Easter Egger Chickens: Egg Color, Personalities, And More!

Easter Egger Chickens: Egg Color, Personalities, And More!

There’s something about Easter Egger chickens that brings a smile to their owners’ faces. Maybe it’s the surprise of their colored eggs, or their funny personalities. Each one is so different!

 

If you’re interested to know more about Easter Egger chickens, then you’re in the right place.

 

Easily confused with Ameraucana and Araucana chicken breeds, these feathered beauties aren’t a breed, but rather types of chickens – designer “mutts” that grow into beautiful layers that give us extra large eggs in colors from blue to green and even pink!

 

With their black outlined eyes and gentle temperaments, they make an interesting and beneficial addition to any flock.

 

The Easter Egger chicken temperament is exceptionally friendly and hardy – they love getting treats, and are easily trained to sit in your lap. Since they’re smaller and the roosters are calm, this chicken breed is a great choice for any family flock.

 

Let’s go through everything you need to know about the Easter Egger chickens and what you can expect from this bird.

 

Breed History, Personality, And More

 

What Breed Of Chicken Is An Easter Egger?

Easter Egger aren’t a breed per se. It’s a variety of chicken that carries the blue egg laying gene, and the modern version is descended from the ancient Araucana breed that first evolved in Chile to lay blue eggs. They’re usually a cross between blue egg layers like Ameraucanas (though sometimes Araucanas or Cream Legbars) and any other chicken breed. It’s very easy to be confused; many sellers mistakenly label Easter Egger chickens as Ameraucanas or Araucanas (or vice versa). They’re called Easter Eggers because their “butt nuggets” resemble the eggs many people hunt for during the annual spring festival.

 

The pigment oocyanin that covers the shell gives blue eggs their characteristic color. Research has revealed that this unique color is actually a genetic anomaly.

 

Because they’re not an actual breed (meaning there’s no standardization of the breed), two Easter Eggers can look completely different.

 

Even more, an Easter Egger crossed with dark brown egg layers (like Marans or Welsummers)  might result in an Olive Egger chicken OR it might result in a second generation (F2) Easter Egger!

 

In our own coop, we have two green egg layers who are Easter Egger/Marans crosses!

 

Easter Egger bantams are also popular – they’re the result of crossing a blue egg layer (full size or bantam) with a bantam chicken. While Easter Eggers themselves are pretty small (about 4-5 pounds), the bantam sizes are even smaller!

 

Easter Egger vs. Ameraucana

While both chickens are wonderful, they are definitely two different varieties. Ameraucanas generally always lay blue eggs, while Easter Eggers can lay blue, green, emerald, or even pink eggs. You can discover more about Ameraucanas here. Just remember that Easter Eggers do not conform to a breed standard as defined by the American Poultry Association (APA) or American Bantam Association (ABA), so the cute chicks you get at the farm store can grow up looking completely different from each other!

 

What Do Easter Egger Chickens Look Like?

Because Easter Eggers are a combination of a blue egg layer and any other breed of chicken, one chicken can look completely different than another – there’s no breed standard. You might find that each fluffy butt as a different comb style. We have Easter Eggers with pea combs and others with a regular style single comb. We also have some with a combination of the two (not quite a pea comb, and not quite a single comb)!

 

Some Easter Eggers have ear tufts and beards, while some don’t. Some have tails, and others don’t (Araucanas – which are blue egg layers – are rumpless, so they don’t grow tails). Really, anything goes!

 

Our Easter Eggers each have different color legs (some have dark colored shanks and others have light colored – one even has blue). In fact the only consistent thing is their toes! Easter Eggers generally only have 4 toes.

 

Their feathers are any combination of colors from grey to gold. Your Easter Eggers might have lovely black “eyeliner” around their eyes (our Easter Egger Cleo did – and she laid pink eggs!), or they might have grey feathers that show off their clear, bright eyes.

 

One Easter Egger rooster can look quite different from another. We’ve had some that are pure black, and some that are grey and copper with ear tufts and beards.

 

Like I said, there’s really no consistency!

easter egger chicken baby

Caring For Your Easter Eggers

To make sure your Easter Eggers have a great life, you should feed them a high-quality chick starter (if they’re babies) or a good layer diet, if they’re grown. An ideal layer feed has at least 16% protein. You’ll also want to offer oyster shells so your chickens lay great eggs.

 

Adding herbs such as calendula will improve the color of their yolks. For treats, hens love black soldier fly larvae and mealworms.

 

Be sure to house your hens in a well-built coop (you can learn how to build a chicken coop here and what to include in your coop here). Any type of coop is fine, as long as it has at least 10 square feet of space per chicken.

 

You’ll have to decide whether you want to free range your hens or not – you can read about advantages and disadvantages of free ranging here.

 

Egg Colors, Laying, And Amount Per Year

What Color Eggs Do Easter Egger Chickens Lay?

Easter Egger egg colors range from light blue, seafoam green, dark green, and pink. Each chicken only lays one color egg though! (So, if your hen lays green eggs, she’ll always lay green eggs). Some owners suggest their hens lay purple eggs, but in most cases, this is likely the bloom tinging the brown egg a different color. Our hens sometimes lay “purple” eggs, but if you wash off the bloom, they’re really just regular brown eggs!

blue easter egger eggs

Are Easter Eggers Good Layers?

Yes! They’re excellent layers who will give you lovely, large eggs. The color of the eggs will depend on the genetics of the individual chicken. They don’t tend to go broody, so you should get a consistent supply of eggs year round.

 

When Do Easter Egger Chickens Start Laying?

Easter Eggers start laying when they’re about 6 – 7 months, although some can take up to a year. This will depend on a few things, mainly their diet (they should get a 16% layer feed once they start producing eggs), the season (they’re less likely to lay eggs in winter), and their environment (a stressful home can make them stop laying eggs). You can learn about how to troubleshoot egg laying problems here.

 

How Many Eggs Do Easter Egger Chickens Lay Per Year?

While the amount of eggs laid per year will depend on the individual chicken, her diet, and her environment, you can easily expect about 250 eggs per year from your Easter Egger hen! To keep her laying consistently, offer layer feed with at least 16% protein. We cover the best feeders for backyard chickens in this article. An oyster shell supplement will ensure she lays eggs with strong, healthy shells.

 

Do The Hens “Go Broody”?

Easter Egger hens don’t tend to go “broody” and want to hatch chicks. Of course, this depends on the individual chicken – some hens hear the call of motherhood more than others. There’s not much you can do to alter this – either they want to hatch eggs or they don’t! If you want to have baby chicks but your hens don’t want to sit on eggs, you can incubate them yourself. We cover the best incubators in this article.

 

How Long Do Easter Egger Chickens Live?

Most chickens live anywhere from 5-8 years, as long as they’re given a good diet, lots of fresh water, a warm home, and veterinary care as needed. Some of my readers even report they have chickens that are 13 years old! You can read about the oldest chicken in the world here.

 

Do Easter Eggers Have Feathered Feet?

Not usually, but it’s not unheard of, especially if the parents have feathered feet. They are adorable! Usually, a bantam ameraucana would be crossed with any bird with feathered legs like Silkies, Brahmas, Marans, or Cochins.

 

Where Can You Buy Easter Eggers?

We’ve purchased our hens and roosters from a variety of places:

 

  • Cackle Hatchery
  • Meyer Hatchery
  • Tractor Supply

 

You can also search for a hatchery or breeder near you. Many smaller farm stores carry Easter Egger starting in April and ending in June. Usually, a single chick costs under $5, although this will vary from breeder to breeder. Either way, it’s not a high price for a new best friend!

 

At smaller farm stores, you can usually get a good deal, especially if the chicks are a week or two old. You also might find breeds that are unusual.

 

At places like Tractor Supply, you’ll have to buy 6 or more chicks at once. So, it’s best to call ahead to make sure they’ll have chicks, that the breeds you want will be available, and whether there’s any purchase minimums.

 

Most hatcheries also have minimums. This is for the safety of the chicks. For the first few weeks of their lives, chicks need an external heat source. If a hatchery only shipped one or two chicks in the mail, they likely would be far too cold, and arrive dead.

 

We’ve had good luck purchasing our Easter Egger chicks from Cackle Hatchery, and we continue to give them our business each year.

 

Do you own Easter Egger chickens? Leave a comment below!

Brahma Chickens: What To Know Before You Buy!

Brahma Chickens: What To Know Before You Buy!

We own several brahma chickens, and they make wonderful pets who lay lovely brown eggs (we also have one that lays lavender eggs!).

 

In this article, I’m going to tell you everything there is to know about this breed!

 

While brahma chickens are known for growing into beasts the size of large turkeys, giving it the nickname “The Majestic One” by the American Brahma Club (1), and the equal honor of the “king of chickens” (2) the average brahma isn’t so large.

 

 

How Big Is The Brahma Chicken?

While this breed can be as tall as 30 inches (although this is rare and depends on the breeder), the average brahma chicken size is the same as other chickens. Even in our own flock, they vary in size, with one about 8 inches tall and another about 18 inches tall. Bantam brahma breeds are even smaller – about 6 inches tall.

 

How Long Does a Brahma Chicken Live For?

Like any other types of chickens, such as silkie chickens, araucanas, or speckled sussex chickens, brahmas can live 5-8 years, depending on the quality of care you provide. Providing a daily meal of 16% protein chicken feed, fresh water, a warm home, and veterinary care can extend their lives.

brahma chicken rooster with brown feathers

Are Brahma Hens Broody?

By and large, no. However, this will depend largely on the individual hen. Brahmas are particularly susceptible to broody behavior if another hen has decided she wants to hatch eggs, too.

 

Bea, one of our brahma hens, decided to go broody in her second year, and hatched a single chick. My other brahma chicken is a great daily layer, but isn’t broody at all.

 

If your brahma goes broody, it’s best to let her hatch her eggs (as long as they embryos are developing – candle them to find out). If the eggs aren’t developing, then remove them from the nest before they explode.

 

Are Brahma Chickens Good Egg Layers?

Yes! Brahma chicken eggs are a lovely brown color, and the hens lay consistently – up to about 300 eggs per year. The number of “butt nuggets” laid will depend on the individual, her diet, and the quality of her environment. You can improve the chances your chicken will lay if you provide her a secure home, a quality layer feed with 16% protein and plenty of calcium, fresh water, and a clean nest with nesting herbs.

 

You can see photos of brahma chicken eggs laid by our hens here:

brahma chicken egg

 

Do Brahma Chickens Lay Large Eggs?

The Brahma chickens lay medium to large eggs. The yolks are also large and delicious. You can improve the color of the yolks by adding herbs such as calendula to their diet.

 

What Color Eggs Do Brahma Hens Lay?

This chicken breed lays brown eggs, although the shade can vary from layer to layer. The chicken’s diet, stress level, and the weather can effect the shade of her eggs as well. When a hen is stressed, she might lay a lighter shade of brown, or the color might be dotted with white. If the hen’s diet is poor or the weather is very hot, you also might see different shades on the same egg.

 

How Many Eggs Does a Brahma Chicken Lay?

Approximately 300 per year, or 5-6 eggs each week. This number will vary based on her feed, her age, and the time of year. While brahmas do very well in the cold, hens don’t typically lay during the shorter days of the year (unless supplementary light is provided), or when they’re very young or very old. If the hen’s diet is poor, she won’t lay regularly, which will effect how many eggs she lays.

 

How Old Are Brahma Chickens When They Start Laying Eggs?

Typically brahmas start laying eggs when they’re 6 or 7 months old. However, it can take up to 12 months for the hen to start laying, particularly if she’s a larger hen, or if she matures during the winter months.

 

Are Brahma Chickens Friendly?

Yes, brahmas are very friendly, as long as you’ve raised them to enjoy the company of people (feed them lots of treats and they’ll be yours forever). They are quiet, docile, and calm birds who love to take treats from your hand and get cuddles. They get along great with other chickens, as well. The roosters aren’t prone to attacking humans, although this will depend on the individual rooster and the time of year.

 

What Colors Are Brahma Chickens?

There’s three colors of brahmas recognized by the Standard of Perfection: Light, Dark, and Buff. Each type is unique and very beautiful. According to the Livestock Conservancy, “Brahmas are large chickens with feathers on shanks and toes, pea comb, smooth fitting plumage with dense down in all sections, and broad, wide head with skull projecting over the eyes – termed “beetle brow.” (2)

 

The earliest brahma chicken colors – the light and the dark variants – were first included in the first Standard of Perfection of the American Poultry Association in 1874, while the Buff variant was added in the 1920s.

 

Where To Buy Brahma Chickens

There are several chicken breeder farms that selectively breed and raise healthy and quality Brahma Chickens. You can check them out here:

 

Cackle Hatchery

This is where we purchased our brahmas. They arrived safely and have been very healthy. Cackle Hatchery is family owned and located in Missouri. 

 

Purely Poultry

Purely Poultry is another family owned business. They have fair prices. 

 

Meyer Hatchery

Meyer Hatchery has over 35 years of experience. They offer over 160 breeds of poultry including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, peafowl and game birds. 

 

My Pet Chicken

This company has been praised by numerous publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, New Yorker Magazine, and has appeared on such television shows as The Martha Stewart Show, Bloomberg TV, ABC News Nightline, and The Today Show. You can visit My Pet Chicken here.

 

Private breeders nationwide

You can find a complete list of breeders (that are affiliated with the American Brahma Club) here.

 

How to Care For Brahma Chickens

Brahma chickens require daily feeding and fresh, clear water daily. As baby chicks, you should provide your brahmas a chick starter that’s 18% protein, as well as clean water. You can mix organic apple cider vinegar or apple cider vinegar granules with the water to promote good gut flora. You can read more about how to raise day old baby chicks here.

 

For hens, you should provide a quality layer feed with at least 16% protein and an extra calcium supplement to ensure strong eggshells. Adding herbs to her nesting box will promote laying.

 

If your hens are broody, be sure to keep a high protein feed and water close to her for easy access.

 

Brahma hens tend to be the favorite of roosters – keep a close watch on your hens to ensure they’re not hurt by roosters. If your hen has lost feathers due to roosters or if she’s molting, you can offer a high protein supplement to promote growth.

 

If you think your brahmas are sick, for example with sour crop, bumblefoot, or vent gleet, you can read more about how to care for them here.

 

References

  1. http://www.americanbrahmaclub.com/
  2. https://livestockconservancy.org

 

 

So, Is The Brahma Chicken Right For You?

Overall, the Brahma chicken is an ideal bird for you are considering of raising larger sized chickens. They’re very friendly, and lay nice, large eggs. Would you add them to your flock?

 




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Silkie Chickens: Pet Facts & Fiction

Silkie Chickens: Pet Facts & Fiction

Who doesn’t want to own Silkie chickens? They’re fun, sweet-natured, and they make you breakfast! In short, they’re the perfect pet.

 

Yep – you can definitely keep chickens as pets, and Silkies make GREAT pets, especially for households with children. I also know MANY seniors who keep Silkies because they’re easier to care for than a dog, and they’re great company.

 

For special needs children, Silkies can also be a great pet because:

 

  • They’re quiet
  • Submit to being held on laps (while other breeds of chickens will flap and squawk)
  • They look like fluffy balls straight out of a Dr. Seuss story, and
  • Their feathers are soft to touch – great for children with sensory issues.

 

In this article, you’ll find all the Silkie chickens information and facts you need to help you decide if you want to add them to your flock.

Silkie chicken pet facts and fiction
 

 

Silkie Chickens Information & Breed Characteristics

What are Silkie chickens?

 

Where do Silkies originate from?

Silkies are an ancient breed that has their origins in Asia, most likely in China. Because of their black skin, their Chinese language name is wu gu ji, which means “black-boned chicken.”

Marco Polo was the first Westerner to write about Silkies – and in his books about his travels on the Asian continent in the 1200’s, he referred to them as a “furry chicken.”  

Similarly, Renaissance writer Ulisse Aldrovandi referred to Silkie chickens as “wool-bearing chickens” and “clothed with hair like that of a black cat.”

As you can see, Silkies have made quite an impression on humans for centuries!

 

Why are they called Silkies?

They’re called Silkies because their feathers resemble the down on chicks – and it feels “silky.”

 

What do Silkies look like?

How big do Silkies get?

Silkies weigh about 2-3 pounds and are about the size of a Chihuahua dog.

 

What’s the Silkie breed standard?

When you think of Silkies, you probably think of the bantam size – and according to the American Standard of Perfection, the perfect size for a silkie chicken hen is about 2 pounds.

 

The American Standard of Perfection has very specific requirements for Silkies. The comb and wattles should be a “deep mulberry, approaching black” with a “Leaden blue” beak. The legs of both hens and roosters should be straight with no more or less than 5 toes.

 

What are their feathers like?

Funky feathers like fluff balls of joy! Silkies are a bit different than other chickens. Yes, the hens lay eggs, but did you know they also don’t have “normal” feathers like other backyard chickens?

Their feathers are similar to down, and it’s a bit like silk – hence the name “Silkie.” Because of their feathers, Silkie chickens can’t fly, but they do love to run for a treat!

Their feathers are structured different than other chicken feathers – they do not have barbicels, so they do not have the physical structure needed to allow Silkies to fly.

If you get Silkies for sale as chicks, you’ll love how they develop “Mohawks” when they turn into teenagers! It takes a while for the down to grow out to its full length, so there’s some lovably awkward stages!

 

Do Silkies have black skin?

Silkies are also well known for their skin – while most other chicken breeds (such as Speckled Sussex and Araucana chickens) have white skin, Silkies have black or even blue skin.

You might notice your silkies have blue skin, particularly on their ears! As they mature, you’ll also notice their combs and wattles have a reddish hue to them.

 

How high can Silkies jump?

Because they don’t really fly, silkies can’t roost like other chickens. So, they can only jump a couple feet at a time.

Do silkies roost? Well, they DO enjoy sleeping off the ground, even if they can’t roost up high.

You’ll want to give your silkies an easy way to get higher. We put bales of hay in our coop for the silkies to jump up on – and they can get 5-6 feet in the air easily.

How many toes do Silkies have?

Unlike other chickens, Silkies have an extra 1 or two toes on their feet! (Just like a polydactyl cat!)

The scientific reason is because Silkies have a genetic mutation that allows them to grow the extra toes. I’m not sure if it has much purpose out in the “real world” of the coop, but they sure do look cool!

 

What colors are Silkies?

Silkie chickens come in all sorts of colors, such as black, blue, buff, grey, partridge, white, cuckoo, lavender, red, and splash.

While the American Standard of Perfection doesn’t recognize all these colors, you should choose the color that’s right for you – especially if your keeping Silkie chickens as pets. After all, color doesn’t matter as much as temperament!

There’s also bearded Silkie chickens – which have an extra adorable tuft of feathers!

Silkie chicken pet facts for new owners

Do Silkies have feathered feet?

Yes, they do – and it’s part of their charm! In the United States, silkies are ornamental birds, so they’re bred to grow feathers on their feet. Most owners love it!

 

What age do Silkie chickens start crowing? Do Silkies crow?

If your silkie is a rooster, he should start crowing at about 7 months. However, not all silkies will crow. It depends on the individual chicken.

 

Our silkie roosters don’t crow or make much noise at all – which makes them ideal for suburban households that don’t want to disturb their neighbors.

What are Silkie chickens like as pets?

Do they make good pets?

Silkies make GREAT pets, especially for households with children. I also know MANY seniors who keep Silkies because they’re easier to care for than a dog, and they’re great company.

 

Are Silkies good with children?

YES! Silkies are quiet birds who enjoy human company. They’re more willing to be held than other chickens and will put up with small children and fast movements more than other breeds.

 

You can see our chicken breeds for children recommendations here.

 

Why do people keep them as pets?

Silkies can also be a great pet because:

  • They’re quiet
  • Submit to being held on laps (while other breeds of chickens will flap and squawk)
  • They look like fluffy balls straight out of a Dr. Seuss story, and
  • Their feathers are soft to touch – great for children with sensory issues

 

Are Silkies friendly?

Yes, especially if raised as pets from birth. They’re quiet, and when they’ve bonded to their human, they often follow their owners around. Many seniors keep silkies because they’re friendlier than other chicken breeds and enjoy being around their humans.

 

How long do Silkie chickens live for?

Silkies, like other chickens, can live for 4-8 years, when kept in ideal conditions and fed correctly.

 

To give your silkie the best quality of life, you should keep them in a coop with fresh water and plenty of high quality feed.  You should also give your pet chicken medical care when needed and herbal supplements to support her health.

 

Buying Silkies

How much is a Silkie chicken worth?

Whatever someone will pay for it! Most Silkie chicks that are sold as pets cost less than $5 – and you might find them at your local farm store for less.

 

Silkies that are show quality might cost hundreds of dollars, while ones hatched at a high quality breeder might cost less.

 

Where can I buy Silkie chickens?

Hatcheries, your local farm store, or private breeders. See our list here of where to buy chickens.

 

When you buy them, look for the extra toe – that’s a pretty good indicator the chicken actually is a Silkie. You should also bring a knowledgeable friend who can help you select chicks that appear healthy.

 

We’ve had good luck finding them at farm stores like Tractor Supply.

 

General Care

How long do Silkie chickens need a heat lamp?

Approximately 16 weeks of age. Like other chicks, Silkies need their brooders to be between 90-95 degrees for their first week of life (and reduce the temperature by 5 degrees every week.)

 

If it’s warm in your area, your Silkies should be fine once they can handle temperatures of 70 degrees.

 

If it’s cold, and your Silkies are under 16 weeks of age, you might need to supplement with a heat source until they’re older. We don’t recommend heat LAMPS because they can cause fires. We’ve used heating pads and been okay.

 

Do Silkie chickens need a heat lamp during winter?

Not generally, although this will depend on how cold your area gets. They’re generally fine in temperatures as low as 0 degrees.

 

In colder temperatures, you might have to provide a heat source. If you have just a couple, the easiest and safest way to ensure they’re warm is to bring them in at night. They’ll be fine in a dog crate.

 

Heat lamps are dangerous and can ignite a fire, so we don’t recommend them.

 

Can Silkies stand cold temperatures? Are Silkie chickens cold hardy?

One thing to watch out for is caring for Silkie chickens in winter – because they don’t have regular feathers, they can’t “fluff” them like other chickens to keep warm.

 

Just keep an eye on your fluffy butts and if they seem cold (or if it’s going to be very cold in your area), give them a way to stay warm.

 

They’re generally fine in temperatures as low as 0 degrees. It’s extremely important to make sure your silkies aren’t outside when it’s cold and wet – in freezing rain, for example.

 

Because their feathers are finer, they won’t stay as warm as other chickens. Freezing rain, sleet, or snow can turn deadly for your Silkies – so in inclement weather, leave them in their coop.

 

Do Silkies get along with chickens?

Yes – even though they look different, Silkies are quiet flock members, and get along well with other chickens.

 

Because they’re docile, you might find your Silkies are picked on more than your other flock members – just keep an eye out, and separate if any issues arise.

 

How do you introduce Silkies to an existing flock?

Just like you would any other chicken – by letting established flock members see their new friend without touching the Silkie.

 

Then, after 48-72 hours, you can try to integrate the Silkie with the rest of your flock.

 

You still might see squabbles, but as long as everyone is healthy and not hurt, they will stop in a couple days.

Feeding Silkies

What do you feed Silkies?

Silkies eat the same feed as regular chickens – a high-quality layer feed (for hens) or a high quality chick starter (for baby chicks). They don’t need any special feeds.

 

For treats, you can feed Silkies mealworms, herbs, kitchen scraps, leafy greens, black soldier fly larvae, or river shrimp.

 

Do they eat a lot?

Silkies are smaller chickens, and they eat less than standard size breeds. They still should be fed about 1-2 cups of feed daily – and you can feed them leafy greens, black soldier fly larvae, herbs, mealworms, and other treats to boost their diet. This is also a great way to bond with your silkies!

 

Silkie health issues

You might read on the internet that Silkies are more disease prone than other breeds and you should get your Silkie chickens vaccinated – I have not experienced this, and I would venture to say that Silkies are a hardy breed.

 

Silkie Eggs

What color eggs do Silkies lay?

They lay off white eggs or cream colored eggs.

 

How many eggs do Silkie chickens lay? Do they edible eggs?

They lay 3-4 times a week – so they’re not the champion layers of the backyard chicken world, but they have other qualities to make up for it!

 

Do Silkies like to hatch eggs?

Yes! Many people keep silkies because the hens “go broody” and want to hatch eggs – any eggs!

They’re wonderful pets that look funny and make great companion chickens for children and adults. They’re friendly, calm, and love human company….that is, unless they’ve decided to hatch eggs!

Yes, Silkies tend to “go broody” more than other breeds, and many people keep this breed of chicken specifically to incubate eggs on their farm. Now, this isn’t a guarantee your hen will want to hatch chicken eggs!

 

How many eggs can a Silkie hen sit on?

As many as she can fit under her! The amount will depend on the size of your fluffy butt.

Hens prefer to sit on an odd number of eggs – it’s not unheard of to see silkie chickens sitting on 11 or 13 eggs!

How Long Do Chickens Live? Well…Here’s The Thing.

How Long Do Chickens Live? Well…Here’s The Thing.

A question I frequently get from readers is “How long do chickens live?”

 

So, “how long does a chicken live?” While on average chickens live about 8 years, the question of “how long do chickens live” depends on a lot of factors, including breed, quality of life, and environment.

 

There’s also the little fact that most chickens people raise are intended to be food – and you can bet those poor souls don’t get to live 8 years (try 8 weeks). 

 

And then there’s Matilda (who lived until the age of 26) who blows any average lifespan out of the water. (A lot of people email me asking “where do chickens live?” – or “how long do hens live?” meaning chickens like Matilda that live for a long time. We’ll discuss her in a minute – stay tuned. She’s adorable and you don’t want to miss her)

 

So, speaking in real world terms, simply saying that the life expectancy of a chicken is about 8 years isn’t always a real, hard fact.

 

My friends, if you’ve read this website for a while, you probably know how I’ll answer the question “how long do chickens live?” with….

 

Well, it depends.

 

Let’s explore exactly why I’ve given such a frustrating answer to the simple “how long do chickens live?” question.


Chickens; Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock is my best selling book about raising healthy hens! You’ll learn how to handle sticky first aid situations, raise baby chicks with the week-by-week checklist, how to give the best care even in the worst weather, and more! Click here to learn more.



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Why Environment Plays Such A Factor

While there are, without a doubt, chickens that live 8 years or longer, most backyard chickens won’t make it to that ripe old age.

 

And the main reason is that there’s something in their environment that does them in long before they get to experience a life without having to lay an egg every day.

 

(How old are chickens when they stop laying eggs you ask? Two years of age is when they slow down, and most chickens won’t lay consistently after age 3. There’s always the egg-ception though).

herbs for backyard chickens

 

Once upon a time, someone decided that most chickens die of salpingitis (which causes lash eggs).

 

I’m gonna go out on a (fairly long, solid) limb here and question the basis of that claim, at least for backyard chickens.

 

The reality is that every year, more chickens die from predator attacks, poor care, or disease than from a fairly uncommon infection like salpingitis. (So, if you’ve been hand wringing about lash eggs, you can stop.)

 

A quick study of Facebook groups where people ask “any idea what killed my chickens?” will prove me right.

 

In fact, I would put predators at the top of the “what kills chickens the most” list. Unless your chickens are locked up 24 hours a day in a VERY predator proof run, chances are, you’ll lose a flock member or two to a hawk, domestic dog, or other critter bent on a free meal.

 

So, a majority of chickens won’t live to age 4 simply because they’re snatched and eaten by a freeloader.

 

The elements are another factor about the life expectancy of a chicken. While we all do our best to care very well for our chickens, they’re still living out in the elements, and that alone puts a lot of strain on their little bodies.

 

Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t allow your chickens to play outdoors – quite the opposite.

 

As they said in Steel Magnolias, “I’d rather have 30 seconds of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing.”

 

It’s FAR better to allow your chickens to have a happy life outdoors enjoying the world than to keep them cooped up all the time (which comes with its own set of risks) simply for the sake of seeing if they live long.

 

But we can’t deny that the extreme summer and winter temperatures eventually take their toll.

herbs for backyard chickens

How does care influence how long chickens live?

Veterinarians (and common sense) have long told us that pets that receive proper care are more likely to live long and prosper than animals who are neglected.

 

Chickens that aren’t getting a consistent and proper diet including feed and fresh water, who aren’t given basic medical care, or who aren’t given access to a warm home out of the elements, will likely have their lives cut short far before 8 years of age.

 

How Long Do Chickens Live: Which breeds live long?

To some extent, the type of chickens is a factor with regards to lifespan. While sometimes I’m asked “how long do bantam chickens live?”, the fact that bantams are essentially smaller chickens means that their lifespan isn’t much different than their full-sized counterparts.

 

Some breeds are designed to live longer than other breeds, however. An extreme example are Cornish Crosses.

 

Because they’re bred to grow very quickly, Cornish Crosses generally don’t live very long. They’re generally harvested at 10 weeks of age, and even up until then, they’re on shaky ground.

 

Many develop heart or liver issues, and don’t grow feathers over their entire body, leaving large gaps for the cold to seep into their bodies, killing them.

 

Similarly, breeds of chickens developed to be frequent layers (such as Production Reds) might develop internal issues associated with laying more frequently than other breeds.

 

And then there’s Matilda

First, I love the fact that they named this hen Matilda.

Wondering how long do chickens live? Your backyard chickens can live quite a while!

(If you don’t know, Matilda was one of the first queens of England who battled for many years against men who wanted to take her crown. She wasn’t successful, but she DID get her son on the throne. Baby steps, people.)

 

Matilda (who obviously never wondered “how long do chickens live?”) was the first chicken to hold the title of the World’s Oldest Living Chicken in the Guinness Book Of World Records.

 

Matilda was born in 1980 and was part of her family’s magic show for about 10 years. A well-cared for pet, her owners contacted the Guinness Book of World Records in 2001 to see about getting her inducted.

 

After her owners proved her age, Matilda was given her honorary title.

 

Now, 26 is a REALLY long time for any hen to live, and Matilda probably made it to that age based on luck and very good care (she apparently was an indoor bird). I wouldn’t necessarily expect any of my chickens to live that long. Although I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

 

So, how long do chickens live, really?

Officially, I’ll stick with the “about 6-8 years” answer, largely because there haven’t been studies to prove otherwise.

 

We’ve personally had chickens live that long….and then we’ve had the chickens that don’t live past the first year because of predators.

 

How about you? Do you still wonder “how long do chickens live?” What’s been the record on your farm?

herbs for backyard chickens

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4 Rare Breeds Of Chickens For Your Homestead: What The Cluck?! Episode 11 [Podcast]

4 Rare Breeds Of Chickens For Your Homestead: What The Cluck?! Episode 11 [Podcast]

On our homestead, we raise several rare breeds of chickens.

 

In part, this is because we enjoy their beauty, and also because the breeds have advantages over more popular breeds of chickens.

 

In this episode of What The Cluck?! we examine 4 rare breeds of chickens, and their advantages.

 

We also look at the history of the breeds

 

Three of the breeds we actively keep on our homestead, and I think you’ll be quite surprised at some of the information you’ll learn.

Rare breeds of chickens can have certain advantages over common breeds. In this episode of What The Cluck?! you'll learn about 4 rare breeds of chickens, the one breed that can bring substantial income to your farm, and common mistakes owners make raising rare breeds. From FrugalChicken

You’ll learn:

  • Why these rare breeds of chickens are more advantageous to raise than common breeds
  • Which breeds lend beauty to your flock
  • Common mistakes owners make when raising rare breeds of chickens
  • The one breed that can produce a hefty income for your homestead

 

(LIKE THIS PODCAST? LISTEN TO THE REST HERE)

 

Links we discuss:

 

Thrive Market

French study on Turkens (Naked Necks):

A.L. N’dri, et al. “Interactions between the naked neck gene, sex, and fluctuating ambient temperature on heat tolerance, growth, body composition, meat quality, and sensory analysis of slow growing meat-type broilers.” Livestock ScienceJune 2007, Volume 110, Issues 1-2, Pages 33–45
 
Ben Dorshorst, et al. “A Complex Genomic Rearrangement Involving the Endothelin 3Locus Causes Dermal Hyperpigmentation in the Chicken.” PLOS Genetics, December 22, 2011


 

Transcription:

Hi there, and welcome to session 11 of What the cluck, a podcast devoted to keeping chickens for fun and self sufficiency.

 

I’m maat from FrugalChicken, and in this episode we’ll look at rare breeds of chickens for your homestead and I think we have some really cool birds to talk about! So stay with me!

 

Now before we get started, I just want to briefly mention a company that I love and that’s Thrive Market. Why do I love them so much? Well, first off, if you don’t know what Thrive Market is, it’s an online organic supermarket, and it’s a little like Costco meets your favorite farmers market.

 

I personally buy a lot of the products I can’t make myself from Thrive Market, and I’m talking about products like turmeric, coconut oil, etc. Products that we use every day at home to lead healthier lives. Thrive is membership site, and their products are anywhere from 15% to 20% cheaper than I’ve found elsewhere.

 

I value my Thrive Market membership, and love that it’s a company with a conscience. As a green company commited to sustainable practives, all their products are ethically sourced, and I feel confident buying from them that I’m doing the best I can for our environment.

 

Another thing I love about Thrive Market is that for every membership they sell to someone like you or me, they give a membership to a family in need. So, it really is shopping for products you will use anyway in a way that benefits other people too.

 

You can join Thrive at thefrugalchicken.com/thrive, and that is an affiliate link, so thank you if you decide to use it.

 

Now, let’s get on with why we’re here. Today we’re going to talk a bit about unusual breeds of chickens you can have on your farm, and the great thing about these breeds is they’re useful, so obviously they lay eggs, but they’re also beautiful chickens for their feathers.

 

These rare breeds of chickens lend quite an exotic air to any homestead, whether you live in an urban area, or a rural area like I do.

 

Now, I’ve kept a majority of these rare breeds of chickens we’ll talk about today on our homestead, in part for their eggs, but also, like I said, because they’re beautiful birds and are just a lot of fun to have in any flock. Whether you keep chickens for their usefulness or just keep them as companions or anywhere in between, these rare breeds of chickens are for you.

 

So  what are the breeds of chickens we’ll discuss today? I’m glad you asked. They are:

 

  1. Turkens, also known as Naked Necks
  2. Blue Copper Marans
  3. Cuckoo Marans
  4. Ayam Cemanis, which are the chickens that are completely black.

So, let’s dive in and start with naked necks.

 

For the longest time, I kind of poo pooed this breed, largely because of their looks, I found the naked neck too bizarre looking for my tastes, and never considered these chickens.

 

All that changed when I received them as “packing peanuts” in a group of meat chickens I’d ordered from a hatchery.

 

Now if you don’t know what packing peanuts means in terms of chickens, they’re the extra chickens, usually roosters, that hatcheries send to either keep the other chicks warm, to make up for chicks that die enroute so the customer gets their full order, or they’re chicks the hatchery is just looking to get rid of to reduce their inventory.

 

So I got these naked neck chicks, and was pretty stunned I got them in the first place since they’re considered one of the more rare breeds of chickens. And really, to be honest, as soon as I pulled them out of the box, I was really excited to have them.

 

And for the record, I’m quite certain these chickens are all roosters. They’re only about 13-16 weeks old, I can’t remember exactly how old off the top of my head, but they’re some pretty cool guys.

 

While as chicks they look really funny, they have tufts of fuzz at the top of their head, then the back of their necks are completely free of fuzz or feathers, obviously their feathers have grown out now, then the rest of their bodies are covered in feathers.

 

It’s a pretty weird picture as far as breeds of chickens go, but they’ve made great additions so far, and the largest advantage of the roosters that I can see so far, aside from their easy going personalities, is the naked necks would make it very easy and clean to butcher them.

 

For a homestead looking for chickens that grow a good weight, are hearty, and who might be a little concerned about being able to butcher humanely, the naked neck might be a good choice for you.

 

Sometimes when butchering chickens, the feathers can get in the way, and there’s no issues with that when it comes to naked necks.

 

So what’s the deal with this rare breed? Let’s talk a little bit about this breeds history and how it came to be. According to Wikipedia, naked necks chickens were originally from Transylvania, but were largely developed in Germany.

 

The name “turken” is a misnomer, because people used to believe the chickens were derived from a cross between a turkey and a chicken, but obviously, that’s not the case.

 

The naked neck was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1965, according to their website.

 

The trait for the naked neck is a dominant gene, so if you breed a naked neck with a feathered necked chicken, some of the offspring will have naked necks.

 

Now the really interesting thing about this breed is that a study performed in France in 2006 showed that naked necks, either pure bloods or those mixed with other slow growing breeds, like a heritage breed, were more efficient with their feed, grew larger, and were healthier than regular broilers, like a Cornish cross.

 

They were also able to better withstand the heat, but the most striking aspect of the study was that the naked necks grew better and required less feed, largely because of their naked necks.

 

Of course, I’ll put a link to that study about naked neck chickens in the show notes, which you can access at thefrugalchicken.com/podcast11, all one word.

 

The roosters in this breeds of chickens get to be around 8.5 pounds while the hens get to be around 6.5 pounds (from the Oklahoma State University records), which is excellent for a meat bird.

 

So, if you’re looking for a breed that would be good all purpose bird that’s a non-hybrid, or breeds of chickens to raise for meat, the turken aka naked neck is a great one.

 

So next on our list of rare breeds of chickens we’ll talk about today are blue copper marans, and I’ve raised them on our homestead for about 2 years now.

 

Just a brief history of the marans, these rare chickens are derived from the French town of Marans, which is in Western France.

 

Now from Wikipedia, Marans were derived from local feral chickens that were descended from fighting game breeds of chickens carried from Indonesia and India.

 

These breeds of chickens were “improved” as meat birds by pairing the feral birds with Croad Langshans.

 

The marans chickens were developed as dual purpose fowl known both for both eggs and meat, and according to some French chefs, it’s the best chicken meat available.

 

So, about a couple years ago, I got bit with the rare breeds bug, and hopped on the Marans bandwagon after learning their eggs were so highly prized in France for their quality, that some chefs will only use eggs from Black Copper Marans chickens.

 

While I’ve had trouble finding quality black cooper marans in my area, I try to buy my laying birds locally, I’ve had great luck finding blue copper marans locally, and let me tell you these are some of the most colorful and beautiful breeds of chickens you can raise on your farm.

 

The males and females look quite different, and of course the roosters are much more colorful.

 

They’re grey chickens, with varying shades of grey in their plumage, but the roosters also have gold and red feathers as saddle feathers and on their necks.

 

Both males and females have feathered legs.

 

According to the Marans of America club, the blue copper marans are a variety as old as the marans breeds itself, and because the blue marans don’t breed true, it means they can come in a variety of shades of grey or blue, but will also have the red and gold feathers.

 

If the genetics of breeds of chickens interest you, you can read more about it at the Marans Of America club website, and I’ll put a link in the show notes.

 

The hens lay wonderful, large, dark brown eggs, although they can range anywhere from a light brown to a dark, dark chocolate color, like a chocolate lab. One hen also lays speckled ones, so they’re a dark brown with darker brown speckles.

 

This breed of chickens is really quite lovely, and I recommend blue copper marans as layers. Largely they’re healthy chickens, we’ve had about 10 on the farm, and most have made it well into adulthood.

 

The hens are not the friendliest birds as far as breeds of chickens go, they are definitely not lap chickens, but the roosters are quite friendly, and we’ve had two blue copper marans roosters that enjoyed human company and that allow us to pick them up and pet them. So it’s really remarkable the difference between the two genders.

 

The hens don’t lay as efficiently as breeds of chickens like production reds, for example, and mine seem sensitive to their protein intake and to heat, requiring more protein than a production red and laying less in the heat.

 

But your experience might differ, and honestly, when it comes to these heritage breeds, it’s not reasonable to expect them to lay like an industrial hybrid might. I think it’s more important to enjoy them for what they are, a really cool breed that lays really cool looking eggs on a very regular basis.

 

Like I said we keep blue copper marans chickens largely for their dark eggs and beauty.

 

So third on our list of rare breeds of chickens are cuckoo marans, which in reality are a type of marans but for the sake of our podcast today we’ll talk about them separately from the blue coppers, and mainly that’s because these breeds of chickens look quite different, and I think their personalities are different too.

 

We’ve had a few cuckoo marans hens here, and largely they were very friendly chickens, with a more pet mentality than our blue copper hens. Like the blue coppers, the cuckoos lay dark brown eggs.

 

Unlike the blue coppers, however, the cuckoos look quite different. These chickens have the barring gene in them, so they look similar barred breeds like a Plymouth Rock hen.

 

So, if you want dark laying breeds of chickens, and want to try something a little different, cuckoo marans might be for you.

 

Like other marans, the eggs from the cuckoos can range from a medium light brown to a dark, chocolate brown and they lay a large egg nearly every day.

 

Like other breeds of marans, I’ve found that the cuckoo is less efficient in how they use feed, so they need to eat more, and are more susceptible to not laying if their protein intake isn’t high enough, so if you do keep a these chickens, it’s important to watch their feed intake, and if they don’t lay, or are not as productive, then you will need to increase the amount they eat, or use a higher protein feed.

 

Something like a handful a day of mealworms per every 4 chickens would probably be sufficient, but again, you need to keep a close watch on your flock because every bird is different.

 

Make sense?

 

As far as breeds of chickens for meat go, Cuckoo marans are a great choice, and are highly prized in Europe for the quality of their meat. Males can reach 9 pounds, which is excellent for a meat chicken, while a hen will reach about 7 pounds.

 

So the cuckoo marans are one of the great dual purpose breeds of chickens.

 

Now, when it comes to egg color, obviously, cuckoo marans are prized for the color of their egg shells.

 

So because the dark eggs are so prized, sources show that especially Vitamin K and calcium can have some limited help with keeping the dark brown egg shell color, according to Cackle Hatchery.

 

So, here’s some interesting facts about marans, and these facts apply to the black copper, blue copper, and cuckoo breeds of chickens.

 

Now, marans come obviously in many different “breeds” but a breed isn’t considered a true marans unless it consistently lays a #4 brown egg. So what does this mean?

 

Well, to preserve the best qualities of the marans breeds, a color chart was developed, scaling the color of marans eggs from 1 – 10, based on how dark the brown color is. 

 

So, they have this darkness scale, developed in France, and unless the hen lays at least a #4 dark brown egg, she’s not considered part of the true marans breeds, which tells you something of how important preserving this particular quality of these breeds is.

 

Now, in the show notes, I’ll put a copy of the scale, and you can access those notes at breeds of chickens were “improved”.

 

So, when grading these eggs, the French wait until the hen has layed a dozen, and the reason for this is the first few that a hen lays can remain in the oviduct longer as her body acclimates to producing eggs.

 

So, the first few ones a hen produces might be darker than she is able to produce for the rest of her life. To preserve the accuracy of the scale and the best qualities of these breeds, and to help with breeding decisions, it’s necessary to wait until the hen lays a dozen eggs.

 

Our marans chickens lay regularly a 5 to a 7 on this darkness scale, depending on the bird, and we have one that lays probably an 8. The thing about the cuckoos and marans in general is every single egg won’t be the exact same color, and their ability to produce the dark brown color waxes and wanes over a chickens life.

 

So the last breed we’ll talk about today are Ayam cemanis. There are many unusual breeds of chickens you can have on your homestead, but today we’ll just stick to four for the sake of time.

 

So we’re talking about ayam cemanis because they’re gaining popularity in the US in part because of their color and because they’re rare for lack of a better word, and in part because true ayam cemanis are very expensive, and they’ve gained a cult following in this country for these two reasons.

 

So what’s the deal with this breed of chickens?

 

So the ayam ceman originated on the island of Java, in Indonesia, and they’re prized in that country for their mystical powers, and are an important part of traditional culture there.

 

They were first brought to Europe in  1998 by a Dutch breeder, and grew in popularity there.

 

Ayam cemanis are pure black, including their organs, muscles etc.

 

The reason these rare chickens are pure black is because of a genetic condition called fibromelanosis which is caused by a mutation that affects how pigment-producing cells work.

 

So, a study done in Sweden in 2011 looked at four breeds of chickens with characteristically dark skin.

 

These breeds were Silkies from China, which are pretty popular in the US, the Ayam Cemani from Indonesia, Black H’Mong from Vietnam and Svarthöna from Sweden.

 

And basically, these researchers were trying to understand why some breeds of chickens evolved with this black gene and how it works.

 

A gene called endothelian-3 (EDN3), was involved in the regulation of melanocyte cells which produce pigments. So, these researchers found around 10 times as much EDN3 was expressed in the skin of adult black chickens than in other breeds.

 

So the bottom line is that in these breeds of chickens, the gene that regulates pigmentation is in overdrive in the ayam cemani, resulting in the black coloring.

 

So, that’s kind of a scientific nerdy explanation about why the Ayam cemani and the other breeds of chickens studied look the way that they do.

 

Now, true Ayam Cemani will be a true black, so it’s head will be black, and so will its feet, tongue, etc., and any chickens that don’t display this quality is a hybrid.

 

Now, if you want to keep ayam cemani on your farm, you will probably have to pay quite a bit for your chickens, and I highly suggest you do your research, and buy from a reputable source.

 

The reason for this is I’ve seen “ayam cemani” chickens for sale on e-bay and their hatching eggs for sale, and an unsuspecting buyer could easily pay purebred prices for hybrid chickens.

 

So, I don’t personally have any sellers I recommend, but I encourage you to do your homework.

 
If you want to keep ayam cemani on your farm, you can do so for the eggs or meat, they are chickens after all, but their real value seems to be in the breeding, and if you’re looking for a way to bring income to your homestead or just want to keep a cool chicken on your farm, ayam cemanis might be the way to go.

 

The ayam cemanis, being so intertwined with Indonesian and other eastern cultures, is highly valued for its traditional relevance.

 

In some countries, when a bank opens, for example, an ayam cemani chicken might be butchered in a good luck ceremony, and the darker the chicken meaning the more black it is, the stronger it’s powers of good fortune.

 

So some sellers in the US have been able to cash in on this breed for those reasons.

 

We have considered keeping ayam cemanis on our farm, but the cost for a true black cemani is so high that for right now it doesn’t fit into our personal goals.

 

So, the interesting thing here is these breeds of chickens have a third purpose on a farm besides eggs and meat.

 

So, I hope this episode has given you some ideas for rare breeds of chickens you can keep on your homestead.

 

I’d love to hear about the breeds of chickens you keep on your farm, or want to keep on your farm, so there’s something I want you to do.

 

I would love it if you dropped me a line at [email protected] to tell me what rare breeds you raise and why.

 

Now, if raising rare breeds of chickens is something that interests you, but you’re concerned about how to best feed them so they’re productive and lay nourishing eggs, as can sometimes be the case with these rare breeds, you’ll want to check out my new course, Feeding Your Hens Right, which you can see at feedingyourhensright.com.

 

In this course, you’ll learn how to feed your chickens so they get an optimal diet and lay the most nourishing eggs possible.

 

As we grow increasingly sophisticated in understanding where our food comes from and the repercussions of eating poor quality food, it’s important to understand how your hens diet effects the quality of her eggs.

 

Anyone who has a wheat allergy and can’t eat eggs will understand what I mean. A friend recently told me that if she feeds her chickens a wheat based diet, her son, who is wheat intolerant, will get sick.

 

So, that right there is proof that your hen’s diet does effect the quality of her eggs, and studies have shown the exact same thing.

 

If feeding your family the most nutritious food possible is important to you, then you’ll want to check out my course.

 

It’s 5 video workshops, that you can access at any time. There’s specific recipes for homemade feed that can be tailored to your particular needs, and you’ll learn how to raise a happy, healthy flock of chickens.

 

The URL for that course is FeedingYourHensRight.Com, all one word.

 

Thanks for listening to this episode of What the Cluck?! about rare breeds of chickens, and I’ll see you next time!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which rare breeds of chickens do you raise on your farm? What are their advantages? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!