A Variety of Feather Babies

A few people have inquired about what types of chickens we’re getting and what they look like, so I wanted to post a few pictures of the breeds we’re considering. Well, ‘considering’ isn’t really the correct word– it looks pretty set at this point. After a lot of scouring the web, researching hatcheries all over the US, and deciding on breeds (based upon temperament, climate tolerance, and laying habits) we concluded that we should buy local hens and chicks. After all, we do live in Kansas where we probably have a mountain’s worth of chickens around us. Also, we happen to live in Lawrence, of all cities here, where they just happen to allow 20 hens per suburban household (unheard of in most cities). We’re happy to live in a town that supports self-sustainability and ecology to such a degree. So, we’ve settled on these three chicken breeds below, all locally purchased (within 75 miles of home) and all available much sooner than anticipated:

BLACK COPPER MARANS

Isn't she a sweet mama? I love the red eyes.

Black Copper Marans are one of the rarest breeds of chicken in the United States. They’re a fascinating breed, producing one of the darkest chocolate-brown eggs known. It’s one of the rarest breeds in this country due to the import ban on fowl in the US. They are quite common in France, and sought after by French chefs. A three egg Maran omelette in the US would be about $30.00. We got in touch with a local breeder who has two batches of chicks that are recently hatched. He’s expecting his third hatching Thursday, so we may take a look at those. The problem with purchasing from someone like him (Chickening is just a hobby) instead of a mail-order hatchery, is the fact that he doesn’t sex the chicks. We’d have to pick our chicks based upon the darkest feathers. Female Marans are super dark, while the males are usually a light silvery gray. This isn’t a fool proof way of sexing chicks, and we’d be taking our chances, hoping not to end up with a crowing rooster by 3-4 months of age. If we did, we’d have to find him a new home ASAP. We’re willing to try, just because the breed is known for its gentleness with children, they’re people oriented and friendly, and lay 4-5 eggs a week that are a gorgeous, deep brown. We’ll probably take 3 chicks if the hatch has at least 3 very dark chicks.

BARRED PLYMOUTH ROCK-

Isn't she just gorgeous? I really want to cuddle this gal.

Barred Rocks are a cold hardy, large breed (7-8 lb females), and they are consistent layers. They have one of the longest life spans in the chicken world: anywhere from 10-20 years. They tame easily, are docile, and take very well to children and handling. We’re getting an 8 month old hen who is already laying eggs. We’ll have eggs over the Winter months, and won’t have to wait ’til Spring! The eggs are light to medium brown with a touch of pink. I was very excited to find a farm offering these chickens because when I started the whole chicken process, I had this breed in mind. I just love the contrast of black, white, and red.

RHODE ISLAND RED-

Who says chickens don't snuggle? I couldn't resist this picture. How adorable!

I’m learning a great deal about chickens throughout this process, and one of the biggest surprises I heard from other suburban chickenistas is that many chickens like to cuddle, or sit close to you, or sit on your lap. One woman says her chicken likes to sit on her shoulder while hanging laundry. Whatever the case, I have been so happy to learn about how much they enjoy interacting with humans, and in the case of this photo, other household pets.

Rhode Island Reds seem to be a classic staple to have in any flock. They’re known for coming when called by their owners (just like dogs), and will sit on your lap quite easily so they were known as “lap chickens” for a while. They’re docile and strong, great with children, and lay eggs continuously throughout Winter months as long as their coop temps don’t drop below freezing. They’re large, Winter hardy hens who lay more eggs than most other breeds: 6-7 week. We plan to get 1-2 Reds when we pick up our Barred Rock from the same farm. Hopefully by the end of this week. Sorin plans to name the one of the Reds “Marigold” or nickname her “Large Marge.” She thought those names up all by herself, and I think she has a special knack for naming chickens. She’ll name the others, too.

I’ve been working frantically to put up a makeshift, temporary 5′ tall fence around our coop before the hens’ arrival. We’re able to view the hens from West end of the sunroom, the bathroom window, and Sorin & Amelie will have a view from their bed room, too. The coop is nestled between a West privacy fence, and our house on the North and East sides. A perfect location for animals that needs to be kept away from harsh winds and drafts.

Personally, I have never, ever held a chicken in my life, so I’m a little nervous. Outside of petting zoos, I have never come in contact with them. It’s the unknown, I guess, but it’s also exciting. The exchange of affection, and the cycle of caring for them, feeding, gathering eggs, consuming  them for nourishment, selling eggs, fertilizing our gardens, receiving the best bug control imaginable, and caring for them… it all feels so natural and right.

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