When acquiring a backyard chicken flock, most people opt for a flock of ladies. But for those who want a rooster ot two, but are apprehensive as to which breads are best, this post is for you.
My flock total clocks in at around 50-60 birds (according to chicken math), 30-40 or so hens and 13 roosters. Half of the gents free range with the girls, the rest reside in a bachelor pen. A bachelor pen is a coop/pen assigned to house just roosters. There are no hens in a bachelor pen. Contrary to prevailing opinion, roosters can and do cohabitate well together. However, there are some tricks to successfully house roosters together. To see how I use and manage a bachelor pen, chick here .
I have three large coops that house my girls, within each of these dwellings, I have two roosters. These gents care for and protect the ladies while they are free ranging. That means, on any given day, I have 6 roostes in the yard with the ladies.
The roosters of yesteryear, which star in our nightmares, was often played by the game cock, according to today’s breeding standards. The rooster we met on our grandparents farm was very aggressive, and for good reason. Our grandparents kept chicken to supply the family with eggs and meat, a defensive rooster was needed. However, many things have changed since our grandparents day.
The backyard chicken hobby has exploded, chickens replacing the family dog in terms of popularity. Backyard chickens are quickly becoming the go to for a backyard homestead. In the wake of COVID-19, everyone wants more control over their food supply. Backyard chickens have never been more popular than they are right now. Correspondingly, the breeding industy has responded. Hatcheries and breeders are selective breeding for behavioral/temperment traits such as calm, friendly, docile and low key. Most breeds today meet the needs of the backyard chicken hobby keeper. Gone is the blood thirsty aggressive rooster that roamed our grandparents farm, meet the roosters of today.
Using my 13 roosters, I will provide a breed profile overview. I will highlight behavioral and temperment traits associated with common breeds developed for the backyard chicken keeper.
The first breed that I will present for consideration, is the Buff Orpington. Orpingtons 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. My very first rooster was a Buff Orpington named Roy. Roy exhibited much of these behavioral traits, he was a gentle giant. In my presence he was very calm and relaxed. He would beg me for treats that he could give to his ladies. He was in one word a gentlemen. He was never aggressive towards me and took excellent care of the ladies.
One day I witnessed his heroic efforts to save my girls from a hawk. Prepared to lay down his life, he sounded the alarm. The ladies ran for cover, while he battled the hawk. Although injured, with love and care, he made a full recovery. I learned the true value of a rooster from this experience. After that event, Roy lived on several more years as a decorated war hero. He sadly passed away 5 years ago. I never thought I would miss a rooster so much, he was my rooster teacher. He taught me a lot about chickens and the sacrificial nature of a rooster. Ever since Roy, I have fallen in love with roosters. Today, they are one of my favorite creatures, worthy of respect and admiration.
The next gent to introduce you to is Enigma. Enigma is a Mottled Cochin Bantam. Like the Orpingtons, 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, then if there is anything left, he will partake. When free ranging, he will often follow me hoping that I can give him a morsel to take to his favorite lady. Out of all my boys, Enigma is my favorite.
These next guys with the fabulous 80s 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 but high strung. Due to their fabulous crests, their vision is limited thus everything spooks them. Simple even mundane objects in their environment will startle them. Due to their limited vision, they cannot see what is above them. For this reason, a keeper needs to ensure that they have a covered run. If free ranging, provide them with ample coverage as protection from aerial predators.
I only allow my polish flocks out when I am in the backyard or have multiple roosters on duty. Polish gents make great roosters for a keeper who does not mind their antics. They are very easy to pick up and hold, due to their limited vision. They are a bit high strung making them an entertaining breed to own.
All my polish roosters are very sweet, however, curious. Due to the feathered crests, they are a bit jumpy. I talk to them before I pick them up as to not give them a jolt. Characteristically, they do not make the best roosters for protection. I have ample coverage in my backyard as a hedge of protection for my polish boys.
They are very curious, often following their curosities into predicimates, then not able to see well enough to get themselves out. They really are an endless form of entertainment in the backyard. The roosters are a bit high strung, panicky and flighty, yet very sweet. I have several Polish roosters, all are very friendly, approachble and curious. The ladies will often perch on my legs or arms, making them great lap chickens.
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 around kids.
I currently have a flock of 14 Silkies, 4 are roosters. Two roosters are in the coop with the ladies, the rest are in a bachelor pen. My Silkie gents are very will behaved, shy and timid. The ladies are very friendly and enjoy interactions with their care takers. I have no trouble with my Silkie roosters. 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. When I hold my silkie roosters, they are very docile and calm in my arms. They would rather hide under a rock, but are very easy going if I need to handle them.
Next, Dracula and Frankenstein. These two guys are Easter Eggers and although not known as an exceptionally docile breed, these two boys are well behaved. They are very curious and want in on whatever I am doing. Due to their breed, they are a bit larger than my other roosters. Despite their size, they are very calm and friendly. They do not like to be held, so I only pick them up when needed.
Silver Lace Wyandotte:
My final breed to hightlight are Silver Lace Wyandottes. Wyandottes are a large breed, Smoug is the largest member of my flock. He easily towers over the other roosters in my flock. At 12 pounds, he is a big boy. Despite his size, he is very calm, friendly and easy going. He is best described as the gentle giant of my flock. Due to his very relaxed nature, he is at the bottom of the rooster pecking order. I can easily pick him up and hold him when needed for health inspections. He prefers not to be held, but will tolerate check-ups when needed.
While there are many more breeds available, the breeds listed I keep and can expound on associated temperament and disposition. Most roosters bred today for the backyard keeper are well behaved. Don’t get me wrong, a rooster has a job to do and he takes it seriously, but most are calm and friendly. I currently have 13 roosters, all are very well behaved gents. They take good care of the ladies and are not aggressive to human by any means. They are often my welcoming committee when I enter the backyard, curious about what treats I may have brought them.
I hope that this post has been helpful for those thinking about acquiring roosters for their flock. 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. You can also drop me a line at email@example.com
If there is one breed that will always steal the show, it’s the Polish. If there is one variation of Polish that will take your breath away, its the Silver Lace Polish. The Polish breed of chickens has taken over the backyard chicken enthusiasts movement by storm. This year, the number one selling chicken breed, was you guessed it, the Polish. What is it about the Polish breed that has backyard chicken keepers so smitten?
Polishes are characteristically very quirky, entertaining, and affectinate. Due to the ample feathered crests that crown their heads obstructing their vision, Polishes can be a bit flighty and jumpy. Just about everything in their environment startles them, for this reason they are often the comedians of the backyard chicken world. In addition, they are very curious, often following their curiosities into humerous predicimates. Unable to see well enough to get themselves out, they call for other members of the flock to come to their rescue. For this reason, the Polish breed can be a bit more vocal than other breeds. It is this combination of attributes that makes Polishes one of the most beloved breeds within the backyard chicken movement. Now that the Polish breed has our attention, many new variations are becoming more readily available. One of the most loved variation is the Silver Lace Polish. Here are my top 5 reasons why Silver Lace Polishes are topping the charts.
(1). Stunning Appearance:
Let’s start with the obvious. These ladies and gents are absolutely beautiful!! They look like something right out of a Van Gogh painting. The command of color and contrast in their plumage leaves the observer breathless. The densly feathered creasts topping thier head completes the look. These fancy gals and gens appear as though they are dressed up for a chicken Gala. All of these attributes combined comprise their unique appearnce that commands attention of anyone who happens upon them. Make no mistake, Silver Lace Polishes will quickly become the gems of the flock. Many keepers including myself, keep these beauties to enter into poultry shows. When not winning ribbons, Silver Lace Polishes add a bit of refinment to a backyard flock.
Often the first comment I get from visitors addresses my Silver Lace Polishes. They inquire about their unique appearance, some disbelieve that they are in fact chickens. The unique apperance of the Silver Lace Polish leaves onlookers and keepers captivated by their beauty.
The roosters of the Silver Lace variety are even more spectacular. The additional tail and crest feathers take their ravishing look a step further. Roosters command attention, but Silver Lace Polish roosters leave the observer breathless. These ladies and gents are by the far the most loved individuals of the backyard chicken Polish enthusiast. I have several Polish color varities, the Silver Lace is hands down my favorite.
(2). Friendly, funny, feathered friends:
The Polish is known to be a very friendly, affectionate, docile and curious breed. Silver Lace Polishes are much like their other Polish breed counterparts. The only difference between Silver Lace Polishes and other varieties is the feather plumage. They possess all of the challenges that other Polish varieties possess.
They are very curious, friendly and form a strong bond with their keepers. Due to their feathered crests that obstruct their vision, they can be very flighty and jumpy. To keep Polish chickens successfully, a keeper must make sure to provide a covered pen, confined free ranging space and ample coverage. The feathered crests limit their ability to see what is above them, making them easy prey for aerial predators. Additoinally, due to their crests featheres, they can be high strung. Because of this, a keeper must be aware when picking them up that they may startle. It is also these combination of attribtes that make them so entertaining to keep and watch.
(3) Great for an Urban setting:
If you live in the city limits or in a neighborhood and want fancy chickens, you’re in luck, Silver Lace Polishes fit the bill. All Polishes, incliding Silver Lace Polishes tolerate confinment well, making them perfect for the urban setting. Due to their feathered crests, Polish chickens tend not to stray too far from the safety of their coop. If a threat is detected, they like to be close to a place of safety. Because of this, they tolerate confinment in a coop and pen very well. Other more adapt breeds for free ranging such as the Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Orpington become restless when confined to a coop and pen.
Another plus for the urban chicken keeper is the body size of the Polish chicken. Silver Lace Polishes and all Polish chickens come in both a standard and bantam (miniture or orinmental) size. Even the standard size Silver Lace Polish chickens are a bit smaller than most standard size breeds. This is an added benifit to the urban keeper. Due to their size, Silver Lace Polishes are easier for a city keeper to accomidate on smaller plots of land.
(4) Egg Potential:
Contrary to popoular belif, Polish chickens lay a fair amout of eggs. They are by no means record holders like the Australorp or Orpingon, but they do lay eggs. For those who want a small flock for an urban plot or hobby farm, Silver Lace Polishes are great. They will give you enough eggs for your family without overwhelming you with an egg surplus.
Polish eggs are typically a medium size and white to off-white in coloration. One hen will typically lay anywhere from 2-3 eggs per week. Some hens may lay more, other may lay less. On average, I can expect one of my Silver Lace Polishes to lay an egg every three days.
Another benefit closely related to egg production is broodiness. Polish chickens are not known for being broody, for the urban keeper this is a huge benefit. Not distracted by wanting to brood a clutch of chicks, they will give more attention to you, thier keeper. This sets the Polish apart making them truly “pet” chickens. Which brings me to my last point.
(5). The Ultimate Pet Chicken:
If what you are in the market for is a “pet chicken”, Silver Lace Polishes are a breed to consider. They are a quirky, loveable, friendly, and approachable breed. Due to thier feather head crests, they are easy to catch and pick up, this makes them great for being around children. This means that Silver Lace Polishes are great for a family flock. Pet chickens are a great way to teach kids how to take care of animals, responsibility, and respect for other creatures. As they saying goes, “chickens are the gateway drug to farming” thus, a great way to teach lessons in sustainability. Being that Silver Lace Polishes and all Polishes are so friendly, they are great to have around a urban backyard hobby farm.
I hope that you have found this post helpful. If I did not address any questions that you may have regarding Silver Lace Polishes, please leave a comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When one thinks of fancy chickens, Silver Lace Wyandottes often come to mind. With the striking black and white plumage forming a lace pattern, its hard to not love these ladies. These lovely ladies and gents are uniquely American, dating back to the 1800’s with admission into the Poultry Standard of Perfection in the 1890’s. As an American breed, Wyandottes have become synomous with the backayrd chicken movement in the United States. Widely available at most farm and feed stores, Wyandottes are the poster chick for the American backyard flock. They say that beauty is only skin deep, not for these ladies. After keeping these fancy ladies (and gent) for several years, I have compiled 5 reasons to be head over heels for Silver Lace Wyandottes.
(1) Beauty :
Let’s start with the obvious, these girls are absolutly stunning. In a flock by themselves or in mixed flocks, these ladies steal the show. The black/white lace pattern of their plumage is striking against the backgroud of a freshly cut green lawn. If you want to add a bit of high class to you flock, you can’t go wrong with Silver Lace Wyandottes.
Visitors to my farm, often inquire about my Silver Lace Wyandottes. As a breed they are show stoppers and often the subject of discussion. Visitors cannot get over the beauty this breed brings to the backyard setting . I am often asked for fertile eggs so they too can have a flock of these stunning ladies.
(2) Gentile, Docile and Enduring Disposition:
If you are looking for a breed that is docile and friendly, Silver Lace Wyandottes are a great fit. When I step into the chicken yard, my Silver Lace ladies are often first to greet me. They are excited at my presence, whether I bring treats or come empty handed. They love attention and enjoy handeling and petting. If you are in the market for a lap chicken, Silver Lace Wyandottes are the breed for you.
Silver Lace Wyandottes as a breed characteristic are very curious. They always have to get into and investigate anything that I am doing, whether it be planting crops, cleaning coops or yard care. They are my supervisors, always wanting in on what I am doing. They are very sweet , offer plenty of “hen-help”, and want nothing more than the full attention of thier keeper.
Silver Lace Wyandotte roosters are well behaved and friendly. Smaug, our resident Wyandotte rooster is a gentlemen. He takes good care of his ladies and is friendly toward his humans. He is as close to a cuddle bug as a rooster can get. I have 13 roosters of various breeds, all are very well behaved, but Smaug gets the prize. At 12 pounds, Smaug is a gentle giant, and the cornerstone of the Kuntry Klucker Farm.
(3) Dependabel Egg Layers
Wyandottes are excellent layers of X-large dark brown eggs. The Australorp, also known for being an excellent layer is only outclassed by the Wyandottes is terms of egg size. While the Australorp gets the prize for the most eggs laid in a year (364 is the world record), Wyandottes are larger, proving that quality is better than quantity. In the photos above, I have placed a Silver Lace Wyandotte egg next to an Australorp egg. While the Austalorp egg is a dark brown and large, the Wyandotte egg (sitting to the left) is slightly darker and noticably larger. When I first started getting eggs from my Wyandottes, judging by the size, I figured them to be double-yokers. However, this is not the case. Wyandotte eggs are very large and a beautiful dark brown. These are by far the largest eggs I have ever recieved from my backayrd flock. With eggs this size, I plan to keep Silver Lace Wyandottes in my flock for years to come.
(4) Made in America:
If you are looking to buy American, Silver Lace Wyandottes are it. While most beloved backyard chicken breeds have origins in other part of the world, Wyandottes are born and breed in America. Uniquely an American breed, Wyandottes were first developed in the 1800’s, properly named after the indigenious Wyandotte people of North America.
Silver Lace Wyandottes are a Heritage Breeds. One of my priniple passions wthin the backyard chicken movement is that of conservation of Heritage Breeds. In 2015, Silver Lace Wyandottes were listed as “endangered” by the Livestock Conservancy. As of 2020, they were listed as “recovering”. Today they are no longer endangered and removed from the list.
It is through our efforts as backayrd chicken enthuiasists that these beautiful birds are thriving. Without backayrd chicken keepers, breeds like the Silver Lace Wyandottes and others would easily slip into extinction. While keeping backyard chickens is an exciting hobby, its roots run much deeper. As a backyard chicken keeper, you are also acting as a conservationist. All of us play this important role, whether we are aware of it or not.
(5)All Weather Breed:
Unlike other breeds such as the Silkie or Polish, Wyandottes are able to tolerate many different climates. They come factory installed with the this superpower which has made them one of the most enduirng breeds in the United States. Due to ther rose comb, Wyandottes are able to tolerate cold climates without suffering issues of frost bite as other larger comb breeds often enounter. Although heavily bodied, Wyandottes are able to withstand the hotter climates.
For Example, here in East Tennessee, mother nature throws in all at us. In the winter we experience ice and snow storms. In the spring we experince strong/severe storms, many with torrential rains and the threat of tornados. Then in the summer, is hot and humid, our summer highs easily top 90-100F. Through it all, my Silver Lace Wyandotte ladies don’t seems to mind what the wild weather here does, they just keep on keeping on. In an area that encounters many different kinds of weather, this is an atribute that a keeper should look for in the breeds they choose.
This ease of care breed has quicky risen to the top of my favorites list. If you are looking for a breed that is easy to care for, Silver Lace Wyandottes are a breed to consider. If you want a colorful flock, Wyandotte chicken come in a variety of colors (Golden Lace, Buff, Partridge, Silver Penciled, Columbian, and Blue/Red Lace).
I hope this post has been a helpful breed profile for those interested in keeping Wyandotte chickens. If you have any questions I did not cover, please post in the comment section, you can also find us on facebook, or drop me an e-mail at email@example.com.
In addition to The Kuntry Klucker, I maitain a sister blog “Knowledge of the Spheres” decdicated to my other passion and academic degree, Astrophysics. If the subject matter of astronomy, astrophysics and anything space inteestes you, plase drop by.
As always, thanks for reading. Until next time, keep on crowing?
Buff Orpingtons are a Heritage Breed kept by the generations of yesteryear. As a reslult, Buff Orpingtons are staple for homesteader 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. Buff Orpingtons are renowned for making great mothers. As a breed characteristic, hens are very broody, wanting nothing more than 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 grow 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 will witness the wonder of nature, as your Buff Orpington momma hen raised the young.
3. Friendly, calmanddociledisposition:
When starting with backyard chickens, typically new keepers want 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 are well behaved gents. 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 bare 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, making them great backyard companions. Buff Orpingtons are very friendly, approachable and social. Often, they follow their keeper around the yard, clucking and squawking events of their day. Buff Orpingtons are known to be lap chickens due to their desire for attention from their keepers. If you want a pet that makes you breakfast, then Buff Orpingtons are 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. Orpingtons are not flighty, making them the perfect pet chicken and easy to 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, further making 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 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. Basically, your backyard flock will be your own personal extermination crew. This allows you to grow organic produce, eliminating the need of chemicals. As a result, you will enjoy eating fresh organic produce grown in your garden.
In addition to tilling, aerating, and extermination, your backyard garden flock you provide the added benefit of compost. Due to the high concentration of nitrogen 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 gizzard. 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, these very fertile weed seeds are then introduced to your garden.
Additionally, most of the manure sold at garden stores are sourced from 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 fertalizer spread on your garden is organic, benifical for both you and your plants.
Orpingtons is all 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. Due to thier always enduring personalitties, I will always have a small flock of Buff Orpingtons on my farm. They lay well, are great with kids and make a great companion in gardening, providing compost for my plants. If well cared for, these golden girls can live to the age of 10 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 breed profile on Buff Orpingtons was helpful. In choosing your beginner flock, temperment is very important. If you want friendly, calm and loyal chickens, Buff Orpingtons are a breed to consider.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. You can also drop me a line a firstname.lastname@example.org. I make it a point to respond within 24 hours. You can also visit us on facabook.
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 Polish 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. A covered pen, protected free range area, and ample coverage are necessary to keep this fancy breed. Due to their feathered crests, they cannot see above them, thus are easy prey for aerial attacks from predators.
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 Orpington. These lovely ladies and gents are often sold in feed stores and are very hearty. I personally have seen many old photos capturing this breed. When I started keeping chickens this was the first breed I ordered. Buff Orpingtons 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 Orpingtons 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, 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, like the Orpington, they 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, 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 Mottled (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, 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 the flock is free ranging.
Silkies are a very old breed. They originated in Asia, 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 breed 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 Wyandotte 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 about these ladies. I get many comments on their stunning appearace. They are the pride and joy of my flock.
Like the Orpingtons 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 to add a little high class to your flock, Wyandotts are a great choice. Since they are available in most feed stores, 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 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 lay 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 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 provide 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 their 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 only 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 breed’s 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 glean 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 homeland 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 chicken 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, high roosts are preferable. They are one of the more noisy 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, victim to 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!
Silkies, they have been called fluff-balls, aliens from another world, teddy bears and many other things in between.
Without a doubt they certainly are unusual looking chickens!
Aside from their unusual looks they are among the friendliest breed, great mothers, and voted times over the best chickens for kids.
Today we will discuss why we here at The Kuntry Klucker Farm love our Silkies and a bit about their history.
First the history. How did they get here and where did they come from?
The Slikies are an ancient breed probably of Chinese or Japanese origin. It is believed by poultry experts that the Silkies date as far back as the Chinese Han Dynasty a time around 206BCE.
The Silkie was first mentioned by Marco Polo in his journals on his trip across China, Europe, and the Far Middle East (around 1290-1300). He recorded it in his journal referencing a “furry chicken”.
The Silkie slowly made it was to the western world by means of the The Silk Road a large trading route in the Eastern world. The Ancient Silk Road stretched from China to modern day Iraq. There were numerous other trading routs in the ancient times but The Silk Road was the primary trading route used by the Western World Traders.
After Marco Polo’s mention about a “furry chicken” there was not much said about the Silkie till about 1598. Ulisse Aldrovandi a writer and naturalist at the University of Bologna, Italy, published a work on a “wool-bearing chicken”. He described it as “clothed with hair like that of a black cat”.
After Silkies made it to the Western world the breed was recognized officially in North America with acceptance into the Standard of Perfection in 1874.
In the 21st century, Silkies are one of the most popular and ubiquitous ornamental breeds of chicken. They are often kept as ornamental fowl or pet chickens by backyard keepers, and are commonly used to incubate and raise the offspring of other chickens and waterfowl. Silkies are valued for their broodiness. It has been said that a Silkie could hatch rock, I will explain this more detail a little later.
For now lets get to it, 5 reasons why we love our resident Silkies here at The Kuntry Klucker Farm.
1. Silkies are the friendlies of all chicken breeds.
Silkies are most definiely a kids chicken. Due to their very docile and easy going temperament, Silkies are a favorite amongst chicken keepers with kids. Silkies tolerate handling very well and will even jump on an owners lap for cuddles and to be petted. Even the roosters are well behaved and even tempered. I have two roosters in my flock of silkies, they take excellent care of the girls and get along with each other quite well. If you are looking to involve children in keeping backyard chickens Silkies are a great breed to have. Be warned though, they are not the most productive egg layers. They will lay about 120 eggs per year. But don’t let that turn you off from having a small flock of Silkies, they make up for the reduced egg count in many other ways. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Silkies make excellent mothers.
It is often said among chicken entuists that a broody Silkie could hatch rock, and it’s true. Silkies are known for their broodiness, when in the broody mindset they will sit on just about anything. Broody Silkies have been known to gather just about anything that resembles an egg and attempt to incubate it. Items such as rocks, lightbulbs, golf balls, even abandoned baby animals such as a bunny or kitten have been found under a broody hen. Chicken keepers like myself actually keep them in my flock for this exact reason.
I am not one who likes to fool with incubators, I tried it once, its just too much work for me. I would rather leave the incubating to a mother equipped for such a job. When I need to increase the number of a particular breed in my flock, I gather 4-6 eggs and put them under a broody Silkie. Fortunately, I am usually able to find a broody Silkie or in some cases just give them eggs, a quiet place, and they will sit on them for me. In return I get a hands off and trouble free incubator and brooder that raise the chicks for me. It really is that easy!
Currently I have a broody Silkie Hen Donna, raising a clutch of 7 Silkie chicks for me. We needed some more Silkies so instead of ordering from a hatchery and managing a brooder, I just took a few eggs and put them under her. She successfully hatched and is raising 7 precious chicks for me. Below is a video of Miss Donna and her adorable brood.
Although not prolific eggs producers, Silkies contribute to a small chicken farm in other ways. I love my Silkies, they have such a sweet temperament which brings me to my next point.
3. Silkie Chickens are Masters of Calm and Zen
Silkie chickens are famous for their docile, sweet and nurturing temperament. Unlike most chickens that get excited as soon as the coop is opened, Silkie remains calm and collected. They enjoy getting up close and personal with their human caretakers. They enjoy being cuddled and groomed, making them excellent pets for kids. Their docile natures make them suitable for smaller backyards or small farms. When free ranging in a backyard setting or open space, they stick close to home not roaming too far. Silkies are your calm in an otherwise hectic world.
4. Fabulous from their Feathers down to their 5 Toes.
Silkies are simply a cut above the rest in the looks department with those frizzy, fluffy, puffy feathers that make them look like a cuddly teddy bear only with feathers. Their feathers lack barbicels (those are the hooks that hold the feathers together), hence the fluffy appearance.
The main feathering looks just like the under-down of regular chickens. The fact that the feathers do not hold together means a Silkie cannot fly. It also means that the feathering is not waterproofed and so a wet Silkie is a pathetic sight to see. For this reason, an owner keeping Silkies needs to make sure that they have a clean and dry coop to call home. During the cooler and rainy months extra attention needs to be given to make sure they stay clean and dry. If they do get significantly wet, they need to be towel dried or even blow dried – which they enjoy if it is done on a regular basis.
One feature that I really love is the fact that their ear lobes are blue. Most chickens have red, white, or black ear lobes so the blue of a Silkie just looks stunning. In fact the blue lobes are an indication that the birds comes from pure breed stock. Silkies that are mixed with other breeds often loose the signature blue lobes.
Another fun feature are the feet. Silkies have 5 toes as opposed to the typical 4 of other breeds. I am not sure what the function of the 5th toe is for, nonetheless it adds to their all over adorable appearance.
5. The Teddy Bears of the Barn yard
With their fluffy appearance and rounded body silhouette, Silkies look just like teddy bears with two legs and 5 toes. These cute and quirky girls love nothing more than being tucked under your arm for a little bit of TLC, just like child tucks a teddy bear under their arm. They are so calm and comfortable with humans, many people think of them as little cats or dogs. At the end of the day Silkies are the backyard pet that is sweet, kind and loveable. Silkie chickens are the literal definition of all things cute and cuddly.
Best of all, due to their docile temperament they make great backyard pets for kids. My boys wanted some chickens of their own that they could take care of. After constructing a coop for their chooks, I ordered a small clutch of Silkies for my boys. They were immediately enamored with the cute fluff balls due to their unusual teddy bear like appearance. My boys very quickly fall in love with their small backyard flock of silkie chickens.
Although Silkies are not known for setting egg laying records, they lay enough to keep my boys happy. They love to collect the eggs and spend time with their backyard fluff balls. Even the two Silkie roosters that we have a well behaved and gentile. My boys can pick them up just as easily as the hens in the flock. Silkie’s are without doubt the best breed for kids.
With their fluffy appearance, 5 toes, and great temperament Siklies make a great addition to any backyard setting. Due to these attributes it is best that they have a coop of their own separate from larger more aggressive breeds. Their unique feathering also means that they do not tolerate being wet. If you live in a climate prone to long wet seasons make sure that they have a clean and dry place to call home.
If you want a little something different and well tempered for your backyard flock, Silkies are a great breed to try.
I hope that you found this post helpful. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
As always, thanks for reading! Till next time, keep on crowing.
With their crazy 80’s rock band hair do, it’s hard not to love this fancy breed. Dressed in black and white, they look like they’re going to a fancy “Chicken Gala”. These classy girls leave all other chickens in the dust when it comes to clucky high class couture. The distinct white feathered crest on their head contrasting with their sleek jet black bodies sets them apart in a flock. Beauty may only be skin deep, but these girls are gorgeous inside and out. Read on to find out why we at The Kuntry Klucker Farm are head over hills in love with these black and white beauties.
1. Every polish chicken is crowned with white crest.
White Crested Polish chickens and all Polish breeds always stand out due to the large fluffy bouffant of feathers that adorn their head like some kind of glamorous crown, the most iconic feature of this fancy breed. It’s this feature that makes them a very popular choice for those who want something a little “different” in the flock. They will make visitors ask, “what is that?” due to the fact that they do not look like a standard chicken. As aesthetic as their crest may appear, be warned that these guys and gals need a little bit of “hair care”. Do to their crown of feathers their vision is limited and may need to be trimmed or put in pigtails to allow them to see better. Because they are unable to groom their crests they are susceptible to mites and lice. To prevent this problem an owner needs to take proactive steps to keep these guys and gals looking their best. Because they do not tolerate being wet or dirty, an owner needs to provide a leak free dry coop and run. If a keeper can provide these services, this breed will bring great joy and diversity to the flock.
2. Non-broody hens who have more time to lay eggs and pose for pictures.
Broodiness is not a trait that is possessed by the Polish chicken, broodiness is the desire to incubate eggs and hatch chicks. Some breeds are prone to broodiness such as the Silkie and Orphington, the polish is one of the few breeds that are not. Because of this, they will continue to lay eggs for their keeper. Be warned though they are not prolific layers like other breeds, they lay about 120 small white eggs a year.
But don’t let this turn you off from the White Crested Polish chicken, they make up for the low egg output in other ways. For example, they make excellent and unique subjects for all kinds of photo ops. They are very docile and even tempered so working with them is a breeze. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Loyal and loving backyard companions.
If you are looking for a loyal backyard friend, look no further than the White Crested Polish. Due to diminished vision, a consequence of their glorious crests, they will happily sit in the protection of their owners lap. Polishes become very attached to their owners often following them around the yard much like a dog. They crave human interaction and are happiest in the company of their owners. They are nervous and flighty by nature needing a dedicated and compassionate keeper who doesn’t mind giving them a little extra attention. If kept in a flock due to vision limitatios, they tend to be at the bottom of the “pecking order”. For this reason, it’s best if they have digs of their own separate from larger or more aggressive breeds.
4. Delightful and unique personalities.
The personality of the White Crested Polish is just as unique as their appearance. These guys and gals love to jabber and talk to their owner. If you want a chicken that you can have a conversation with, the White Crested Polish is the breed for you. They get very excited when their owner comes to the backyard, run, or coop. They want to follow you around and tell you all about their day. They eagerly bock, squeak, or trill all the details of their adventures. For this reason they are one of the noisier breeds, they are not quiet much like the Silkies. If this is okay for your situation then I highly recommend these little gossip gals.
5. Stunning phasic!
These guys and gals have a beautifully proportioned silhouette. Aside from the crest feathers that get in the way and diminish their vision, Polishes really have a shapely and attractive figure. They have full breasts, shapely wings, and deep bodies. As they strut towards you they have a playful bounce to their gate which further accents their crown of feathers. These guys and gals will truly be eye candy in your backyard flock.
5. Make excellent birds for poultry shows.
Polish chickens always stand out due to the large fluffy bouffant of feathers that adorn their head like a glamorous crown. It’s no surprise that the stylish look of these distinctive chooks make them a popular choice in poultry shows all round the world. When it comes to male crests in the competitive world of show chickens the bigger the better whereas a more round and even shaped crest is favored among hens. The roosters are very distigueshed, but due to their larger crests the feathers seem to take on more of a 80’s rock hair band look. When trimmed and kept nice a well groomed polish rooster can steal the show.
6. Great breed to have around children.
If you want to involve kids with keeping backyard chickens, the Polish is a great breed to choose. Due to their appearance kids are often times captivated with the White Crested Polish. They are a gentile breed that is docile and not prone to aggression. Even the roosters are fairly good natured as compared to other breeds. Due to their vision limitations from their crests, they are fairly easy for kids to catch and bond with. They are a bit flighty which might startle young kids at first but once they get used to their behaviors they will really enjoy their feathered friends in the backyard. Currently I have 9 Polishes of different colors all of them are great with my boys.
7. Mysterious History. Where did they come from?
It is not really clear where these stunning birds came from. You may be thinking that they came from Poland. But this is not the case. Their name is derived from the Dutch word “pol” which means head, however that is still being debated amongst poultry experts. It has also been hypothesized that they originated in the Netherlands, whereas other enthusiasts think that they were brought to Europe during the time of the Medieval 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 really came from. Still today there remains a lot of mystery surrounding their origins. Maybe we will never know, but for rare breed chicken lovers that does not really matter. If anything, it just makes these cuddly backyard buddies even more lovable.
Are these classy chickens right for your backyard flock?
If you choose to keep these unique chickens several requirements must be meet.
~ A secure coop and outdoor pen are a must. Since they are unable to see well they can be vulnerable to arial predator attacks. If you are unable to supervise them keep your birds secure in their pen till you can spend time with them.
~ Due to their crest feathers they require extra vigilance that they do not get wet. During the winter if their crest feathers get wet it can freeze causing discomfort and in some cases illness to the bird.
~ If you decide to keep these girls, a separate coop for them is a must. Due to their diminished vision they often times reside at the bottom of the pecking order and can at times be picked on.
~ Making sure the they have a clean and dry place to themselves will assure their success as a part of your backyard flock. While your at it, have a little fun with their home. A classy chicken with a personality such as the Polish need a coop with some character. Many places like Tractor Supply and Hayneedle have adorable coops the would compliment your fancy couture wearing girls nicely.
As always thanks for reading!
If you have any questions regarding the Polish breed feel free by leaving a comment. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Hello again Kuntry Klucker fans. I promised in my last post that I would be sharing an update about the Bantom Boutique Gang. Well, here they are pretty much full grown and doing great! The Bantom Boutique Crew are well, bantam chickens which is another word for “miniature” chickens in the chicken world. But don’t let their small stature fool you, there is a lot of chicken attitude stuffed in those small packages. Starting with my little “hatchery mixup”.
When I ordered my chicks from the hatchery I ordered two breeds, Silkies and White Crested Polishes. Well I had a little hitchhiker that was neither a Silkie nor a Polish. He was what I named my little mystery chick. I had planned on naming all my Polish girls after Greek Goddesses and my Polish Rooster Apollo. Well, things did not go as planned and have changed just a bit. Allow me to let you in on the identity of my little mystery chick.
Everyone, meet Enigma! Enigma like the rest of the Bantam Botique Crew is a bantam, so they have size in common and that is just about it. Enigma has grown up to be a beautiful Motted Cochin, with a sweetest personality.
Enigma is a rooster and has started to crow in the mornings when I greet them to let them out of the coop to start their new day. So, my plan to name all my polish girls after Greek Goddesses has changed slightly. I do have three polishes, two girls named Athena and Aphrodite, and a Polish rooster named Apollo. Since I had a little surprise in my batch of chicks I though the best name for the little one was Enigma. It would work for both a hen or rooster and is the perfect name since his identity was a bit of a, well an Enigma.
Enigma as I have already mentioned has the sweetest personality. He is the alpha rooster, (that means rooster in command) of the Bantam Boutique Crew. He takes care of the ladies talks to them and tries to find them treats to eat. He is the first out of the coop in the morning and the last in the evening. Good roosters at times can be hard to find, I am blessed and thrilled to have him apart of my flock here at the Kuntry Klucker Farm. He is a delight to interact with and his plumage is very striking. Although he stands out among the Silkies and Polishes he is a beautiful addition due to his motted feather pattern.
In the evenings when I let the Bantam Boutique Crew out for some scratch and play time, Enigma does his best to keep watch for the girls as they hunt and peck for bugs. Although originally a unexpected hitchhiker in my order of chicks, I am thrill to have him. I am glad that Enigma found his way into my order, he was destined to be the king of the Bantam Boutique Crew.
That is all I have for now, thanks for taking the time to catch up with the girls and I. Till next time, take care and keep crowing.