When acquiring a backyard chicken flock, most people opt for a flock of ladies. But for those who want a rooster or two, but are apprehensive as to which breads are best, this post is for you.
My flock total clocks in at around 50-60 birds (according to chicken math), 30-40 or so hens, and 13 roosters. Half of the gents’ free range with the girls, the rest reside in a bachelor pen. A bachelor pen is a coop/pen assigned to house just roosters. There are no hens in a bachelor pen. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, roosters can and do cohabitate well together. However, there are some tricks to successfully house roosters together. To see how I use and manage a bachelor pen, click here.
I have three large coops that house my girls,and within each of these dwellings, I have two roosters. These gents care for and protect the ladies while they are free ranging. That means, on any given day, I have 6 roosters in the yard with the ladies.
The roosters of yesteryear, which star in our nightmares, were often played by the game cock, according to today’s breeding standards. The rooster we met on our grandparents’ farm was very aggressive and for good reason. Our grandparents kept chicken to supply the family with eggs and meat, a defensive rooster was needed. However, many things have changed since our grandparent’s day.
The backyard chicken hobby has exploded, with chickens replacing the family dog in terms of popularity. Backyard chickens are quickly becoming the go-to for a backyard homestead. In the wake of COVID-19, everyone wants more control over their food supply. Backyard chickens have never been more popular than they are right now. Correspondingly, the breeding industry has responded. Hatcheries and breeders are selective breeding for behavioral/temperament traits such as calm, friendly, docile, and low-key. Most breeds today meet the needs of the backyard chicken hobby keeper. Gone is the bloodthirsty aggressive rooster that roamed our grandparent’s farm, meet the roosters of today.
Using my 13 roosters, I will provide a breed profile overview. I will highlight behavioral and temperment traits associated with common breeds developed for the backyard chicken keeper.
The first breed that I will present for consideration, is the Buff Orpington. Orpingtons as a breed are known as the “Golden Retrievers” of the chicken world. Their demeanor is calm, friendly, and low-key. They are big balls of feathers, looking bigger than they are. My very first rooster was a Buff Orpington named Roy. Roy exhibited many of these behavioral traits; he was a gentle giant. In my presence, he was very calm and relaxed. He would beg me for treats that he could give to his ladies. He was in one word a gentleman. He was never aggressive towards me and took excellent care of the ladies.
One day I witnessed his heroic efforts to save my girls from a hawk. Prepared to lay down his life, he sounded the alarm. The ladies ran for cover, while he battled the hawk. Although injured, with love and care, he made a full recovery. I learned the true value of a rooster from this experience. After that event, Roy lived on for several more years as a decorated war hero. He sadly passed away 5 years ago. I never thought I would miss a rooster so much; he was my rooster teacher. He taught me a lot about chickens and the sacrificial nature of a rooster. Ever since Roy, I have fallen in love with roosters. Today, they are one of my favorite creatures, worthy of respect and admiration.
The next gent to introduce you to is Enigma. Enigma is a Mottled Cochin Bantam. Like the Orpingtons, Cochins are also big balls of feathers. The cochin is a very docile and friendly breed. The girls make excellent mothers, and the gents make excellent roosters. No bigger than he is, Enigma has established himself as the alpha rooster of the chicken yard, all the other guys answer to him. He is a very sweet rooster and takes very good care of his girls. He is calm around humans and will even allow me to pick him up for his health inspections without much issue. He too will beg me for treats that he can offer to his girls. He allows the girls to eat first, then if there is anything left, he will partake. When free-ranging, he will often follow me hoping that I can give him a morsel to take to his favorite lady. Out of all my boys, Enigma is my favorite.
These next guys with the fabulous 80s hair are Polishes. Polishes are my favorite breed, I have more of them than any other breed on my farm. The Polishes are known as the “comedians” of the chicken world. As a breed, they are very curious but high-strung. Due to their fabulous crests, their vision is limited thus everything spooks them. Simple even mundane objects in their environment will startle them. Due to their limited vision, they cannot see what is above them. For this reason, a keeper needs to ensure that they have a covered run. If free-ranging, provide them with ample coverage as protection from aerial predators.
I only allow my polish flocks out when I am in the backyard or have multiple roosters on duty. Polish gents make great roosters for a keeper who does not mind their antics. They are very easy to pick up and hold, due to their limited vision. They are a bit high-strung making them an entertaining breed to own.
All my polish roosters are very sweet, however, curious. Due to the feathered crests, they are a bit jumpy. I talk to them before I pick them up to not give them a jolt. Characteristically, they do not make the best roosters for protection. I have ample coverage in my backyard as a hedge of protection for my polish boys.
They are very curious, often following their curiosities into predicaments, then not able to see well enough to get themselves out. They are an endless form of entertainment in the backyard. The roosters are a bit high-strung, panicky, and flighty, yet very sweet. I have several Polish roosters, all are very friendly, approachable, and curious. The ladies will often perch on my legs or arms, making them great lap chickens.
Silkies are known as the “Teddy Bears” of the chicken world. Due to their feathers that are “fur-like”, they are the cuddle bunnies of the flock. Silkies as a breed are known the world over for being very docile, friendly, and calm. They have voted time and time again as the best breed to have around kids.
I currently have a flock of 14 Silkies, 4 are roosters. Two roosters are in the coop with the ladies, the rest are in a bachelor pen. My Silkie gents are well-behaved, shy, and timid. The ladies are very friendly and enjoy interactions with their caretakers. I have no trouble with my Silkie roosters. Like the Polish, it’s best to keep Silkies in the protection of a covered coop and pen unless you are outside with them. Due to their overwhelmingly shy nature, they would rather run from a predator than protect the ladies like most roosters. When I hold my silkie roosters, they are very docile and calm in my arms. They would rather hide under a rock but are very easygoing if I need to handle them.
Next, Dracula and Frankenstein. These two guys are Easter Eggers and although not known as an exceptionally docile breed, these two boys are well-behaved. They are very curious and want in on whatever I am doing. Due to their breed, they are a bit larger than my other roosters. Despite their size, they are very calm and friendly. They do not like to be held, so I only pick them up when needed.
Silver Lace Wyandotte:
My final breed to highlight is Silver Lace Wyandottes. Wyandottes are a large breed, and Smaug is the largest member of my flock. He easily towers over the other roosters in my flock. At 12 pounds, he is a big boy. Despite his size, he is very calm, friendly, and easygoing. He is best described as the gentle giant of my flock. Due to his very relaxed nature, he is at the bottom of the rooster pecking order. I can easily pick him up and hold him when needed for health inspections. He prefers not to be held but will tolerate check-ups when needed.
While there are many more breeds available, the breeds listed I keep and can expound on associated temperament and disposition. Most roosters bred today for the backyard keeper are well-behaved. Don’t get me wrong, a rooster has a job to do, and he takes it seriously, but most are calm and friendly. I currently have 13 roosters; all are very well-behaved gents. They take good care of the ladies and are not aggressive to humans by any means. They are often my welcoming committee when I enter the backyard, curious about what treats I may have brought them.
I hope that this post has been helpful for those thinking about acquiring roosters for their flock. It is very possible to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to keeping roosters. Selecting gents from breeds that are well-known for being calm and docile is an excellent place to start. If you have any questions, please feel to leave a comment. You can also drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you like my work, please visit some of my other sites.
If there is one breed that will always steal the show, it’s the Polish. If there is one variation of Polish that will take your breath away, it’s the Silver Lace Polish. The Polish breed of chickens has taken over the backyard chicken enthusiasts’ movement by storm. This year, the number one selling chicken breed, you guessed it, the Polish. What is it about the Polish breed that has backyard chicken keepers so smitten?
Polishes are characteristically very quirky, entertaining, and affectionate. Due to the ample feathered crests that crown their heads obstructing their vision, Polishes can be a bit flighty and jumpy. Just about everything in their environment startles them, and for this reason they are often the comedians of the backyard chicken world. In addition, they are very curious, often following their curiosities into humorous predicaments. Unable to see well enough to get themselves out, they call for other members of the flock to come to their rescue. For this reason, the Polish breed can be a bit more vocal than other breeds. It is this combination of attributes that makes Polishes one of the most beloved breeds within the backyard chicken movement. Now that the Polish breed has our attention, many new variations are becoming more readily available. One of the most loved variations is the Silver Lace Polish. Here are my top 5 reasons why Silver Lace Polishes are topping the charts.
(1). Stunning Appearance:
Let’s start with the obvious. These ladies and gents are absolutely beautiful!! They look like something right out of a Van Gogh painting. The command of color and contrast in their plumage leaves the observer breathless. The densely feathered crests topping their head completes the look. These fancy gals and gens appear as though they are dressed up for a chicken Gala. All of these attributes combined comprise their unique appearance that commands the attention of anyone who happens upon them. Make no mistake, Silver Lace Polishes will quickly become the gems of the flock. Many keepers including myself, keep these beauties to enter poultry shows. When not winning ribbons, Silver Lace Polishes add a bit of refinement to a backyard flock.
Often the first comment I get from visitors addresses my Silver Lace Polishes. They inquire about their unique appearance; some disbelieve that they are in fact chickens. The unique appearance of the Silver Lace Polish leaves onlookers and keepers captivated by their beauty.
The roosters of the Silver Lace variety are even more spectacular. The additional tail and crest feathers take their ravishing look a step further. Roosters command attention, but Silver Lace Polish roosters leave the observer breathless. These ladies and gents are by the far the most loved individuals of the backyard chicken Polish enthusiast. I have several Polish color varieties; the Silver Lace is hands down my favorite.
(2). Friendly, funny, feathered friends:
The Polish are known to be a very friendly, affectionate, docile, and curious breed. Silver Lace Polishes are much like their other Polish breed counterparts. The only difference between Silver Lace Polishes and other varieties is the feathered plumage. They possess all of the challenges that other Polish varieties possess.
They are very curious, friendly, and form a strong bond with their keepers. Due to their feathered crests that obstruct their vision, they can be flighty and jumpy. To keep Polish chickens successfully, a keeper must make sure to provide a covered pen, confined free-ranging space, and ample coverage. The feathered crests limit their ability to see what is above them, making them easy prey for aerial predators. Additionally, due to their crests feathers, they can be high-strung. Because of this, a keeper must be aware when picking them up as they may startle. It is this combination of attributes that makes them entertaining to keep and watch.
(3) Great for an Urban setting:
If you live in the city limits or a neighborhood and want fancy chickens, you’re in luck, Silver Lace Polishes fit the bill. All Polishes, including Silver Lace Polishes, tolerate confinement well, making them perfect for the urban setting. Due to their feathered crests, Polish chickens tend not to stray too far from the safety of their coop. If a threat is detected, they like to be close to a place of safety. Because of this, they tolerate confinement in a coop and pen very well. Other more adapt breeds for free-ranging such as the Australorp, Rhode Island Red, and Orpington become restless when confined to a coop and pen.
Another plus for the urban chicken keeper is the body size of the Polish chicken. Silver Lace Polishes and all Polish chickens come in both a standard and bantam (miniature or ornamental) size. Even the standard-size Silver Lace Polish chickens are a bit smaller than most standard-size breeds. This is an added benefit to the urban keeper. Due to their size, Silver Lace Polishes are easier for a city keeper to accommodate on smaller plots of land.
(4) Egg Potential:
Contrary to popular belief, Polish chickens lay a fair number of eggs. They are by no means record holders like the Australorp or Orpington, but they do lay eggs. For those who want a small flock for an urban plot or hobby farm, Silver Lace Polishes are great. They will give you enough eggs for your family without overwhelming you with an egg surplus.
Polish eggs are typically a medium size and white to off-white in coloration. One hen will typically lay anywhere from 2-3 eggs per week. Some hens may lay more, others may lay less. On average, I can expect one of my Silver Lace Polishes to lay an egg every three days.
Another benefit closely related to egg production is broodiness. Polish chickens are not known for being broody, for the urban keeper, this is a huge benefit. Not distracted by wanting to brood a clutch of chicks, they will give more attention to you, their keeper. This sets the Polish apart making them truly “pet” chickens. This brings me to my last point.
(5). The Ultimate Pet Chicken:
If what you are in the market for is a “pet chicken”, Silver Lace Polishes are a breed to consider. They are a quirky, loveable, friendly, and approachable breed. Due to their feather head crests, they are easy to catch and pick up, which makes them great for being around children. This means that Silver Lace Polishes are great for a family flock. Pet chickens are a great way to teach kids how to take care of animals, responsibility, and respect for other creatures. As the saying goes, “chickens are the gateway drug to farming” thus, a great way to teach lessons in sustainability. Being that Silver Lace Polishes and all Polishes are so friendly, they are great to have around an urban backyard hobby farm.
I hope that you have found this post helpful. If I did not address any questions that you may have regarding Silver Lace Polishes, please leave a comment or drop me a line at email@example.com.
I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer, and blog contributor. If you enjoyed this blog, please visit some of my other sites.
Many people associate roosters with being aggressive nightmarish birds recalled as the barnyard terrors we encountered on our grandparents’ farm. Sadly, roosters are often type cast into this role by an unfair association.
Roosters are amazing creatures, worthy of admiration. Recent breeding methods have changed as the backyard chicken movement has exploded and evolved. The selective breeding methods by many breeders have yielded roosters better suited for the backyard setting. In our grandparents’ day, when a flock was kept for food be it meat or eggs, a defensive rooster was needed. However, chickens today are kept more often as pets that have the benefit of making breakfast.
The breeding industry has responded, breeding for behavioral trait qualities such as docile, calmness and friendly. Many breeds available today have roosters that possess these qualities. Breeds like the Polish, Silkie, Cochin and Orpington all are breeds that are widely available that typically have well behaved roosters. I have all of these breeds and can validate for good behavior in roosters of the aforementioned breeds.
Don’t get me wrong, roosters have a job to do and take it seriously, but most backyard flocks have well-behaved gents. Sometimes, a rooster can be so well-behaved that they are for all purposes useless.
How can a rooster be useless, you may be wondering. Allow me to introduce you to Pantaphobia, the useless rooster.
He is afraid of food:
Pantaphobia is not the fear of pants, it’s the fear of everything, including pants. As his name suggests, Pantaphobia is afraid of absolutely everything. He is afraid of ordinary mundane things chickens often encounter in their environment, such as bugs. While the other chickens in the flock can be seen chasing a juicy morsel like a fly or a moth, Pantaphobia is often running from these meals to go. Since he is also afraid to go into the coops, this also means that he does not partake of the food readily available in the feeders. He lives on weeds, grass, worms, and other morsels that he can find crawling on the ground.
He never hunts for the girls:
One of the necessary things that a rooster does for his flock is a food search. A rooster will take it upon himself to actively look for morsels for the girls to eat. Once he finds something of value, he calls his girls over to partake in his hard work. It is by evolutionary design that a rooster knows that the hens need extra nutrition to sustain the flock population. If there is anything left, only then will he eat. A rooster is a self-sacrificing soul, caring more for his hens than himself. He is more concerned about their welfare than his. Pantaphobia is quite the opposite. He spends most of the day occupying himself with hunting for grubs in the grass, but he has no interest in sharing with anyone, including the hens.
One thing that a rooster is supposed to be able to do very well is mating with the hens. In Pantaphobia’s case, this too is something that he elects not to participate in. He will never approach a hen with the intent to try to woo her for a date. He simply ignores the hens and occupies his time looking for grubs to dine on. For this reason, he never gets into many confrontations with the other roosters in the flock. He simply keeps to himself, hunting and pecking his way through the day.
He never warns the flock of danger:
It is a rooster’s primary job to keep an eye on the skies, constantly scanning for danger. While out in the yard with the rest of the flock, it is the other gents that keep watching for any threats. If the alarm is sounded, Pantaphobia will run for cover along with the hens. He will not attempt to protect the girls from the imminent threat like the other roosters in the flock. He simply runs and hides till the “all clear” is announced.
He hardly ever crows:
If there is one attribute that is always associated with roosters, it’s crowing. Roosters crow for many reasons, to establish dominance in the flock, to check in with the other roosters when free ranging, to warn the flock of danger, and just because they can. Pantaphobia, on the other hand, has no interest in this time-honored tradition. He will sometimes crow in the mornings as dawn moves over the land, but other than that, nothing. He is the quietest rooster that I have ever had. Early on, I wondered if he was a hen, but there is no question, anatomically and definitively he is a rooster.
So, why keep him?
You may be wondering why I would hang on to such a useless rooster. Well, here on The Kuntry Klucker Farm, I allow my ladies and gents to live out their natural lives. I keep Pantaphobia for the same reason that I keep my senior hens who are no longer laying, all have value. Although he performs absolutely no service for the flock, he is still a delight to watch.
Additionally, he is a White Crested Polish, my favorite breed. The Polish have the habit of being flock comedians, due to their head crests that obscure their vision. Pantaphobia does not disappoint in this department. While the other Polish residents have figured out what to be afraid of and what not to fear, Pantaphobia has not. The other Polish members will actively chase after a flying treat, Pantaphobia will run in terror. You have not adequately spit out your coffee till you see a rooster run from a butterfly.
While he may be useless in every other sense of a rooster’s role in the flock, he is not a disappointment when it comes to the entertainment value. In this respect, I got my money’s worth and then some.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. While most of today’s roosters are well-behaved (a far cry from the game-like aggressive breeds of yesterday), roosters come in all personalities. Some make good caretakers of the hens, others not so much. A rooster is a creature that it is worthy of respect and admiration, even those who are a bit of the special needs variety.
If you have any questions about roosters or chicken keeping in general, please leave me a comment. I make it a priority to respond in 24 hours. You can also drop me a line at 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
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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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