Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rethinking Flock Dynamics

So, did you hear the one about the urban couple living on a 7th of an acre with 16 chickens who bought 25 more??? Yes, we're sure we will be the butt of some peoples jokes, but there's a method to this madness.

For those following our blog, you are well aware of our recent excursion to purchase 13 bantam chickens. For those who are new, you can read about that here.

Life's a dance, you learn as you go. While we don't have any regrets purchasing the bantams and we've enjoyed watching them grow, here are some of the lessens we've learned by having them:
  • Bantams lay smaller eggs, hands down; thus they are less marketable
  • They don't lay as often as the larger breeds
  • Our bantams went to the bottom of the pecking order when placed with the standard sized breed, this may be the reason why their production is lower
  • They are much noisier than our other breeds which equals unhappy neighbors
  • With so many hens in different stages of development too much time was required to keep the flocks separated
For all of these reasons and probably a few others we can't think of right now, we made the decision about a week ago to find other homes for the bantam clutch (and mama) and the two adolescents. As if by God's favor, on the day we made this decision we 1) learned our neighbor's son wanted to take at least the mama & clutch and possibly the adolescents and 2) Carrie was randomly perusing Ideal Poultry's website and they had a weekly special offering Black Sex-Link chicks (females) for only $1.50 each (regularly $2.50 at most hatcheries).

For those not familiar with the Black Sex-Link (a.k.a. Black Star), there are a number of distinct advantages to this breed. A cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Barred Rock hen, the chicks are born with distinct color markings denoting the sex. This is fairly uncommon in the world of chickens, but allows for quick sexing at the hatchery and you are assured of only getting females - so you don't have to find a home for what could otherwise turn out to be roosters. Sex-Links are also reliable layers of large brown eggs - even in weather extremes. We know this first hand because Nellie, one of our original three hens and a black sex link, has laid consistently since she began - including on both the hottest day and the coldest day of the year. For the month of January, probably historically the least egg-friendly month, Nellie laid 18 eggs. Neither our Barred Rock or Brown Leghorn laid a single egg during this same time period. Last, Nellie is the most docile of all our chickens. That title was supposed to go to the Barred Rock, but Charlotte didn't get the memo.

So, our ultimate goal here is to have 15 or 16 (the maximum occupancy for our coop) good egg laying hens. All of the Bantams will be relocated for sure. Our broody Leghorn is flirting with an uncertain future, and Charlotte, who just finished molting, is expected to start up again and secure a place in the flock. All of the chicks who came in today who don't fit the bill will be sold to help recoop, (pun) the cost of this hobby we like to call self-sufficiency.

Keep your eyes peeled for more coming on the new chicks, including ordering, brooding, growth, tagging and the eventual relocation to the outdoor coop. -Jason & Carrie


  1. Even with the revision to your flock, will there be too many eggs laid compared to the number that can be consumed in your household?

    I don't know anything about the natural workings of chickens. I'm a product of the supermarket culture. ;-)

  2. What Pigs Don't KnowFebruary 4, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    You're spot-on Karen! We'd better be getting more eggs than can be consumed in our household! That is the plan, at least, and we'll sell the excess. Hopefully at least pay for their food, etc. We enjoy them so much - but it would be nice if they could earn their keep! -Carrie

  3. Ah ha! I did not think about the selling of the excess eggs. And now I see the "local eggs for sale" tab. I wish you all good success on that endeavor!