Monday, March 11, 2013
All My Rowdy Friends
I've had a few people ask me lately about the types of chickens I keep and what they are like so I thought I'd do a little synopsis of my current flock and which ones I like the best. Well, I like them all and their crazy personalities so I guess I should say, which ones are the best utilitarian chickens.
The ones I've had the longest are my Barred Rocks, not to be confused with Dominiques (or Domineckers as they are called here in the South), which have a rose comb. Several breeds look a lot like the Barred Rocks but they (Barred) have the large, single comb and large wattles. The Barred Rocks are excellent layers of big brown eggs. Bertha, in the picture, is around 5 years old but she still lays; not nearly like the young hens but she plugs along still. They are not particularly excitable hens but do like to announce loudly when they do lay. Other than, that they are fairly quiet and laid back but not overly friendly. They are very hardy, rarely have health problems and seem very cautious about predators. Their coloration is always very consistent and they basically all look quite similar in that regard.
This is the Speckled Sussex that usually gets everybody's attention and they are very pretty birds. If you enlarge the photo you might can see the blue spots mixed in with all the white. Their coloration can vary quite a bit from few white spots to almost covered in white. Generally they all have the medium single comb but size varies on those too and they mostly all have a very large upright tail, making something of a U shape from the side. I don't know that "friendly" is the right word for this breed; maybe "demanding" is better. They are very vocal, all the time when around people, and become spoiled very easily. If they want treats you will hear about it loudly and often. Zuzu, pictured above, follows me everywhere, especially if I am planting or doing gardening work because she knows I will be digging and that means bugs and worms. They lay good albeit slightly smaller, tinted eggs and they seem somewhat more delicate with their health. They also seem to attract predator attention due to their colorful attire. I love my Speckles but I suspect they might be better suited to a suburban, kinda pampered environment.
Now, these are just about on the other end of the spectrum. These are the Single Comb Brown Leghorns. They are an excellent free-range type bird because they are naturally scared of everything and extremely fast. They lay very, very well also. They were the first to start laying and almost every day we get 2 large white eggs (from 2 birds). They are NOT friendly and get upset easily. But they lay well and are very pretty.
This is probably one of my favorite breeds, the New Hampshire, which is often mistaken for a Rhode Island Red. The Hamps have a large, single comb like a RIR but have a distinct, fan-like black tail. Their main coloration is a reddish brown but can vary from very dark to almost strawberry blonde and they all have black markings around their neck. They lay large brown eggs very consistently. I like them because they are so personable. The Hamps I have regularly come into my studio to visit (and look for treats) and one in particular loves to sit in my lap if I will pet her. They enjoy being around people and will talk your head off (like Missy in the photo), so, they can be a little noisy at times but not annoying. They seem very hardy also and don't mind cold weather.
This is Little Red, our one Rhode Island at the time and she is a very reliable layer of big brown eggs as most RIRs are. They are a fairly quiet breed also and not overly friendly but don't mind being around people. The distinct difference in looks from the Hamps is they have black tips on their body feathers and a sorta nondescript, frazzly tail. They are sweet, hardy birds and some people say they can be more friendly if raised in close contact with people.
This is another of my favorite breeds, the Partridge Rock. I've never known of anybody that raised these type birds before and just got them on a whim but I love them. They are great layers of large brown eggs and are fairly quiet and laid back also. They are very healthy and hardy and their coloration makes it easy for them to hide from predators in the woods and such. As far as coloration also, there is very little variation and they are all practically identical to one another. The only way I can tell mine apart is by their comb, which is a single but fairly small. The thing I like about them, besides their laying etc, is they have a very funny, quirky personality. They enjoy being around people and are friendly but they don't want you to actually touch them. If you do pet them they will usually just stand there and scold you but they won't really run away. Cracks me up. They are also a little bossy with the other hens but not mean.
A few other breeds that I like but don't have at the moment are Delawares, Red Stars and Buff Orpingtons.
So, there's my 2 cents worth on chicken breeds in case anybody is looking to get chickens for the first time or add to their existing flock. Of course, there are many, many types to choose from but these are a few of the more common (or just slightly uncommon) breeds that aren't too hard to acquire.