Friday, 28 September 2012

Why we bought heritage chickens...

We have had a motley collection of chooks for years. Usually the cheap hybrid layers from the local produce place that lay well and provide all the fun of having chickens in the backyard for well under $20 each.

  "Cloud"                                  "Sunset"                      "Thunder"                         

I have always admired the wonderful array of chickens at the Ekka and secretly coveted them. But since my only source of chickens was the produce place down the road, I simply could never lay my hands on anything more exotic than a black, white or brown hybrid layer.

Then suddenly there was a couple of interesting chickens at the produce place. I enquired about them and was told that they were in quarantine and to come back later in the week, which I did - and predictably they were gone. I managed to get a gray (or is it blue) Leghorn from a lady at the markets who was a breeder but she disappeared after a few weeks. Which was a shame as "Storm" lays the most magnificent big white eggs.

A few more exotic looking hens finally turned up at the produce place and  I managed to lay my hands on a Pekin bantam and an Indian Game bantam. They were wonderful fun and so different from my hybrid layers.

             "Dawn"                                                  "Drizzle"                                  

After visiting the Ekka this year, I decided that I wanted to concentrate on eggs rather than chickens per say. I was never going to be able to raise any for the freezer and since I live in Suburbia, the council and I wernt going to see eye to eye on a couple of Rooster,'s for breeding no matter how magnificent they might be!

Once you start looking into eggs, you discover that there are green eggs, cream eggs, sun burnt coloured eggs, tiny eggs, huge eggs and so on through the rainbow. I was hooked and it took a fair bit of research to figure out what chook laid which egg. Then I had to track down a breeder or two.

An ad on Rhonda's Down to Earth website for heritage chickens was my first foray into the world of heritage chickens. I bought two Aracana's, that will lay green tinted eggs when they are a bit older, from Julie and got a glimpse into the world of  heritage chickens. There is soooooo much variety. All those childhood books with images of barnyards and farms with chickens scratching and rooster proudly crowing were suddenly real! Julie sent me down the road to see Andrew - and that was game over for me.

My Aracana's (Breeze, front and Misty, back) that will lay green eggs from Julie

I had set a limit for myself of twelve chickens across two pens (breaking a few council rules (but then the 11th commandment, I believe, is "thou shalt not get caught!) and once I saw Andrews collection, I decided that I wanted at least one of everything! The hybrid layers come in black, white and brown. Hertiage chickens come in black with white spots, white with lavender ruffs, red, so dark it shines green, speckled with every shade of brown, black with black legs, eyes and skin, black and white stripes, big poofs of beige, white and black, black with gold trim and that's just the hens - the roosters are another awesomely magnificent creature entirely!

My two new barnevelders that will lay dark brown eggs from Andrew!
(As yet un-named as I cant tell them apart yet!)

Breeders need us backyarders to buy their chickens to keep the breeds going and to make a living. Us backyarders need the heritage chickens to add variety and beauty to our flocks. My husband had never seen heritage chickens before and he was amazed to see how small and boring our beloved hybrid layers were! Everyone who comes to our place is always taken with the heritage chickens and comment on how different they are. Its great fun.

We wont be culling our three hybrid layers but when they shuffle off their mortal perch one day, I will be making another visit to a heritage breeder to bring home something with spots, stripes and a ton of personality!

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