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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Due Diligence.



One would think that I, legal office worker that I am, would be familiar with that term.  And use it.  Not so.  No matter how old I have gotten, I cannot seem to whip myself into shape.  It will be the undoing of me.

After a winter of record-breaking non-egg-laying, I realized that I need to spruce up the gene pool in the coop.  It's been challenging for the hens - stuck inside for days with (possibly) four roosters, Arctic temperatures, limited sunlight, three feet of snow.  While I can truly empathize (except for the roosters), they continue to vacuum up the feed without providing means to pay for it.  I was trying to get a handle on the various ages of my hens and there is quite a large range - towards the geriatric side.  I have three hens that are over 5 years old.  I have another 6-8 that are around 3.  I have 6 that are 1-2.  I have one that has a perennial sour crop (it's like a monoboob - I refer to her as Mae).  I have too many roosters. 

Last fall, I read an article in Mother Earth News about Icelandic chickens.  This got me all fired up, so I tracked down a breeder who was within a reasonable driving distance.  Because this breed is limited and being carefully brought along, I had to get on a waiting list for chicks.  I made it just in time, as she had more customers than expected chicks.  As I hummed along, all smug in the knowledge that I would have a new influx of egg-layers that were rare and hearty, I happened to read a post on their Facebook page.  I was dismayed.  Here is why:

Icelandic Characteristics / Characteristics I am Looking For:

Feral / Docile
Average egg layers / above average egg layers
Hysterical / Non-hysterical
Insist on flying / Will stay in the yard
No better than average in winter climes / Better than average in winter climes

I am sure that those breeders of Icies just thrill to the wildness of them.  They are also, most likely, people who don't have a big predator problem, are home more than they are away, are very involved in their flock minutia.  I am not they.  However, as I paid for the privilege of being on this waiting list, I will give it a go - with about half the number of chicks that I originally had hoped to buy.  And I will have everything crossed that I don't end up with mostly roosters.  For, while they all say that Icies are an egg/meat breed, they seem to be fairly small, on average.  I fear it's another case of whipping things up into a precious breed frenzy.  I am so susceptible to that whole business - the frenzy stuff.

It has been back to the drawing board for me.  I have not had good luck in trying to help an endangered breed and get the type of hen that I want.  Last year was the year of the Langshan.  They certainly are a large and beautiful chicken, but they are the most flighty birds I have ever had to deal with.  They also make up half of my rooster problem.  I am torn between putting them in the freezer and trying to find someone who wants to use them for other purposes - they are a stunning bird.  I think I may just hit the local feed store and get some Barred Rocks and whatever other normal breeds they have. 

What are your favorite breeds and why?  I am open to any and all suggestions!

30 comments:






  1. I like Speckled Sussex and Orpingtons (both white and buff). Mine are calm, beautiful, old, and still lay eggs. I liked Barred Rocks too, but do not have any at the time. I I like to have different colors in my flock. Diversity rules!


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    1. FB - I have one Speckled Sussex and she is like a dog - follows me everywhere. I love a diverse flock, too!

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  2. I started with Reds, but they died off way too fast. Bad hatchery I think. Then we got Barred Rocks and Auracanas. So far I think the the Barred Rocks are less likely to become sick, but I recently lost one. I may add something new to the mix next spring. So far, both breeds are pretty good layers.

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    1. Kristina - I had the same experience with Reds - they barely made it past the two-year mark. I've heard lots of good things about Barred Rocks and I have one in the mix. The hardest thing is to be able to just get a few chicks, instead of a minimum of 15!

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  3. I like the Barred Rocks, goldnen comets, and Auracanas. The Golden Comets will lay all winter. I think our Barred Rocks did too. The Auracanas wait until it's warmer outside. I just like them for their colored eggs.

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    1. SFG - I love the different colors in my egg cartons. I have two home-grown olive eggers that are starting to get up there.

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  4. Believe it or not - Black Australorps - to me, better then ALL for consistent egg layers. Turning on a heat light in the coop in the winter, I always would get nice big brown eggs. Best mothers ever - used one to hatch 11 guinea fowl eggs. Never had a prob with their combs freezing as they are BIG chickens; also, never had an owl attempt to carry one off like a bantam, and once they know where their boxes are, you can let them run free during the day. Also, check out Murray McMurray Hatchery - they are tops in chicks lol. https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/black_australorps.html.. and I would never go "straight run" - to me its worth it to pay for the sexed ones. I hate roosters - they are not nice. have to "use a red plastic bat to feed horses" not nice...xoxo

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    1. JG - I had a Black Australorp for many years. I loved her big dark eyes! They are hard to find, however. I did a search on McM and they seemed to not have them available.

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  5. I had Silver laced Wyandottes and Buff Orpingtons and Salmon Favorelles.
    The first two breeds --huge, gentle, beautiful, productive layers.
    The Salmons were flirty with my husband, following him for hours and conning him out of raisins (my big baking raisins!!!!!). Flirts and hussies--but super gentle, loving, more of a pet . Not much for laying. Did I mention flirts??????

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    1. Sue - I would love a few Favorelles, but they are hard to come by. Of course, there is the egg-laying problem. My oldest hen is a Silver Laced Wyandotte. I still find her in the nesting boxes, but she no longer lays. This is her retirement home...

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  6. Susan I keep my layer hens (no roosters) no more than 2 yrs but usually 1 1/2. I alternate between Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks some one yr other next yr so I can tell old from young. Both are excellent egg layers and docile. People love brown eggs as well even if they taste just like white ones lol. I only order sexed hen chicks. Don't need to deal with roosters.

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    1. Lisa - That is a great idea. I have a hard time remembering how old each hen is - I tend to generalize. Isn't it a riot that people think eggs taste different by color? The first customer who got one of my green eggs was afraid to eat it!

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  7. I have a mutt chicken named Vanilli and I swear I wish all of my chickens were just like her. She's smart, broody when the time is right, a good egg layer, friendly, and street-wise. We bought her at the flea market years ago so I have no idea she what is. The barred rock we had was an excellent forager.

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    1. WH - My olive eggers are homegrown mutts - half Barnevelder and half auracaunas. They are like beared Barnevelders!

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  8. no chickens here, but would love them if and when we move back into the countryside.

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  9. We had Icelandics two years ago because of the same reasons you originally chose them. How did they turn out? Flighty, not good layers, unfriendly, refused to go into the chicken house at night, roosted in the trees (lost a couple of them because of that) and they looked like Leghorns (which I didn't like). Also when butchered they were skinny and didn't have much meat on them. That's probably not what you wanted to hear, eh?

    My favorite variety of chickens is currently Black Australorps.

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    1. Mama Pea - Why, oh, why did I not think to check with you first? That is exactly what I'm afraid of. I am thinking that I might raise mine to pullethood and then fob them off on some other 'sucker'...

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  10. Ralph's favorite breed..he has had them a lot over the years and loves them for their quiet nature and motherlyness.
    http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/Australorp-B14.aspx

    Our egg guy has some Buff Opingtons that are sweet and golden and lay well...and are very calm.
    http://www.mypetchicken.com/catalog/Day-Old-Baby-Chicks/Buff-Orpington-p229.aspx

    My wish list chicken is a bearded wonder though...Salmon Faverolle. They are gentle and quiet and sweet.
    http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/Faverolles-B47.aspx


    Good Luck Chicken Whisperer!

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    1. Fiona - I am starting to think Austerlorp. I have a couple of Orpingtons that are nice. You and me both with the Salmon Faverolles! I think we need to wait until the Faverolle mania has passed and they are available again.

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  11. My favorite breed is breaded and fried. My second favorite breed is basted with oil, anchovy paste and honey, then grilled. My third favorite breed is oiled, sprinkled with lemon pepper and cajun seasoning, then baked.

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    1. Spiderjohn - You are a riot! I am thinking about trying that second breed. Sounds delish!

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  12. If I ever get my chickens (and farm) one day, I will look at the arucana. Love the egg colors...but this sounds like a good adventure! :) New chickens = exciting times!

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    1. Mrs DM - I love having the green eggs, but they tend to be aloof and a little flighty. Of course, it could just be mine.

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  13. Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Red and Gold sexlink, Buff Orpingtons, Hampshire Whites (ate WAY too much food!), and last year I got an Amber White. I'm able to get however many from the local feed store or hatchery. I ned ones that are good in heat/cold and good layers only. Works for me! The 1st 2 are my faves, and my Amber White is very reliable too. I've had 3 eggs every single day all winter, with no extra light, their 1st laying season. You are farther north than me I think?

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    1. Nancy - Yes, I'm near the NY/VT/MA border. I wish I lived closer to a hatchery, as it would be so nice to be able to pick them up and not have to buy 15 at a time. I think most places requires buying at least six, which seems reasonable.

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  14. I'm attending a workshop on raising chickens in two weeks. I'll let you know if I pick up any good tips. Meanwhile the strays from next door are doing a great job of cleaning up in the orchard. It would be nice if they would leave an egg every now and then.

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    1. Susan - I am so envious of your workshops! Darn! Yes, please keep me in mind, as you furiously write down notes.

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  15. I put my Barred Rocks (3) in the freezer late last fall, but kept one Rhodie and two Ameraucanas. I got eggs for a month or two from the Rhodie, but her shells were sooo fragile I put a finger into them when trying to pick them up - she has finally stopped altogether. The Ameraucanas are still laying just not as often as it can get pretty cold here at night. They are my favorites. They are friendly even though I can't scratch or pick them up, they come running as soon as they see me. They lay nice med to large green eggs.
    In the Spring our Grange gives away 3 chicks with every 40lb bag of "Grower", either Rhodies or Barred Rock ... This year I want to get more Ameraucanas ... even at $3.50 or so per chick.
    Didn't mean to write a book, but ... LOL

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  16. If I could only have one breed it would be australorps. Gentle, relaxed, good mothers, free range politely, roosters are good eating and hens lay respectably.

    Since I love having rainbow cartons to give friends I have a random selection, but the australorps are the pick of the bunch.

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