Backyard Flocks - Choosing Hens
My approach to choosing hens remains balanced. To be fair to my feathered friends, I insist on hens that are happy and healthy in our varied climate of cold, frosty winters and hot, humid summers. Other than that, I pick the hens mostly by whim. I am lucky to have the space to keep a couple dozen hens. Sometimes I order chicks for egg-laying color, sometimes for the way the mature hen looks, and sometimes just to add variety to my flock.
I purchase all eggs for incubation and chicks through MCMURRAY HATCHERY. Internet research and trips to local agricultural supply stores convinced me to find a reliable source and to stick with it. People at the supply stores often know little about where the chicks came from and whether or not they were treated with antibiotics. An added benefit of ordering from a well-known supplier is that the practices are clearly identified on the site and access to a live person who cares and knows what they are talking about are readily available to answer questions.
New Hampshire Red and Rhode Island Red hens lay the largest and most brown eggs per year. These ladies think they have an open invitation to enter our house when the screen door is open.
Top Hat chickens are fun to look at and are great conversation starters during backyard bbq’s. Albeit, with feathers in their eyes, they are the most prone to being carried off by a hawk. (Not the brightest in the flock, but darling characters.) Their eggs are on the smaller side, but perfect for topping RISOTTO, or salad when the egg is not the main ingredient but rather a flavor builder.
The silver laced Wyandotte has gorgeous feather patterning and is one of the most laid back breeds of all chickens. Easy to handle, kids love them. Their eggs are brown and each hen lays about 4 eggs a week.
White leghorns are gorgeous but skittish. They lay large white eggs. These hens do not like to be picked up and carried around.
Araucuna or Ameraucuna hens are not the prettiest hens. However, they lay the most gorgeous blue and green large eggs. Often referred to as Easter egger chickens they have fun, curious personalities and get along with other feathered breeds exceptionally well.
For those green thumb vegetable gardeners, larger zucchini blossoms, cucumber flowers (so many blossoms that do not become fruit they may as well be put to use as edible plate art), strawberry florets, and sweet tasting English pea flowers, shoots and vines are show stopping palate pleasers with their climbing curling tendrils and soft pinky cream flowers. Nearly any finished plate rises to the level of restaurant fare when eye catching flowers poke their heads from among a recipe's ingredients. Be adventurous--harvest some zucchini blossoms, stuff them with Italian or goat cheeses, and bake for just a few minutes. One bite and the garden may become your personal favorite market in which to shop for tonight's supper.