I like to think that I am a creative person, and perhaps it is just my OCD or lackthereof…or maybe it was my ignorance. Anyway. When we first started with chickens in 2010 or so, I had only ever heard of brown egg laying chickens. Ya know, the normal run of the mill Rhode Island Red, Isa Brown, Barred Rocks, Brahmas, etc. This was when we bought our chickens from Tractor Supply. I had no idea that you could actually order chickens from an online supplier or catalog!
My eyes grew wide. Blue eggs, pink eggs, green eggs, dark brown eggs, white eggs, cream eggs, light blue eggs….. BOY OH BOY!
We have about 35 laying hens, some are newer and some are older and the older hens (3 to 4 years old) do not lay as frequently as the newer hens. We are adding in another 40 soon, we are just waiting for them to be big enough to integrate into our flock. We are adding Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, True Whiting Blues, Black Jersey Giants, and Black Australorps.
So here is a little bit about some different types of chickens that we have. Not all the photos of the chickens are my photos, as my hens are way out to pasture in the mud, and I’m not about to trek out there for some less than stellar photos. But the eggs are mine!
The Black Copper Maran is considered a rare breed, and originates from France. It is known for its dark brown eggs, almost a chocolate color. In Post War France, the breed became almost extinct. The French Department of Agriculture decided to then start a breeding program to bring the breed back from the brink of extinction. The American Poultry Association classified it as a breed in 2011, so it is fairly new, even though it has been around since the early 1900’s in France. It is classified as a continental large breed of fowl.
However, the Black Copper Marans that we have do not lay the rich chocolate brown that the breed standard has set forth, I have also found that with age, the darkness fades. We got 6 of them a few years ago from a local breeder and depending on how selective the breeding is will play a part in how dark the egg is, as well as proper nutrition. Ours have always been a milk chocolate color, despite proper nutrition. It is very hard to find non-diluted Black Copper Maran chickens without forking over your first born. I am still happy with the dark eggs they provide as it allows for a nice display inside the carton. Sometimes, there are dark specks, which is just normal coating.
Do you remember Cornelius, the famous Corn Flakes’ Rooster? He was a Welsumer. Welsummers are a new addition to our flock as of last year. The breed orginates from a small village named Welsum in Holland. It is classified as a continental heavy fowl. They were bred by a farmer in the early 1900s when he wanted to improve the productivity of the local flocks. The breed was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1991.
The Welsummer remains popular for its dark brown, speckled eggs. They are very pretty birds, having a Partridge Coloring. We have 3 Welsummer hens and find them to be quiet. They are not very broody–meaning they don’t really have the instinct to sit on their eggs. Being broody is a good thing somtimes…in my experience, a broody hen is priceless, as she will sit on any kind of egg to get it to hatch…but she’ll also hide her eggs and how you find them is sometimes explosive… literally. Welsummers have a medium egg production, producing around 250 eggs per year under the perfect conditions.
This breed gets its namesake from the state of Delaware, where it was developed as the country’s primary meat bird, until the 1940’s when the Cornish Cross was introduced into the market. The Delaware is a white and black colored chicken, often looking much like the Light Brahma. We have 12 Delaware Hens and 3 Delaware Roosters. I am planning on developing my own type of meat bird from Delawares, Rhode Island Reds, and Black Jersey Giants. (I am still waiting on my RIR and Black Jersey Giants to come of age). We originally purchased Delawares because of their meat productivity and their egg producing capabilities. I wanted a bird that developed quickly–Delawares take just 12-16 weeks before laying eggs, where a normal hen takes around 16-25 weeks, depending on the breed.
Delawares also fully develop by 12 weeks, making it a great substitute for a meat bird–after all, that was their original purpose before the Cornish Cross. They do well foraging, unlike Cornish Crosses who spend most of their life sitting at the food bin. Delaware Hens lay a large to jumbo sized light brown egg and are quite productive. They are a very calm bird, but not very friendly. Despite what many people think, I don’t carry my chickens around like babies. I’ve never really had chickens that liked to be touched or petted, but they all do have their own personalities.
Not to be confused with the Araucana (from which it descends), the Ameraucana lays blue colored eggs and does not have the inherent breeding problems that the Araucanas seem to face. Our Ameraucana hens lay light blue eggs, which you will find inside your cartons that you purchase from us. We have several Ameraucana hens. Ours seem to have their own set of ideas and philosophies… as they are the ones that tend to squeeze through the pasture fencing and lay eggs in random places and even tear up the gardens with no regard to our prized produce. However, they are quite productive layers, and serve as a dual purpose, cold hardy bird. They have several color variations. I have one like the one pictured, a darker colored hen, and a light gray hen. The Ameraucana has history that extends back to South America–Chile to be exact, and is noted to have come to exist sometime around the 1920’s.
The Machupe Indians had two breeds of chickens: the Collonca and Quetero, two very old breeds dating back to the 1500s or even before. Either naturally or by intervention, these two breeds were bred together and the Araucana was brought to existence (the Araucana is a parent bird of the Ameraucana). The Araucana is a very rare bird, and carries a lethal gene which can and will kill a chick inside the shell before it even hatches. This gene is the very gene that gives Araucana’s the tufted ear feathers, if both parents carry the gene, it is a fatal combination. Ameraucanas were bred to retain the blue egg but to abandon the lethal gene of its parents. Ameraucana’s are still considered a rare breed, being a very expensive bird…and often hatcheries and local breeders sell hybrid variations as Americana’s. So be careful when purchasing your birds.
These birds originated in Andalusa, a province of Spain. However, they are quite popular in the USA and England, having been first imported around 1850. They were developed for the English Show Pens, having been first exhibited as a show bird in 1853. They are a very beautiful bird, having a blue-laced plumage and a graceful and stately stature. Though the breed standard is slate-gray, they are also known to be black or splash (a mix of the colors). They are known to be flighty and do not do well in confinement, they will become feather pickers if kept inside too small of an area for too long.
They were recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874 and are on the Livestock Conservancy’s Threatened list. Blue Andalusians are not broody birds at all, but lay large white eggs. They are very cold hardy and will lay through the winter. They love to forage and are excellent spotters of predators, making them the most excellent bird for a free range flock. I often times see our Andalusion hen sitting atop the rail of the grow out pen. Our Blue Andalusian just began to lay her very first eggs. Look for one in your next carton!
I call these my Granny Chickens. I have a few of them, and they remind me of old ladies hanging around gossiping. I don’t know why… I would have to say they are one of my favorite chickens to own. They are on the larger side, but not bigger than a Black Jersey Giant. There is much speculation about where they originated from, but rumor has it that they were devloped in the USA from the breeding of birds imported from China. They were sent off from a port in Shanghai and were then known as “Shanghai Birds”. Brahmas as we know them today were first exported to England in December of 1852 as a gift for Queen Victoria. George Burnham sent nine “Gray Shanghaes” to her. There are Light and Dark Brahmas, they were the primary meat bird in the UK for nearly 80 years, from the 1850s to the 1930s.
The Light and Dark Brahmas were adopted by the American Poultry Association in 1874, with a Buff Brahma being included in 1924. The Brahmas also have feathered feet…this is often how I tell my Delaware hens from my Light Brahma hens, as they almost have identical coloration. They are very cold hardy birds, laying through winter and they have even gone broody on me. They are very good producers of large light brown eggs. They are quite, gentle, and easy to handle… the many reasons I call them my Granny Hens.
Olive Eggers are not technically a breed, they are a hybrid of a blue egg layer and a brown egg layer. There is no real decent photo of one of my olive eggers… actually, honestly, I don’t even know which chickens ARE my olive eggers…but obviously, I have two of them in order to be getting two olive colored eggs a day. Last year, I put a bunch of eggs from my hens into the incubator, not really caring that I had a “barn yard” mix of eggs and whatever hatched would not be true to the breed. I suppose that is how I ended up with olive eggers… My one Black Copper Maran Rooster bred with my Ameraucanas and the end result was hens that lay olive colored eggs. I won’t complain! Their eggs certainly add color to the carton and it goes along with my creative needs.
To say that I am obsessed with my chickens is an understatement. Although, you won’t see me putting them in sweaters (that actually does more harm than good) or giving them a swingset to play on, I do thoroughly enjoy my flock. I love looking out my kitchen window and seeing the pasture dotted with all the different colors. I do like adding in the rare breeds here and there, when I feel my flock needs some updated coloring.
We have many other types of hens, many of them lay plain brown eggs. Here are some of the other types of chickens we have on our farm: