The chicken is a familiar farm animal, but even those who are setting up backyard flocks may not be aware of the more arcane facts of their life. Some may not be aware of the most basic facts of their biology. I cannot count the number of times people have told me they would love to have chickens producing eggs in the backyard, but they just cannot stand the thought of having a rooster. BASIC FACT: Hens, like women everywhere, do not need a male to produce eggs. Hens, like women everywhere, do need a male to produce a baby.
Related Basic Facts: A rooster fertilizes an egg before it has a shell and before it is laid in the nest. The white of the fertilized egg is what becomes the chick, while the yolk is there to nourish the chick as it develops. That is why day old chicks can be sent to a new chicken farmer in the mail. The newly hatched chick needs no food or water for three days. Of course, those of us who have picked up a cheerily cheeping box of chicks from the post office are happy to get them into their brooding area as quickly as possible, to give them the warmth that is essential, as well as food and water.
Gail Damerow’s Chicken Encyclopedia published by Storey will answer hundreds of other questions about chickens. Some of the answers will help you decide what kind of flock you want to have. There are always aesthetics. So many breeds from big handsomely feathered birds like the Faverolle to the Silkie to a nearly featherless hybrid.
Even the shape of their combs might influence your choice. There is the familiar single comb, but also rose combs, pea combs, strawberry and pea combs.
When I first had chickens the winters were colder than they are now. Some of the birds with their tall single combs would get frostbitten which was alarming to see in January, but they always recovered by June. Chickens with smaller combs like the rose comb did not suffer as much from the cold. Nowadays it doesn’t seem to be an issue at all.
I have chosen different breeds over the years, fat golden Buff Orpingtons, cheerful Barred Rocks, elegant Silver Laced Wyandottes and others. It is nice to have a pretty mixed flock clucking around but the last few years I have only ordered Araucanas/Americanas, which is the way Murray McMurray hatchery labels and sells them. These are the chickens that lay those pretty blue eggs. I haven’t chosen them because of the prettiness of the eggs, but because they are such good layers, easily laying reliably into their third year. What I give up is a mixed flock of beautifully feathered birds. I don’t think Araucans are the most attractive birds you can get, but I decided I need to be practical in getting more eggs for my buck.
This post is part of Storey’s virtual blog tour. Be sure to visit the other bloggers who are giving more information and responses to the Chicken Encyclopedia. Also, you can win a copy of this fascinating book by leaving a comment below by midnight March 14. Be sure I have your email address, and I’ll announce the winner, chosen randomly, on March 15. Storey will send your copy of the Chicken Encyclopedia once I have your mailing address. The other blogs are also having Giveaways so you have many chances to win this great book. Thank you Storey!
2-Mar For the Love of Chickens
3-Mar Vintage Garden Gal
4-Mar The Garden Roof Coop
5-Mar Common Weeder
6-Mar Chickens in the Road
7-Mar Garden Rant
8-Mar Fresh Eggs Daily
9-Mar My Pet Chicken Blog
10-Mar Coop Thoughts
11-Mar BoHo Farm and Home
12-Mar Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs
13-Mar A Charlotte Garden
14-Mar Farm Fresh Fun
15-Mar The HenCam
16-Mar Life on a Southern Farm
17-Mar ADozenGirlz, the Chicken Chick™
18-Mar North Coast Gardening
Storey Publishing has its own blog which is full of information and fun. I know because I once contributed some chicken lore. I guess I just did a little crowing there.
This Post Has 43 Comments
Here I am drooling over chickens and not because they are swimming with dumplings. I have always wanted chickens as I am sure you have heard me lament. Just can’t have them here. Whine~~~
Lisa – The desire to have chickens is completely understandable – as are the constraints that disallow it. Sigh.
Wow, that looks like a really informative book. I really appreciate the effort you put into your review, job well done.
This is our first year having chicks. We have wanted them for over five years. We are finally in the position to get some. Our babies are due to arrive at the store today. My 6 year old daughter woke at five in the morning and is sitting at the door with her coat on. I tried to explain the postal system but there she sits!!
Sara- You will all have agoodtime with your chicks -and learn a lot.
You are so right. People are always asking my husband and I that same question… “how do you have eggs with out a rooster?”
Just yesterday I mentioned to my husband what a joy chicken-keeping has been for me. Not only do I enjoy them, I have meet some many interesting people and made new friends.
It’s remarkable how common the misconception about eggs and roosters is. I just answered a question from a Facebook fan ten minutes ago who got his first hens this month and believed he needed to invest in a rooster in order to get eggs.
This book contains a wealth of information for all chicken-keepers from the novice to the experienced. I’m not sure how we all got along without it this long!
I enjoyed this so much. I love my chickens, and I have to say, the Buff Orpingtons are about the prettiest chickens I’ve ever had. I do have a mixed flock of beautiful chickens including those like yours. The info was spot on. Thanks.~~Dee
I have people that worry if we have a rooster will they ever find chicks in our eggs…lol! This seems like a very informative book. I often turn to Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens for answers.
Seems like just yesterday we picked up our box of 16 chicks from the PO. it has been almost a year! Buffs, golden Dots and silver Rocks. The fresh eggs almost seem like a bonus. the best part has been enjoying their company – they are smart, funny and chatty. they make my day. thanks for sharing and love meeting all these new folks. Laura
I’m a chicken-keeping hopeful, as they say, and I’m loving this blog tour! So much great information out there; I hope to start a flock of my own next year!
I can remember asking that question about the rooster and eggs. How much I have learned!
I raise Buff Orpingtons, Australorps and Americaunas. The Americaunas have always been my favorites. They’re just so easy going and seem to get along with everyone, even new chickens.
All of you- I can see Buff Orpingtons are a big favorite and we loved them too. So many beautiful breeds. I want to know who has ever had Frizzles? We had Frizzle bantams – described as looking like they backed into a fan. The grandchildren loved them.
I have Ameraucanas and Salmon Faverolles-both have muffs and beards but the salmons also have feathers on their feet.I have enjoyed the blogs and would love to win a book.Judy
I have EE, production reds and black copper marans. I’m a new chicken owner.
My daughter just closed on 36 acres and her husband said they will have chickens, this would make a wonderful gift.
I love chickens.
I would love to have this wonderful book! I currently have nine chickens who are layers/pets…all named for French women: Fleurette, Odile, Manon, Gigi, Suzette, L’Etoile, Joelle, Lulu & Eglantine (Eggy!) I love them and they all have such different personalities…
I’m so glad you are part of this giveaway. I’ve been looking for blogs on country living.
Great post ! I am part of the tour (Fresh Eggs Daily) so not eligible to enter to win but just wanted to comment on how much I enjoyed this stop !
Great info here! I want to win the encyclopedia!!!
Oh so many lovely chickens! This book would be such a great resource for our poultry 4H group!
Great Info! I could never consider just one breed to be the most beautiful. I enjoy a mixed flock because I love the variety and find such beauty in how each breed’s coloring, patterns, combs differ. I also love the variety in eggs. Chickens are awesome!
I love your forsythia too!Judy
I’m getting my first chicks ever on 4/20. I. Need. This. Book! 🙂
I would love to win The Chicken Encyclopedia! Does it have a lot of info on roosters?
This looks fantastic! We are getting our first chicks this spring hopefully
soluckyducky at gmail dot com
This encyclopedia would be a fine addition to my library. I’d love to have it. DocVBK@msn.com
We are expecting our first batch of chicks, set to arrive in 2 weeks. Included will be Americana, Barred and Partridge rock, Welsummer, Columbian and Silver laced Wyandotte. I can’t wait!!!
Never thought I would raise chickens, and now that I have them I can’t imagine what I ever did before for outdoor entertainment. They’re quirky and they give me wonderful presents daily! Love my chickens! Love the book!
I am VERY new to this backyard chicken experiance. I moved out of Chicago to a more rural part of Wisconsin. (Ok, it feeels very rural to ME.LOL)
This will be my 2nd year of having a garden, which I have been just LOVING.
I also picked up 6 hens last summer. They are marvelous. My fella and I built them a nice coop, nesting boxes and a run. (I can’t let them roam, as much as I would LOVE to, we have quite a few predators that would enjoy consuming them.)
I am SUCH a total niovice though. Still trying to figure them out. They give me the BEST eggs I have ever eaten. I have spoken to a few people at the Tractor Supply place out here, and made some use of the internet. I am admittedly “winging it”, but so far they seem to do ok.
I have two of each of the following, barred Rocks, white Rocks, and gold laced Wyandots.
I would love to learn more, and I think the encycloopedia would be a great resource. Wiging it is working for the most part, but I wish I had a better more thorough grasp. (I am not a big fan of the internet, I am old school in that I PREFER things like book!)
Looking forward to continuing the adveture with the little hens!
Looking to pick which breeds we will start with this year… so many choices!
There is nothing like having your own eggs, they are better for you and taste so good. I always buy cage free eggs when I shop at the grocery store
Just ordered 25 chicks to add to my existing flock, 10 rhode island reds and 15 black australops. plus i got 25 free meat birds.
I want chickens so desperately! I’ve been talked down, for the time being, but it will happen. Sooner or later I will have my chickens.
Please enter me in this giveaway. It looks like a great book!
I’m so glad Storey decided to do this blog tour I’m discovering so many lovely blogs. I look forward to reading more of your posts!
Very excited to be starting our chicken flock this spring! We had such a hard time deciding what breed/s to order, and finally just went with a a few varieties from the co-op. Yay eggs!
Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the nice review. I am getting chickens next year and I can’t hardly wait!!!
I miss my hens so much! They are under my sister’s care until we get a house here in Washington, then Demelza and the girls will be headed north! Meanwhile, I’ll buy a copy of The chicken Encyclopedia to keep me company.
Will be starting to raise chickens in the next couple of years and this would come in handy.