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.