Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Feathering the Nest

We have 13 backyard chickens, three of whom are roosters. All but three of the ten hens have gone "henopausal," meaning they are done laying eggs and are living out their lives in guaranteed retirement with us. Our youngest hens are two-years-old, the oldest is nine. In other words, we have a bunch of free-loaders.

Tired of begging, lecturing and threatening the hens, I ordered some new female chicks, a.k.a. pullets, from The Hatching House in Canterbury. As it so happened, my good friend Jo-Ann was visiting for a couple of days and went with me to pick up my new babies. The breeder was very knowledgable, so I enjoyed picking her brain about color and breed genetics while Jo-Ann channeled my daughter, "Oooh! Look at that one! It's so pretty! Get that one! They're so cute! Can we get this one?"

I ended up getting the four pullets I ordered, two Cream Legbars and two 55 Flowery Hens as those two breeds are auto-sexing, meaning the genders can be easily be visually identified by colors or markings at birth. Thus, the breeder could be certain of selling me females. I also purchased two Blue Leghorns (yes, of Warner Brothers' Foghorn fame), who may or may not be both female. This because Jo-Ann liked the spots on their heads and also, because I had been so desperate for eggs lately, I had considered getting a breed that is known for exceptional egg production. The Leghorn chicken (commonly seen in white) is used by most factory farms for egg and meat production. The breeder promised that if any of the Leghorns turned out to be roosters, she'd take them back and has a 75% success rate of rehoming roos. That's what I needed to hear. Three roosters is already too many.

On the drive home in a torrential downpour, Jo-Ann sat with the chicks in their cage in her lap and helped me name them. I typically try to name chickens of the same breed "twin names" or ones that go together, i.e. Righty and Tighty, Ann Landers and Dear Abby, Crabby and Patty, Addy and Subtracty, etc. The Cream Legbars are a breed developed in part by geneticist Reginal C. Punnett in order to sex the chicks easily at birth. I frequently use Punnett's Square method to try to determine what color combinations I may get from my Maine Coons, so I was really attracted to this breed. Therefore, the Legbar chicks are named "Punnett" and "Square," in honor of their creator.

Two Views of the Cream Legbars
The two 55 Flowery girls, also gender determined by color, should grow up to be multi-colored. Their names are Pansy and Petunia.

55 Flowery Chicks - Note the multiple colors on the face

The Leghorns are named Bindi and Mindi. Jo-Ann came up with this as she knew Bindi is the name of the dot worn on the foreheads of Hindu women. Otherwise, they would have been called something more common like "Spot" and "Dot." Feathers crossed that Bindi and Mindi will never crow.

Blue Leghorns

For Part 2 about the newest additions, read Flying the Coop.


1 comment:

  1. If you hear any of them say, "Boy, I say, boy." Then you know you have a true foghorn leghorn.