I started down the chicken path the same way that many do; a few birds for a few eggs. I wasn’t insane to start with. The few birds were four Anconas and three Easter Eggers. Anconas are related to Leghorns, the chickens who lay the large white eggs everyone buys by the carton. They are sleek black birds with white dots. In the sun their feathers shine green and purple. Their small size enables them to be active fliers, and they are known to be excellent foragers. Their eggs are large and white. Their personalities (yes, different chicken breeds possess different personalities) are skittish and standoffish.
Easter Eggers are actually a mix of several different breeds, the sole purpose of which is to produce a chicken that lays green or blue eggs. My three Easter Eggers are red colored. They are less skittish than the Anconas, less likely to fly into the tree tops, and slightly more curious about me. This first seven seemed plenty, almost too much. Almost. But then I realized two things. I was going to end up with a lot of white eggs. Who owns chickens and still has white eggs? Also, there was a decided lack of variation on the color scheme down at the coop. What to do? Buy more chickens. I bought two Speckled Sussex; beautiful mahogany, black and white speckled birds, one Jersey Giant; black and large with a purplish hue and docile personality, and another Ancona (because she was missing the tip of her toe and clearly needed a home).
Eleven chickens, now in black with white speckles, mahogany with green/black and white speckles, and solid black, and the three red Easter eggers, now scratched for insects in their greatly enlarged homestead.Eleven seems like a perfect number. The new birds all lay some version of brown eggs. Then I realized that there are chickens who lay dark brown eggs. Ooh! I need some like that! I went to the feed store, but they didn’t have either of the breeds I was looking for. (This may have been where the wheels began to come off…) So I bought three more.
Two are Delawares, lovely white hens with broad bodies and a ruff of black feathers running down their shoulders. The other is a buff orphington, a lovely blond lass with fluffy feathers. Both breeds are exceptionally friendly, but too heavy to gain much loft. Both lay brown tinged eggs. I then realized that a local breeder sold the type of dark brown egg layers that I wanted. The only problem was that he sold them as hatchling chicks or unhatched eggs. I wished to deal with neither an incubator, nor a brooder. What I needed was a broody hen. See, hens have had much of their maternal instinct bred out of them by farmers who did not want the hens to peck them mercilessly for gathering eggs. Also broody hens stop laying eggs once she has a full clutch (6-12 eggs). This is also bad for business. So most hens do not go broody. But some do. And I needed one of those, because then I could fool her with golf balls (yep, this is done all the time), buy a half dozen eggs from the local breeder and stick them under the hen in the middle of the night! Viola!! A built in incubator.
So I bought a silkie. These are fluffy, some think cute, chickens that are largely flightless due to the fact that their feathers are all fluffy down feathers instead of sleek feathers. Fifteen! Fifteen chickens, but finally the perfect number had been reached (until the Silkie goes broody and I buy my six welsummer eggs that is). I was happy. I had achieved chicken nirvana. Then the Silkie began to crow. No broody hen, no happy welsummer eggs; instead a fluffy pointless idiot of a rooster.
What’s that you say? You have American game hens for sale? I heard those go broody a lot!!