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Meet the Flock, part 1 January 9, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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We’ve been entertained by the personalities and antics of our flock of poultry since we moved here. It’s been fascinating and educational for us to witness “pecking order” in action, communication among the birds, the near miracle of hatching, the rapid development of the little fuzzballs, and the reality of mortality. We’ve become partial to many and given them names. Others blend together and demand little attention, but are good little layers nonetheless. We thought it might be fun to share some of their “stories” with you.

Percy

This is the king of the flock, so it seemed only right to introduce him first. He is the only one of the original chickens that has survived. He, by rights, owns the henhouse since he lived here before us.

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(Notice one of the Red Rock hens is hiding out behind “home base” Percy last summer).

Percy is a Jersey Giant cross. The Giants were bred in the later 1800’s as meat birds, but fell out of favor with commercial producers because they take a good bit longer to fill out. The average grocery store chicken is about 7-8 weeks old- imagine growing a bird from hatchling to 4 or 5 pounds in seven weeks! That special strain of bird has been bred and fed to gain weight at a rate so accelerated that most can no longer stand up after a month without breaking their own legs.

Giants become huge birds (in excess of 10 pounds), but at a natural pace and with a balance of bone and muscle. There isn’t any money to be made commercially these days selling meat birds grown as nature intended. Only small farms and poultry enthusiasts raise them today.

As roosters go, Percy is quite a gentleman, too. He carefully watches over “his girls” as they forage and frequently calls them over to show/give them some special morsel he has found. And you’ll never see Percy running down any of the ladies like some of the cavalier youngsters do. He’s always dignified and is well-respected by the “henfolk.” When the ladies are receiving the unwanted advances of one of the younger cockerels, they run and hide behind Percy. That stops the cockerels in their tracks. If he takes even one step in their direction, they turn tail and run. Percy never has to fight- just by sheer size and dignity, he is respected and no one challenges him. We dread the day Percy passes, but he is showing his age- he actually had gray sickle feathers last year after he molted. This year, they are very slow to grow in at all.

Pickle and Gherkin

Our daughter Rachel named a gray and tan Ameraucana hen Pickle. I don’t know if there was an actual reason of if she just liked the sound of the word when she was 3 ½. Regardless, the name has stuck and so Pickle’s daughter was named Gherkin.

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(Here Pickle has fluffed herself up to settle down for a nap in the sun on a chilly winter day).

Ameraucanas go by several names, including Easter Egg Chickens. They lay tinted eggs, mostly in the blue-green color range. The eggs are quite beautiful, especially when the birds first start laying. Some people inaccurately called them Araucanas, but those birds are actually from South America and are tailless. They are probably the breeding stock that eventually produced Ameraucanas, but they do look different.

Ameraucanas typically have “earmuffs” and “beards”- fluffy tufts of feathers on their cheeks and under their chins. They do have complete tails. Unlike other breeds that tend to have identical plumage patterns, Ameraucanas come in many different colors, so they are a pretty addition to the barnyard.

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(Not a great picture of Gherkin, but the best I could do.  She’s camera-shy and quick on her feet).

All of our “Easter Eggers” are curious birds, prone to flying over their fence when confined, and quick to investigate the dogs’ bowls and preen on the porch. When they hear me open the feed cans, I can count on at least one trying to fly up and into the can itself, too impatient to wait.

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Comments»

1. Laurie - January 11, 2007

They are so beautiful! This makes me want some even more 😦 Do you have ducks? We are thinking about getting some funky ducks (can’t remember the name) since we can’t get chickens.

I hope you are feeling well. Actually, I hope you are holding a new sweet gift 😉

2. Sheryl - March 8, 2007

Laura, I’m so glad the chickens bring you so much joy. Let me know when you are ready for investors and employees!!! The picture of all those different colored eggs in the carton is so pretty!


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