For Love of Little Chickens

Wednesday is usually dog-training day, but I’m expanding the topic to include raising backyard chickens.  Eventually I’ll add in some of my zoo animal stories as well.  Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of dog-training tips and advice coming!

Monday I ordered my new crop of chickens!  I’m so excited!  Before, I’ve always tacked my chicken order on with my friend’s and she’s taken delivery.  So I have not had the joy of hurrying to the post office to collect my fluffy little peepers.  This year though, I have no one to share a chicken order with, and so placed my order for 25 to arrive at the end of March.  Yes, you read that number right; I will soon be the proud parent of 25 fuzzy little babies.  They are every bit as adorable as they look in pictures, too!

Ten of the little cuties are egg-layers, and I picked 5 different breeds, some I’ve had before, and some are new to me.  The other 15 are meat birds, Cornish crosses, and will end up on my dinner table.  Yum!  They mature at 2 months, and in that time they grow amazingly fast; they go from little and cute, to huge, to my freezer in that shockingly short time frame.

Most people though, get chickens just for the eggs, and I have 10 new egg layers on their way.  This year I’m getting 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Partridge Rocks, 2 Black Minorcas, 2 Araucanas, and 2 Dark Brahmas.  Plus, the hatchery is throwing in one very rare, exotic chicken for free!  Yippee!  Too bad they’re not telling what breed, and it could be a male, which would not be good.  But it’ll be a cool surprise, can’t wait to find out!

You probably know there are white eggs and brown eggs, but did you know some birds lay pale pink eggs, some lay blue-green eggs, and some lay a brown so dark it looks like chocolate?  Buff Orpingtons lay pale pink, Araucanas lay blue-green, Black Minorcas lay white, the rest of my girls will lay brown eggs.  I’ll have an Easter basket with all the different colors and shades!  If you ever get close enough to a chicken, look at her ears.  The color of the skin of a hen’s ears is the color of egg she will lay.  No joke.

Why do I grow my own chickens?  Taste and nutrition. Have you ever had eggs fresh from a small farm?  Maybe you have had chickens yourself at some point in time?  If you’ve only had store bought eggs from large production farms, then you are missing out.  The egg of hen who has access to fresh air, sunshine and is able to move about and do normal chicken things, like scratch in the dirt and eat bugs, is richer in vital nutrients than one kept in tiny cage it’s whole life.  Eggs from pastured chickens have:

1/3 less cholesterol

1/4 less saturated fat

2/3 more vitamin A

2 times more omega-3 fatty acids

3 times more vitamin E

7 times more beta carotene

(Thank you, Mother Earth News for the above info, and read more at: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx#ixzz1myKaftR9 )

Have you ever thought about keeping chickens?  It’s easily done in the city, and many are discovering the joy of having these beautiful birds share their home.  I’ll bet you never thought of a chicken as beautiful before, but just check out what my girls will look like when they’re fully grown:

Dark Brahma

Photo from http://poultrykeeper.com/brahma/the-brahma/photos-of-brahmas.html

Partridge Rock

Photo from http://www.mypetchicken.com/about-chickens/chicken-pictures/Partridge-Rock-Hen-X45.aspx

Black Minorca

Photo from http://media.photobucket.com/image/black+minorca+hen+/shay20_2009/allpics493.jpg

Buff Orpington

Some of my girls from previous years

Araucana

Isn't he gorgeous? But Brewster was a rooster and had to go.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share with you some of my chicken stories.  Keep checking back for hints on housing, raising and enjoying a small flock in your backyard.  If you have questions or hints, please share them!  I’d love to hear about your own adventures in chicken keeping.

36 thoughts on “For Love of Little Chickens

  1. I come from a long line of farmers on both sides of my family, so lots of fresh eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc. My cousins and I were so acclimated that we used to have fun picking up chicken feet in the driveway after they slaughtered the birds and played with the tendons (hey – farmkids have to make their own fun) hahaha – if I caught my kids doing that I’d probably freak!

    1. How cool! I keep trying to talk Hub in to goats. We have enough space, but it would take some major reworking to make our property goat friendly. Plus, if I don’t know what I’d do with the kids to keep the mama goats in milk, so no fresh goat milk. For now…. 😉

  2. Great post. I love the penciling on the dark Brahmas. We currently have a buff Brahma, who is big and beautiful, though somewhat skittish and doesn’t lay too frequently. (the few eggs she lays are light brown with dark brown speckles).
    We’ve got six more coming this spring (for a total of 10). Haven’t gotten into the meat birds yet, but I’d like to get there.

    1. The Brahmas will be new to me this year, but I couldn’t resist how pretty they looked. I raised one meat bird, my friend got a bunch mixed in with her order a few years back. I ended up with one by accident, then ended up taking seven more off her hands when they were ready to butcher. This will be my first year raising so many, so will keep you posted.

  3. This is so cool Serena! I am so glad you chose to share this with us. Can’t wait for more stories about your little chicks. I know they’ll grow up, but right now they’re going to be so cute. And the eggs will taste so good. So I take it they will be free-range chickies. Love this! 🙂

    1. It’s definitely not for everyone, something I can completely understand. I have a trade set up with a foodie friend. She makes cheese, but doesn’t want to kill things, so I give her a chicken, she gives me cheese. Win-win.

  4. Congrats on your new chickens! I have Buff O’s and just love them. And coincidentally, we also have a rooster named Brewster! (I live in the country…can have as many roosters as i can stand! LOL!)

  5. Hi Serena, great post and the pictures brought back a lot of memories. When I was small we always kept chickens. Every spring they would arrive and we’d keep them in a cardboard box in the kitchen for warmth. I’d spend hours just watching them. I’d even let them out to climb all over the dog. He loved it. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. 🙂

  6. I love chickens, especially babies. When I go to the state fair I make it a point to go into the fur and feather exhibits to see the different varieties. Some of them get really big and some are quite petite.

    Yes, farm fresh eggs are the best! And home grown chicken in the frying pan is pretty awesome too. So glad you get the opportunity to do this fun project every year.

    I just wonder what those poor little chickens are thinking when they’re shipped via US mail. What an adventure they could tell!

    Thanks for sharing, Serena.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. Thanks for stopping by Patricia! When they ship the babies, my friend says the hatchery always adds in ‘packing peanuts’ because they expect some mortality. It’s how she ended up with so many meat birds one year. Can’t wait to see what shows up at the end of March.

  7. Wow, this is so exciting! My neighbors have kept chickens for years, along with a rooster that crows at all times of the day and night, which is kind of hilarious. We live in the suburbs, too, so it’s definitely something that can be done in all sorts of neighborhoods.

    1. Technically we live in the city, but we’re in a little unincorporated zone, and so we don’t get looked at too much, but a rooster would bring too much attention. Not to mention make my neighbors very unhappy, but I would soooo love to be able to keep one. Each spring though, I always hear a few in the neighborhood (several chicken keepers here), usually around May, then by June it’s quiet again. I figure the neighbors ended up with a roo by accident, and then have to get rid of it.

  8. Oh, I’m jealous. The girls and I have been wanting to raise chickens, but our homeowner’s association has a thing against them:( I had no idea that the color of the eggs could be told by the skin on the ear color, wow! We started buying eggs from a local farm, pasture raised, and it is amazing the difference between those and regular store bought! We also love Mother Earth News, one of our favorite magazines. Great post!

  9. Great post! I have five hens and a disabled rooster (don’t know what happened to him but one of his legs is not functioning…we have to pick him up and put him in the coop at night because he has a hard time with it). I also have two Silkies…a gray one and a white one…they were supposed to be a pair, they are not, both turned out to be roosters and they are constantly bossing each other around. I need to find them some mates!

    Although I have no problem eating the eggs, I cannot bring myself to eat anything that I’ve seen in it’s natural state (meaning, I’ll eat meat from the grocery and that’s it). I especially can’t eat anything that I’ve raised myself. I wish I could, it would make things so much better nutritionally and economically, but I just can’t do it. Thus, I have a disabled rooster that I can’t bring myself to kill. Just so you know…he doesn’t seem bothered by his disability in any way. If he were suffering, I’d be asking someone to help me out with putting him out of his misery.

    Last year a fox ate all my chickens. I was quite upset about it as I consider them pets. Weird, I know!! But, they are funny things and I enjoy them. I also love their eggs!!

    1. I can’t eat anything I’ve named, and treated as a pet. Meat birds are called just that, “Meat” or “Dinner” and I don’t even attempt to bond with them, but I have sold off hens that were too old to lay for the soup pot. I make a deal with my birds, as soon as they arrive. I tell them I’ll give them a good, safe home, plenty of food and treats, but that they will (or may, in the case of my egg-layers) end up as dinner. I promise them a quick and humane ending at that time. Then I offer them Reiki, and tell them if this ‘deal’ is not acceptable to them, that they can pass back over to the other side. Baby chicks are fragile, but I have never lost one yet. Actually, have a story to tell about one that got eaten by a raccoon, but that’s for another time.

  10. There’s so much I don’t know. Thanks, Serena, for filling in some of the gaps in my knowledge. I am fascinated by the varied egg colors–and by the skin of a hen’s ear as an identifier of egg color. Oh, and those grown hens are gorgeous, especially that Dark Brahma.

  11. We kept dozens of chickens when I was a girl. Honestly, there were few that I loved, but one stood out. A gay rooster named Liberace. I forget what breed he was, but he was very large and with iridescent green feathers on his wings and tail and a beautiful rust colored neck. He was pretty cool. Many of the chickens were beautiful, and we had all of the breeds you have pictured here.

    Our chickens were given to having mites, though, and we had to spray them at least once a year. To this day, I’m sure breathing in that mite spray as I held the chickens by their feet for their spraying is the root of all of the evils in my life from ingrown toenails to split ends and low air in the tires on my car. 🙂 Never. Again. But I’m so glad you find joy in them. I hope I have neighbors with chickens some day.

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