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!
In this post I will discuss a hot topic within the backyard chicken community. It’s a topic that is important, examining both side of the debate offers much in-depth knowledge. In this post I will examine the topic of Prefab Vs. Hand-built coops. Showing that prefab coops can and do make very viable options for your chickens.
Many chicken keepers do not like prefab coops, they recommend that newcomers build their own coop. I for one am of a differing opinion. I built my first coop then added 5 prefab coops later. I will say that I love prefab coops, they make viable options for those who cannot build a coop for various reasons whether be it financial, physical limitation, or conceptual. Wood working and carpentry is not for everyone, its a skill that requires hard work, training and can be very expensive. It can also be very dangerous if you have never worked with wood or high powered tools before.
This is the story of my journey in both building a coop and owning prefabs. It’s my intention to help others who are not craftsman or builders to put your mind at ease with respect to prefab coops.
For those who are not familiar with what a prefab coop is, allow me to explain. When I refer to prefab coops, I am talking about coops that your see in farm stores, such as Tractor Supply or Rural King to name a few. They come in large boxes and require assembly which is very simple only requiring a screw driver, a partner and a little elbow grease. Above I have pictured three of my largest prefab coops that I purchased from Tractor Supply (The TARDIS, Henwarts, and Hyrule). I will formally introduce you to all these coops a little later in this post.
I built my first coop, The Kuntry Klucker 10 years ago. I love my big coop but I will say that it was the hardest most dangerous project I ever undertook. I was new to chickens and followed the advice from more experienced keepers, which was “don’t buy a coop, build your own”. Not knowing much, that is what I did. I found out through this endeavor that I have no business using power tools. I nearly killed myself several times and spend $1000 more than I had intentionally set out to spend. After I cut the wood too short or at wrong angles, adding to that two trips to an Urgent Care Center, it got expensive. I realized that this was really bad advice that I followed from my more experienced chicken keeper counterparts. Up till that point I had no experience with wood working or carpentry in general.
So, how did I come to love prefab coops you may be asking. Well, as the saying goes, “you can’t have just one”. I fell in love with chickens and wanted more. I knew from my past experience that building my own coop was a suicide mission, so I began looking elsewhere. I began to entertain the thought of prefab coops against the better judgement of other poultry keepers. The fact was simple, I cannot build a coop, so I had to seek out other options.
To start, I read reviews, most will say something like this, “It looks good but the quality is poor”. This is a general across the board review that you will see for a prefab coop. Don’t let this bother you, the coops given and little love will do just fine. Anyway, knowing this I ordered my first prefab with a plan in mind. When it arrived I put it together and was actually shocked at how well it was made. Drawing from the experience from my coop building disaster, I made a few adjustments. I updated the hardware cloth, the latches and gave the wood a good coat of barn and fence paint followed by a quality water seal. The results were stunning!! Not only did I not kill myself building the “kit coop” (all I needed was a screwdriver instead of a power saw) but after I made my adjustments it held up well, I mean really well! I live in the steamy south of East Tennessee. We get hot summers with lots of humidity, nasty spring storms, and ice in the winter. Mother Nature throws it all at us. Through all of this my prefab coops have held up very well. I do touch up the paint every other year, the hardware cloth and latches are still fine.
After the experience with my first prefab coop which now has 5 years under its belt, I ordered more as my flock grew.
I now have 9 coops currently in operation, 7 of them are prefab coops. I have not had any predators get into my prefab coops nor have I had any problems with the wood rotting (hence the water seal). The roof holds up well and the durability of the structures have withstood everything Mother Nature has thrown at them. I can honestly say that it would take a disastrous weather event to tear them down such as a tornado or derecho. If I get a tornado or other high wind event here I will have more to worry about than just damage to my prefab coops. Additionally, I have them insured under my homeownerspropertydamageclause. If we experience a disastrous weather event I will just put them in with all the other things that we need replaced should this unlikely situation actually occur.
Allow me to introduce you to the 6 prefab coops that call The Kuntry Klucker Farm home.
First came Roy’s Roost and Betsy’s Bliss. These two coops, (the smallest of all my coops) are situated in my spice and herb garden. Roy’s Roost was purchased to use as a hospital coop and hatch out coop. I use it for other purposes but these two are most predominate.
Betsy’s Bliss is my broody breaker. It is only big enough for one hen. The upper compartment is the coop area where food and water is kept, its also where the resident roosts at night. Below is the pen area. This coop is only used to restore a broody hen back to her normal behavior. Stints in Betsy’s Bliss are usually short lived. After a short stay in Betsy’s Bliss the resident is granted parole pending good behavior.
Next, and the first of my large prefab coops is Hyrule. This coop belongs to my youngest son. Hyrule houses White Crested Polish Bantams and Frizzle Cochin Bantams. After witnessing the durability of this large prefab coop, my chicken addiction really took off.
The next prefab coop to join the backyard “coop-hood” was the TARDIS.
Belonging to my eldest son and home to Bantam Silkies, the TARDIS was the next large prefab coop to land in the backyard. My son is a huge Dr. WHO fan and wanted to paint and name his coop after the TARDIS and characters in the series. His artistic skills really made this “Time And Relative Dimension In Space” machine come to life. I was concerned that due to its height that it would be easily knocked over in strong winds. To my surprise it has held up remarkably well, surviving several very rough spring seasons. The TARDIS is 4 years old and still holding up very well. Even after being battered by several severe spring seasons it is showing no signs of slowing down.
The final large prefab coop to be added to the “coop-hood” is Henwarts.
Henwarts was added spring of 2018 and has so far survived several hails storms and a few ice storms. Henwarts is home to Silver Lace Wyondottes and Lavender Orpingtons. Painted the colors of the Ravenclaw house at Hogwarts, all the residents are named after characters from the “Harry Potter” series.
This spring (April 2020) we added one more coop to our coop-hood. A medium size coop bearing the name “Curisable” this Dalek chook interplanetary ship belongs to my eldest son. Along with the TARDIS, the Crusible is home to 4 Silkie breeding roosters.
Now that I have introduced you to all the prefab coops that call the Kuntry Klucker Farm home, allow me to tell you how I preserve these coops for long lasting value.
How to extend the life of a prefab coop.
Just like everything else in life, a prefab coop needs maintenance. Here are some hacks that I have discovered along the way that resulted in the longevity and durability of my prefab coops.
1. Grounding: Make sure to set the prefab coop on large outdoor treated lumber planks. It is important to make sure that the prefab coop does not touch the ground. I am sure that it would be fine, but I like to raise my prefab coops off the ground a little bit. I set them on large outdoor treated landscaping 4×4’s or 4×6’s. These large heavy pieces of lumber serve as a buffer between the ground and the coop. Then with 4” deck screws I secure the coop to these large timbers of wood. Although my prefab coops have held up well on their own this adds a bit more stability to the coop. Furthermore, this insures that the coop is well grounded and will better withstand strong winds.
2. Latches: Prefab coops come with latches installed, I have found that they do suffice for the purpose intended but I like to add a bit more security to my coops. Typically, I will add several more latches to the coops for added security. Most prefab coops come with barrel latches, I like to replace or add to these latches predator proof latches. Below is a photo of my preferred latching mechanism that I use on all my coops.
3. Paint: Prefab coops come painted but only with a primer or wood stain. Be sure to fully paint your prefab coops with a quality outdoor oil-based or latex paint. Then follow with a top coat or water seal appropriate for the paint you used. This will aid in the life expectancy of the wood. I touch up or repaint my prefab coops about every other year depending on the need. In doing so I have never had an issue with the painted wood rotting.
4. HardwareCloth: Prefab coops do come with hardware cloth already attached to the coop and pen sections. I like to add another layer for my own peace of mind. This is probably not necessary since the hardware cloth that comes on the coops is a heavy gauge. I also make sure that I add a few more staples to insure that the hardware cloth stays on.
With these 4 simple adjustments and additions, my prefab coops have held up just as well as the coop I built 10 years ago.
This is my story, I learned from experience that building your own coop as many suggest is just not feasible for everyone, I did it and nearly killed myself. Since I discovered prefab coops, I will never build one from scratch again.
I have enough experience with prefab coops that I can honestly recommend them as a viable option for others who cannot or do not have the skills necessary to build a chicken coop. In my opinion they are a worth while option.
I will add to this that I will only purchase my coops from Tractor Supply or a local CO-OP. Reason being…if it arrives damaged (so far none of mine have) they will replace or exchange it for me. If I order from Amazon it would be harder to return it to the store. Prefab coops are great, but get them from TSC, Rural King or other reputable local co-ops in your area that stock them. If you have problems you are not far from help.
I know that I am a small voice with respect to prefab coops in particular. But I like to think that my experience will help others understand that there are other options and that prefab coops can and do make great homes for your girls.
To take a virtual tour of my “Coop-Hood” please visit my youtube cannel by clicking here.
If you have any questions about prefab coops 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!
As a backyard chicken keeper and blogger I am always presenting the advantages of keeping chickens. Chickens offers many advantages such as compost tenders, gardening associates, extermination forces, companionship and of course egg producers.
As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and preparation for the impact on communities, people are taking steps to ready themselves. One of these readiness techniques is to stock up on goods and staples for an extended period.
Normally when this is done in an orderly fashion, stores are able to keep up with demand. However, when the impact of a crises hits suddenly, stores are often overwhelmed unable to adequately supply the demand needed by the public. In these cases empty shelves and vacant freezers are a common sight. Barren store shelves have another sociological effect, Panic! When shoppers planning to stock up for the forseeable future are greeted with empty shelves, the gravity of the situation becomes all too real. The scarcity of goods creates yet another threat to our situation often times solved by our primal instinct of “the strongest will survive”. As a result, fights over seemingly random items such as toilet paper, paper towels, canned food and essentials like bread and eggs are reported across multiple locations.
It’s times like this that I am so glad to be a backyard chicken keeper. While most people were raiding the stores for essentials and staples, I was quietly and methodically stocking up on chicken feed and other poultry essentials. It is often said that a country girl/boy will survive, this is indeed the truth, one of the benefits of being self sufficient. With a freezer full of frozen veggies from last years garden and fresh eggs being laid daily, we are often able to weather just about any economical crises.
As the stores run out of important staples such as eggs, I am in the fortunate position to help out my friends and neighbors by sharing what I have with those around me in need. People often forget about us backyard chicken keepers till an egg recall or shortage is faced, then we are everyone’s favorite neighbor. In past supply shortages I have had complete strangers come to my door inquiring about purchasing eggs from me. I oblige when I am able to do so.
These events remind me again and again how fortunate I am to be able to keep backyard chickens. There have been times they have provided us our “survival food”. When natural disasters or other economical crises occur, there is just something about knowing that although the stores are bare the girls are still laying. Completely unaware of the situation unfolding around them, the girls go about their days sustaining us and others around us. There is a purity in not being totally dependent on the supply chain but rather your own land.
There are many benefits of keeping backyard chickens. Times of crises are one of those benefits. This is often forgotten till a situation arises that forces us to take stock. It’s times like this that I am ever grateful for my girls. They are a blessing that sometimes is not fully appreciated till situations arise and we become dependent on them.
When faced with uncertainties , people have their own ways of preparing. While most people were braving the long lines at the stores to ready their plans, I was preparing for my girls. I sustain them by making sure I have their essentials stocked for the upcoming crises. They will in turn sustain us and others in need through their eggs.
I wish everyone the best in weathering this storm. If we all follow the recommendations by our federal Government and local Public Health professionals we will survive. This is not the first time that humanity has been faced with an invisible enemy and it will not be the last. Take care and take care of those around you. If we band together we can fight this invisible foe.
As always, thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing!
When it comes to keeping backyard chickens there are lots of decisions that a keeper needs to make. In addition to breeds, coops, whether or not to have a rooster there is NPIP certification. In the post I will detail what NPIP Certification is and if it is something that you want to do for your flock.
What is NPIP Certification?
In short NPIP stands for National Poultry Improvement Plan. The NPIP is a voluntary program overseen by the United States of Agriculture (USDA) and managed by each state.
The program monitors flocks and hatcheries for a variety of serious diseases that can devastate chicken populations and create serious problems for the poultry industry or backyard chicken enthusiasts.
NPIP Certified hatcheries adhere to a set of established standards that ensure that the birds they sale are free from diseases listed above. Testing involves taking blood samples from their flocks, swabs from their birds throats, adhering to sanitation and biosecurity procedures.
Hatcheries are required to test their flocks for the diseases included in the certification set out by the USDA. Testing procedures can vary from state to state but most require a testing for Avian Influenza (AI) and various forms of Salmonella. Typically a cross selection of 300 birds will be tested. If a hatchery has less than 300 birds than every single bird is then tested and must re-test annually to keep their certification up to date.
So what does this mean for the backyard flock owner?
As a perspective backyard chicken keeper looking to start or add to an existing flock, it is best to buy from a breeder that is NPIP Certified. Most hatcheries are certified but there are a few out there that are not. Some hatcheries will list on their webpage that they are NPIP Certified along with their certification number. If you do not see where they are NPIP certified just ask. Any hatchery that is NPIP certified will readily and freely prove to you that they are certified and will give your their NPIP certification number. If they are certified you can be sure that you are buying from a reputable breeder or hatchery that holds animal husbandry to the highest standard.
As a backyard chicken keeper, if you plan on breeding or selling chicks or chickens it is a good idea to get your flock NPIP Certified. Not only are you ensured that your flock is healthy and that you are selling healthy birds but it offers you a hedge of protection should the birds you sold be reported sick. If there is an investigation into the origin of the birds sold you will have a hedge of protection in that your flock is NPIP Certified. That’s not to say that just because a source is NPIP Certified that birds cannot get sick. It will reveal in the event of an investigation that your flock is healthy and gets routine health inspections that is documented by your State Veterinarian.
It also give you a peace of mind as well. For example, if there is an outbreak of AI in your area, a State Veterinarian will be dispatched to your home to test your birds for AI. Since your property is cataloged in your county offices that you have chickens you will literally get a knock at your door requesting to test your flock. Some people find this comforting, others find it intrusive. Some feel that registering your flock and having them NPIP Certified relinquishes too much control to “Big Brother”. This is where the individual keepers preference comes into play. I personally have my flock NPIP Certified. Not only do I find it comforting that should AI be detected in my area, the USDA would be on it testing my birds. But if I sale any chicks or adult laying hens I am confident that I am selling healthy birds and have the certification to back it up.
How does an owner certify their flock?
If you decide that NPIP certification is something that you want to do, getting them certified is very easy. Simply look up your State Veterinarian on the web or in the phone book and give them a call. Simply tell them that you are a backyard chicken keeper and that you want to have your flock NPIP certified.
At that time your information will be recorded and you will get a call from a USDA agent in a few days to schedule a testing date. If you have a large flock say 50 birds or more, plan on taking the day off work to have your flock certified. The agents will literally test every one of your birds individually.
They will take a small sample of blood and swab their throats. You as the keeper will be responsible for retrieving each bird, bringing them to the inspectors, and keeping track of who has been tested. Once tested each bird will be issued an ankle bracelet with a number on it, each number is specific to each bird and is logged into a computer. This number is their state ID. Should you need to call the State Veterinarian at a later date about a bird you will need to reference the number on their ankle bracelet.
This is another perk of having your flock NPIP Certified. If you have any questions about health or other illness related questions, you have someone to call. Many local Vets will not see “livestock” in their office. They may be able to answer some general questions but as for advising you in detail they may be limited. The State Veterinarian will know how to answer or direct your questions relating to your flock to qualified sources.
In my early days I called my local State Vet several time to clarity issues or find treatment direction for basic illness. They were an amazing resource that I readily used. If you call with a suspicious illness such as symptoms of AI, an inspector will be dispatched to your property to test your birds. If you have suspicious deaths (you do not know the cause of death) they will conduct a necropsy or an animal autopsy on the deceased birds to determine what took the animals life. It will then be determined if this is something to be concerned about in relation to the rest of your flock. They are an immense source of information and guidance if you find yourself in a situation where you need expert advice or help.
How much does it cost to get your flock NPIP Certified?
The final aspect the of NPIP Certification that I will touch on is how much it costs. The cost depends on your state, each state will have different rates and procedures of how they go about conducting a NPIP certification. In the state of Tennessee, where I live our State Vet charged $25 for an inspection and certification. It is in the best interest of the state that keepers certify their flocks so they try to make it simple and affordable.
Each year or every other year depending on your state, your flock will be up for renewal. Each year the flock owner is required to pay the nominal fee to renew their NPIP Certificate. The fee in my case was rendered at time of service directly the inspectors after they tested all my birds. Several days after the inspection of your flock takes place, you will receive a card in the mail with your issued NPIP Participant #. This is for your records or anytime you need to prove your NPIP status. Below is an old card that I received for a NPIP Certification several year ago.
I have never regretted getting my flock NPIP Certified. Although I am not an active breeder I find value in knowing that my flock is healthy. I also found the NPIP certification process valuable in learning how to conduct my own health inspections on my birds and what dangerous symptoms to look for in relation to serious illness in my flock. The most important aspect that I value from the NPIP process is the network of contacts I can call should I find myself in the unfortunate situation where I need professional help for my flock. There is a peace of mind knowing that I am only a phone call away from people who are knowledgeable should I need to tap into that resource.
I hope that this post has helped answer some question relating to NPIP Certification. If you have any questions that I did not cover in this post please feel free to leave me a comment. I will get back to you as soon as I can. That’s what I’m here for.
As always, thanks for reading. Till next time keep on crowing!
When acquiring a backyard chicken flock, most people chose a flock of ladies. But for those who want a rooster or two but are apprehensive as to which bread to choose, this post is for you.
My flock total clocks in at around 50, 30 or so hens and around 20 gents. The majority of my gents are broken up into four bachelor pens. A bachelor pen is a coop/pen assigned to just roosters. There are no ladies with the gents in their bachelor digs. Contrary to prevailing opinion, roosters can and do cohabitate well together. But there are some tricks to it. To learn about bachelor pens chick here . The rest of the gents are broken up amongst the coops that contain the ladies. I have three large coops that house my girls, within each of these pens I have two roosters. These gents care for and protect the ladies while they are out in the backyard free ranging. That means on any given day when the ladies are outside, I have 6 roosters in the yard with them.
For anyone who associates roosters with the nasty, blood thristy and aggressive barnyard bird stereotype, you may be thinking, that’s a lot of testosterone to have running around uncontained. Or is it?
Roosters unfortunately fall prey to a negative stereotype however, in reality they are not as aggressive as many think. Many people think roosters are as bad to the bone as they come, I beg to differ. Have you ever met a broody hen?
The roosters of yesteryear that haunt the dreams of those who have had negative encounters with them are often plagued by the game cock or other game birds. Yes, those guys can be a bit high strung and aggressive. However, due to the variety of breeds available the majority of roosters today are very docile and calm. Gone are the days of your grandparents flock which contained the rooster that starred in your nightmares. Many people today keep chickens for fun and eggs. Although some keep chicken for meat the majority of keepers are hobby enthusiasts. Thus, the breeds available today are suited for these purposes. That being said, below I will detail my favorite rooster breeds and why. So without further ado, let’s begin.
The first stud that I will present for condiseration is the Orphington. My very first rooster was Roy, he was my first introduction to the worth and value of a rooster to a flock. Orphingtons as a breed are known as the “Golden Retrievers” of the chicken world. Their demeanor is calm, friendly, and low key. They are big balls of feathers, looking bigger than they actually are. Roy was much the same. He had a job to do and took it seriously but he was a gently giant. In my presence he was very calm and relaxed. He would beg me for treats that he could then distribute to his ladies. He was in one word a gentlemen. One day I witnessed his heroic efforts to save my girls from a hawk. He was prepared to lay down his life for his ladies until I heard his frantic call and came to his rescue. Had I not heard his cry that day I hate to think what I would have come home to. Lucky I was home and chased the hawk off of him. He made a full recover from his injuries and lived on several more years as the decorated protector of the flock. He passed away several years ago. I never thought I would miss a rooster so much. He taught me a lot about chickens and about the sacrificial nature of a rooster. Ever since Roy I have fallen in love with roosters. They are today one of my favorite creatures worthy of all the respect and admiration they deserve.
The next stud to introduce you to is Enigma. Enigma is a Motted Cochin Bantam. Like the Orphingtons, Cochins are also big balls of feathers. The cochin is a very docile and friendly breed. They girls make excellent mothers and the gents make excellent roosters. No bigger than he is, Enigma has established himself as the alpha rooster of the chicken yard, all the other guys answer to him. He is a very sweet rooster and takes very good care of his girls. He is calm around humans and will even allow me to pick him up for his health inspections without much issue. He too will beg me for treats that he can offer to his girls. He allows the girls to eat first and then if there is anything left he will partake. When free ranging outside he will often follow me hoping that I can give him a morsel to take to his favorite lady. I often time feel like a vending machine waiting to fill his order. Out of all my boys, Enigma is my favorite.
These next guys with the fabulous hair are Polishes. Polishes are my favorite breed, I have more of them than any other breed on my farm. The Polishes are known as the “comedians” of the chicken world. As a breed the they are very curious and high strung. Due to their fabulous crests, their vision is limited thus everything spooks them, simple objects like their own dinner, coop mates, or surroundings will startle them. Due to their limited vision however they need to remain in the safety of a covered pen to protect them and their ladies from predation. I only allow my polish flocks out when I am in the backyard with them either working in the gardens or just chilling with my peeps. This aside, the Polish gents make great roosters for a keeper who does not mind their antics. They are very easy to pick up and hold and due to their limited vision. They are a bit high strung only because they cannot see well which is part of what makes the Polish such and entertaining breed to own. They easily get themselves into trouble and then cannot see well enough to get themselves out of it. Keeping this breed requires some planning on the keepers part. Because they are very curious they need a variety of entertainment sources while they are confined to their pens. Simple things like mealworms to scratch around for in the shaving or a bottle filled with scratch with small holes that they have to extract the scratch from. I place parrot toys in their pens to give them something to play with. They will happily peck and play with the hanging toys all the while being spooked by it at the same time. They really are an endless form of entertainment in the backyard. The ladies will often perch on their keepers legs or arms making great lap chickens.
The second most numerous flock I have on my farm are the Silkies. Silkies are known as the “Teddy Bears” of the chicken world. Due to their feathers that are “fur-like” they are the cuddle bunnies of the flock. Silkies as a breed are known world over for being very docile, friendly, and calm. They are voted time and time again as the best breed to have for kids who want a coop of chickens to care for. I currently have a flock of 14 Silkies, 6 are roosters. Two roosters are in the coop with the ladies, the rest are in a bachelor pen I have set up for my access Silkie studs. My Silkie gents are very will behaved. They are not aggressive and will actually run from me when I try to pick them up. They are very shy and timid. The ladies are very friendly and enjoy interactions with their care takers. I have no trouble with my Silkie roosters at all. Like the Polish, its best to keep Silkies in the protection of a covered coop and pen unless you are outside with them. Due to their overwhelmingly shy and timid nature they would rather run from a predator than protect the ladies like most roosters do. When I can get ahold of the guys they are very docile and calm in my hands as I hold them. They would rather hide under a rock but are very easy going if I need to handle them.
The final two guys I am going to introduce you too are Dracula and Frankenstein. These two guys are Easter Eggers and although not known as an exceptionally docile breed, these two boys are well behaved. I typically buy my chicks from hatcheries, however, last year I bought 6 chicks from my local feed store. 4 of the chicks I purchased were girls the other two are boys; Dracula and Frankenstein. The girls are in the Kuntry Klucker pen with Enigma, so these two studs are in a bachelor pen. They cohabitate very well and are very happy living up the single life in their bachelor digs.
While there are many more breeds available, the breeds listed I have first hand experience with and can vouch for their temperament and disposition. Most roosters with the exception of the Polish and Silkie in my experience have a job to do and take it seriously. That aside, roosters are readily able to tell that their keeper is an ally and not an enemy. Providing food and treats for the girls only further establishes the keepers role as a friend and helper and not an enemy.
Like any other subject there are always outliers, members that deviate from the norm. Roosters are no different, they are very much individuals, however as a whole the temperament of the breed does play a major part in the behavior of the gents. I have 20 or so roosters, the majority residing in bachelor pens. I do not have a problem with any one of my boys. Even the guys that are in the bachelor digs are very well behaved and display a temperament true of their breed. The two Easter Egger roosters that I have Dracula and Frankenstein are even very well mannered even though as a whole their breed does not agree. Thus, it is even possible to have a breed that is not renowned for being docile and calm and still end up with very friendly roosters.
I hope that this post has been helpful for those thinking about acquiring roosters for or with their spring chickens. It is very possible to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to keeping roosters. Selecting gents from breeds that are well known for being calm and docile is an excellent place to start. If you have any questions please feel to leave a comment, I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Thanks for reading, till next time keep on crowing!