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Emo Chickens

May 30, 2012

Buff Minorca hen

Chickens are not known for being the most intelligent of the bird kingdom, but there are some that make others look like geniuses. This one is a spaz. Ever met a person who is always in drama mode? There’s this situation that’s going to kill us all and oh my gosh we have to stop that right now and oh look out for that danger!!! Some call it emo. That’s this chicken.

She was put in this pen with two Anconas, four Sussex, a brown Leghorn and a barred rock as layer hens that we don’t currently have mates for (there are Ancona and Sussex cockerels growing right now though!).

This is the outside part of the pen – initially when the buff and two Anconas were put into this pen, the Sussex (who have lived here a while) wanted to exert dominance…this is their territory. The Anconas adapted by staying on the fringe until they were allowed into the group, much like a clique in people.

The first night all of the birds went in – you can see the open doorway there so they can go in and out whenever they want. The Minorca was alone outside, frantically running back and forth. She was so busy being frantic she never looked UP to see the door let alone slowed down to enter it!

How many people do we know like that? It’s not uncommon for chickens to squawk when cornered or caught – many do because instinctively they know everything likes to eat chicken. Owls. Dogs. People. Hawks. Dogs. Coyotes. Raccoons. Weasels. However some breeds (I’ve found more in the “Mediterranean” breeds like Minorca, Ancona, Leghorns) are more prone to panic than others (like Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Sussex).

These small breeds are often more nervous, in my experience, but are good layers. There’s a reason the Leghorn dominates the egg world, and it’s not because of temperament or foraging ability! There’s a reason that “free range” uses a different type of bird than battery cages, and outdoor uses a different breed.

heritage chicks

There’s a reason why I designed this brooder as I did, with the clear sides. From day one I want these birds to see the world around them. They see the adult birds, dogs, us, things making noise, thunderstorms, lightning…they see LIFE and yet save for 3 that met an untimely demise getting too close to the netting with an opportunistic cat on the other side, they’ve all grown up well. They don’t need artificial heat at night now. In a few more weeks they’ll be ready to be split into groups, with the Rhode Island Whites and Delawares in one group and the Cornish in another. Eventually they’ll be split by breed.

Different breeds make a difference but emo chickens like the Minorca are just tough to keep. They’re apt to run off in stress their feed, rather than use it for egg production. In contrast, these youngsters have already figured out eat, drink and rest are all part of the day. We have a few white egg layers of the Mediterranean breeds because some customers want white eggs, and we do aim for food choices.

We like the quiet nature of some of the other breeds. The power of the Buckeye roosters may catch some by surprise.

This boy was puffed up in a dominance battle with the lower ranking one retreating behind him. He looks intimidating but the truth is he’s a very easy to handle bird. We’ve set some Buckeye eggs, so hope we’ll have an expanded flock from these two pairs. They’re as close to the opposite of Ms Emo as we have.

And maybe people aren’t so different from chickens. There are people who stress about everything, and those who are more laid back. The Buckeye above might be the person who works 60 hours then hangs out on the back deck, content.

For every situation there’s a chicken to meet it. This is the same with other species also. Consumer demand – actual sales – influences that. Those millions of “just consumers” out there determine our market, not grocery stores or corporations. You Mr. and Ms. Consumer are who we produce for. Thank you!

Two pairs Buckeye chickens at SlowMoneyFarm

 

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