Mr. Rawles and Readers,
I would like to make an additional comment on the well written article “A Newbie’s Perspective on Raising Chickens”. It is true, that most of the hatchery breeds of chickens have lost their inclination to brood, however a few breeds still maintain their skills as good brood hens. We purchased three Silkie chickens two years ago and I have been amazed at their tenacity toward both laying and setting eggs. One hen tried for six weeks to set eggs in the pen in the middle of a snow drift in February and March. She was so persistent that I had to build a small shelter over her to protect her. Another hen tried twice to set a clutch of eggs. She even continued to set after her eggs were destroyed by another hen. I purchased three baby chicks from the local feed store and snuck them under her one evening about dusk. She promptly stood up with a startled “BOK” and settled down on those babies. It was an instant bond. She is once again setting this spring.
I would also like to extol the virtues of the Silkie breed roosters. We have had a couple of regular breed roosters that were brutal to both our hens, and us. I finally had to dispatch them to chicken heaven. We now have a Silkie rooster. Silkies are a smaller breed and the males are very mild-tempered. Because of the smaller size, they don’t tear up the hens (or the owners) like the large breeds. Roosters are not only necessary for breeding but they provide protection to the flock. They will sound a loud alarm when an intruder is in the area or a predator flies over head. The hens know to immediately get under cover. Roosters also alert hens to especially good food when they are free ranging.
I don’t recommend getting all of your flock in the Silkie type or any other small breed. Definitely mix up the flock for size, temperament, cold hardiness and productivity. Some of the old breeds work well like the Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks and Orpingtons. These have proven to be hardy and consistent layers. Because we live in an Alpine area near a ski resort, I have found the Leghorns to be inferior in length of time they produce as well as hardiness. I have also found that on bitter cold nights, I need to bring my little Silkie hens in at night and house them in a cage in the basement.
Regardless of the breed, chickens are guaranteed to provide enjoyment and eggs in the right setting. Of all the “farm” animals, they are one of the easiest to raise and keep.
Thank you for all you do through Christ, - Heather S.