How We Care For Them
The Lower Pasture
Our lower pasture is divided into four quadrants, each of which houses its own flock of chickens. At night, each flock roosts in an A-frame hen house which we move once a week, to fertilize a new part of the field with their night-time droppings. (They poop most at night.)
The hens and roosters live together. The hens lay fresh eggs, which we collect to sell at the store. These pastured eggs are nutrient-dense and very good to eat; they’re also hatchable (but only if incubated).
We don’t fence predators out or lock them in at night. And even though we live in the country, we don’t have a predator problem. Why? Because of our guardian dog Moon, who roams the farm day and night.
Pastured Poultry Pens
In addition to the lower pasture, we also use pastured poultry pens (below). This is a method designed by Joel Salatin for raising poultry for meat. The idea is, you move the pen regularly to give the birds access to fresh grass and bugs. It’s a very efficient way to raise all-pastured poultry.
When one of our birds becomes a mother, we move her and the peeps to one of our brood houses, where the young families can enjoy fresh air and forage in the safety of a smaller area.
Meet our Chickens
Wyandottes are great all-around birds, whether you want eggs or meat – or even just a beautiful pet. They come in a variety of vivid colors. They’re talkative and generally gentle, and they make excellent mothers.
RED STAR, BLACK STAR
Our Star run is home to one Rhode Island Red rooster, a flock of Barred Rock hens, and a flock of Delaware hens. Together, they breed Red Star and Black Star chicks. That’s because Stars are hybrids:
- Rhode Island Red father + Delaware mother = Red Star
- Rhode Island Red father + Barred Rock mother = Black Star
The great thing about Stars is they’re sex-link chickens: you can tell at a glance whether a newly hatched chick is male or female just by its color. This is an extremely useful trait, because sexing chickens – determining their gender – is tricky work. Generally, even hatchery experts have an error rate of 1:25.
RHODE ISLAND RED
Another dual-purpose bird, colored a rich mahogany, Rhode Island Reds are good layers and hardy, able foragers. Their disposition ranges from friendly to fiery. They can be aggressive with those they consider a threat; they may even kill a predator if they have to.
BLACK JERSEY GIANT
The largest purebred chicken, the Jersey Giant was originally bred in attempts to replace the turkey on your dinner plate. They’re good foragers, vigorous, and, well, gigantic. Also, they’re among the friendliest chickens around. Still, they’re considered dual purpose – certainly among the best layers of the larger breeds – and let’s just say, their eggs aren’t small.
Then there are the weird ones. Like our black puffy rooster with a naked neck. They were gifts, they were misfits; well they’re part of the farm now, roaming around with whomever they like – be it goose, duck, turkey or fellow miscellany.
A Few New Breeds
We got our first order of hatching eggs for these next few breeds back in January, 2013. Now we’re working toward getting some new flocks established.
Purple chickens! (Or “pearl grey” if you’re in England.) The lavendar, or self-blue, gene is recessive and stable. This color is new to the US, although Lavender Orpingtons have been bred in the UK since the late 1800s. Like other colors of Orpington, the Lavendar is a big, fluffy bird with a docile personality.
Like Red and Black stars, they’re autosexing: you can tell whether a chick is male or female right out of the egg, based on color alone. Males have a pale dot on their brow; females have a brown stripe. They lay blue eggs – lots – and have a feathery crest on their heads.
Hardy and mellow, this breed was on the verge of extinction not long ago, only recently imported to the US. They have complex, striking color patterns that remind the eye of wildflowers. (In their home country they’re sometimes called “bloom hens.”)
They’re originally from France, with orange eyes, white feet and feathered legs. More famously, they lay dark brown or copper-colored eggs. Actually the color may vary through the year, at their darkest when the hens are starting to lay again after a break. Marans are a heavy, dual-purpose breed. They grow fast, handle cold weather well, and tend to be calm and sociable.