Friday, 4 August 2006

choose our chickens!

Okay, I thought about saving this for Monday; but hell, it's the weekend, what better time to leave it up. And I need some help.

I am having a 'too much choice' moment.

Our hen house is nearly ready. The pen is almost in place. We have located a food supply. We have decided how many birds to keep. We have discussed whether or not we are going to hatch cute, fluffy little chickens, fatten them up and eat them (about which a whole other post at a later date I suspect).

What we (well, I really - B is being frustratingly supportive about my choices) are having trouble deciding is what ACTUAL breeds of chicken to get.

We have various criteria:

  • They must be 'traditional' utility breeds - I appreciate that modern hybrids will produce more eggs, but I want to do my bit for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and go for something less like an egg-laying machine. Also, modern hybrids tend to be for EITHER eggs, OR meat - and we want birds that are dual-purpose.
  • They must lay a reasonable number of eggs in a year. We reckon about 200 a year is okay, although some do lay quite a lot more (260) and some lay considerably less.
  • They must be nice to eat and worth eating - I'm not going through all the hassle of killing and plucking the things to discover that they are stringy and thin and aren't worth the bother.
  • I would like whatever mixture of breeds we choose to produce a mixture of different coloured eggs.
  • I'd like them to look pretty running around the garden.
  • We can keep one cockerel and three or four hens. So we'll get pure-bred chicks from whatever the cockerel is and cross-breed whatever the rest are - this is okay, as we'll eat them.
There you go.

So, I have narrowed down my list of possibilities as follows:

www.flickr.com

  • Salmon Faverolle - tinted eggs, c.180 a year. Ladies have ridiculous pretty beards and hairy feet. Very friendly - Ma has some - and also apparently subject to panic attacks when their beards obscure their view of their friends and they think they are lost :).
  • Cream Legbar - blue eggs, not sure how many a year, but eggs are SO pretty.
  • Buff Orpington - tinted colour eggs, c.190 a year. Traditional dual-purpose birds. Friendly and nice to eat.
  • Copper Headed Maran - VERY dark brown eggs, c.200 a year. Really lovely almost chocolate-coloured eggs. Again, marans are supposed to be good to eat.
  • Cuckoo Maran - brown eggs, c.200 a year. Look like they are wearing little black-and-white skirts.
  • Light Sussex - tinted eggs, c.260 a year. Supposed to be very placid and friendly birds and also very nice to eat.
All info and photos cribbed with thanks from the Devon Traditional Breeds Centre.

Opinions, (however poorly qualified you feel you are to make a judgement - go on, I dare you!), in the comments box, please.

We are off to Somerset on Monday - probably won't post again until Thursday, so there's plenty of time to mull it over ... :).




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24 comments:

  1. I am utterly unqualified but I do like chickens with furry legs. Which means I vote for salmon faverolle; if you are getting a selection I vote for the copper-headed one too as it is just beautiful. Don't like legbars - they look American (nope, no idea why and yes I know that is horribly prejudiced.) I'll come back to you when I've won DH over and am allowed some myself!

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  2. I am utterly unqualified but I do like chickens with furry legs. Which means I vote for salmon faverolle; if you are getting a selection I vote for the copper-headed one too as it is just beautiful. Don't like legbars - they look American (nope, no idea why and yes I know that is horribly prejudiced.) I'll come back to you when I've won DH over and am allowed some myself!

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  3. Just choose good names for them ;-)

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  4. Umm, the skinny one?

    Would skinny chickens produce eggs with less cholesterol? lol.

    No idea, sorry - they all look lovely.

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  5. Umm, the skinny one?

    Would skinny chickens produce eggs with less cholesterol? lol.

    No idea, sorry - they all look lovely.

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  6. Cream Legba for me - sounds like a voodoo chicken.

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  7. buff orpington - i've heard of them!!

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  8. buff orpington - i've heard of them!!

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  9. We've had eggs from a Cream Legbar and they are a lovely colour. The yolk as a satisfyingly bright orange too so that gets my vote.

    Get a couple of each, interbreed and see what you come up with.

    Enjoy Somerset, I hear they make nice Cider down there...

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  10. We've had eggs from a Cream Legbar and they are a lovely colour. The yolk as a satisfyingly bright orange too so that gets my vote.

    Get a couple of each, interbreed and see what you come up with.

    Enjoy Somerset, I hear they make nice Cider down there...

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  11. I can vouch for the Buff Orpingtons, which are gorgeous and have the nicest disposition of any of our birds. And if Speckled Sussex and Light Sussex are related, I can vouch for them, too--a little shyer, but very un-flighty and really interesting-looking (the Speckled have ghost-white legs, which I think is totally cool). Our Sussex are kind of skinny compared to the Orps, though...I don't think there are many traditional breeds that can outgrow an Orp.

    Having said all that, I think you should get breeds that I *don't* have so that we can compare notes. :-)

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  12. I can vouch for the Buff Orpingtons, which are gorgeous and have the nicest disposition of any of our birds. And if Speckled Sussex and Light Sussex are related, I can vouch for them, too--a little shyer, but very un-flighty and really interesting-looking (the Speckled have ghost-white legs, which I think is totally cool). Our Sussex are kind of skinny compared to the Orps, though...I don't think there are many traditional breeds that can outgrow an Orp.

    Having said all that, I think you should get breeds that I *don't* have so that we can compare notes. :-)

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  13. I know nothing - but the prettiest to me are the Buffs and the Salmons - also agree with Lisa and exmonkey for reasons NOT to have legbars. And that concludes my vote...

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  14. I vote for the buff orpingtons too.

    Have fun in Somerset, it's lovely down there :-)

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  15. I vote for the buff orpingtons too.

    Have fun in Somerset, it's lovely down there :-)

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  16. Try www.henhut.com for loads of information about hens.

    Also, don't get hybrids. They lay like bonkers for the first 18 months, then you cant get a thing out of them. I've got Bovans Nera, and they aren't earning their keep!

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  17. Try www.henhut.com for loads of information about hens.

    Also, don't get hybrids. They lay like bonkers for the first 18 months, then you cant get a thing out of them. I've got Bovans Nera, and they aren't earning their keep!

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  18. We have neighbours who raise Dorkings. They are lovely docile birds, and are an old breed that need protecting.

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  19. We have neighbours who raise Dorkings. They are lovely docile birds, and are an old breed that need protecting.

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  20. I vote for the Buff Orpingtons, Salmon Faverolles, and the Cream Legbar.

    The first two are pretty, and blue eggs are pretty.

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  21. I vote for the Buff Orpingtons, Salmon Faverolles, and the Cream Legbar.

    The first two are pretty, and blue eggs are pretty.

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  22. I found you thru goblinbox. I really like the Buff Orpington. Are those pics of roosters or hens? Watch out for spuring. Those roosters can be cocks. You can clip the spur but just a little bit. their is a blood vein and if you clip it to far it will bleed like hell. But it would save your hens from some pain.

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  23. Hi Lisa must be right (about the cream Legbars) I have been looking all over America and Canada and cannot find a cream legbar anywhere! (ha ha) my son Noah and I have a great variety of chickens (about 15 different varietys, the light brama that we have are pretty but really crack the other hens pretty good. the buff orphingtons are very tame but easily run into a corner without feed and water by the other chickens, what I would recommend would be some good quality (forgive me Lisa New Hampshire reds (a dual purpose strain of the Rhode Island Reds developed in the United states) we only have one young pullet but she is bigger than any (except the light brahma) and so far has outlaid the rest of the flock here in early winter all by herself. Another great choice would be the Australorp (the egg laying Austrailian version (derived from the black Orphington (which was originally developed in the United Kingdom (score one for Lisa (although the original bird latter emmigrated to the United States (no I don't know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would know) hope you all all having a great time wherever you are and whatever time it is in the UK it is 8;12 Pm as I conclude this and If anyone knows of a way to get a start of Cream Legbars to the US I am all ears. (listening) or if anyone has detailed instructions on how prof. RC Punnett at Cambridge created them back in the 30's I would appreciate that as well. Far too good an idea to isolate in one county in this age of avian Influenza. Cheers Len and son Noah in Illinios

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  24. Hi Lisa must be right (about the cream Legbars) I have been looking all over America and Canada and cannot find a cream legbar anywhere! (ha ha) my son Noah and I have a great variety of chickens (about 15 different varietys, the light brama that we have are pretty but really crack the other hens pretty good. the buff orphingtons are very tame but easily run into a corner without feed and water by the other chickens, what I would recommend would be some good quality (forgive me Lisa New Hampshire reds (a dual purpose strain of the Rhode Island Reds developed in the United states) we only have one young pullet but she is bigger than any (except the light brahma) and so far has outlaid the rest of the flock here in early winter all by herself. Another great choice would be the Australorp (the egg laying Austrailian version (derived from the black Orphington (which was originally developed in the United Kingdom (score one for Lisa (although the original bird latter emmigrated to the United States (no I don't know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would know) hope you all all having a great time wherever you are and whatever time it is in the UK it is 8;12 Pm as I conclude this and If anyone knows of a way to get a start of Cream Legbars to the US I am all ears. (listening) or if anyone has detailed instructions on how prof. RC Punnett at Cambridge created them back in the 30's I would appreciate that as well. Far too good an idea to isolate in one county in this age of avian Influenza. Cheers Len and son Noah in Illinios

    ReplyDelete