When one thinks of fancy chickens, Silver Lace Wyandottes often come to mind. With the striking black and white plumage forming a lace pattern, it’s hard to not love these ladies. These lovely ladies and gents are uniquely American, dating back to the 1800s with admission into the Poultry Standard of Perfection in the 1890s. As an American breed, Wyandottes have become synonymous with the backyard 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 gents) 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 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 background of a freshly cut green lawn. If you want to add a bit of high class to your 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 showstoppers 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 handling 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 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 their keeper.
Silver Lace Wyandotte roosters are well-behaved and friendly. Smaug, our resident Wyandotte rooster is a gentleman. 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 in 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 Australorp egg is dark brown and large, the Wyandotte egg (sitting to the left) is slightly darker and noticeably larger. When I first started getting eggs from my Wyandottes, judging by the size, I figured them to be double-yoker. 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 received from my backyard 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 another part of the world, Wyandottes are born and bred in America. Uniquely an American breed, Wyandottes were first developed in the 1800s, properly named after the indigenous Wyandotte people of North America.
Silver Lace Wyandottes are a Heritage Breed. One of my principal passions within the backyard chicken movement is the 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 backyard chicken enthusiasts that these beautiful birds are thriving. Without backyard 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 can tolerate many different climates. They come factory installed with this superpower which has made them one of the most enduring breeds in the United States. Due to their rose comb, Wyandottes tolerate cold climates without suffering issues of frostbite as other larger comb breeds often encounter. Although heavily bodied, Wyandotte perform well in hotter climates.
For Example, here in East Tennessee, mother nature throws it all at us. In the winter we experience ice and snowstorms. In the spring we experience strong/severe storms, many with torrential rains and the threat of tornados. The summer is hot and humid, summer highs easily top 90-100F. Through it all, my Silver Lace Wyandotte ladies don’t seem 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 attribute that a keeper should look for in the breeds they choose.
This ease-of-care breed has quickly 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 chickens 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, or drop me an e-mail at email@example.com.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you like my work, please visit some of my other sites.
First and foremost, before you get chickens, know your zoning restrictions. Many cities, states, and counties have different laws regarding keeping livestock. If you are in the city, if you are allowed backyard chickens, you will most likely be restricted to a small number of hens, omitting roosters.
In the county or country, you may have more freedom, but you will still need to abide by guidelines.
For example, based on my location, I am not restricted to the number of chickens I can have. However, I am restricted on how far my coops need to be from my neighbor’s front door. My animals must be confined to my property by a fence or attached pen to a coop. I need to practice good manure management to reduce rodent and odor issues for my neighbors. Even in the country, some guidelines need to be followed.
If you are unsure of what your zoning laws require, you can find out simply by calling the State Veterinarian for your state and asking. They will be able to tell you based on your location what your restrictions are.
As the saying goes, “You can’t have just one”. This more than applies to owning chickens. I started with 17 Buff Orpington chicks and now have ballooned to a flock of 50+ of various breeds. I underestimated the addiction risk of chickens. I love my backyard divas and have plans for more.
Today my flock is a thriving multicultural mesh of different breeds. By acquiring a variety of breeds, I can profile the behavior of various breeds along with any advantages and drawbacks. After owning several breeds, I can honestly say that the Polish are my favorite breed of all my Backyard Divas.
Chickens require time and daily care. Like all pets, chickens require dedication. However, chickens require little but give much in return.
To illustrate. My flock of 50 and 7 coops requires about 30 minutes of my time every morning. Daily chores consist of cleaning the coops, filling feeders, filling waterers, collecting eggs, and maintaining nesting boxes. All of this, while sounding like a lot does not require much time out of my day.
However, like a dog or cat, maintenance needs to be performed daily. Also, like your cat or dog, if you go on vacation, care will need to be arranged in your absences.
Most people keep chickens for farm fresh eggs. However, this pursuit, although positive has some drawbacks.
First, once you get a taste of farm fresh eggs, it’s hard to eat any other type of egg. For example, store-bought eggs after eating farm-fresh eggs taste differently. You will find yourself becoming an egg connoisseur of sorts, an egg snob if you will.
Second, you will come to realize that at first, your flock will produce the most expensive eggs that you ever collected. Allow me to explain.
Once obtaining your flock, it will be about 20 weeks or 5-6 months before you collect the first egg from the nesting box. But during the “waiting period”, you will have to feed your flock. Egg laying or not, feeding your flock is a necessity. By the time you get your first egg, you will have spent a hefty amount on chicken feed, flock supplies, and coops/pens. However, once the flock starts to lay dependably, your cost and reward ratio will begin to align. But until then, you will be putting money into a “timeshare” of sorts without any benefit. Many people do not realize this, they falsely assume that chickens lay eggs right away and do not factor in a period of egg drought.
Egg droughts do not only happen during the development/maturity of the hens toward laying age but also at various times throughout their lives. Yearly molt, the coldest part of winter, or the hottest part of summer depending on the breed. The point is, your flock will go through dry spells where they are not laying but you will be spending money on chicken feed. During these times of declined egg production, I humorously refer to my girls as “free-loaders”. All in good spirits of course. I understand my girls need a vacation now and then and grant them time off.
Third, they will find you. When an egg recall or egg ration is suffered by the egg industry, backyard chicken keepers become everyone’s favorite neighbor.
For example, during the past egg scare when the bird flu raged havoc throughout the egg industry, I got a few unexpected visitors at my door. It takes quite a bit of gut to knock on a stranger’s door and ask for eggs.
The situation of this particular visitor was rather unique. She was a friend of a friend, who worked with a friend who told her that she knew me and that I had a fairly large backyard chicken flock. Her husband was on a strict diet, eggs were his primary source of protein. Being that the bird flu forced many egg producers to recall eggs and euthanize their flocks, he was practically starving.
I gave her what eggs I had. I offered them at no charge given their unique and desperate situation. She insisted that she pay for them. This was the first day that a stranger knocked at my door and the girls turned a profit, but it was not the last.
All proceeds the girls make on the eggs, I turn back to them in the form of feed, treats, and other necessities.
This was when I first realized how self-sustaining my little farm is. A massive egg recall raging through the nation, had I not watched the news, I would have had no idea. Now, when egg recalls or egg scares make the news, I am prepared for a few visitors looking for eggs. The humble backyard chicken keeper to the rescue.
Illness and the importance of a Chicken first aid kit:
Just like kids and other pets, chickens too get sick. However, unlike a pediatrician for little humans and vets for cats and dogs, most vets will not treat chickens since they are technical “livestock”. While backyard flocks are rapidly reaching pet status, for now, they are categorized as livestock.
Thus, the backyard chicken keeper has to become a chicken doctor. Although this sounds scary, chickens are simple creatures. Most conditions that plague a backyard flock are relatively simple to treat.
The more common health conditions that a backyard chicken keeper will encounter are mites, lice, bumblefoot, fly strikes, respitorary illnesses, and sour crops. The good news is good flock maintenance practices will eliminate many of these conditions. If your flock has fresh water daily, fresh feed in clean feeders and a clean dry place to call home, most of these potential illnesses will be greatly reduced.
In my 10 years of keeping chickens, I have only had a few illnesses inflicted my flock. Mostly treatment for mites, worms, and bumblefoot. If your chickens are allowed to free range, at some point they will come down with a case of red fowl mites. You can think of mites as a badge of honor because your flock has access to grass, fresh air, and sun. Treatment is similar to flea/tick treatment for cats and dogs only for chickens. My favorite product for this purpose is Epernix. Found a Feed/Farm store in the cattle section.
Marketed for cattle, Epernix at a low dose is safe for chickens. Use 1/2 cc for bantams and 3/4 cc for standard-size birds. With a syringe, drop the liquid behind the neck, just like treating a cat or dog. Repeat in 14 days, and that’s it. After two doses, lice and mites are history. Treat every single flock member, I do this 1 to 2 times a year. I treat only when symptoms are present. Note: when using this product there is an automatic egg withdrawal of 20 days while the girls are in treatment.
Worming is the same. Marketed for goats, safeguard at small doses it is an effective treatment for chickens. This time, with a different syringe use 1/2cc for bantam and 3/4cc for standard-size birds. Drop the wormer on a piece of bread and feed it to each member of the flock, repeat in 14 days. There is a 20-day egg withdrawal for safeguards like Eprinex. That’s it, crises averted.
The most complex issue I have had to deal with is bumblefoot. I will link a post detailing my method for dealing with bumblefoot here.
Although chicken keeper needs to take their flock’s health into their own hands, it’s not hard. Most things you need to treat your flocks are found at feed/Farm stores. If you can find a vet to treat your birds, the price will be very high. However, most vets will put a gravely ill chicken down. Some keepers prefer this to put their sick hens down. I humanly euthanize my sick members, but most people are not able to do this which is fine. Most vets will assist in this event.
Things to keep in your chicken first aid kit:
Vet wrap, gauze, triple antibiotic cream, salve, plastic knives for administrating salve and creams, sterile scissors for cutting gauze and vet wrap, hydrogen peroxide, syringes without needles for administrating medication orally, Rooster Booster poultry cell (great for providing sick birds with iron, amino acids, and minerals for recovery), Rooster Booster B-12 (good for providing sick birds with essential vitamins for healing, high in B-12), VetRx for poultry (great for birds with respiratory issues, similar to Vicks for humans. Drop in water or place under the wing to help birds recover), bleach to sterilize instruments.
Most of these things are household items except for items specific to poultry. Keeping a first-egg kit (pun intended) ready and stocked makes it easier to treat on the spot rather than waiting till you can get the items you need.
Have a plan for winter
When acquiring chickens, most people are so focused on brooders and bringing their flock to laying age. Little thought is given to seasonal change. As fall approaches keepers often find themselves frantic as the mercury drops. Preparing a flock for winter takes time, preparation, and some expense. However, chickens come factory installed with down coats, it’s not the cold keepers need to worry about but wind and moisture. To adequately prepare your flock for winter a keeper needs to take measures to keep the coop/pen clean and dry. Installing a heater or heat lamp is not recommended. Coop fires are often started by good intentions to keep flocks warm. The rule of thumb is to never judge your flock’s comfort by your standards. Chickens evolved to live outdoors, all a keeper needs to do is keep them clean and dry, warmth is not necessary, the chickens take care of that on their own. I will link here the methods I use to prepare my flock and coops for winter.
Coops and Pens: There are so many options.
Before you get chickens, decide what kind of coop you want to get. Before shopping for coops, you need to know how many chickens you intend to get and how many coops you want to have. There are lots of resources for acquiring coops. If you are skilled at woodworking, you could build your own coop and pen. If you’re like me and woodworking is not your cup of tea, there are many prefab coops on the market. Contrary to popular belief, prefab coops can and do make great homes for your flock. I will link here my post where I talk about prefab coops, hacks, and how to get the most out of your prefab coops.
Finally and most importantly: Brooder set up
To raise a successful flock, your chicks need a good start, and the best place to get this start is in the brooder. Before you get chicks, you need to think about their brooder and how you plan to brood your clutch. Just about everything you can think of has been used for brooders, kiddie pools, Rubbermaid totes, dog crates, boxes, bathtubs, garages, attics, and so on. The possibilities are endless. At the end of the day, a brooder is just a heated home for your growing chicks, what you use to achieve this home is up to you. I started out using large boxes then switched to puppy playpens as my preferred brooding container. Everyone will have their idea on what to use and how to brood. The size of the flock will also affect the type of container to use. I will link my brooding method and supplies here.
I hope that this post has been a helpful addition to the information-gathering phase on starting your backyard chicken flock. Chickens are a great asset to any farm, homestead, or city backyard. They ask little but give much in return.
If you have any questions not addressed in this post, feel free to ask. You can also drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Flowering bushes and gardens are most definitely atheistically pleasing. I have flower gardens plenty but edible landscaping is a joy that is unique in and of itself.
Just about everything in my backyard is edible. Going to my backyard is like going to a farmers’ market on my property. There are lots of options when it comes to landscaping.
In this post, I will reveal how I use plants to landscape my backyard into an edible mini paradise.
There are lots of ways to add edible landscaping to your property. Blueberry bushes are not only producers of wonderful deep blue berries but have beautiful spring green leaves. When planted in a row, they create a hedge of greenery and goodness. In the fall, their leaves turn to a beautiful red that is stunning in the fall landscape.
As the blueberries ripen throughout the season, they add a lot of beauty to the yard. They turn from green to deep blue or purple depending on the variety.
When planting blueberry bushes, plant at least 6 of 2 or 3 different varieties. Doing this will ensure adequate cross-pollination and a large yield. Blueberries need a few different varieties nearby to cross-pollinate well. If too few are planted, the harvest will be reduced as they will not be as prolific.
Arona Berry Bushes:
Arona Berry bushes are another great way to add edible landscaping to your property. Topping out at about 8-10 ft tall and a spread of 5 to 6 ft wide, these bushes are showstoppers.
In the Spring they are filled with white delicate blooms that turn into dark purple berries around mid-summer. They have a sweet/tart taste, somewhere between a cranberry and a cherry. They are dense little berries that are great to add to smoothies or other berry dishes. My chickens love the Arona Berries. They will readily pick all the berries they can near the bottom, luckily these bushes are tall so there is plenty to go around.
Unlike blueberries, Arona Berry bushes do not need another bush to cross-pollinate. Given their size, 1 or 2 will be enough. I have two of these bushes in my backyard, both are beautiful and produce a lot of berries come mid-summer.
Black Berry Bushes:
Another beautiful trailing berry bush to add to an edible landscape are Blackberries. Unlike Blueberries or the Arona Berries, Blackberries do best on a trellis. While they can grow independently of a trellis, they do better if they have support to keep the branches off the ground. If too low to the ground the berries tend to rot before they can be picked.
If you have tasted Blackberry jam or Blackberry pie, then you know exactly what to do with these prolific little berry producers. Blackberries are great in many things from smoothies to jams to pies. If the bushes produce an abundance, then frozen berries are a treat in the winter months when all the bushes are dormant.
The possibilities are limitless with what one can do with a bushel of Blackberries. I have my Blackberry bushes near the Grape Arbor. They climb the trellis along with the grapes as they grow taller. Instead of keeping them pruned to a smaller size, I allow them to grow long and attach them to the Arbor as they need more support.
If you are granted the room, grapes are another great plant to add to your edible landscape. Grapes are very versatile, they can grow on fence posts, poles, trellis, or even chain link fences. As long as whatever they are growing on can support the weight of the vines, grapes are a possibility. Uncultivated, grapes vines will grow up trees and other vertical shrubs that can support the weight of the vines.
A Grape Arbor is not necessary to grow grapes just the method that I chose. But if you are interested in building a Grape Arbor, a Pergola Arbor is a great asset as it can double as a place to hang a Hammock swing, porch swing, or even a hammock. If you are interested in how we built our Grape Arbor I will link that post here.
Unlike Blueberries and other berries, grapes need something to trellis on. To have a successful grape harvest, the vines must be kept off the ground. Grapes also need lots of pruning. I prune my grapes every January, cutting off the dead vines and securing the previous season’s growth to the trellis. Come March/April when the grape vines come out of dormancy, they will grow from the dormant vine and continue their journey up the trellis.
You will need to spray your grape vines to keep insects at bay. I use an organic gardening spray that works well at keeping the bugs off and will not harm the chickens or other wildlife in my backyard (just the bugs). It can be found at Tractor Supply or other farm/feed stores.
Neem oil is also a good option but will need to be sprayed more often. I spray my grape vines 3-4 times a year. Once as the grape vines start to bud, then again after they leaf out, again in the mid-season (June-July), and a month or so before harvest. This spray schedule keeps the bugs from eating the leaves and stripping my vines throughout the growing season. Make sure to spray early in the morning or late evening to keep from burning the leaves.
Another beautiful plant to add to an edible landscape is raspberry bushes. Newly planted this year, I have the raspberry bushes planted at the back of the arbor. As they grow (like the blackberries, raspberries need a trellis) I will attach them to the grape arbor and let them trellis up the arbor along with the grapes and the blackberries. I have one raspberry bush that survived our cold winter, the rest sadly perished. This year I bought a hardier variety that is cold hardy down to -20. Hopefully, with these new varieties, I will not suffer any more losses of my raspberry bushes.
Although not edible (by humans anyway), butterfly bushes are a great plant to add to an edible landscape. Not only are they beautiful, but a stately butterfly bush will attract pollinators to your yard. Everything from butterflies, hummingbirds, bumble bees, honeybees, and hummingbird moths will flock to the butterfly bushes to feed off the nectar of the large blooms.
In mid-summer when the bushes are in full bloom, there is a frenzy of activity around the butterfly bushes. Near the berry row, many of these valuable pollinators visit the neighboring berry bushes and continue to pollinate creating a high yield.
Spices and Herbs:
Another way to add edible plants to your property is that of herbs. Most herbs are flowering plants that have beautiful blooms that attract bees, butterflies, and other important pollinators.
I grow just about all the herbs and spices that I use in cooking and for incense making. I rarely have to buy herbs because I harvest and dry the herbs from my property. Everything from Basil to lavender I grow in my gardens.
In the fall, I harvest the spices and herbs and use them in cooking, teas, baking, and incense. At the end of this post, I will share one of my favorite dried herb incense recipes that I have to fragrance my home.
Veggie gardens need no introduction, these gardens no matter the size is a great way to add edible landscaping to your property. I have several veggie gardens. One functions as a kitchen garden, and the other I grow corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, and other fall/winter goodies.
The girls patrol all my veggie gardens, eating bugs off the plants and tilling the soil in search of worms. My girls are a great asset in organic gardening, their natural talents reduce my need for any bug-eliminating regimen. I may lose a tomato or two to a curious chicken, but I plant enough for everyone to get a fair share.
Although not edible (by humans) I do have an abundance of flower gardens that surround my home and property. These gardens provide food for necessary pollinators such as butterflies and bees which in turn assist me in increasing a high yield from my edible landscaping. It is through these beneficial insects that we can feed our families and put food on the table.
In an attempt to aid the bee populations, I do not spay any insecticide near my home. Many of my gardens contain herbs and spices which naturally deter many pest insects that would otherwise enter my home.
Given that this is a blog that is primarily focused on raising backyard chickens, how do my girls factor into edible landscaping?
The simple answer is composting. The girls create a very nutritious compost in their coops through their digestive processes. Due to the presence of a gizzard in their digestive system, chickens process everything they consume. When added to the gardens, litter from the coops is the best plant food that money can buy. Because my girls are fed an organic diet, their compost is also chemical free.
Every spring I spread the compost the girls have made in their coops throughout the winter. Chicken coop shaving and poo are high in nitrogen and other minerals, beneficial to plants. Due to the compost from the coops, my gardens are lush and produce high yields.
Many visitors to my farm ask me what I feed my gardens to produce such beautiful blooms and large vegetables. My answer is chicken poo. My homestead is powered by my girls. They are the secret to my success.
As promised, I leave my recipe for natural incense that I created using spices and herbs from my garden. This recipe is very versatile and can be tweaked given aromatic preferences.
The Kuntry Klucker’s Home Herb Insence
For this recipe, you will need an electric wax warmer or a wax warmer that is warmed by a tea light or other source of heat.
1/8 to 1/4 tsp olive oil
1-2 TBS dried rosemary
1-2 TBS dried sage
1-2 TBS Dried lavender
1 TBS Basil
Other things that can be added: Tree resins such as frankincense, dragons’ blood, myrrh, copal, or benzoin. Drops of essential oils can also be added.
In the wax warmer, place a small amount of olive oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the wax warmer. Mix all the dried spices in a small bowl and add to the wax warmer on top of the oil. Turn on the wax burner or light tea light under the warmer. After a few minutes of heating, a spicy yet calming aroma will be released by the herbs simmering in the oil. You can add other aromas as well, such as essential oils or resins to bring the aroma to your liking. This is an all-natural way to fragrance your home without releasing harmful substances in the air such as chemicals that are often added to candles and other wax or oil fragrances.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
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 haunted our dreams often encountered on our grandparents’ farm, was related to game cocks by todays breeding standards. 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 grandparent’s flock which contained the rooster that starred in your childhood nightmares. Many people today keep chickens for fun, eggs or as a hobby. 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 firsthand 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 partake of his hard work. He will only eat what is left, he is self-sacrificing, looking out for the nutrition of his hens. It is 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 needs 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 from 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.
In the social hierarchy after 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 regard 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 the “pecker” is above the “peckie”. This behavior flows from the alpha hen all the way to the bottom of the order. Each flock member pecking another 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 established, all is peaceful in the flock. However, at times one or more members will challenge another member for a change in status.
In cases such as these, a confrontation 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, at times 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 of whether 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 grow your flock, a rooster 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, providing the flock is 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 owner’s 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 very 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 that has an indiscernible 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 a rooster’s song. 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, your animals were how you survived. The crow of a rooster symbolizes a beginning, the start of another day. A time when working the land and plowing the fields was how one 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, 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 ours. 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. He reminds us that there is abundant wealth in simplicity. In our day and time, it’s 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.
It is my goal to present a fresh look at roosters. Gone are the days of the barnyard terrors of yesterday, meet the roosters of today. Roosters are amazing creatures, your partner in caring for your flock.
If you have any questions regarding roosters or keeping chickens, please leave a comment. You can also drop me a line at email@example.com.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you enjoy this blog, visit some of my other sitew.
Buff Orpingtons are a Heritage Breed kept by the generations of yesteryear. As a result, Buff Orpingtons are staple for homesteader and backyard chicken enthusiasts alike. There are many aspects about the Buff Orpington that make them an excellent backyard 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 incubate, 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, resilient and very docile. Even the roosters are well behaved gents. Buff Orpingtons are known as “the golden retrievers” of the chicken world and for good reason. They are very calm and loyal.
When I first started 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 enthusiasts 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 manure due to the gizzard. The gizzard grinds everything the chicken consumed down to a singularity, producing a pure source of fuel for your garden. Cows and horses on the other hand do not process everything they eat, passing weed seeds into their manure. Many novice gardeners are often surprised at the abundance of weeds in their gardens after spreading cow or horse manure. 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 manure, which is then introduce to your garden. By using the compost provided by your own backyard flock, you can be assured that fertilizer spread on your garden is organic, beneficial for both you and your plants.
Orpingtons is 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 their always enduring personalities, 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, temperament 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 am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites
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, we 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 control 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, aerating the soil in the process. Chickens are one of the best natural pest control experts. They even ridded 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 fertilizer. Chicken fertilizer is superior in many ways. Due to the gizzard, chickens process everything they eat. All seeds and other matter are broken down to usable substances. 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 contains weed seeds. Not just weed seeds, but fertile weed seeds. When using manure from these animals, gardeners are often horrified at the number of weeds that pop up in their gardens soon after. Thus, chicken manure is far superior to 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, feed a high quality or organic feed will be far superior. If the flock is allowed 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 organically 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 firsthand 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 ask 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 manure 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 thoroughly enjoy.
Nationwide 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 composters, eating most food scraps and turning the rest into nutritious fertilizer 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 material over as they look over the pile for worms and other delectables. 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, garlic 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 today’s 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, today’s 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 conservationists 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 preserving 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. Through the efforts of backyard chicken enthusiasts, hobby keepers and hatcheries, this breed is love by many today. Another example of a beloved heritage breed is the Polish.
The Polishes have a complicated history, it’s 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 Mongols. Other fun loving chicken lovers such as I 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 Orpington, 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 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, aerating the soil. Finally, as they work your gardens, they will continually feed your plants throughout the growing season with their droppings.
It’s this cycle that allows one to be self-sustaining. By keeping chickens, your farm (whether hobby size or plantation size) has everything you need 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. 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 order of 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 rooster’s 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 become family pets like a dog. They are affectionate, intelligent, and enjoy interacting with their caretaker. 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 nothing 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. 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.
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 the antidepressant 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 loses it, whichever comes first. This is just about as close as a flock of chickens can get to a round of 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 roosters 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”.
There are many other 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. You can also drop me a line at email@example.com
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you liked this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
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 supplying 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, it’s 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, alongside 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 lover 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 to 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 roosters 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 breeds 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 chicken 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 multicolored 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 breeds. 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 conservational 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 appearance. 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 its 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 its 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 England’s 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 gets 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, then 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 maintenance 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 it’s 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 hearty 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 bred 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 overcrowding. 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, it’s 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 is 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 it’s 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 flightily. 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 vertical space with plenty of roosting options, high roosts are preferable. They are one of the noisier 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, you can also drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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 flock.
Many chicken keepers do not like prefab coops, they recommend that newcomers build their own coop. I differ in regard to this opinion. I built my first coop, then added 5 prefab coops. I love prefab coops. They make viable options for those who cannot build a coop for various reasons be it financial, physical limitation, or conceptual. Wood working and carpentry is not for everyone, it’s 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 screwdriver, 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 those two trips to an Urgent Care Center, it got expensive. I realized that this was really bad advice that I followed from my 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, I will have more to worry about than just damage to my prefab coops. Additionally, I have them insured under my homeowner’spropertydamageclause. 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. His artistic skills really made this “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” machine come to life. I was concerned that due to its height 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 Crucible 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. 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 ensures that the coop is well grounded and better withstand strong winds.
2. Latches: Prefab coops come with latches installed. I 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 topcoat 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 ensure 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. Since I discovered prefab coops, I will never build one from scratch again.
I have extended experience with prefab coops; 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 worthwhile option.
I will add, 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 retailers, 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.
If you have any questions about prefab coops, please post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at email@example.com.
To see a video of the “coop-hood”, visit our YouTube channel.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
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 foreseeable 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 year’s garden and fresh eggs being laid daily, we are often able to weather just about any economic 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. 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 economic 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, 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.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
When acquiring a flock of backyard chickens most people are excited about the farm fresh eggs they will be collecting. Not much thought is given to what to do after hens no longer lay regularly. Laying hens only associated with egg production has been drilling into our conscious.
The hens for production spend their entire life in small cages then are slaughtered between 18 months and 2 years, they are deemed unproductive at that point. It has become common knowledge that after the age of 2 hens no longer lay eggs and are worthless. I am here to challenge this presumption.
In this post, I intend to prove that hens are worth much even beyond their laying years. A hen does not lose her wroth just because she no longer lays eggs.
It is of popular opinion that hens will only lay for 2 years. After this point they no longer lay and are nothing more than chicken stock in terms of value. This is not true. The truth is that once a hen starts to lay eggs, she will lay dependably for the first two years. After that point, she still lay, but not to the tune of one egg a day as she did in her earlier years. A hen will lay eggs for as long as she lives.
Every hen is born with approximately 1000 yolk cells. These are all the potential eggs that she will lay during her entire life. The first two years of her life she will lay at the most regular intervals. A productive laying breed such as the Australorp, Orpington or Rhode Island Red will lay about 3-5 eggs a week. That is about 156 to 260 eggs a year. So, for the first 2 years of her life, she will have laid approximately anywhere from 315 to 520 eggs. Assuming that she is born with 1000 yolk cells (as most laying breeds are), this means she has only layed a little more than half of her total egg potential.
Now, just because she is over the age of 2 does not mean that she will no long lay eggs. She will, she may lay 2-4 eggs a week instead of her initial interval of 3-5 eggs a week. She keeps laying eggs but slows down a bit. As she ages, she will slow down even more. If she makes it to 5 years of age you might expect to get 1-3 eggs a week. As she progresses even further in age, you can probably count on 1-2 eggs a week.
I currently have 5 Buff Orpington 10 years of age. The life expectancy of an average backyard chickens is anywhere between 5-7 years. If well cared for they can reach 10+ years. For a backyard hen to make it past the age of 7 defies most odds. To reach the mile mark of 10 years and beyond is rare. This past May, my 5 “Golden Girls” officially reached this 10-year milestone. Even at this age, my 5 Buff Orpington girls still lay. During the summer when bugs and other delectables are at the most abundant, I can count on about 2-3 eggs a week from my 5 senior ladies. Some will lay on a particular day, others will not. But as a general rule, during the time of the year when the days are long, warm and bugs are plenty, they will lay well. When fall arrives, the days shorten, and the weather cools off. During this cooler part of the year, they typically slow down to maybe 1 egg a day from the 5. During the coldest part of winter, they will cease laying altogether. Their bodies are using egg laying resources to keep warm in the bitter weather. This is just not observed by older hens but all hens. However, in the spring as the days warm again and the sun returns to our sky, they will pick back up the pace to 2-3 eggs a week.
Even at their advanced age, they still lay eggs. The assumption that a hen will only lay for the first 2 years of her life is unfounded. She will lay eggs till the day she dies.
So really, the question is not will they stop laying eggs, but what to do after hens pass their peak laying years. In the factory farm setting, after 2 years of age, the hens are sent to slaughter and a new batch is brought in. Although these girls still have plenty of laying years ahead of them, they are nonetheless considered expired and slaughtered. These ladies’ barley begun their lives when it was abruptly halted. For the backyard chicken keeper this is not the normal proceedings. We tend to hang on to our ladies well beyond two years of age.
The question then becomes, what to do with our hens that are so advanced in age that they no longer lay eggs. My 5 “Golden Girls” are not far from this point. I expect next year I will have collected the last egg from my Buff Orpington ladies. At this point I will consider them officially in “Hentirement”. Hentirement is the time in a hen’s life where she has officially stopped laying but still has much to offer beyond eggs.
Here on The Kuntry Klucker Farm, all may ladies and gents will live out their natural lives under the loving care of their keepers. Just because a hen stops laying eggs does not mean that she is worthless. Hens can contribute in many ways beyond the humble egg.
So, what can a hen who has reached “hentirement” offer you may ask. She can produce in many ways. For example, I have found that my older hens make excellent mothers. Since they no longer have to use their energy for laying eggs, they focus their efforts elsewhere. I have found that when I bring a new batch of chicks to the backyard, my older ladies are the first to show them the ropes. Taking them to all the hot spots around the yard, dust bathing holes, water coolers, good sunbathing location, the feed buffet, introducing them to the best roosters and more. My older ladies have even adopted a few chicks and raised them for me. To read this story click here.
Older hens, although no longer laying, still offer all the benefits of having chickens. Providing compost for the gardens, eating the bugs on garden plants, tilling the soil and ridding the yard of all available weeds.
Additionally, I find that my older girls make the best lap chickens. No longer distracted by the needs of egg laying, they become better companions. Instead of focusing on the necessities that go with egg laying, they have more time to spend and bond with their keeper. Thus, my older ladies are the lap chickens of the flock. Not only is it adorable to be claimed by the hen, but the younger generations also see this and model their behavior. Thus, my subsequent broods are friendlier and more personable towards their keepers.
Finally, an older hen who has seen and lived through it all are the Zen masters of the flock. No longer spring chickens learning the ropes of life, they are the pros of what it means to be a chicken. My older girls are the calmest members of the flock, nothing surprises them. They know the dangers of life and help others avoid them. They know and roll with the changing seasons and weather patterns. They are the wisdom barring members of the flock.
Above all, they deserve all the honor and respect that is due them. They nourished me with their life during their laying years, it is my turn to nourish them during their twilight years. My older girls are the gems of my flock. They shine bright as they have been polished by the trials of life. For a backyard chicken to make it to the ripe old age of 10 is a feat that defies all the odds. I don’t know how much time they have left but I do know this; they will live the rest of their life grazing on bugs and bathing in the sun glistening like the gems they are.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Hopefully, I offered suggestions on how your hens can be productive past their laying years. It’s a personal decision for each and every chicken keeper. For me, allowing my ladies to live out their post laying years in “hentirement” is the decision I have made for my ladies.
The girls and I want to wish everyone a Merry Kluckmas and an egg-cellant new year!
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.