New Year, New Flock!
Along with the new changes for 2018 comes the desire to re-build our flock. Unfortunately, 2017 was not a great year for our birds and we lost over half to predators. Losing part of your flock is normal; sometimes the heat gets to them, sometimes a predator, sometimes there is no apparent cause – it is part of life on the farm but it is still not something you enjoy getting used to. Nonetheless, we lost a good deal of our birds and are just starting the process of rebuilding.
For those of you that are not familiar with chickens, there are several breeds (similar to dogs/cats). Some breeds are for meat production (sorry/not sorry chickens), others are excellent egg producers, some are a dual purpose bird (great for meat and egg production), and then there are ornamental birds (read: pretty to look at but not really good at anything). Along with their purpose comes the color of the eggs. Now, this is a big one when it comes to chicken breeding and owning. Everyone love variety in their egg color. If you claim otherwise, you’re lying.
When we sold eggs at the farmer’s market last year we had a variety of colors (light brown, dark brown, pinkish, light blue, vibrant blue, blue-green) and we legit had people come up to our stand concerned about the shell color. They seriously thought that they would not be able to eat those eggs because there was something wrong with them. I blame consumerism on this. As a society, we’re used to white or brown eggs because the birds with the best production lay white or brown eggs. In addition to that, we normally associate white eggs with caged poultry and brown eggs with a more farm-fresh appeal (even though those birds are literally kept in the SAME conditions as white egg layers). I digress…
Back to egg color! We had Ameraucana chickens and Cream Crested Legbars and of the two, the Ameraucana hens were more consistent layers with a more vibrantly colored egg. We also had Black Copper Marans, who lay a very desirable dark chocolate colored egg, and are very consistent layers that produce 200+ eggs a year on average. The really cool part? If you cross a brown egg layer with a blue egg layer you’ll get a hen that produces green eggs; these are commonly referred to as Olive Eggers. We did not get a chance to hatch any Olive Eggers from our flock last year but we definitely have future plans for it.
Our Flock (2.0)
So far, I have sourced out the additions to our flock for 2018 and this is what we’re adding:
- Silver Ameraucanas – We previously had Black & Blue Ameraucanas but currently have a lone surviving Black hen. Why the switch to Silver? Well, they just look super cool and I am intending on using them for a breeding project with some Ayam Cemanis.
- Black Penedesencas – This particular breed originated in Spain and is fairly rare in the US. Much like Marans, Penedesencas lay a dark brown egg that is rumored to be the darkest of any chicken breed. We intend on breeding these guys to standard and avoid crossing them with other breeds.
- Ayam Cemani – Most chicken enthusiasts refer to as a “Fibro” bird because they are hyperpigmented. Their feathers, legs, toes, beak, skin, and internal organs are all black. They are ornamental birds that lay a cream colored egg (boooorrrring) but since they look pretty awesome I can let that slide. My goal for these guys is to experiment with my Black Ameraucana to see if we can get some tint to their eggs and maintain their hyperpigmentation. Ideally, the end goal would be to produce a Fibro bird that has a green egg tint.
- Chocolate Orpingtons – We currently have a pair of young Chocolate Orpingtons and 1 surviving Lavender Orpington hen. Due to the magic of genetics, the Chocolate and Lavender cross will produce sex-linked (specific coloring for specific genders) offspring and make my life much easier when it comes to the,”Is this a hen or a rooster?” game.
- Magpie Ducks – Think of these guys as wearing a formal suit all the time! They are traditionally black and white ducks that are cold hardy, excellent layers, and cute as can be. We’re starting with a breeding trio that will be laying for 2018. You know what that means?! Plenty of baby duck photos in the near future.
2018 is looking to be a good year and I can’t wait to share all my crazy chicken (and duck) pictures with you!!!!