Spring Chickens!

Image from Photo Fashionista.
Each Spring at Better Farm, we address, expand, revamp, and otherwise improve our flock of hens, roosters, chicken tractors and coops.

Now coming into our FIFTH spring (!!), we've got a rotating system for adding new members to the group by hatching, adoption, rescue, or purchase. One year we adopt, rescue, and/or purchase new birds, and the following year we hatch some of our own hybrid babies. With the task of rehabbing birds from factories (and keeping all our birds free-range, susceptible to any number of wild threats) come inevitable losses; so each spring is an opportunity to replenish the flock and diversify the gene pool.

In addition to adopting and rehabbing birds, we provide rehoming services to birds we've raised and/or rehabilitated. If you're interested in adopting a rooster or rehabilitated factory hen, please contact us at info@betterfarm.org.
When you're figuring out what kind of chickens to get, there are three very important considerations: weather hardiness, temperament, and egg production/meat. It does you no good to get a Silky in the North Country (they hate the cold!), or a decorative bird that only lays two or three eggs a week when you're trying to produce your own eggs for eating or selling.

With all these factors in mind, here's the lowdown on the feathered friends we'll be adding to our flock From Meyer Hatchery. Keep in mind we'll also be adopting about 10 more leghorns from a local egg factory to be rehabbed and rehomed as free-range hens.

German Spitzhauben
The German Spitzhauben is an active, ornamental bird originating from Switzerland that actually flies fairly well for a chicken. Originally bred for steep mountainous terrain, they are good climbers and foragers, they will forage most of their food if given the chance to. They like to roost in trees especially during cold snaps. They boast a single pointed hood, with feathers defined as crazy in a “Cruella De Vil” sort of way. Their average maturity weight is 5.5 lbs. for a rooster, 4 lbs. for a hen.
Class: Europe
Origin: Switzerland
Comb Type: V-Shaped Comb
Egg Color: White
Egg Size: Meduim
Production: Fair/Good
Matures: Early
Bird Size: Small 4 - 6 lbs.
Broody: No
Hardiness: Very Cold Hardy
Personality: Active, Flyer

Introduced in the mid 19th century from China, they were imported to England in 1840. The American Poultry fanciers refined the original stock into a large stately breed. They make a good dual purpose breed and though they may only lay 3 or 4 eggs a week, they are known for good winter production. Brahmas do alright in confinement but do much better if they have access to an outdoor run. They are mellow, quite hardy and make good pets. Brahmas are comfortable in heat and cold.  
Class: Asiatic
Origin: India/China/ U.S.
Comb Type: Pea Comb
Egg Color: Brown
Egg Size: Medium
Production: Good
Matures: Slow
Bird Size: Heavy 9 1/2 - 12 lbs.
Broody: Frequently
Hardiness: Hardy in Cold and Heat
Personality: Gentle, easy to handle

Buff Orpingtons are a popular dual-purpose variety and are sometimes called "Big Bufffs." This is a friendly and affectionate breed which would be good for children. Since they are so calm and quiet they can become bullied by an aggressive breed. Because they are loosely feathered, they appear to be heavier than their true weights. Their golden buff feathers are broad and smooth-fitting on this deep-bodied breed. They have quiet dispositions, make excellent mothers, and are one of the most broody of standard breeds. Their white skin is a cosmetic disadvantage for use as meat birds.
Class: English
Origin: England
Comb Type: Single Comb
Egg Color: Brown
Egg Size: Large
Production: Good
Matures: Moderately Early
Bird Size: Heavy 7 - 8 1/2 lbs
Broody: Yes
Hardiness: Very Cold Hardy
Personality: Docile, Quiet, Affectionate
  Easter Egger
Commonly known as the Easter Egg Layer, these birds are good layers and produce eggs that range from olive green to turquoise blue which their name comes from. They're derived from Araucanas or Ameraucanas (hence the green eggs), but they're not a recognized breed because their blood line is so mixed up and varied. Their small size allows them to do well in warm weather but they also do well in cold weather. Like their eggs, they come in an assortment of colors. They are favored for their eggs, but are large enough to be used for meat.
Average mature weight: Roosters 5 lbs, Hens 4 lbs.

Class: All Other Breeds
Origin: United States
Comb Type: Pea Comb
Egg Color: Blue/Green
Egg Size: Medium
Production: Good
Matures: Moderately Early
Bird Size: Small 4-5 lbs
Broody: Yes
Hardiness: Very Cold Hardy
Personality: Active, Friendly

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.