Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Here, Chickie, Chickie

While we have raised meat birds for the past four years in a row, and have, therefore, had baby chicks pretty much from April to August every year, we haven't had any new laying hens for a couple of years. While the ladies outside are still giving us a couple of eggs per day, production has really sloughed off, and during the winter, especially, we had a couple of months where we were lucky to get 30 eggs for the whole month.

Right now, in the middle of the peak egg-production season, we're averaging three a day from our seven egg layers (which includes the two ducks, of which only one is laying).

So, we figured it was time to get a few more hens. They came in today, and we stopped by the feed store to pick them up. I'd forgotten how adorably different from the meat birds the laying hens are.

We ordered five new hens this year, and we were very careful about the breeds we ordered. Three of the five are winter layers and all of them are very cold hardy.

We're going to have all colors of eggs - although most of them are some shade of brown.

And they are the cutest, most adorable creatures on earth.

I love my chickens, and I'm incredibly thankful that I don't have to break the law to keep them. Life is so much more interesting with them in the backyard.

The laying hens are named.

The Delaware is Martha Washington Crossed the Delaware.
The Jersey Giant is Lillith.
The Australorp is the Amazing Egg Machine.
The Easter Egger is Echo.
And the Silver Laced Wyandotte is Missy.

Welcome to Chez Brown, ladies ;).


  1. We have 4 easter eggers and 6 white leghorn, we got them this spring, but they haven't started laying yet. One of the easter eggers has turned out to be a rooster...which was evident by his very sickly crow the past two mornings...honestly it sounded like a goat to me :-) Do you heat your coop in the winter? I'm trying to figure out if I am going to need a light out there in January. And any ideas on what to do with the rooster that we can't have in town?

  2. Hi, Heather - Our coop is neither heated nor lighted with artificial light. What we did was to build a very small henhouse (just big enough for nesting and roosting at night), and then the winter run is a woodframed structure, roughly, 160 sq ft. It's covered in chicken wire and during the winter we wrap it in plastic. The roof is clear, plastic roofing. So, essentially, we have them in an unheated greenhouse, which sits on the southern-most aspect of our property, in the trees. During the summer, when the trees leaf out, the coop is shaded, and during the winter, when the trees shed their leaves, it gets full sun exposure.

    As for the rooster, my recommendation is to eat him. Your only other option is to find a new home from him ;).

  3. He is 12 weeks now, is that too early to have him knocked off? I don't think I am prepared to do it myself. He doesn't seem that big...but probably he won't get too much bigger anyways because he isn't a meat chicken? Thanks for the info on the coop!

  4. From what I've read 12 to 16 weeks is the ideal time for butchering roosters. The only thing I know for sure is that the longer you wait, the tougher the meat gets.

    If chicken is like rabbit, once they reach sexual maturity (around four months for boy rabbits), it changes the flavor of the meat, making it tougher and more gamy. From what I've read, the same seems to be true of chicken. So, if you're thinking of roasting him, you might want to do it sooner rather than later. However, if your choice is to slow-cook him (soup, stew, coq au vin ;), then, you can wait longer. There's no maximum age to cook a bird, but the age at which you harvest them will determine how long they have to be cooked to make the meat tender.

  5. I have a quick clarification question for you! You mentioned you can keep your chickens without breaking the law? Someone recently told me there is a federal law that requires 2.5acres in order to keep any farm animals; but that each state and even town can have it's own ordinances. So who gets to decide?

  6. @ Lorna - I would be interested in more information about that law, as I've never heard of any such thing.