We are cutting our flock down from it’s peak of 100+ mostly summer free-rangers to a selected 20 hens, and their respective roosters per-breed, for overwintering. In the last few weeks, I have sold, gifted, and deliberated. I’m only keeping a handful of breeds and crosses. It’s time to decide now who I want to collect eggs from come spring.
I will keep my focus on Ameraucana, Marans, and buff laced polish. We will no longer have Orpingtons or Easter eggers.
First things first: ALWAYS keep two roosters for each breed. Choose roosters that already get along. Never add an outside rooster to your flock with preexisting roosters. Why two? If one dies, your flock isn’t fertile.
Ameraucana are my favorite, especially Rumpelstiltskin. His green sheen is so stunning in the sunshine, and flashes purple. He has three feathers with pale lacing, and could not be shown. He was given to me at the end of a chicken swap.
Rumpelstiltskin is mostly recovered from his run-in with a fox. I chased the fox, pinwheeling my arms and yelling. The fox dropped him and ran. Somehow, I saved him.
Blue-Kote, Corid, antibiotic cream, and love went a long ways. He will be keeping them company once he recovers, but we will only keep him if he can successfully breed by spring. One of his legs will always be lame and this health indicator may take a toll come winter. His crow is not what it once was but he’s still the sweetheart he’s always been.
The Marans have been bred for years for larger sized birds with optimal egg color. This past spring we hit a new high of #7 rich, reddish-brown darkness on the Marans Club of America’s official color chart.
The most productive, coveted hens will be kept. Those with ho-hum #6 rated eggs or under are on the hit-list. I find them to be hardy, large but less friendly birds. The roosters are good, but the hens are fickle. They are quick to hop up and suddenly nip while collecting eggs.
Ophelia, a first generation olive egger has been placed in a breeding pen with, Mumble, the Marans rooster. He is the largest rooster I’ve ever raised, and gentle as could bee, too. For the winter, I will keep the darkest green layers. The resulting cross either looks more like a Maran but has smooth legs or looks like an Ameraucana with feathered legs. There have been other results, but these are the most common. It makes it much simpler to tell them apart when housed all together.
One of our crosses here focusses on rich, avocado-tone green eggs. Esmerelda, the marans hen with the most gorgeous emerald feathers, will be spending the winter with Rumpelstiltskin as he recovers. She is so sweet and he looks so sad alone in the recovery ward. Hopefully he will be up for some winter romance, what a beautiful pairing.
Last come the fluffy-headed adorable morons otherwise known as Polish chickens. For this breed it’s all about the wide, symmetrical crest adorning their head––and of course, the lacing.
Though hardy, I find the roosters to be easily frost-bitten, though quick to recover with some salve applied and separation. The buff Polish roosters have long, thin waddles and can’t see the water dish well. I think they may dip too deep and it fills with moisture that takes hold while they roost.
Elongated, sharp beak-tips on this breed can become a problem in flocks with egg eaters, pickers or fighters. To prevent this, occasionally I will clip the very tip of the beak even. Large dog nail trimmers work great for this. If it’s not pointy enough to fit in the trimmer hole, then it’s not too curved or pointy to worry about.
Polish are also shockingly good flyers. This is great for deterring predators—if they could see them! Out in the meadow they easily fall prey to a host of predators we try to find balance with year-round. We clip their feathers and keep the very best specimens fenced in. The roosters we don’t keep roam free and do quite well given less head-fluff allowing for better sight.