We got our chickens as day-old chicks at the very end of May. They are dual-purpose heritage breed chickens – Barred Rocks, Plymouth Rocks, and Red and Silver Laced Wyandottes. The girls will lay plenty of eggs, though not quite as many as a true laying breed, and the boys will get pretty big, though not quite as meaty as a true meat breed. The hatchery also sent us some ‘bonus’ chicks, of unknown breeds. We ordered ‘straight run’, meaning we got what hatched, rather than getting just girls. In effect, about half of our chickens are roosters. Our plan was to keep the girls for the eggs, and maybe a couple of roosters so we could hatch next year’s chicks ourselves, and butcher the rest of the roosters for the freezer.
Of course, butchering did not happen as scheduled – between back problems, a cold, the boys being here, another cold, another visit from the boys, and now crappy, snowy weather, we still have as many roosters as we started with. Sooner or later, though, something will have to happen with them, as they are so aggressive with the hens that the girls all fly out of the coop and yard at the first opportunity, and go hang out in the barn or scratch around in the grass by the house, or else risk losing half the feathers on their backs from aggressive roosters trying to mount, often two or thee at a time. We could clip their wing feathers to make it harder for them to fly, but we haven’t the heart, seeing the treatment they get from the roosters.
I did not really expect eggs from the hens until next spring – heritage breeds mature a little slower than other types, and the hens were not expected to begin laying before 6 months of age. From what I had read, chickens need a certain number of daylight hours to trigger laying – something like 12 or 14, but certainly more than we get in Saskatchewan in late November. September 22nd was the Autumn Equinox, the last time we’ll see a full 12 hours of daylight until the Spring Equinox in late March. Today’s sunrise was 8:23am, and sunset will be 5:11pm, so we’re getting just under 9 hours of daylight right now, or would be if it hadn’t been overcast and snowing for the last three days.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, the day before yesterday, Hubby came in with a little green egg. He had found it in the baskets of hay he had prepared for the goats – we had not bothered to build nesting boxes for the hens, yet, as we weren’t really expecting them to lay in the winter. Apparently, one of the bonus chickens turned out to be some variety of Easter Egger hen – likely an Auracauna or Americauna – they lay blue and green eggs. Yesterday, Hubby found one green and one little brown egg, so the Easter Egger is not the only one getting busy. The eggs are quite teeny – apparently hens work their way up to laying full size eggs – and they’re really very cute. With around 20 hens, if they all get going, we’ll be drowning in eggs soon…