several partners, effort and time but if you are diligent you can build a Grape Arbor in a week.
Why I wanted to build a Grape Arbor?
Building a Grape Arbor has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Not only functional as a trellis to grow grape vines on, Grape Arbors add a majestic presence to your backyard or garden. They command attention as you enter their sacred space. To make the most of your time and effort , you can attach a porch swing or hammock swings to the Arbor for a more romantic and relaxing seating area in your backyard.
Building a Grape Arbor.
We chose a traditional style Pergola for our Backyard Grape Arbor. I wanted something that would not only serve as a trellis for grape vines but a place that I could hang some backyard Hammock Swings. Above is the final completed project of the Arbor in our backyard. It is 8 feet tall is roughly 12 feet long.
Shopping list for a backyard Grape Arbor.
Posts: (4) 4×4 @ 7’6.5” and (8) 2×6 @ 8”.
Beams: (2) 4×6 @ 12’
Runner on to of Arbor: (11) 2×4’s @ 5’8”. For a decorative look, cut the ends of the 2×4’s at a 45 degree angle or bevel, however this is optional.
1 box of 2” deck screws and 1 box of 4” deck screws.
After we got the wood unloaded, my hubby and son cut the 2×4’s and 4×6 beams to size and beveled the ends of them at a 45 degree angel.
Before building the Arbor preparing the ground by digging the footing consisting of four 4 foot holes. To accomplish this we rented an Agar to dig the depth of the holes.
After the footings were dug, we connected two 2×6’s to each of the 4×4’s then cemented them in place.
Next we lifted the large 4×6 beams on center over the pair of 4×4 posts. These beams sit on top of the 4×4 posts. You can screw them into place if you wish, we just decided to let gravity do the work for us.
Next we attached the 4×4 pairs to each other using a 2×6 cut to length. We then toenailed them with 4” deck screws connecting them to the 4×4 posts.
Next we attached the (11) 2×4’s to the top of the Arbor to form the canopy. Each 2×4 is held into place and connected to the 4×6’s using braces.
Nearing the end of our construction project we cut the remaining 2×4’s to form diamond supports connecting the 4×4 beams to one another. These braces add beauty and strength to the Pergola, they are screwed onto the post with pocket hole screws.
Finally, we added lattice boards to each side of the Arbor. This adds a touch of sophistication to the Arbor while at the same time giving the Grape plants something to grasp onto as they climb the posts to the canopy.
From start to finish, it took us 1 week to build this Pergola Grape Arbor. The finished product is stunning!! It brings a sense of completion to our backyard, complimenting the “coop-hood” (a.k.a. chicken coops) with an aura of dignity.
My favorite activity is to lay on my hammock under the Grape Arbor, read, listen to the chatter of my girls and watch the grapes grow.
I cannot wait for the grapes to grow and reach the Arbor canapy. Until then I will sit under my Arbor, read, sip on some wine and look forward to the day that I can eat fresh grapes from my very own grape vines.
I hope you enjoyed this post. It’s a bit different from my usual format of backyard chicken topics. Building this backyard Grape Arbor was a worth while endeavor bringing a completion to our backyard homestead.
You too can build a Pergola Grape Arbor in your own backyard or garden and reap the benefits of growing your own grape vines.
The 2020 planting and chick season is in full swing here on the Kuntry Klucker Farm. I have Miss Donna (my resident Silkie momma) sitting on a clutch of White Crested Polish eggs. I will be back soon with a post on her once again being a momma. Cuteness overload coming soon.
As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing.
The chickens most of us recognize today are bred for meat or eggs consequently they look vastly different than their ancestors. The breeds that generations past kept to supply eggs for the family are known as Heritage Breeds. Some of us may even recall the chickens that our grandparents kept and how different they looked. It some cases they may not have even looked like the chickens we associate with today at all.
Production breeds are those that are specifically bred for production whether be it meat or eggs. These industries have selected out traits needed to meet demands. These resulting chickens are engineered to have larger breasts, grow very fast, lay profusely or lay larger eggs. The chickens the exist outside of these breeds are known as Heritage breeds. Heritage breeds store a wealth of genetic resources that are important for our future and the future of our agricultural food system. Heritage breeds were once raised by our forefathers. These are breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. It is through the hobby of backyard chicken keepers and enthusiasts that these breeds still exist today.
You may not know it, but by keeping chickens you are acting as a conservationist. Since the meat and egg industry has no need for heritage breeds, its the backyard chicken keepers that keep these breeds from extension. Most of these breeds our grandparents kept as pets or for eggs. Many old photos have captured in time these heritage breeds. As time has march on, along side us has followed our feathered friends.
So, What are some of these Heritage Breeds you may be asking. Below I will introduce you to some of these breeds. Many of these breeds I have others I plan to get in the near future.
The Polish possesses a very complicated history. Many people think that the Polishes came from Poland. This is actually not the case. The word ‘pol” translates as head, most likely derived from the impressive crests of feathers that top their head. It’s not really understood where this fancy breed came from. Some poultry experts think they came from the Netherlands others disagree. As for a fun chicken lovers such as myself, I wonder if their origins are not of this world after all. Possibly like H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu they came from the stars or another world out there. Just kidding 🙂 In all seriousness though, much mystery surrounds this much beloved Heritage breed. The Polish is a much favored breed for poultry enthusiasts who want a little something different for their backyard flock.
The Polishes as a breed have a very distinctive personality. Due to their featherd crests their vision is limited. With obstructed vision everything spooks them. Seemingly mundane and normal objects in their surrounds will get a rise out of them. For this reason they tend to be high strung and flighty. It takes an experienced keeper with the right setting to successfully keep this breed.
To their determent they are also a very curious breed. Individuals will often follow their curiosities into predicaments. Unable too see well enough to get out, they will call out to other members of the flock to rescue them. Typically one or more of the rooster will answer the call. They are the comedians of the chicken world. I have 14 of these fancy guys and gals of various colors. All of them possess this particular niche for curiosity and comedy.
One of the most beloved and most common Heritage breed kept by backyard enthusiasts is the Buff Orphington. These lovely ladies and gents are often sold in feed stores and are very harty. I personally have seen many old photos capturing this breed. When I started keeping chickens this was the first breed I ordered. Buff Orpington’s are known the world over for being friendly fluffs of feathers. In my experience I will have to concur.
These ladies and gents are known as the “golden retrievers” of the chickens world and for good reason. They are very loyal and form strong attachments to their keepers. My Buff ladies follow me around the backyard as I do morning and evening chores. When I do any work in the backyard such as potting or planting flowers and crops I have plenty of “hen help”. They want to be involved in anything that I am doing no matter what it is.
I currently have 5 of these golden girls, at 10 years of age they are the oldest girls in my flock. No longer spring chickens, these ladies are the zen masters of my flock. They have seen and lived through it all. I will often find one or more of these ladies on my lap when I sit down. They love attention and will follow me chatting till I pick them up and hold them. They are very friendly and make a great breed for beginning chicken keepers.
Besides buff there are other colors of Orpington available. While buff and black are the most common, blue and lavender are also available. Lavender and jubilee are the rarest and cost quite a bit when purchased from hatcheries or breeders. If you can obtain them they will be the pride and joy of the flock. I plan to purchase lavender and jubilee Orpington in the near future.
Related to the Orpington, the Australorp is the Australian take on the Orpington. They were developed as a breed to focus on egg laying. Australorps achieved world-wide popularity in the 1920’s after the breed broke numerous world records for the number of eggs laid in a year. In fact, the world record holder for the most eggs laid in a year was set by an Australorp. She laid 364 eggs in one year, taking only one day off. The most common color is black which is the only color recognized in the United States. However, blue and white are still recognized in Australia.
For backyard keepers who want chickens just for eggs, Australorps are the best bang for your buck. They are one of the most common breeds found in feed stores and like the Orpington are very friendly and affectionate.
The Easter Egger is a favorite breed because the hens lay multi colored eggs. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as rainbow layers. Eggs colors will vary by individual and can be anything from blue to brown. Colors such as blue, green, pink, white, beige and brown have all been reported. A hen will have her own color and will lay only that color for the rest of her life. This breed is often found in feed stores and are sometime mis-labeled as Araucania or Ameraucana. Because of the multi line breeding Easter Eggers come in many colors such as brown, black, white, Buff, and golden lace. The Pigment oocyanin deposited on the surface of the shell is what gives the eggs the famous blue/green color. As a breed they are hardy, friendly and excellent layers.
The Cochin is another favorite Heritage breed because they are so docile. Literally big balls of fluff, the Cochins’ are one of the friendliest breeds. They are not good layers but make excellent mothers and will happily sit on eggs no matter who laid them. They are very affectionate and enjoy interacting with their keepers. I have several varieties of Cochins such as Motted (specked), frizzle and black. Even the roosters are very docile and friendly. If eggs are the primary reason for keeping chickens they are not the best selection. Their egg laying is fairly poor but they make up for their lacking egg potential in other ways.
Ah, yes, Silkies the teddy bears of the chicken world. It’s no secret that Silkies are the most beloved of the ornamental chicken breeds. Voted again and again as the best breed to have for kids. Silkies are quite possibly the favorite Heritage breed of numerous backyard chicken enthusiasts and for good reason. Silkies are very sweet, docile and friendly. The girls make excellent mothers, are very broody and affectionate. Silkie are often kept by backyard chicken keepers for their broody tendencies. They will happily sit on any available eggs, hatch and raise whatever pops out of them. They don’t care as long as they get to have babies. It has been said that a broody Silkie could hatch rocks. After keeping them I can say I completely agree with this sentiment.
I have a flock of Silkies on my hobby farm and are absolutely smitten. Even the 7 Silkie roosters I have are well behaved. Actually, Silkie roosters make very poor protectors, they prefer to run and hide rather than man up. Lucky I have other roosters in the yard to pick up the slack when everyone is out free ranging.
Silkies are a very old breed. They originated in Asia and were brought to the Western World via the Silk Road a major trading round in Asia. Silkies date back to the Chinese Han dynasty (around 206BCE). The breeds was first mentioned by Marco Polo in his journals that he kept on this trip through China (1290-1300). He recorded in his journal referencing a “furry chicken”.
After Marco Polo’s mention about a ”furry chicken” there was not much said about the Silkie till about 1589. Ulysses Aldrovandi a writer and naturalist published a work on a “wool-bearing chicken”. He described it as “clothed with hair like a cat”.
Silkies get their unique feathering due to the lack of barbicels in their feathers. Barbicels give feathers the smooth texture and appearance we commonly associate with feathers. It is for this reason that Silkies do not like getting wet. If kept in wet climates a keeper needs to see it that their digs are well sheltered and dry. Contrary to popular opinion they do tolerate cold climates well as long as they are able to remain dry.
After Silkies made it to the Western World the breed was recognized officially in North America with acceptance into the Poultry Standard of Perfection in 1874.
In the 21st century, Silkies are one of the most popular and ubiquitous ornamental breed. They are often kept by backyard chicken enthusiasts as pets. Although not a heritage breed like others discussed. The Silkie is a breed that is alive and well thanks to the concervational efforts of backyard chicken keepers who care for and raise them.
The gems of my chicken yard are my Silver Lace Wyandotte’s. I have 4 of these fancy ladies and are absolutely smitten with them. Like the Orpington and Australorp they are very friendly and great layers. The Wyandotte is a purely American breed developed in the 1870’s and named after the Wyandot people of North America.
Many people keep this breed to show at county and state fairs. With their striking black and white feathers they looked like they are dressed up for a Gala. I too obtained my Silver Lace Ladies for this reason. They are head turners capturing the attention of anyone who sees them. I am often asked by visitors to my farm what these ladies are. I get many comments on how beautiful and striking they are. They are the pride and joy of my flock.
Like the Orphingtons and the Australorps, Wyandotts are friendly and very docile. They are often found at the bottom of the pecking order due to their docile temperament. If you want some class in your flock the Wyandotts are a great choice. Since they are available in most feed stores and co-ops they are readily available.
The Heritage Breeds I have discussed thus far I currently have. However, there are many more to choose from. Below I will give honorable mention to other beloved Heritage breeds. Before I go any further, I want to thank my fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts and friends (who have asked to remain anonymous) for sharing their experience with these breeds. I do not currently have the following breeds but have connections to those who can vouch for the temperament of these breeds based on their own experiences.
The Rhode Island Red is one of the most common breeds kept by backyard enthusiasts. They are one of the most common breeds found in co-ops during the spring. The Rhode Island Red is a purely American breed. It is actually the state bird of Rhode Island. This breed was developed in the early 19th century by cross breeding two other well known breeds, leghorn and Malay. As common as this breed may seem it is actually on the “watch” list by the Livestock Conservancy.
The Rhode Island Red gets it’s name from the color of its plumage. Other keepers have stated that this breed is friendly with a good nature but they can be a bit pushy. They are a tough breed, resistant to illness, good at foraging and free ranging. They are hardy breed, lay well, typically docile, friendly and for these reasons they make a good choice for those starting out with backyard chickens.
The Plymouth Rock is the oldest American breed. It was first breed in the early 19th century and was seen coast to coast before the end of World War 2. Almost everyone kept them, it was encouraged by the Government as food for the troops who were fighting over seas. For much of the 20th century it was the most common breed in the United States. Unfortunately after the 2nd World War, it declined in popularity and has been listed on the American Livestock Conservancy as “recovering”.
As a breed, the Plymouth Rock is docile in nature, tame very easily and hardy making them a great choice for beginning backyard yard chicken enthusiasts. The Plymouth Rock is a good general farm chicken. They are docile with a leaning toward broodiness. They are quality layers of medium large eggs.
This Sussex is named after it’s location of origin Sussex, England and is among the oldest of British breeds. In fact, the first ever poultry show was held in London in 1845. One of the first exhibits was a chicken breed simply called Sussex or Kentish Fowl. This was the beginnings of the “Sussex Breed”. Although Kent was mentioned, the birds’ were thereafter addressed only as Sussex.
The Sussex is a very ancient breed in Englands history. Records show that the Sussex dates back to the time of the Roman Invasion of 43 A.D. Of course they looked nothing like they do today but their origins are anything but new.
The time of breeding and various color varieties came about when hen fever hit England in the Victorian Era. The Sussex was breed with other Heritage Breeds such as the Cochin and Brahma to get today’s look of a robust and well-proportioned bird. Today there are several colors available such as red and speckled, brown, buff, white, silver. However, The American Poultry Association only recognized Red and Speckled. Speckled is a beautiful bird which sports a mahogany and while speckled plumage. With successive molts the color get better. The Light is the coloration most associated with this breed. Birds’ with light coloration have white bodies with black neck and tail feathers.
Other chicken keepers and friends that I have talked to say that this breed is docile and friendly. They are easy to handle and love to forage. They are very thrifty, if they are allowed to free range they are able to gather most of their needs from this activity. Several of my friends have said that they are very curious and will follow their keepers around the yard. They enjoy attention and are very interactive and talkative with their keepers.
As for laying potential , they are good layers laying about 4-5 brown eggs a week. They will continue to lay through the winter when most other breeds have shut down production for the year. They only take a break from laying during molting.
Some keepers have said that they have a tendency to go broody and make good mothers. A fellow poultry keeper and friend of mine says that she has two girls who happily sit on eggs every year hatching and raise clutches of chicks for her. She loves her Sussex momma hens and can count on them to give her new chicks every spring.
In my interview process, one downfall of the breed was mentioned. This breed has a tendency towards obesity. If you want them fattened for the table that is fine, but if you want them to continue to ay eggs, than you need to keep their diet and weight in check. They best way to do this is to keep treats to a minimum and only allow them to get their nutrition from a quality feed and foregoing.
The Sussex is a great breed to have around children, they enjoy the company of their keepers, are talkative, loved being held and stroked. They are low mainenance and are thriftily if allowed to free range.
Foghorn Leghorn, for those that remember Loony Tunes cartoons, Foghorn was the Rooster who was always being tortured by a little chicken hawk. He was probably the best known Leghorn chicken in the world! These two characters are my favorite Loony Tunes. Foghorn Leghorn as his name suggests is a Leghorn Cock. In his honor, the next Heritage Breed that I will give honorable mention to is the Leghorn.
The Leghorn’s originated in Tuscany, in central Italy. The breed was introduced to North America in 1828 from the port city of Livorno. In America they were originally called “Italians”, by 1865 the breed was known as “Leghorn”.
The exact history of the Leghorn breed is unknown. There were several small breeds of land chickens roaming in the region of Tuscany Italy. From these, the Leghorn was born. When the Leghorn made it to the UK in 1870 the English did not like the small body of the Leghorn. So It was crossed with the Minorca to give it a more robust frame. Despite the breeding the Leghorn still remains a relatively thin bird.
Contrary to popular opinion, Leghorn’s come in a variety of colors black, brown, white, buff, and silver or grey. The breed was admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1874.
A few friends and fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts of mine report that the Leghorn is a very intelligent and resourceful bird. They are able to find much of their food on their own if allowed to free range which reduces the feed bill. They are good flyers and will often fly into trees to roost if allowed. They can be a bit noisy, definitely not a good breed for an urban setting.
Another friend of mine said that they are a lot like the Polish breed. They get bored easily so a keeper needs to proved plenty of room and things to do if they are confined to a pen. They are also a bit aloof from human contact not really interested in interacting with their keepers.
As for laying potential they are good layers, laying about 230-320 eggs per year. That’s about 5+ eggs a week, making Leghorn hens an egg laying machine. For this reason they make a great staple for a farm setting. They are not very broody, in fact its very rare for a Leghorn hen to go broody. If a hen accidentally hatches a chick they make terrible mothers. If you want to procreate your flock its best to use an incubator or broody hen from another breed such as the Silkie to raise the chicks for you.
If you want a chicken breed that is cuddly and friendly, the Leghorn is not the way to go. However, if you don’t want to make friends of your backyard chickens and just want eggs, they are a great choice. Additionally, if allowed to free range they are very self-sufficient reducing the feed bill making them relatively cheap to keep.
The Brahma is an American Breed of chicken. It was developed in the United States from birds imported from China and was the principle American meat bird from 1850 until about 1930.
Few breeds have as much controversy as to their origins as does the Brahma Chicken. While widely varied claims were originally accepted by early poultry associations, the truth of the matter is that this breed was developed in America by breeding a very large fowl imported from China.
At first there were many different strains and at least a dozen names for the breed. At a meeting in Boston in 1852 an agreement was reached to name it “Brahmapootra” which later was shortened to just “Brahma”. From the beginning Brahmas have been recognized not only for their incredible size but for their practical qualities. Brahmas are very harty and good egg layers. Considered great winter layers, Brahma’s will lay right through the winter only talking a break during molt.
Farmed for its size and known as the “King of Chickens”, the Brahma chicken is appreciated for its great size, strength and vigor. These birds are huge, males can grow to reach 17-18 pounds and the hens can reach anywhere from 13-15 pounds. A typical Brahma Rooster can stand 30 inches tall. Despite its impressive size, the breed is known to be very docile and friendly.
I have one backyard chicken friend who has these impressive birds. She described their disposition as gentile and non-aggressive. It can be easy to be intimated by these giants but there temperament does not match their stature. They are friendly and docile with a calm disposition. They are very easy to handle but due to their weight they can become heavy quickly.
They make great mothers and are committed to sitting on the nest. However, due to the size of the hen a keeper needs to keep a close eye on the chick for the first few days. The small chick can be easily injured or killed if it is accidentally stepped on by the mother hen.
If allowed to free range they are well adapted to forage for food making them a self sustaining breed. They are an excellent breed to have with children present. Although very large they are very docile and non-aggressive. They make a great choice for 4H projects. If you choose to keep these massive birds make sure that the coop is large enough to accommodate their larger than average size. The roosts need to be larger and sturdy, pens and nesting boxes need to be larger as well.
Although known as the “King of Chickens”, the Brahmas are second in line in size, surpassed by the Jersey Giant. The next Heritage Breed I will examine is the largest of all chicken breeds.
The Jersey Giant as its name suggests is the largest and heaviest of all chicken breeds. It was created in Burlington County, New Jersey in the late 19th century. The roosters top out about 17-19 pounds while the hens top out around 13-15 pounds. The males stand between 28-30 inches tall, the hens being 16-20 inches tall. Making these birds at eye level with the Brahma and slightly heavier.
The Jersey Giant was originally breed to create a chicken that could potentially replace the turkey as a premium table bird. During breeding several large breeds were used the Black Java’s, Dark Brahmas and Black Langshans.
As far as egg laying in concerned, the hens tend to lay more eggs than those of other heavy breeds. The eggs are extra-large in size with color varying from dark brown to light cream.
I have an on-line fellow backyard chicken keeper who raises this breed. She described the temperament of the Jersey Giant as docile , mellow and friendly. Even the roosters are very docile and tame. She keeps her flock of Jersey Giants as pets rather than their intended purpose. They are very good with her kids. Her children were at one point afraid of them but now they have grown to love their backyard giants.
According to her, the hens don’t really go broody. They may act like they want to sit on the nest but lose interest soon after. She uses an incubator to procreate her flock. They free range and forage well. Due to their large size they are not easy prey for hawks. Egg laying is good, hens lay about 150-200 eggs per year, that’s about 2-4 eggs per week. The eggs are very large, a bit larger than X-large eggs sold in the stores. They vary between cream, light and medium brown in color.
The Jersey Giant is an impressive bird worthy of the time and effort required to raise them. Due to their large size they require lots of space as to avoid problems caused by over crowding. This is one breed that I have wanted to keep but due to my space limitation my property is not well suited. But for those who have the space and requirements necessary to keep them they would be well worth the time.
The Dominique, also known as the dominicker or Pilgrim Fowl, is a breed that was developed in the United States during the colonial period. It is considered America’s first chicken breed. It is most likely descended from chickens brought to New England from southern England during colonial times.
The Dominique could be found on farms far and wide until about the 1920’s when the breed waned due to the passing of long time Dominique enthusiasts and breeders. Due to its hardiness and ease of up-keep the breed survived the Great Depression. By the end of World War II the breed once again experienced decline. By the 1970’s only 4 known flocks remained. The remaining owners were contacted and participated in a breed rescue program to save the Dominique. From 1983 till about 2006, Dominiques numbers steadily rose again. As of 2007 numbers are once again starting to fall, placing the breed on The Livestock conservancy’s “watch” list. If there is one breed that we as backyard chicken keepers should take interest in, its this one. It is only through the efforts of backyard chicken keepers that this breed will escape extinction.
As expected from the breeds history, I have no backyard enthusiast friends that currently keep this breed. However, according to my research, this breed is first and foremost an egg producer. Hens average between 230-275 small to medium-size brown eggs a year. That averages to about 3-4 eggs per week.
The disposition of the Dominique is said to be sweet, gentile, calm and docile. They are friendly often following their owners around the yard hoping for treats. The hens are said to occasionally be broody and are good mothers, attentive to their chicks.
The Dominique is robust and hardy with little in the way of health issues. They are low maintenance and quite self-sufficient thus they make a great breed for first time chicken owners.
Although breeding programs have been successful, the numbers of Dominique chickens worldwide remain very low. With the surge of the backyard chicken movement numbers are holding steady. It is only through backyard chicken enthusiasts that this breed still exists. If there is one breed that needs our help as chicken keepers, its this one. I plan to add a few Dominiques to my flock as soon as I can.
The New Hampshire:
The New Hampshire is an American Breed that originated in the state of New Hampshire. Using Rhode Island Reds, poultry farmers performed selective breeding generation after generation to create a bird that grew rapidly, feathered faster, matured earlier and had greater vigor. The resulting product was The New Hampshire Red a close cousin to the Rhode Island Red. The Breed was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1935.
The New Hampshire is a relatively new breed, roughly the same size as the Rhode Island Red. The hens are good layers producing about 200 large light brown eggs a year. This equates to about 3 eggs a week. It is a family friendly bird, making great pets, due to ease of care they are a good breed for first time chicken keepers.
If you are looking for a bird that is good for both meat and egg laying, this is the breed for you. Due to aggressive breeding they are generally disease resistant, cold hearty and robust.
Mayans: Black Copper
The breed that seems to be all the range today are the Mayans. Relatively new to the backyard chicken scene, the Marans have been around since the 1900’s. A French breed, originated in the port town of Marans, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine a region of south-western France. The Marans are descended from feral fighting game chickens imported from Indonesia and India. A favorite at poultry shows, they are known for laying extremely dark eggs.
There are 9 recognized colors in the French Standard: cuckoo, golden cuckoo, black, birchen, black copper, wheaten, black-tailed, buff, white and Colombian. Of these, the black copper is the favorite among backyard chicken enthusiasts.
These birds are absolutely beautiful, pictures do not do them justice. They have a remarkable plumage. The overall body feathers are deep black which gleam with a green iridescence in the sunlight. The hackle feather are a reddish/coppery tone, contrasting nicely with the black body feathers.
The Marans are a new breed in the United States, accepted by the American Poultry Association is 2011- a recent arrival.
I have a few fellow chicken keeper friends who raise this breed. They are said to have a quiet disposition, gentile and friendly. The roosters have a tendency to be a bit confrontational with other roosters. The hens are docile but are not lap chickens like some other breeds. They are a very active breed and enjoy free ranging.
Marans are renowned for their very dark brown/chocolate eggs. The hens are good layers, giving you around 3 eggs/week, which works out to about 150-200 eggs/year.
Marans are considered to be rare in the United States. They are much more common in their home land of France. They are one of the more expensive breeds to purchase from hatcheries, single chicks ranging between $10-20. Once established, they make quite a statement in your flock.
The Hamburg chicken is one of the several breeds that most resemble the chickens of the wild. Hamburg chickens were found in Holland in the 14th century but its unclear when they first arrived. Around 1785 Hamburgs made their way to England. Later in 1856 Hamburgs were embraced in America and were desired for their egg production potential.
As a breed, Hamburgs possess great activity and alertness. Hens are known to prefer nesting in hedges and have a habit of roosting at night in trees. During their time in England it was believed that the Hamburgs were a hybrid across between wild chickens and pheasants. Hamburgs are prolific egg layers of small white eggs. The breed’s true gift is their ability to lay a large number of eggs over several years. They mature early, reaching laying age at about 4-5 months, 2-3 months earlier than most laying breeds.
Like the Polish, Hamburgs tend to be flap-happy and flightly. They have tendencies to fly away. It is not uncommon for keepers to find them perching and roosting high in trees. For this reason it is best for keepers to keep them contained to a roomy Pen. To keep this breed happy, pens need to have a lot of verticle space with plenty of roosting options, heigh roosts are preferable. They are one of the more noises breeds, definitely not a good choice for Urban backyard chicken keepers.
Hamburgs are considered rare in the United States. They can be acquired from breeders or hatcheries that specializes in rare and very rare breeds. If kept they will be a spice of life in your coop.
I think I’m going to cut it off here. This post has already become lengthy, possibly the longest post I have ever composed. However, I feel it is important to acquaint you with some of the Heritage Breeds that shaped our past and now our further. There are many more Heritage breeds to talk about, the ones I mentioned are some of the more popular ones kept by backyard chicken enthusiasts.
As backyard chicken keepers we are the conservationists keeping many of these breeds from extinction. Since the meat and egg industry have no need for these birds it is though our passions that they still exist. Breeds such as the Dominique really need our help to keep them round for generations to come. Without our efforts and interest our Heritage Breeds would be lost forever a victim of the passage of time. Many of us keep chickens as a connection to the past, simpler days of a bygone era. Our feathered friends carry with them history as many of our grandparents and ancestors kept the same breeds that now roam our backyards.
I hope that you enjoyed this post, and maybe even enlightened you to the importance of our Heritage Breeds. If you have any questions please leave a comment, I will get back to you as soon as I can.
As always, thank for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!