Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's April, it's spring! Spring chickens!

It took a long time for winter to end around here but the snow melted and looking at the weather forecast, there are no hard frosts in the coming week.  Awesome.  Oh yeah, and the sun is shining.  So it is a wonderful time to plant things.  Today I am planting peas, snap peas, and snow peas.  And setting some sweet pea and yarrow seedlings in the cut flower garden.  And some sunflower seedlings are shifting to the hoophouse for early blooming.

There's about 500 other things on my To Do List but I feel happiest if I just focus on what I am doing at the moment and keep the list for the day as short as possible.  I love pea-planting day.

Last fall Robin built an extension on our chicken coop and we are expanding the flock.  On March 17 our new chicks arrived and they are growing and thriving.  At the moment they are housed in the new coop in their own little section, with heat and protected from drafts.  As of yesterday they graduated to grower pellet, instead of chick starter and pretty soon we'll be setting up a special outdoor spot for them to range around, now that the weather is more settled and the chicks have feathers.  If they were human, they would be probably starting to describe themselves as "big girls".

These are the breeds we are adding to the flock:

(Descriptions and pictures are from Murray McMurray Hatchery, where got the chicks.)

Buff Minorca - white eggs (new to us)

Like all of the Minorcas these have long, strong bodies well set up on firm muscular legs. The large red combs are very typical and in the hens will fall to one side almost covering one eye. The hens lay good sized white eggs and are nonsetters. Plumage is a rich golden buff color and shanks and toes are a pinkish white.

Speckled Sussex - brown eggs

The Speckled Sussex was developed in Sussex County, England over 100 years ago. It was famous there as a table fowl with pinkish white skin and long, deep body ideal for fattening. It is of medium size, in the heavy breed class, a layer of light brown or tinted eggs, and the hens will set. Its plumage color is a delight to the eye being of rich mahogany base color with individual feathers ending in a white tip separated from the rest of the feathers by a black bar. Baby chicks vary greatly in color from a creamy buff to dark chestnut and some also have alternate dark and light stripes lengthwise on the back. This variety combines beauty with utility, and is very nice to raise for showing.

Silver Laced Wyandotte - brown eggs

The Silver Laced is the original Wyandotte and the other varieties were developed from it later with crosses on other breeds. It is an outstanding example of American poultry breeding ingenuity and is one of the most beautiful breeds we offer. It is colorful, hardy, and productive. The broadfeathered, smooth fitting plumage is sharply marked. The general appearance is silvery white and lustrous greenish black as each feather is edged in a contrasting color. The close-fitting rose comb and good body size are valuable assets for winter laying. Cold weather doesn't seem to bother them at all as their hardiness and vigor keep them laying straight through the winter. They lay a nicely shaped, good sized egg, varying from light to rich brown and will set some. This is another excellent variety for exhibition. Baby chicks vary from almost black to light silvery gray and many have contrasting light and dark stripes on the back.

Cuckoo Maran - dark brown eggs

(Chocolate Eggers)

This breed was developed in France in the mid 1800's in the town for which it bears its name, Marans. They had made their way to England in the early 1900's and quickly became very popular for their very dark (chocolate) brown eggs - a trait they are still known for today. These beautiful birds were first exhibited in 1929 in Paris by the Poultry Breeders Society of France and since then have gradually made themselves popular in various countries around the world. We carry the CUCKOO variety of Maran which resembles the Barred Rock in color by displaying feathers which are all crossed throughout with irregular dark and light slate colored bars. Maran's lay the darkest eggs of any breed we carry and are a nice dual purpose bird for both eggs and meat.

Delaware - light brown eggs

This breed was founded in the state of Delaware from an original Barred Rock and New Hampshire cross. The Delaware is considered a heavy breed which lays a nice brown egg. Males are medium size and large enough to butcher for meat and the hens will make a nice "stewing" dish when they are done laying. The feathering on these beautiful birds is almost all white but shows a slight indication of barring in the hackle and tail. Delaware are a nice quiet bird when well tended to. 

Ameraucana - green, blue, or pale brown eggs

This unusual breed gets in name from the Indian tribe of Chilie where they were first discovered.  Our chicks have some Araucana and some Ameraucana blood mixed and consequently are not for show but are beautiful chickens known for their ability to lay colored eggs of shades varying from turquoise to deep olive to shades of brown.  Each bird will typically lay a different shade of colored egg that will amaze your friends and make a wonderful "show and tell" type project for school.  Adults are of medicum size with pea combs and our breeding stock are selected for their ability to produce colored eggs.  They exhibit a wonderful combination of colors and color patterns and 10 or 20 of these birds will make an absolutely beautiful laying flock that is extremely hardy and will be the talk of the town.  Baby chicks come in all colors, plain and fancy, just like the adults.  This is a unique breed and great fun to have when the colored eggs start coming.  Our chicks are recommended for egg laying color and ability, not for exhibition.  

OK, folks, it's time to go outside and get those peas in the ground!

Happy Spring and Happy Easter!