Chickens for the Yard
Four Breeds of Chicken Hens
If you have chickens you know what a reward it is to have fresh eggs every day. Some people also consider their chickens as pets and enjoy them as special birds to have around the home. In this age of greener lifestyles and self-sufficiency, having egg-producing chickens has increased in popularity.
Chickens come in a wide variety of breeds and temperaments. It may seem like a daunting task when choosing which hens are best for you. The following gives a description of four hens that are popular for the eggs they produce and their character traits.
Ameracauna and Sussex Hens
The Ameraucana chicken was developed in the U.S. from the Araucana breed and lays medium size blue eggs. Some hatcheries refer to them as Easter Eggers but they do not lay eggs that are green in color. Ameraucanas come in a variety of colors; black, wheaten, blue, white, buff and silver. They were received as an official breed in 1984.
Ameracana hens produce an above average number of eggs that are blue and slate. The skin is white and early maturity makes good for the meat. The hens are good brooders and are cold hardy. Although the only official pattern the American Poultry Association recognizes is blue, two blue chickens may produce chicks that are white and some that are black.
Character Traits: Ameracaunas are generally quiet and quickly adjust to being cooped in. They do not conform to any particular standard of breed and their primary purpose is egg-laying.
Weight: Standard roosters average 6.5 lbs. and hens 5.5 pounds (lbs.).
Bantam roosters weigh 30 ounces and Bantam Ameracauna hens weigh 26 ounces (ozs.)
The Sussex chicken was created over a century ago in the county of Sussex, England. The most famous Sussex chooks are the Light Sussex. Their coloring sets them apart from others because they have a white body with a black tail, black wing tips and black stripes on a white neck. Other colors include brown, buff, light, coronation, red, speckled, silver, and white. Sussex chickens forage well for food and are used for meat and eggs.
Character Traits: The Sussex chicken is an alert and cool breed that can adjust to about any place and is pleasant in both open and cooped in spaces.
Weight: Roosters weigh approx. 9 lbs. (4.0 kg), and the hens are about 7 lbs. (3.2 kg).
Rhode Island Red and Guinea Hens
Your Chicken Breed of Choice
Which breed of the four do you like the best:
Rhode Island Red
This breed is known by many as an American heritage and is the state bird of Rhode Island where they were originally bred. They are full in size, hardy and are popular for egg-laying. Hens can lay up to 5 or 6 weekly and produce 275 eggs in a year when fed quality feed. A monument to the Long Island Red was built in 1925 in Adamsville and has been registered as a historic place.
There are eight official colors of the Rhode Island Red chicken: Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver, Wheaten and White.
Character Traits: The Rhode Island Red is quiet, calm, and lives about 12 years. Many of the males may be bold in nature.
Weight: Roosters typically weigh 8.5 lbs. (3.9 kg) and the Hens 6.5 lbs. (2.9 kg); cockerels 7.5 lbs. (3.4 kg), and pullets 5.5 lbs. (2.5 kg).
Standard guinea fowl originated in Africa and were domesticated over 4,000 years ago. Guineas like to forage for their food and find most of what they need outside such as bugs and greens when the weather is warm. They also eat fleas and ticks and about 3 ozs. of 16% layer feed per Guinea each day. You may want to increase the protein and amount of scratch during the winter months to help keep them warm.
The babies are referred to as keets and are available in April priced at $3 to $5 each. If the feed store does not sell guinea keets they may be able to direct you to where to buy them.
They need six to ten weeks to learn where their home is so you may want to gather them into the coop, barn or pen at the end of every day. Feed them in the evenings at dusk to encourage them to return to their coop. Careful not to feed very much or they may not eat bugs.
You may also like to begin by releasing only half of the flock out of the coop the first week. Their flock instinct is strong and they will return to the calls of the other half still in the coop. A few days after they have been returning at night, begin letting the remainder of the flock outside. Although guineas like to tease chickens, they can be housed together.
When guineas are grown, the wattles on the females are smaller compared to the males. The call of the female is a two syllable with a one syllable chat-chat sound, whereas the male makes only the chat-chat call. They usually lay eggs during the first spring after they've hatched. Guinea eggs are light brown, smaller than medium chicken eggs and more triangular. Guinea hens come in an assortment of colors; white, chocolate, purple and grey.
Keets are smaller than chicks and care should be taken when near water. When the outside temperature reaches 50 degrees at night and their new feathers have grown in, you can transfer they to an outside cage. The feed store may sell hutches for about $100. These need to be sturdy to protect the young guineas from predators. Installing additional hardware cloth, which is a metal screening, around the base will help protect them from raccoons and possum.
Character Traits: Guineas are territorial and therefore remain in their area. One male of the flock eventually becomes the alpha. By talking to them every day they will learn your voice and stay closer inside the property. They get stirred up when strange animals or people approach.
They fly well and may take to the trees to perch, but prefer shelter at dusk during winter. Guineas are fairly safe around most children older than toddlers, however, watch that they do not chase after the birds.
Weight: Guinea roosters average 4 lbs and hens 3.5 lbs; cockerels 3.5 lbs. and pullets 3 lbs.
Selecting Chicken Breeds
If you are not sure whether you can keep farm animals on your property, inquire about the ordinance with your city hall. If allowed, there may be particular specifications to abide by.
Some of the legal requirements for owning chickens may involve the following:
A maximum number of chickens.
Whether or not they have to remain inside a coop.
The dimensions of the coop per number of hens.
Whether or not roosters are permitted.
Not to exceed an amount of distance in from the edge of your property.
Backyard chickens have become very popular the past few years. As a reflection of the popularity and in keeping up with the times, many communities that did not allow chickens have changed the law.
The effort put into maintaining healthy chickens is rewarded with the provision of fresh eggs and enjoyable outdoor pets. Choosing the best chickens for your homestead may not be that difficult after all.