Start with _Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens_ by Gail Damerow. Next,
point your news reader to sci.agriculture.chickens.
First of all, you'll want more than one chicken. Chickens are flock
birds, and are very unhappy when asked to go solo. When we rescued a
chick from sure death, it cheeped plaintively until we bought it a
couple companions. I could quiet it by holding it in my hands, but that
isn't a viable solution. In your situation, I would get three pullets.
No rooster is necessary unless you want fertile (hatchable) eggs, or
enjoy waking up to crowing in the morning (as I do).
Since sexing chicks is a chancy business, you will probably want to get
one of the varieties with sex-linked traits. The three I can think of
off-hand are the black sex link, red sex link, and isa brown. All three
are really good layers, and lay brown eggs. My son's very tame chicken
is a black sex link (a cross between a rhode island red rooster and a
barred rock hen). I have found the isa brown chickens to be friendly,
Since you want hens that are good foragers, you'll want to avoid the
commercial strains. The classic plymouth rock (white or barred), rhode
island red, new hampshire red, and the like are classic breeds, and are
quite adept at getting bugs and stuff. That, again, makes the black sex
link and the red sex link a good choice. A non-commercial leghorn will
work, too, but they are flighty birds.
The problem you may have with a black sex link, plymouth rock, rhode
island red, or new hampshire red is that they prefer cooler weather.
The book I use for reference lists Andalusian, Buttercup, Hamburg,
Leghorn, Minorca, Naked Neck, Shamo, and Spanish as warm weather breeds.
Of those breeds, I have only seen the leghorn, so I can't comment too
much on them. I'm sure that someone in sci.agriculture.poultry has
experience with warm weather, though.
I do know that the cornish rock rooster and broiler hen that we had were
in distress whenever the weather turned warm.
Ah, so true... :-)
I've had a couple of those in the past.
They seem to do ok, but it's not a trait you want to breed for.
Same with angelwing in ducks. I culled those out of my
muscovie flock and have not seen it since.
Eat them... <lol>
Sorry, I know they are neat birds but the noise they made drove me
_nuts_. I just could not take it anymore and I ate them.
They are excellent bug eaters, but so are muscovie ducks. :-)
Put up some tall poles with bright and metallic ribbons flying from the
tops. I've read on some of the poultry lists that that helps to drive
off hawks??? I have my birds in a large pen under lots of live oak
trees, so hawk loss has never been a problem and I lock everybody in a
henhouse at night to prevent racoon and possum losses.
I have friends who have them (outside of the city); however, we cannot
have them as the City only allows hens. A neighbor had one rooster in her
batch; fortunately, I knew of a good home for it. In fact the new folks
had one of their older and getting mean roosters for dinner and the new
guy took over.
They are indeed beautiful birds!
Because my chickens are five different varieties, each laying a slightly
different color/shape egg, a full basket of eggs looks like an Easter
basket.<g> I got two more Araucanas this year to join the single one,
hoping to get a slightly different color egg from them. The light-colored
one looks like a Buff Orphington (sp) with a smaller comb, etc., not at
all like the other two. Without the typical face/head, one would never
guess it's not a Buff Orphington like the one I already had.
The first place my granddaughters go (3 and 5) is the chicken house to see
if there are any eggs.<g> So do friends' youngsters. My daughter-in-law
did an experiment the first time they took home eggs. She told the girls
they would try G.G.'s eggs and the store eggs and see which they liked
best. She unwisely cooked the fresh eggs first. Though the younger one
did eat the store eggs, the older one took one bite and that was the end
of that. She will no longer willingly eat store eggs. I must admit,
before these chickens became part of our lives, I had forgotten how real
eggs tasted, it having been 30 years or so. There went any possibility of
ever ordering eggs in a restaurant again!
Part of that enjoyment extends to no slugs or bugs where they are allowed
to roam, such a bonus!
It's easy to waste a lot of time watching them, especially if they are
allowed to roam semi-freely. Their soothing calls to each other, and to
us, are so soothing, a true relaxant. :-)
We had chickens all during my childhood, and my grandparents had layers
(commercial though not caged like today!), but I don't remember them each
being so unique as ours are. My perception had been that of many, that
chickens are stupid creatures. However, that is most definitely not true
as observation reveals. They surely cannot think as we commonly perceive,
but one left me to wonder a year ago spring. I had left the back screen
door open for the cat, not even considering the chickens who often liked
to congregate on the back step to see what goodies would be brought out to
them. When looking into the utility room, right in front of the door had
been left a most unwelcome gift. After shooing them away and cleaning up
the mess, I closed the door of course. About half an hour later, I went
outside and laying in the middle of the back step was an egg! As you
know, chickens don't usually just lay their eggs in open, unprotected
area, but there it was. It was like an apology for the indiscretion.
Yup, they are great fun, and good for the garden as well. What a deal.
I have three Isa Browns, ten Araucanas, five Rhode Island Reds, seven
Barred Rocks, and twelve unidentified white pullets that are probably at
least part White Rock. I ought to get a variety of egg colors. I wish
I had ordered some Leghorns, since white eggs would set the others off
nicely. Since we are going to be selling some and giving some away,
having an "Easter basket" variety of colors will be nice. I heard
somewhere that there is a variety of hen that lays brown eggs that are
so light that they look pink. I would like to find out where to get
some of those.
It reminds me of the picture I saw in some mag. This is your egg on ag
biz. This is your egg on grass. Any questions?
If they hadn't eaten our cabbages, I would be a whole lot more happy
with them. That part of the garden is now fenced in, but I didn't have
enough fence to do the corn. When they discovered how tasty the
developing ears are, their free-ranging days were over. They will be
let back out once all the corn has been harvested. Next year, I'm going
to put more thought into my fencing.
Considering the modern pace of life, that's a real blessing.
One of the black and white Araucana mix cockerals keeps flying over the
six foot fence into the hen pen (which already has two roosters). It's
the one with severely bent toes. He is getting really good at dodging
when we try to corner him. He's as calm as can be when I finally catch
him, though. If he's trying to stay out of the freezer by
distinguishing himself from the rest of the crew, he's doing a good job
My plan is to plant an orchard and keep the chickens there. They do a
good job of picking up windfalls, and keep the bug population down. I'm
going to have to figure out an easy way to let them into the garden for
a while, then boot them out before they have time to discover the
Anyhow, today, I picked up my son's hen Racetrack. She is the only one
that you can just approach and pick up. I let her perch on my arm while
I carried her to the garden. I found only one tomato bug, which was
good for the garden, but bad for her. I let her peck around the garden
while I went behind the tomato plants to look for ripe tomatoes and more
bugs. When she couldn't see me, she started clucking nervously. After
a little while, it turned into that buck buck buck ACK type alarm sound
that you hear from upset chickens. As soon as I went the rest of the
way around the tomatoes so that she could see me, she stopped. I never
expected a chicken to think of me as a surrogate flock.
It makes sence that chickens do endearing things, though. It's an
instinct developed during the domestication process. Our ancestors may
have worked hard to breed the old jungle fowl for desirable traits, and
may have even tried to 'cull ruthlessly', but it's only natural that
someone is going to keep a bird that he or she just happens to like.
Therefore, looks and behavior that endears the birds to their human
masters are going to be selected for in the long run.
There is one of my hens that lays a very light egg that looks almost pink.
Since there is never more than one in a day, logic says it belongs to one
of my single breed hens. That would be the Buff Orphington or the Barred
Plymouth Rock, with my money on the Buff. With the dark brown, medium
brown and blue/green eggs, it really looks quite nice in a basket. Like
you, I think a white (or almost white) egg in the mix would really do
quite well at setting them off as well as provide a complete range. I
have one hen that sometimes lays eggs with specks on the shell, but have
not figured out which one it is. The Barred Plymouth Rock has been ruled
out but that would have been quite cool if the speckled chicken (Speckles)
laid the speckled eggs.<g>
Depending on the time of year, mine have their chicken yard change. I use
10' metal electrical conduit cut into 5' lengths as fence posts. They are
easy to remove and place so it makes moving the fence relatively easy.
For the "mobile" fence, they work better with a lawn fencing since chicken
wire is so flexible. Definitely don't use any type of top rail; they are
less likely to try to get over it if there is no clearly defined line at
the top of the fence. They will usually try to rest on the rail, if there
is one, if the fence is only 3 or 4 feet high. They seem not interested
in the top rail of my chain link fence which is 5-6 feet tall.
Though it hasn't happened this year, for a variety of reasons, I often
fence a small portion of the yard and move food, water and laying boxes
inside it and give them a new area during the day. It's easy to get them
back to their house in the evening. When they need "herding," those foam
fun noodles for kids to play with in the pool make great extended "arms."
When you do turn them loose in the yard, be certain to put something over
anything that matters. That first winter, they decimated the Pennyroyal.
Except for the Irish moss and that, everything else recovered. They are
great for cleaning out the lawn's weak spots, maybe too good.<g>
They are great for ridding the garden area of most of the weed seeds (in
addition to the slugs). The disadvantage in my garden was that the
volunteer tomatoes and pumpkins were no more. Normally, that wouldn't be
an issue, but I gave my volunteers to anyone who wanted mystery tomato
plants. Many were planted along the fence outside the yard for the
neighbor children who all adopted a plant of their own for which I made
signs with their names to identify their plants. It was really quite
cool. This year, one neighbor planted some volunteer pumpkins plants from
her last year's jack-o-lantern out there and has some of the largest
pumpkins in the neighborhood. Not only do they look great, but I don't
have to maintain that area. What a deal!
Ya think he's doing it for attention? Makes one wonder if he is calm when
you catch him. My female cat will play tag, trying to get me to catch
her. Animals are quite inventive. Much as some would deny it, chickens
do form attachments
It's great to hear another's chicken stories. Thank you.
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