Jenny, Barred Plymouth Rock
You can’t have just one. How many people do you know have just one chicken? They are very social creatures and you should at the very least, have two. A buddy to free-range during the day and fight over snails with – at night, a warm downy comforter to snuggle into. Whether you have two or twenty-two, they will peck, bully and chase each other until a pecking order is established.
Last June, we started off with three, 5-week old pullets from a farmer who happened to be coming down to the city. It felt so seedy – meeting in a back alley, dealing illegal chickens.
Me: “Are you ––––– ?”
He: “Yup…follow me…they’re in the shade…”
Actually, he was there as a chicken handler for a movie, a farmer who raises heritage chickens in Brantford, Ontario. Long story short, some turned out to be roosters and had to be re-homed. One got taken by a racoon, so we were left with just two. I was afraid if one died over the winter, the other bird would be left alone. Nobody to huddle with through the long, cold winter. So in a desperate search before the snow fell, we found two white Silkies from another farmer in Burlington, and introduced them to the flock. It took about a week for the new girls to get established, they were terrified of the two bigger birds, dreading evening lockdown when they would have to sleep next to them.
Snowball, and Violet (both turned out to be roosters and re-homed).
The girls are a constant source of entertainment. They come running to greet you in the garden with an “ahhhh-woooooooo”…yes – mainly because they are expecting treats, but they are also friendly and curious, each with their own distinct personality. Jenny, is bossy and rules the roost and her side-kick Sunshine, walk around like they own the place. Then there is the Gabor sisters, Ava & Zsa Zsa, who are docile and feminine with lovely, giggly little voices.
The Gabor sisters in the nest, Jenny and Sunshine lounging in the backyard.
Hubby introduces Betty to Gigi, Violet and Rocky.
Girls enjoying a cob of corn, Jenny & Violet in the greenhouse.
The girls are always there when you have a shovel in hand, ready to scoop up any worms.
The Gabor sisters Ava & Zsa Zsa, White Silkies and Sunshine, the Ameraucana
It is now March, and the birds have made it through their first winter. They have been warm and comfortable in the unheated hoophouse, and despite the shorter daylight hours, continue to lay eggs almost daily. I look forward to spring and summer where egg production will be even more prolific…and possibly adding one more to our flock. (Please sign the petition to make it legal in Toronto, thank you!)
Chickens need 12-14 hours a day of light to keep them laying. Hubby rigged up a light on a timer
to go on in the morning, and again in the evening to extend their day. If it’s dark, the chickens will just sleep.
Update: If you plan to get chickens this spring, try to get point-of-lay pullets. Not cute little baby chicks which are a lot more work and hard to sex. They don’t normally start laying until about 5-6 months of age depending on the breed. This way, you are 90% sure to get girls and not boys! Hens lay well for 1-2 years then taper off, but live on average 8 years. So the question is what do you do with them after they stop producing? Jenny was a year old when we got her; I was impatient and wanted – eggs – now! Even though she is a dual purpose bird, I know I won’t eat her, she’s pretty tough.