“So, why did you pick those pretty, black birds for your backyard chickens?” (We have been asked this multiple times.) Here are the criteria I used to make a short list of chickens for the Lovely Assistant to work from:
A heritage breed—I preferred to use an established, tried-and-true breed. My dad raised heritage poultry, so do I.
A bird that needed more poulterers--I checked the Livestock Conservancy Priority List to find a list of breeds in the United States that needed a boost in numbers to keep the genetics sustainable and diverse. (I am happy to report that the Australorp breed has now graduated from the Livestock Conservancy’s Priority List, hooray!)
Lots of big eggs—what is the point of having a useful, backyard, egg-laying bird if you select a breed that has a history of laying not so many eggs? I wanted a lot of big eggs. Shell color was not a factor. (Our girls lay brown eggs, usually one egg per bird per day.)
Calm—These guys live in the suburbs along with a lot of other creatures. I did not want a neurotic hen that needed therapy after a thunderstorm event or went bananas anytime someone walked past their cage. I expect my neighbors to keep their creatures quiet, and I want my creatures to be quiet, too. Aside from a late-morning cackle fest lasting a few minutes to celebrate the day’s egg-laying accomplishments, the girls are generally pretty subdued.
Handle confinement well—We live in a Kansas City suburb, and our birds cannot free-roam in our backyard due to our neighbor’s cats free-hunting habits. Our birds range in our backyard from the comfort of their Eglu Omlet tractor coop. Think living permanently under a monstrous laundry basket. I call it “Alcatraz.” Our feathered friends seem to do well in their space as long as we give them plenty of enrichment materials.
Not white in color—White is an “Eat Me” sign for a predator. There is a reason why most wild-born albino animals have a difficult time thriving in their natural environment.
Big, but not too big—I wanted something big enough to lay a decently-sized egg, but not so big that the bird could stand on the ground and eat off my dinner plate. An animal that large might intimidate the Lovely Assistant—or my visitors!
Affordable—I wanted to be able to select from a hatchery’s stock for my chicks, not spend inordinate amounts of money and time tracking down the bird of my dreams.
That’s about it! Five to six breeds of chickens remained after I applied this list to what was available. The Lovely Assistant made the final choice (her decisive factor was how the chicken looked—and our Black Australorps’ shimmery plumage is, indeed, quite beautiful). The eggs also look lovely on our breakfast plates! Find more about Black Australorps here.
Have a lovely day!
Other blogs in this series: