Backyard Chickens 101: Meet our Flock…and {oops} a Rooster!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Backyard Chickens 101: Meet our Flock…and {oops} a Rooster!

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Just in case your just joining our Backyard Chickens 101 series, our chickens are growing up in the suburbs in our own backyard. Our home sits on less than 0.25 acre lot. The chickens are great pets without being loud or smelly to our neighbors. You can read all about why we raise backyard chickens, the pros/cons, how to pick a coop, hatching chicks, day old chicks, and more in our Backyard Chickens 101 series.
backyard chickens - meet our flock

Now that our chickens are all full-sized, feathered out,  and in their permanent home I thought I’d introduce you to our flock of hens… and {oops} a Rooster!

This is Snow White, Easter Egger

Backyard Chickens all white Easter EggerThis beautiful all white bird is an Easter Egger. In our flock she is at the bottom of the pecking order. She tends to hang out inside a lot and is less outgoing. she is easy-going and so striking when standing next to  our other chickens!

Easter Eggers are a great group of birds because of their unique coloring (you never know what you are going to end up with), their pleasant disposition, and the unique colored eggs they lay. Easter Eggers can lay blue, green, pink, or less commonly light brown eggs.

Note: We found they lay about a week or so later than the rest of our flock.

Easter Eggers tend to be on the smaller size of chickens. That is great for saving on space, but it also means they don’t make a great meat bird.
Fun fact: An easy way to tell if your chicken is an Easter Eggers is that most have “blue” legs.

This is Belle, Buff Orphington

Backyard Chickens:  Buff OrpingtonBelle is a Buff Orpington. We named her Belle because her light orange color looked like Belle from Beauty and the Beast’s dress. She likes to be outside and is always the first one down and last one up. Even when she is the only chicken outside – that’s okay with her. She is a nice, quiet docile chicken – great with kids.

Buff Orpingtons are all the same color. They are a good dual purpose breed in that they are great layers (laying about every 25 hours / 6 eggs a week on average) and also fill out nicely to make a good size chicken dinner. She lays roundish large light brown eggs with a slightly pink hue. This breed can go broody (or want to hatch eggs) but we have not experienced that yet.

This is Red Riding Hood, New Hampshire Red

Backyard Chickens: New Hampshire RedRed Riding Hood is a New Hampshire Red.  We named her red riding hood because her feathers look almost red. She is a docile bird that is always eager to see what scraps we’ve brought her. She is in the upper part of our flock’s pecking order.

New Hampshire Reds are another great dual purpose breed meaning she is a large fowl and dresses out nicely for a chicken dinner, but is also a good layer.  Like all our chickens she bears confinement well (although as I described before we have chosen to give our chickens amble room to live in. She lays large light brown eggs.
Healthy, happy chickens who get plenty of exercise lay healthy eggs!

This is Cruella, Easter Egger

Backyard Chickens: black and white Easter EggerThis interesting looking black and white bird is an Easter Egger. We named her Cruella because she looks like Cruella’s coat in the Dalmatians' movie.  In our flock she is in the middle of the pecking order. She is very social and always comes right up to see me.

See more about Easter Eggers above under Snow White. Notice the blue feet!

This is Lacy, Golden Laced Wyndotte

Backyard Chickens: Golden Laced WyndoteLacy is a Golden Laced Wyndotte. We named her Lacy because all the beautiful brown & black pattern on her back looks like lace. she is towards the middle of our backyard pecking order. She is very sweet and friendly. Just beautiful to watch.

Golden Laced Wyndottes are yet another great dual purpose breed – being a large fowl makes that for a lot of meat and is a very reliable layer of eggs. She lays extra large tan eggs.

This is Black Beauty, Black Australorp

Backyard Chickens: Black austrolorpBlack Beauty is a Black Australorp. Her all black body is beautiful and very striking with her bright red comb and wattle. Her feathers have a slightly green tint when you look at her in the sunlight. She is incredibly sweet and friendly. She is always ready to hang out with my kids and doesn't so much as squawk when my kids pick her up.

Yet another great dual purpose breed. Can you tell we liked those? Although are main focus in raising chickens was eggs, you know that at some point, usually around 2 years, they don’t lay as well. So if cost is a big factor (which it was for us) it is not practical to keep feeding them. These large fowl dress out nicely.
Black Australorp lay large large (eggs are about 2.25” long) light brown slightly oval looking eggs. You can depend on them for 300+ eggs a year.

Update:  Sometimes chickens peck at one another because they are looking for food. If chickens end up being picked so much there is a large contrast between the picked area (often the rump) and their feathers they will get picked on more. Unfortunately, Black Beauty got pecked until she had blood. Chickens love going after red things and started to be attracted to that. If left to their own they would peck that chicken to death and in doing so enjoy the taste of meat and we would end up with repeated loss.  Luckily, as we check our our chickens frequently and noticed she was bleeding before it became an issue. 

As we don't have room to house her separately to allow her time to heal, we culled her as the more humane thing to do.  In butchering her we found she had no eggs inside. So although she was a sweet chicken, she was eating and not laying us any eggs. So it turned out in the end to cull her.

This is Dot (and Tiger looks exactly the same), Easter Egger

Backyard Chickens: Easter EggerDot and Tiger are Easter Eggers. They both started out looking very different, but ended up looking almost identical – I can’t tell them apart, although my 8 year old can. They are both towards the middle of the pecking order. They are nice, docile birds.
Backyard Chickens: Our chicken breeds
Dot is the light colored one in the middle (she was grey with black dots for the first 4 weeks) and Tiger is the one at the top of the picture. We were never sure exactly what she was until she feathered out. But now looking back, she did always have the green Easter Egger feet!

See more about Easter Eggers above under Snow White. Notice the blue feet!

This is Zebra, Barred Plymouth Rock

Backyard Chickens: Barred Plymouth RockZebra is a Barred Plymouth Rock. We named her zebra because of her beautiful black and white stripes; she is very striking. She is at the top of our pecking order and is very sweet and friendly. She is one of the first to come greet me at the door when i have scraps to offer. She is also the first chicken to figure out the “right” place to lay her eggs!

Barred Plymouth Rocks are a wonderful dual breed bird. They get very nice and big so they would dress nicely. They also lay large brown eggs dependably.

If I had to pick one reliable layer it would be a Barred Plymouth Rock!

Our {extra} girls that are going to be leaving the coop soon to fill our freezer:

Backyard Chickens: Our chicken breeds  Backyard Chickens: Our chicken breeds
We got an extra New Hampshire red and an extra Buff Orpington. They have filled out nicely and will be moving to our freezer soon, at about 16-18 weeks of age.

This is Big Bertha (aka Smarty Pants), Easter Egger

Backyard Chickens easter Egger RoosterBig Bertha is actually not a she, but a he! He is an Easter Egger Rooster.
So in case you were wondering….even hatcheries who are experienced chicken sexers occasionally make a mistake! This Easter Egger chick was a favorite of mine from the start. "She" was friendly, smart, and alert. She grew quickly and I figured she would be at the top of the pecking order and be a nice reliable layer.

At about 6 weeks I started to wonder if maybe she was a actually a Rooster. Her comb was darkening and was a little larger than the others. But then again, sometimes that is the case. But when I started noticing red spots under her beak (the starting of her wattle) there was no denying that she was actually a he! 
Here were some of our clues (just in case you find yourself in the same predicament):
  • Grew faster than the others
  • Legs were longer than the hens that have shorter legs and a lower center of gravity
  • Friendly and not as afraid of us
  • Smart – When we held the hens non of the other ones would eat food from our hands as they were too frightened. This rooster actually would eat when being held
  • Darkening and larger comb
  • Pink/reddish spots that will grow under beak – beginning of wattle
Roosters don’t start to crow until about 16-20 weeks. So we will let him get just shy of that to get to a good butchering weight. Too bad, this rooster is a sweet one, but most residential neighborhoods (including ours) prohibit owning roosters.

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Next up ……. Backyard Chickens 101: Thinning the Flock

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