What hen? That hen.

Snow White

Alright, back to Chh, chh, chh, chook.
One of the things I wish we’d thought about, and researched more thoroughly when starting our chicken adventure was which breed and where we got the chickens. We basically went with the breeds that we’d been exposed to via friends or family. Our own original criteria were limited:
1. Is it a layer or a ‘meat-producing’ bird?
2. Is it docile?
3. Does the feed store have ’em?

Things to think about when selecting your chicken breeds so not to make the same mistakes we did :

1. Heat Tolerance

Short of placing the hen in a chicken diaper, those girls are going to be outside in the Tucson heat and, just like plants, there are some varieties that are more tolerant of our extreme weather than others. Buff Orpingtons*, the first three cuddly hens we got, are docile and lovable, but not well suited for the desert heat. I wish we’d got at least one Penedesenca, although they’re reported to not be too hot on the whole human contact thing, or a Silkie Bantam. Good grief, those banties might not produce a whole lot of eggs, or very big eggs, but apparently they’re heat tolerant and cute. If you’re looking for a go-to heat tolerant, high producing egg chick, the Rhode Island Red does the trick. Rosy and Lucy our two Rhode Island Reds are very docile and tolerant of the Bean picking them up.

2. Egg Color

Different breeds produce varying egg colors. I’m not sure I realized just what a thrill there would be to a multi-colored collection of eggs. What better than placing green eggs and ham (not green) in front of your kid.
I would really like a dark brown egg producing and heat-tolerant Pendesenca. If only I could convince someone (cough, Green) of our need for another chicken or three. Especially a chicken that produces chocolate brown colored eggs. I wonder if I promised to give up chocolate?

3. Immunization or accessibility to medicated feed

There was a horrible two week period when I was convinced that our Buff Orpingtons had Marek’s Disease. Marek’s is a prevalent, nasty disease that puts an end to your chicken dreams. The good news is that the chicks can be vaccinated against it or you can provide medicated feed. None of the six local feed stores we got our chicks at had any idea if their chicks were vaccinated, and I never did find medicated feed locally. If When we get more chickens we’ll go directly to a hatchery. I’ve heard Murray McMurray’s is good and other friends have ordered from mypetchicken.com.

*Still faking it.

Resources for breed selection:
Henderson’s Handy Dandy Chicken Chart

P.Allen Smith post
My Pet Chicken Breed Selection Tool

Next time on Chh, chh, chook: Palais a Poule aka Hen Palace; Lessons learned



Filed under Cluck

5 responses to “What hen? That hen.

  1. deserthomespun

    i also plan on getting some penedesenca chickies the next time around, mostly because of the chocolate colored eggs! our girls lay (barred rocks) brown and (americunas)blue/green right now, but the americunas are not so prolific…

    • We have a couple of Ameraucana hens too. One completely stopped producing about a month ago. The other is producing every other day right now. I’ve no idea why. Our egg production is down overall. One of our Rhode Island Reds is obviously starting to molt so I think that might be part of it. I have some friends that have suggested we all order together from a nursery if we decide to get more. Perhaps if you’re interested and we actually get to that point you could be in on that? Hmmm, I have to go check that the coop is closed. They’ve been free ranging it all day.

  2. Sam says, “When we lived in Darwin, we had Oppington Australorpe crosses. They did well in the tropics and produced than one egg per day, in their prime.” I say, wicked cool pic of the egg colors! Now I want chicks. Ummm… are there cold tolerant chicks?

  3. I find the idea of chickens so exciting, in general. But I must admit that I know pretty much nothing about them. I can imagine that there is a LOT to learn. Especially in this day and age, where so few of us have ever really been around them.

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