Monday, December 13, 2010

Feathered Dreams

I am dreaming of fresh eggs, straw filled nesting boxes, and gentle clucking. Realistically, I am also thinking of all the fresh fertilizer and the danger from marauding neighborhood cats, and the question of neighbors themselves getting huffy about possible roosters. **

... but I'm perusing chicken catalogues anyway. And looking at hatchery websites.

I've been reading about rare breed chickens. I love rare breed chickens, those fluffy headed furry footed beauties. But when choosing chickens a good natured attitude matters as much or more than the plumage. Granted I'm still advocate for choosing rare breeds and odd birds.

Here are my top three:

1) The Silver Grey Dorking Hen.

She is a very rare English breed with short legs and should lay about 200 eggs a year. She's so quintessentially an old standard chicken. Isn't she pretty?

2) The Silver Pencil Wynadotte Hen. She gets good reviews on all the backyard chicken forums for being a reliable layer with a sweet personality. Actually all the Wynadottes get good reviews, but I think the Silver Pencil is one of the prettier feather variations.

3) The Ameraucana. The hen shown here is a "Blue" Ameraucana.We had Ameraucanas growing up. My pet chick from the straight run batch ended up being a roo instead of a hen but I still remember the green, blue, and pink eggs we got from the rest of them. The hatchery description says they'll lay about 180 eggs per year, but our free range hens always laid better than that.

** Despite what many people errantly believe, it is not necessary to have a rooster in a laying flock of chickens. The hens will produce just as many eggs, you just can't get baby chicks from those unfertilized eggs. Hatcheries offer "straight run" batches with both genders in it, or "sexed" batches of male only or female only chicks, so it is possible to order just laying hens with no crowing roosters tagging along.

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