Sunday, January 28

Farm Photo: 1/28/07

At Least I Have Chickens To Cheer Me Up

The last thing we need around here is another set of dishes, but when I spied these charming mugs and bowls a few weeks ago I simply couldn't resist them. And I'm so glad I didn't, because every time I look at them I smile.

They aren't as much fun as having real chickens around, though, and that's why we're going to order a new batch of chicks in early spring. The just-hatched birds will be shipped to us through the mail in a sturdy cardboard box with plenty of airholes, about the same time as everybody else's. There is nothing like walking into our tiny post office and realizing that the entire place is chirping.

The other day we spent a pleasant half hour flipping through poultry catalogs and debating the benefits and selling points of various varieties of chickens.
"Although of substantial body size, this high-powered layer converts feed into eggs just as efficiently as most smaller birds because of its calm, contented disposition." "Lays right on during coldest weather!" "Before 1880, this beautiful breed was called 'Winnebagoes.'"

We haven't made any final decisions yet, but we do know we want hens that will lay large brown eggs. Actually, Joe doesn't care what color his eggs are, as long as they are big and appear on a regular basis. For me, it's definitely more of a 'looks' thing. I think brown eggs are much prettier than plain white--and I'm convinced they have more flavor. It's the same with the chickens themselves--Joe doesn't care what they look like, while the artist in me wants birds that are pleasing to the eye. I have always loved those black and white Barred Plymouth Rocks, a "good old-time American breed" that are "a real pleasure to work with." Right now they're at the top of my list.

I also haven't decided how many chicks I want to order yet. It will depend, as Joe put it, on whether I want to go back into the egg business. When our 2001 flock of 18 hens was in its prime, we were getting about 100 eggs a week. The ones we didn't consume were carefully washed and packed into cartons and sold to the natural foods store for 85 cents a dozen (though I think they're paying slightly more now). Whatever the final number of chicks, we'll probably end up ordering at least three different kinds, so I'll have a nice colorful mix. I've already had Cherry Eggers (which is what Lindy The Chicken was) and Buff Orpingtons, so I probably won't go with those (though they were both very nice breeds). Anybody have a favorite breed they recommend?

Of course we still have
Whitey (who was purchased at the little general store next to the post office nearly 7 years ago) and the last two 2001 hens (at least one of which is still laying). I call them Joe's Super Duper Overbred White Laying Machines. He calls them thrifty. And while he didn't waste time reminding me that when choosing new chickens, "plumage isn't everything" and "we don't just want cute" (because that is what I always want) he was also quick to add that "there's nothing cuter than a thrifty white chicken." Oh please.

Yes, I certainly have chickens to cheer me up. And as I type this, there is a nice plump one that was raised by our favorite local pastured poultry purveying family roasting in the oven. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!

A year of Farm Photos ago:
And Posh About To Dig In
Stumped For A Clever Caption
Can't Look Over Something? Try To Look Through It
WCB #34:
Molly Doodlebug (aka The Doodle Monster)
And out of the kitchen came:
Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones

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  1. You did the right thing in picking up those cups! How fun. I cannot wait to see the chicks. Do hope you are feeling better soon.

  2. I am jealous. I want to have baby chicks very badly this year, but since I have a backyard urban farm, my current 8 have to suffice for one more year and then I can get a few more chicks.

    I have some definite opinions on great looking birds who lay well and have nice personalities. Like you, I love barred rocks. I have one named Exene who is the funnniest girl I have ever had and an unabashed pig.

    I also LOVE Buff Orpingtons. They are sweety pies and steady layers. They have always been my favorites. I had a lovely hen named Daisy (I miss her so) that knew her name and we had a daily lap petting ritual that had nothing to do with food, just a daily hello. Plus watching the buttercream bustle butt of Daisy running for a tomato or sunflower seeds was one of the best things I have ever witnessed.

    I am also a huge fan of Golden Laced Wyandottes. My Isabella is a sweet girl, who follows me around quietly clucking. She loves to help me weed in garden and lays beautiful light brown eggs. My other favorite is Clemenine, who seems to be a cousin of Whitey. Mine is a White Brahma and lays chocoloate colored eggs. She is big boned and beautiful with lovely feathered feet.

    Anais is my Ameircauna who lays turquoise eggs. She is small and the least domesticated, but steady and curious.

    I too have Rhode Island Reds and while they are very dependable layers, they can also be mean things. I don't think I would get those again.

    Anyhow, those are my faves. Hope it helps.

    Maureen in Oakland

  3. All this talk of chickens and I'd love to have some pecking about the yard, but so would the coyotes who wander in from the woods. I'll just have to be on the lookout for chicken mugs and be content to dream while having a cup of tea.

  4. There's a hatchery an hour north of Anchorage here that produces colored, pastel chicks for Easter. Pink, green, blue, they've got 'em. I suppose it's a holiday novelty but I've wondered if people think they're toys or something. They're pretty, sure, but it seems a little . . . I don't know . . . off to me.

  5. When you were selling your eggs, were you making enuf money on them to cover costs? Or was it more of a hobby that made a little cash on the side?

  6. I really need to get rich so I can buy some farmland. A dear friend of mine has some of the purtiest birds I've ever seen. I had no idea chickens could look so nice.

    I'm afraid 3 cats and 2 dogs will have to suffice for now.

    Oh, the wifeypoo made a loaf of your beer bread which she jazzed up with some parmigiana origiano. Needless to say, it didn't stay around long to cool.

  7. Susan,
    Get something that lays green or blue eggs.

  8. I'm sure you know more about this than I do, Susan, but I was always told that eggshell color was a direct result of diet and the minerals in the soil. And, therefore, that there is no difference, nutritionally, between brown or white eggs.

    Can you comment?

  9. My barred rock is laying even while the snow covered everything, all with no coop as of yet!!! And they are a wonderful brown...I'm with you colored eggs are the best. 85 cents doesn't seem like much for farm fresh..Is it the area? or something else. We get about $3 a dozen from folks driving by when I have the fresh egg sign up..can you do that there?

  10. I think that "chick day" at the post office would be my favourite all year! Except I'd be sneezing.

    Susan, you have linked to my gardening blog, but my URL has changed. Would you mind please updating it? (I wasn't sure how else to reach you but through the comments!) It's now Thanks!

  11. LOL Your descriptions just sound like something else I'd find while searching through the seed catalogs! (Which, btw, I'm VERY behind on placing those orders - yipes!)

  12. Cuckoo Marans is my vote. Or how about Delawares?
    Yes, they definitely need to be pretty though. As I say: walking yard art is exactly what they are.

  13. (Oh, computer gods, please let me post this comment just once, not 34 times like before!)
    I can't wait to read about your adventures with chickens. Your courage inspires! If I had the courage (and I don't), I'd get the ones that lay the blue and green eggs. Love your new dishes too! Hope you are much, much better.

  14. I like the mugs--it's nice to have chickens--they are sweet and freshly laid eggs are great too-glad you are feeling better

  15. oooh, baby chick time is such fun! I'm partial to our Barred Plymouth Rocks and Buff Orpingtons. The one Rhode Island Red is partial to Chris, jumps out of the tractor into his arms on a nightly basis to nuzzle his neck for a minute. Very sweet. Come on spring and better laying!

  16. HOORAY! More chickens for FG & Joe! I can't wait to see them chronicled on your blog. WILL be chronicled on FarmGirl Fare...right? Please? Pretty please?

    I, too, am getting more chickens in the spring, though mine will be started pullets (that's about 4 months old and starting to lay eggs, for non-chicken people out there). I have too many cats to have cute little peeping baby chicks around.

    Woo-hooooooo!!!! CHICKENZ!!!!

  17. farmgirl, if you like Barred Rocks but think dark eggs taste better,get yourself some Cuckoo Maran hens! They are a rare0ish breed, look like a Barred Rock and lay DARK chocolate brown eggs. They're a docile bird, lovely to look at and mine would lay in the dead of winter! Ideal Poultry has 'em. I am trying to trim down my baby peep wish list right now...

  18. my dear husband and i raised a lovely family of girls. they brought joy and abundance to our humble farm. they joined us for dinner,often sampling our plates.Henny Penny and the girls!A practical girl,shaver red's guarantee an egg a day to help keep the Dr. away.Quite often 2 a day. Hearty,sweet,and very clever!Not super models but super chicks!!!

  19. I think the Plymouth Barred Rocks need to stay at the top of the list. We had them on the farm when I was a youngster and I recall them being very gentle.

  20. We always had rhode island reds for brown eggs. The heavy white wyandottes for eggs and eating. For those of you unfamiliar with chicken "pens", you have chicken wire all the way around and over the top so coyotes and dogs can't get in. The outside is also wrapped in chicken wire. I love hen houses, love to hear them clucking away.

  21. My favorites are Anconas . . . they do lay white eggs, but they're *nice* chickens, very perky and cute, and they 'sing' while they go about their business. Otherwise, Buffs, Black Australorps, Golden Wyandottes (I have some silvers, but they tend to have nasty tempers), and Dominiques. That said, I'm getting some Speckled Sussex and Welsummers this year, by way of experiment. Just no more white chickens! Proper chickens ought to be brown, black or some combination thereof.

  22. we had rhode island reds and new hampshire's while i was growing up. good layers but horrible moms. we'd sneak their eggs under our bantam hens for them to raise.

  23. (I apologize if this shows up more than once...the word verification isn't working right or something)

    I get to order new chicks this year too. We started our little flock with 6 Ameraucanas and then adopted a stray chick that a friend found abandoned in a parking lot right after Easter. (we named her Lucky) I've never been sure of her breed, I think she's a Buff Rock, but she has been one of my most consistent layers. Her eggs have never been the biggest, though.

    Our Ameraucanas laid brownish green, light blue, and pinkish brown. It was a sad day when Ruby was killed by a raccoon, because her eggs were a light robin's egg blue.

    I replaced the ones that had met unfortunate ends with a White Leghorn, a Black Star, and a Rhode Island Red. (bought pullets from a neighbor) The Leghorn was the only consistent layer this winter, as I am sure you know they are bred to lay, lay, lay. The Rhodie was mean and I wasn't very sad when she died. The Black Star is very pretty in the sun. Her feathers are an irridescent green.

    The Barred Plymouth Rocks are at the top of my list this year too. I love how they look. I think instead of mail-ordering I am going to buy from my local hatchery so I need to see what they've got before I make my final choices. We don't need more that 8 hens total so I'm open to suggestions too. I'd love to hear what you decide.

  24. I have both Rhode Island Reds and Plymouth Barred Rocks. I don't notice that the Reds are mean, but they do seem to be a bit brighter than the Rocks. Which are dumb, as well, chickens. Both varieties have continued to lay all winter. The production falls off a bit as the days shorten, but nary a day goes by that I don't get 3-4 eggs with 8 hens.

    I was gifted some young birds, all Rocks, this fall, one of which turned out to be a rooster. He's a mean cuss that has attacked me more than once. It's amazing he's yet to end up in a pot. My partner backhanded him with a stick and knocked the mean right out of him for a couple weeks, but now he's back to his tricks. When I do eat him, no more roosters at this house again.

    If I buy more chicks, they will be Reds as I've had very good luck with them in Missouri.


  25. And, on the chicken question, I would recommend Barred Rocks - a few years back I tried a number of different breeds, and they were by far my favorites. They actually seemed to have a sense of humor combined with a good amount of common sense... an unbeatable combination in a chicken..Libby D

  26. Here in Rhode Island, brown eggs are the norm. I don't think they taste any different than the white eggs, except that they are the local eggs, which means they don't travel as far to get to us -- and therefore they are the freshest eggs. I'm lucky that, although I don't keep chickens, I have friends who do, and I am the beneficiary of lots of wonderful eggs from them.

  27. Dear Susan -

    Please please PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE call one chicken Jeff!!!! My life will be complete! :)

    PS to Whitey - DON'T look in the oven!!! If you do, it's um...a possum. Yeah, a possum! Joe and Susan are having possum tonight!

  28. I'll be talking to you soon - you know, we ARE getting chickens, finally, this Spring. I am rather terrified to order them by mail, although have heard of this being done...OK, I'll save all the questions for later. If you thought I had a lot of sheep questions.

  29. I was once told that a chicken will lay eggs the same color as her ears!

    Now, where are their ears?

  30. Sicilian Buttercup -- really lovely (white eggs, though) -- but a great small bird.

    The Buff Orpingtons are, as happenstance said, just about the sweetest things with feathers. I like our Golden Pencilled Wyandotte, too.

  31. I miss the llamas.

    My neighbor gets to raise the goats and chickens. My darling hubby just lets me get my model horses. And not much more.

    I guess I can be happy with my one fluffy pup and 11 purr-furr bags.

  32. I am hoping to get some Cuckoo Murans this spring. I love the idea of the 'chocolate' eggs. Colored eggs are so much fun. You need some Aracaunas for the green / blue / pink. I love Barred Rocks for the gentleness and their eggs are pretty large, some of them.

    Yes, I have heard that the color of the 'ear' is the color of the egg - if it's brown or red, the egg is brown - if it's white, the egg is white. The 'ear' is the opening to the ear, made of flesh, not feathers, right where an ear should be on a hen.

    Good luck with your hens - they are so wonderful to have around (although hubby is going out to feed today as the chill factor is -24ยบ)and I love fresh eggs.

    The color of the eggs make no difference to nutritian. The freshness and how the chickens are living makes the difference and also make them taste better. Take a "town" egg and a "farm" egg - open them and notice the difference. I won't use town eggs ever, unless I am desparate!!!

  33. We got a winter mixed batch of chicks from Ideal Poultry in December - lots of New Hampshire and Production Reds - which are fairly flighty - but we have 6 barred rocks and 4 golden wyandottes and 2Buff orpinton chicks. The Barred Rocks are very easygoing and do well when we pick them up and are very tame. I saw that McMurray has a write up on the rarity of various breeds in their new catalog - might be cool to have a rare breed of brown egg layers since you all have so much room!

  34. Hello farmgirl. I have a little utopia here in Memphis where I garden and cook and love all things natural. Thank you for sharing all this bountiful, positive energy, (not to mention the scone and bread recipes)! The universe needs all the love we can give. Sweetly, Susanna

  35. I did forget to mention that my adopted stray Lucky, some unknown Buff breed, went broody twice last summer and twice the summer before. Not so much fun, because she quits laying, and we weren't in the market for baby chicks.

  36. We have chickes to cheer us up too. Ours are ex battery hens rescued just before Christmas, they were very tatty when we got them but are now looking like typical story book brown hens and they lay large brown eggs. If your buying chics you may want to consider / investigate (don't know if they are available in the USA) Old Cotswold Legbars they lay the most beautiful large blue egg ever.

  37. Hot black coffee in homey cups. What a great way to start the day! When my husband bought chickens, he drove all the way to Cackle House in Lebanon cause he thought he'd get to see a lot of chicks. When he got there, they are just a little store and you tell them what you want and they go out and get them. Big let down for him. He got Rhode Island Reds---he says they make good fryers. But then he got sick and never butchered any. The lady I buy goat milk from buys her chicks from there, but delivered to the P.O. She gets the fry pan special--that's several varieties--and she showed me some of her eggs. They were pastel colors. It's also their best buy. I love flippin thru their catalog. Hope you're feeling MUCH BETTER,Susan. *Mary*

  38. Living in L.A., you certainly don't hear too many conversations about chickens. ;)
    I so enjoyed reading your entry as well as the posted comments. I feel like I just took a trip. Thanks!

    -another Susan from CA
    Food "Blogga"

  39. Way down here at the bottom of the comment list I am finding myself wide-eyed with curiousity over the idea of ordering chickens via mail.

    That must be the most bizarre catalogue ever.

    Do you call in your orders? As in, "Hi I'd like a half dozen fluffy yellow chicks shipped to me in Missouri?"

    If so I am free to move to the middle of nowhere without worry.

  40. Dominiques are very thrifty, but I think they're a little smaller than the barred rocks.

    My new favorites are the Speckled Sussex. They lay well and are supposed to be a nice table bird as well. I don't know about that yet as I'm working on a small breeding flock right now. They're very friendly and quite lovely.

    Black Australorps are excellent layers and handsome big, black birds. I have a few Australorp/Wyandotte cross hens who seem to be keeping up with their mommas right now.

    Good luck with the chicks. I'm holding off on ordering new ones this year. I bought an incubator last year, so plan on raising some more of my own. I did, however, order a few more ducks and geese!

  41. Well,I caved. After all this chicken talk I ordered my peeps from Ideal today, including a Cuckoo Maran. Hope I can stand the suspense until May 2... And YOU, farmgirl? Make up your mind yet?

  42. I'm with you, I too think brown eggs taste better. Perhaps it's because when I was a child my grandfather had chickens who layed brown eggs and they really were delicious. And why wouldn't you want your chickens to look attractive? Especially when there are so many beautiful breeds...I'm with you on that one too. The mugs look lovely, by the way.

  43. I don't know much about raising chickens, but I do know what I think is pretty. The American Frontier Culture Museum (awesomeness in living history action) has some very pretty heritage Polish chickens; Polish Blacks is what they might be called.

  44. I'm so glad that I managed to come across your welcoming it is! Can't wait to read more.

    I grew up on a farm in Missouri...I can certainly understand your desire to 'get away' from it all!

    Off to

  45. Definately Barred Rock hens! They are the sweetest girls. I had to give Aunt Penny away to Boggy Creek Farm when she was younger and they adore her. She used to come sit in my lap! Read all about her on their web site:

  46. Personally, I've long been totally smitten with the beautiful amaraucanas and their gorgeous eggs. I love the idea of very dark brown eggs, too.
    Will there be a Lindy II?

  47. Hi Everybody,

    Thank you so very, very much for all of the chicken thoughts and opinions! I am overwhelmed by your response. We have our own little feathered forum going here. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found all this information useful.

    I haven't made any ordering decisions yet--mainly because now I have a lot more research to do. I think narrowing it down to 3 or 4 breeds will definitely be the hardest part.

    I apologize for not replying to your comments individually--fortunately some of you stepped in and answered questions for me.

    Re your comment that you were "always told that eggshell color was a direct result of diet and the minerals in the soil. And, therefore, that there is no difference, nutritionally, between brown or white eggs:"

    I didn't get out my chicken books, but as far as I know, eggshell color depends entirely on the breed and will not change with diet. For example, no matter what I feed Whitey, she will always lay little white eggs.

    Egg yolk, however, is a whole other story--as some of you have mentioned. Diet very much affects the color of the yolk, and I personally believe that when it comes to the color of the yolk, the darker the better. Commercial eggs have very pale yolks, while the yolks from our hens range from dark yellow to a gorgeous deep orange.

    I once read about an organic farmer who fed his chickens orange marigolds so they would lay eggs with orange yolks!

    Again, thank you all for taking the time to write. I love reading about your adventures with chickens!

    P.S. Amy--I'll get that URL changed. Thanks for letting me know. In the future, you (and anybody else) are welcome to email me. The address is farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com. You can always find it in the top left corner of my Blogger profile page.

  48. I love Buffs and my Light Brahma. My Australorps are good chickens too. You might check into Cuckoo Marans. They look like Barred Rocks and lay eggs so brown they look like chocolate milk. I've heard they are good ones to raise. Just do not get Wyandottes. Ours were mean and the rooster would attack me every time I entered the yard.

  49. You need ducks. ;D

    Seriously. Ours lay green and white and light greyish colored eggs. (The Cayugas lay a black film over their eggs, but it washes right off.) Besides, variety is the spice of life, no?

    They're calm, and Perdi (our goose) even takes care of them! She honks if something's out of order. Geese will mow your lawn, ducks are good pest control, and chickens will till up your garden for you. =P

    They DO love their water though... Keep that in mind.

    P.S. We might be getting chickens (maybe turkeys too) soon!

    Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs, are a little thicker shelled (I've heard they are healtier for you than chicken eggs, but I don't recall where...), are superior in baking (they have a firmer white than chicken eggs, so aren't very good for whipping; although I haven't tried it yet), and maybe have a little hint of 'duck' flavor in them. As opposed to 'chicken' flavor in chicken eggs I guess. When eating duck (ooh that's tasty) it's greasier, but I think it's a better flavor. Very rich I suppose. If you like duck (eating it that is) you'll like duck eggs.

    We have a white chinese goose, a mallard drake, a black indian runner drake, fawn and white indian runner female/hen, a buff duck, a khaki campbell hen, two Cayuga hens, and one mallard hen. (We had two, but one mallard hen got eaten by our neighbor's dog.) =(

    We get lots of eggs... I've made banana bread quite a few times lately. xD


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

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