Tag Archive: backyard chickens


Silver Laced Polish Chickens love Just A Couple Of Chickens

My Silver Laced Polish chickens were some of the sweetest in the flock, and the easiest to catch and snuggle, maybe because they couldn’t see or hear as well as the other chickens. But hey, this is a fabulous face. That is it’s face… all those fabulous feathers are the face.

100 years ago, I wouldn’t have had much choice in chickens.
I would have been limited to whatever chickens my neighbors raised.

Today I can choose my chickens based on all kinds of preferences:

  • big or small,
  • brightly colored or monochrome,
  • weird combs or standard,
  • old breeds or new,
  • mellow or feisty.

Now, I know enough to choose a bird that is well suited to my climate – but only because I didn’t choose properly the first time around.

My fancy top-hat Polish chickens were not comfortable in the minus 10 degree winter days of Northern New Mexico. They would spend all day under the low hanging heat lamp, regularly torching their top hat feathers into little puffs of smoke.

I also didn’t realize that the kinds of chickens that lay lots and lots of huge, perfect eggs are not always the same kind of chickens that sport fantastically decorated feathers.

Since my egg and feather business at www.TheFeatheredEgg.com offers blown eggs and natural feathers that were raised with love and care in my own small flock, I wanted exotic feathers from my hens, and so my second flock was full of exotic wonders.

They didn’t lay well at all.

And I learned that heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, and turkeys were definitely healthier, hardier, and more able to beat me at chess.

I learned that if I want eggs… I should choose a heritage egg layer.

If I want meat, I should stick with the broiler breeds – which will also lay eggs, and some of them will lay very well.

And if I want feathers, really special feathers, I’m going to have to compromise on both eggs and meat.
Beauty comes at a price.

There is a super-cool chicken selector tool at www.MyPetChicken.com to help with this process… I could spend hours on that thing!  It’s so fun!

Faverolles, Chantecler, Minorca, Australorp – ah, that one I had, White Leghorn – great chicken although not heritage – mega egg layer, Cubalaya… whassa cubalya?,
I should stop….
maybe one more spin on the chicken selector tool… really, I should stop… just one more time….

 

Does this sound like a strange question?

Not what breed is my chicken…. not what kind of chicken is this…. what color is my chicken?

Crele is a feather color Corinne didn't have in Just a Couple of Chickens

I made a Crele color quilt for myself to share the wonder. Crele is a color found on fairy chickens, also known as Modern Game Bantams. It is my new favorite chicken color.

When I placed my first hatchery order for the minimum 25 chicks, I went for “hatchery choice” because it was the least expensive way to get a wide variety of chickens. It also happens to be a good way to get a box of roosters, but I didn’t know that at the time…. the story makes for a very funny book, “Just a Couple of Chickens”, which I wrote in 2009.

I spent the next two years trying to figure out what chickens I had. I used their:

  • comb configuration,
  • feather shape,
  • body size,
  • laying habits,
  • and most of all, their feather colors.

And I still couldn’t figure out some of them, because if I thought there were an amazing number of chicken breeds in our world…. I hadn’t even begun to discover how many colors existed.

Inside each breed can be different colors and patterns and feather types, layers and layers of speciality that go deeper and deeper until I am totally lost.

This is where poultry shows are so exciting. The breeds and colors and patterns and feather types are all presented in perfect order, with experts and judges and breeders standing right there, ready to talk!

Which is how I learned about my new favorite color for a chicken… called “Crele”

It is a kind of coppery, gold, buttered, barred, starred, glorious cascade of tawny, scintillating, auriferous, honey-tinted feathers.

I saw it on some roosters at the PNPA show last season and have never been the same. Best of all, Crele comes in Fairy Chickens!
(aka Crele Modern Game)

But it seems to be best on the roosters. Which is a problem, as there are no roos in my future. Urban chickens are not roosters.
Okay, but what about the Crele Penedesenca Hen!  Now there’s an aurulent, caramelized bedecked neck of feathers…

I’m not sure that backyard chickens is so much a hobby as it is a… condition.

 

 

The Free Rooster is alive and well

My blog at www.TheFreeRooster.com is alive and well, hosted on Blogger.com and headed for a blook adventure!

Back in 2009, when I realized that I was learning how to self publish a book, I followed the advice of every resource I could find, and started a blog to promote my book.

The book was “Just a Couple of Chickens” and the blog was www.TheFreeRooster.com.

I blogged about raising chickens, urban chickens, rural chickens, things that ate rural chickens, economic disaster recovery strategies, and writing a book.

I also experimented with every gadget Blogger.com had to offer, and it went pretty well.

But I grew out of Blogger… I needed to do more than it would let me do for free. I discovered wordpress and self hosting, which required a lot of learning by doing, but in the end allowed me to do what I needed to do for the least possible price.

I created a new blog to support both my first book and my current book, the soon-to-be-available-now-in-traditional-publishing-submission biography of my grandfather, Col. C. J. Tippett…. and to squawk on about self publishing.

So where will www.TheFreeRooster.com go now? What will happen to it?

I have big plans for it… the first of which is to turn it into a blook, to preserve all the still useful information it contains. And then I plan to do big fun things with it starting fresh. Fun fresh things that are big.

In the meantime, it remains a live site with lots of gadgets down the side and an archive of useful information… Blogger is a great platform, and I think it was initially easier to learn than WordPress, but ultimately more limiting than WordPress. When the blook is complete, I will announce it here with great fanfare. I suspect there are a lot of bloggers out there who will be interested in How To Turn A Blog Into A Blook….. !

 

Just A Couple Of Chickens tells about Buff Laced Polish Chickens

This Buff Laced Polish Rooster features in today’s scary Halloween chicken story… he was one of…. “Just a Couple of Chickens” (bwahaha!)

To celebrate October 31st, 2012, which is Halloween, I am going to tell you a story of a very scary chicken.

Only it wasn’t a chicken, was it?
How scary is a chicken?

It was a …………ROOSTER!

Now that’s scary.

By the time this true story took place, I had come to terms with the death of my rooster loving dreams.
I had raised several roosters, due to an unfortunate straight run order from a hatchery, and tried very hard to counsel them out of their brutal, blood-letting ways.

And I’d failed. I’d gotten scratched, pecked, slashed, and ambushed. I’d given up and perfected my rooster mole recipe.

But there was one guy left. My gentle, sweet, bumbling, slightly unsteady Buff Laced Polish.

He was a beauty. With a weird horned comb.

The day that I was down in a crouch, trying to collect eggs from the farthest corner of the hen house, I thought he was coming over to tell me a knock-knock joke.
Or show me a particularly good juicy bug in the straw.

It was therefore a complete surprise to see him, as if in slow motion, leap into the air like a nasty ninja and stretch out his wickedly sharp spurs in a full-out attack.

He could have laid open my face to the bone… if he hadn’t clotheslined himself on the hen house door.

It was kind of funny, but I was shaken. If he hadn’t collapsed in a whomping crunch on the hen house doorstep, I would have been in big trouble.  His spurs were over two inches long.

Pretty scary…

I acknowledge that there are lots of people out there who have good rooster stories, but I haven’t lived them myself. At the end of the day, there’s a reason the rooster is free....

Happy Halloween!

 

A Chicken In Every Yard by Robert and Hannah Lit

This is a GREAT how to raise chickens book, and I’m pleased to have it in my own urban homesteading library now.

The Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon has been a leader in the urban chicken movement and they’ve come out with one of the best, most complete, how to books ever.
It is called A Chicken In Every Yard, and I highly recommend it.

Robert and Hannah Lit started their store on Belmont, right in the middle of the city and have become a resource for the backyard chicken farmers all over Portland. Putting out a book was a natural extension of their work behind the counter, answering every question for every bewildered new urban farmer.

Their advice is uniquely suited for the small flocks that make up backyard chicken flocks, but it goes for big flocks too. The coop section is ideal for city chicken raisers. How to raise chickens is answered by “A Chicken In Every Yard,” and I’d say it is a must for an urban homesteaders library.

This kind of how to book is an essential part of successfully raising chickens. I really enjoy the fact that my book, “Just A Couple Of Chickens” sells well in feed stores across the country, because it’s a fun way to learn a lot about the ups and downs of chicken raising, and while I have a lot of chicken raising in there, my book can’t replace the How To available in the Lit’s book. I own the Lit book myself, because I need the information too.

Stores like The Urban Farm Store are a great place to get chicks for a new, or growing urban flock. They order a variety of breeds and you get to choose one by one. Another way to get chicks is to go to a poultry show, and there’s one coming up nearby, or to contact a local poultry association (like the PNPA) to find a breeder raising the kinds of chickens you are looking for. Portland has all of these resources, and not every place does… it’s a uniquely awesome aspect of this city.

If it is an urban homesteader’s dream to have A Chicken In Every Yard, then this book is a step towards making that happen.

 

 

Just A Couple Of Chickens by Corinne Tippett and fugly chooks

This half-naked hen is trying to find the section of my book that will reassure her that her feathers will come in time for cold weather. Don’t worry Hen, they will come in time.

Raising chickens, especially urban chickens, has some built-in exciting days.

Sometime, on or around your hen’s first birthday, you may come out to your backyard coop one morning and realize that your chickens have exploded in the night.

Because there’s so many feathers in the pen, it must be the only explanation.

But then you’ll count your hens, and they will all be present.

But seriously, the feathers are everywhere.
And the hens look fine.

Well, maybe not fine.

Summer chickens are fugly chickens.
Half naked, sometimes sunburned, often raggity scraggity … unlovely. And this is normal…
Plus, your ugliest hen might be your best layer... see my post at www.TheFreeRooster.com about this issue… it’s an important part of How To Raise Chickens…

The good news, other than the fact that one or more of your backyard chickens has not actually exploded, is that this is the annual molt, and from here, the chickens will begin to feather up, and they’ll do it in time for cold weather – even if it seems that they won’t.

The not-so-bad news is that this molt signals the end of one-egg-a-day from your hens, as they move into the egg-every-other-day-or-so maturity. Each molt from here on in will signal another drop in egg production, but the eggs they lay will be bigger. There’s more about egg production and egg handling in my book, Just A Couple Of Chickens, available here and on Amazon.com

You have to see it to believe it. I can tell you that the feathers will be everywhere, but words do not suffice. The first time I saw the molt I simply couldn’t believe that I wasn’t missing a hen. It’s a fun milestone in raising backyard chickens.

Coming soon to a coop near you…(boom!)

 

 

How To Raise Chickens and Introduce New Chicks

My book “Just a Couple of Chickens” is about learning how to raise chickens the hard way… and these Cuckoo Maran chicks are riveted.

It’s true that chicken raising is easy, kind of,  – and it’s also true that chickens have a pecking order. And it can kill.

Once chicks are fully feathered and growing out of their brooder box, it’s time to figure out how to add them to the existing flock.

In the olden days, (and one modern day on our old farm) the hens would lay the eggs and hatch the chicks. The chicks would shelter in the hen’s body feathers for warmth and protection. She would show them good things to eat and protect them from the other chickens.

When we buy chicks, or hatch them in an incubator, we become the mother hen, and so the flock introduction falls to us.

No amount of counseling can change this aspect of chicken behavior and no chickens are exempt.
Not even ones that are really really sweet and kind.

In larger flocks, we chicken farmers fence off part of the coop with chicken wire and put the new kids behind the wire, with their own food and water. The flock can see and smell them, but not beat them up. We take advantage of the quiet and drowsy nights by putting the new hens in with the whole flock once everyone is roosting, but make sure we are up early enough to separate them before sunrise.

But there’s another possibility with very small flocks…

If the new hens are going into a flock with only a couple of other hens…
and IF the new hens are the same kind as the others (like not bantams with regulars)
and IF you aren’t trying to introduce some bizillion-dollar-rare-breed chick that you can’t afford to lose…

Then it may be possible to just chuck them in, if you start the introduction at night…
and can give the flock plenty of room in the day…
and you can be present to dab wounds with vasoline through out the day…
and can give all the birds tasty and interesting things to distract them…

I know two backyard chicken farmers who have successfully done this, and one of them describes her method in her blog about frugal living – of which I am a big fan.

Managing the introduction carefully will pay off with happy, healthy, not-pecked-to-death chickens.

 

Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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