We have been raising chickens for eggs and pets for over 10 years now. When we first started out, we were given a hen and her three chicks by a neighbor. We knew nothing about chickens, and our new birds did not act like typical chickens. They refused to sleep in the coop, the hen would hide her eggs, and they would constantly find a way out of their fenced pen. We eventually figured out that the chickens we were given are a type of game breed. They have much more natural instinct than the domestic breeds. They prefer sleeping in the trees, they fly quite well, they go broody often and make excellent mothers. The three chicks we were given turned out to be 3 roosters, and it wasn't long before we were trying to find a few more hens. The smallest of the roosters was named 'little brother' and he became our main rooster for over 6 years. We still have one hen from Little Brother's bloodline, and she is a favorite.
Since getting those original chickens we've raised many different breeds. i've purchased a variety of domestic chicks from our local farm store. We've had Rhode Island reds, Barred Rocks, Americauna, White Leghorns, D'Uccle Bantams, Speckled Sussex and Black Star production layers).
In 2012 i started looking for some of the more unusual breeds. We purchased a second coop, and it came with an interesting variety of birds. They included a Cuckoo Maran, a Polish, a Campine, A Buff Orpington, a Black Australorp. The Cuckoo maran laid the prettiest dark brown eggs and this was the beginning of my obsession with different egg colors and flock variety. We were on our way to having a really nice flock.
Then in 2013 our house burned down, and not long after our dogs who were incredibly stressed by the trauma of the fire and by us not being around, broke into the chicken coop and klled almost all of our birds. The only survivors from our original flock were the Speckled Sussex, the Black Star, the Black Australorp, and the little black hen who is a direct descendent to Little Brother.
Last year we began to slowly rebuild our flock. Instead of just purchasing domestic layers i began seeking out different breeds for the variety and egg colors.
i currently have too many roosters, but they have created their own mini flocks and for the most part they get along fine. The rooster is a Black Copper Maran. He's the largest rooster we have ever had, and the sweetest. i named him BB King, which actually stands for Big Baby King. He may thing he's the king, but he's my big baby. The first rooster i've ever been able to walk over too and pick right up. :) The hens in the picture are my survivor gals. The Black Star, Black Australorp, Speckled Sussex and my little black hen. Olive, my Olive egger on the right also likes to hang with this bunch. i also have a Mottled Java who isn't pictured.
Mr. Beardy is our primary Rooster, he was given to us by a neighbor after Little Brother disappeared. i'm hoping that he may be ameraucana, because of that beard, but i really have no idea. He likes to hang with the wilder girls. This a Campine, who acquired last year. Behind her are two of my three game birds, two Cream Legbar cross and one of my three silkes. i got the game birds in fall of 2013, when was just trying to rebuild the flock. They are rather plain looking, but are really good layers and make excellent mothers. also have two Tetra tint, that are not pictured.
During the fall many of my hens began molting and stopped laying for several weeks. Soon after the Winter Solstice, my birds began to lay again. i was really thrilled with the color variety. Many of my birds just lay a light brown/off white colored egg, but there is a subtle difference in them that is really quite lovely.
i'm loving the egg color variety i am getting right now. From left to right, i've got a golden cream/beige (Mottled Java), light brown (Silke cross), white (Campine), light brown tint (Tetra-tint), Olive (olive egger), Pink tint (Cream Legbar cross) and extra large brown speckled egg (Black star). The only thing i'm missing is blue and dark brown. The legbar cross were supposed to be blue egg layers, so the pink eggs were quite a surprise. i had purchased a Black Copper Maran (dark brown eggs) this past fall, but she died before she had even started laying eggs.
i'm pretty happy with my flock right now. A few weeks ago purchased a few Black Copper Maran chicks, so hopefully i'll have a hen or two in this batch. i really don't need any more chickens, but i'm hoping to get a few americuanas/easter eggers this spring for the blue eggs. i'm also hoping that once have blue and dark brown egg layers can hatch out a clutch of eggs to end up with different shades of brown, blue and green.
If you've ever wondered how to get olive green eggs, this little chart shows how to get different shades. i borrowed this photo from the web, not sure who to credit for it. This chart shows some of the beautiful colors that you can come up with by breeding the different egg layers. My Olive egger is an F1 (first generation) i believe. She is a cross between a Cuckoo Maran and an Ameraucana. If breed her with my Black Copper Maran rooster, her chicks should then lay the really dark olive eggs. If i breed her with a blue layer, we could end up with some crazy colors. i'm looking forward to hatching out some chicks this spring, and really changing up my egg colors. Right now the majority of my birds lay an off white/cream egg. By next year, i'm hoping that the majority are laying various shades of dark brown, green and blue.
It will be a fun experiment for sure, and we always love hatching out baby chicks. :)