Wednesday, March 18, 2015
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!