I’ve finally named all of the chickens. Henny Penny is the name that I settled on for the black copper marans who likes to be pet. Black Copper Marans chickens are supposed to lay a dark chocolate colored egg. There seems to be some sort of short circuit that’s happening with her though, and she’s been laying the craziest patterned eggs! They’re all so different that I’ve actually started taking photos!
Gandalf’s got it right in this shot. She’s like “WTF are you doing to make them all so different, Henny?”
We got the 3 new chickens 5 days ago. As far as I am aware, all of our chickens should be laying brown eggs with the exception of the easter egger, Cruella, who lays green-grey putty colored eggs. We have confirmed grey-green eggs from Cruella. We have confirmed (although incredibly inconsistent, soft or no-shelled) light brown eggs from Red, the sexlink (she is laying those suckers in the middle of the night while she’s roosting, the jerk).
The three new birds are unconfirmed, but as noted, should be laying dark brown, light brown with speckles, and medium brown with a pinkish tint. Imagine my surprise when I checked the nest box 3 days ago and found a white egg! At first I thought that Craig must be messing with me. I had just purchased a dozen white eggs from the grocery store and we hadn’t eaten any, so I looked in the fridge to make sure they were all still there (they were). I posted about it on the chicken forum, and got a slew of unhelpful responses. Someone told me that it’s the red sexlink because she has white earlobes, but I find it highly unlikely that she has been laying soft shelled or shell-less brown eggs from the roost, then less than 12 hours after laying her most recent softy, magically decides that mid-day in the nesting box with a thick-shelled white one is an appropriate time. Others told me that it might be the speckled sussex, who is still far too young to be expecting eggs from, and her comb hasn’t even reddened up yet. That leaves the black copper marans and the langshan. I have no reason to believe that the black copper marans is anything other than that, and definitely have reason to believe that the langshan is mixed (the white streaks are a dead giveaway, and her comb isn’t the right shape for the breed). Then people from the chicken forum once again believe this one to be a rooster due to the feathers on her(his?) back, but considering that the bird is my #1 contender for white egg layer, I’m hoping to have the white-egg-mixed-breed-langshan-theory be the case.
When it became painfully obvious and no longer deniable that the black langshan was a cockerel, I got ahold of the people we bought our chickens from and made arrangements to swap him out. Knowing that adding a single new bird to a flock is a quick way to end up with a bird in a dog crate in your spare bedroom recovering from injuries, and knowing that we ultimately wanted more birds, we decided to pick up 2 additional birds from them and go from there. In our town, we are allowed 8 birds, and while I think that my enclosure is large enough to support 8 birds, I think that things are always a little better with lower population density. Also, seeing as to how this is our first winter with the chickens, I’d much rather not have too many birds to handle should something awful happen. This gives us a little room to hatch out some eggs should I end up with a broody bird this upcoming spring, giving us a few younger girls to give more sustained egg production. I haven’t decided yet. Either way, I brought our male langshan back to the people’s house, and left with 3 new birds. Below, I will overshare photos, and tell you how they’re getting along so far. It’s been a little trying, to say the least.
First – The 2 “old” chickens have gone all-out mean girls. When it was just the 3 birds, things were cool. They were quiet, laid back, and didn’t bicker. It was clear that the easter egger was at the top of the pecking order, she got first pick of goodies and occasionally pecked at the red sexlink when she got uppity. Now that they have new flockmates to push around, they’ve become megabitches. They’re awful. The first day with the new birds, they chased them into the roosting loft and then strutted around the run squawking, as though to remind the new birds that they’re in charge. There’s been a little pecking, but for the most part, as long as the 3 new birds stay out of the way of the 2 original ones, they’re surviving. They’ve finally gotten names. The easter egger is Cruella, and the sex link is Red. Original, I know. Cruella has continued providing us with beautiful light green-grey eggs 5 days a week. Red has begun laying. It started off with a small, strangely shaped soft shelled egg in the poop hammock, then a few days later, a shell-less egg that was also laid while she was roosting. A few days later again and we got a fully formed albeit slightly thinly shelled egg once again on the roost. I’m gonna have to get a golf ball or something to leave in the nest so she realizes that it’s a place she can go lay! Her eggs are a standard light brown.
This is the first new bird, and seems to be at the top of the pecking order of the newcomers. The is a Black Copper Marans. The breed lays dark chocolate brown eggs. They really are striking eggs for an otherwise somewhat unremarkable bird. She seems kind of mean, but she was also one of the rooster’s favorite birds. This has given her a big bald patch on her back (Cruella has a similar bald patch). She’s a little haggard, but hopefully her feathers fill in, and after everyone figures out their dynamic, she’ll have a slightly less hectic life.
This is the replacement black langshan. I suspect that her genetics aren’t quite “up to snuff” due to the white streaks in her feathers, and the fact that her eyes are so light (the other black langshan had very dark eyes that peered into your soul) but boy is this bird enormous! It also looks a little like a rooster to me, but the chicken guy claimed up and down that she lays eggs. And has promised that if she starts crowing that I can once again return her. I’ve tried to show how crazy long her legs are in the photos, and then there’s a comparison shot of her and the BCM, just to give you some idea of the scale. It’s wild. She also isn’t picky about where she sleeps (I caught her in the poop hammock the first night) and has the most piercing honking screech when she is alarmed. I learned this while trying to minimize the tussling that the girls were having while trying to figure out sleeping arrangements. She kept getting picked on and then kept moving to places where Red was in range of her. When I picked her up, she screamed bloody murder! It was pretty alarming. That bird has some serious lungs. Despite being a total wiener(nearly bottom of the pecking order despite so far being 2x the size of the other birds, she is still my favorite of the chickens, once again. Such a weirdo. Also, incredible iridescent black feathers. So striking. Her eggs should be a medium brown color with a slight reddish plum colored bloom. Theoretically. There seems to be a lot of hearsay on the internet about what color exactly their eggs are.
Last but not least is this Speckled Sussex pullet. She is not quite old enough to lay, as can be seen by her diminutive size, and the fact that her comb is still pinkish and hasn’t darkened to the reddish tone that generally accompanies laying age. Speckled Sussexes lay light brown eggs with dark brown speckles on them. They are a reddish brown color with white spots on the end of their feathers that are ringed by an incredible iridescent black. Each time they molt, they get more and more white spots, so it’s fairly easy to tell the old ones from the young ones. In addition to the neat eggs, they tend to be very docile and are supposed to be good winter egg layers. Of course, that is dependent on her actually beginning to lay before the days get shorter, but we shall see. She is 100% at the bottom of the pecking order, and I think it will be interesting to see what happens as she matures and gets bigger.
That is obviously sarcasm. Our first batch of 3 “pullets” (which were also more neurotic than our newer birds) had at least one cockerel. When we gifted them to someone nearby and decided to “try again” with some “verified quiet” birds, we got them from someone on Craigslist who lives just down the hill from us. As noted in my post about the replacements, the sellers gave me a “quiet bird guarantee” where they would be willing to swap out a quiet bird in case we ended up with a noisy one. As the weekend and the two-week mark was quickly coming upon us, I was feeling extremely optimistic. We were getting nearly an egg a day (5 eggs in 7 days) from the easter egger, and although she’s not very friendly, she is pretty quiet (likes to do an egg song mid-day when she lays, but that’s not an issue) and dependably lays a very light green-greyish egg. The red sex link has moved into the lead as my favorite hen, however we have yet to get a single egg from her. I am not sure whether she is just old, or taking longer to settle in and get comfortable enough to lay. I always said that non-productive birds don’t have a place in our flock, but she is seriously the silliest bird that I’ve ever met, and comes running towards the door of the run when I go out there, prefers to eat treats out of my hand vs the ground, and has let me pick her up a couple of times before deciding that she’s not into it. She also has this habit of walking around the run just mumbling to herself. It’s noise, but it’s quiet twirring, so not something that registers as anything more than ambient noise, and I find it so calming that I’ve started visiting the birds right before I leave for work and right after I get home in the afternoon.
Then there’s the raptorchicken. This black langshan is so pretty. A real knockout. And after nearly 2 weeks of near silence from the chickens, we were awoken at 5:30am on Saturday morning to a piercing ba -ba-bA-BA-GAWK! As I jolted awake, the chicken repeated its chorus, I couldn’t believe my ears. We had just gotten rid of the noisy offenders. We had quiet pullets! I quickly threw on my robe and rushed out to shush the birds. Of course they got quiet as soon as I went outside. I went back to bed. 10 minutes later, same thing. This transpired off and on in 10-40 minute periods for the next couple of hours. The chickens would make noise, I would leap out of bed, trying to quiet them so they didn’t wake the neighbors, and not be able to tell who was making the ruckus – no contacts or glasses in/on and my vision past a couple feet makes for determining which chicken’s beak is moving very difficult. This happened for several hours off and on through Saturday. I was very stressed out. We binge-watched star-trek while I made dog food, chicken stock, and caramelized onions. The background noises contain very subtle beep-beep-boo-baas, which, if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown caused by the noise your chickens are producing (and really hanging from a string over keeping or giving up for good), they begin to sound markedly similar to the winding up that they do prior to the “main event” of squawking. Laying in bed with the sliding glass door open resulted in me “hearing” the bawk-bawk-bawk in traffic noise and wind. I had nightmares where the chickens were making noise. Not to be disappointed, I woke up at around 5:30 am once again to the bird riling itself up. After getting up a third time, I was angry. When the next instance happened, I tore out of bed, cursing the damned chicken and threw on my robe, muttering about cutting that M-Fer’s throat. Craig got up and tried to calm me down. Of course the chickens were quiet again by the time I made it out, and I came back inside feeling defeated. That’s when Craig started laughing. The last couple of “rounds” of noise had been generated by his phone. He pranked the crap out of me and was so successful. I cried. I was exhausted from not sleeping properly, stressed about the potential that the chickens would not work out and we’d have to admit defeat (and not have such silly creatures around to give us eggs), and it was more than I could take. I was relieved that the last couple of rounds hadn’t been our birds, but they had started it, 2 mornings in a row. By mid-morning they had quieted down, but I still wasn’t sure who was the one making the noise. Monday morning, there was absolutely no noisemaking. But Tuesday at 6am, we got a new surprise. I think that the sound was somewhere between a kid playing and a baby crying. It was confusing, but I had laid eyes on the jerk while it was happening. Definitely raptorchicken. I posted on the chicken forum (like I am the type of person who wouldn’t be a member of a chicken forum) and some of the members believed that the langshan may be a male. Now it hadn’t even crossed my mind that the chicken was a male. I just assumed it was a noisy pullet who is super excited or stressed out about the prospect of laying eggs. That is incorrect. I was able to take video this AM of the jerk, and shared it both on my facebook chicken group and on the chicken forum and got the confirmation that I expected. Raptorchicken is a he. JUST LIKE JURASSIC PARK GUYS. LIFE WILL FIND A WAY!
So while I am bummed that we are having to get rid of such a beaut of a bird, I am relieved to learn that the noise making has been Y chromosome related, not X chromosome related. I have made arrangements with the people we bought him from to trade him in on a pullet, and because you can’t add just one new chicken to a flock (they get bullied extra hard if there isn’t more than one target), we’ll be picking up 2 additional birds (since “Red” doesn’t seem too keen on laying), bringing our flock total to 5 for now. Hopefully we don’t end up with any more cockerels!
Baby steps here. These chickens need to learn that I am a friendly caring benefactor, and not a scary creepygrabber. And pretty much the only way into the heart of a chicken is through their stomach. I’ve started going out to check on them every morning and evening, and giving them treats of some sort, usually a handful of cracked corn. Over the course of the last several days, they have realized that when I come out to see them, they will be getting treats, and they respond accordingly. They now walk up to the door of the enclosure and talk at me in quiet little honks. I have slowly been broadcasting the corn for them closer and closer to myself, and finally yesterday they started eating out of my hand. I’m aware that I am reaching facebook parent level obsession, but I’m not forcing you to watch the video. But you know, you can if you want to!
I have had these painted hardiplank pieces collecting dust all on my deck for the last month, and have frankly been far too
lazy busy to complete the project of the hen house. But I had a few free hours on Saturday afternoon and decided to just buckle down and get it done. It really didn’t take much effort, and I wanted to have them ready to go before the weather started getting chilly. I still haven’t completed my poop hammock, so that is definitely on the list. I got started on a proof of concept for it using old feed sacks held together with staples as I can’t commit to having the sewing machine out on table until I am sure that this is going to be a worthwhile time sink. If this setup doesn’t work out very well, I will have to back up and either move to a hinged and rhino-liner coated piece of plywood that will collect poop and can then be scraped off, or something else that will be effective at keeping drafts off their toes and fluffy little butts, but also be removable so I can get in there and clean. Either way, we are making progress. I moved the temporary nesting box to another wall of the enclosure. I am in the planning stages of a nest box that is accessible from the exterior of the coop, and needed the area clear so that I could stare and obsess over how to make the jigsaw of a nesting box that I’m planning go together.
I have also tried numerous treats for the 3 new hens, and they’ve poo-pooed them! My first girls went apeshit for black oil sunflower seeds. These ones couldn’t care less about their existence, even going so far as to pick at them when I toss them into the run, and then spit them back out! I tried cornflakes (don’t judge, I had them in the pantry) and after reading that chickens like cat food, I grabbed a little of Perry’s food and tried that. They weren’t interested in any of those options! So I bought a tiny amount of cracked corn from the bulk bin at our local Grange store and prepared myself for disappointment. But there was extreme success! They really like it! Now to get more!
Now we have been told that the Red Sexlink is about a year old, and I think that the Ameraucana mix was supposed to be less than 6 months old, and the Langshan is also young. When you stress chickens at all, it is pretty common for them to stop laying for a while until they acclimate to the new change (in this case, a new yard, new flock dynamic, and new dogs that are drooling at them through the fence. I have been expectantly going out 1-2x daily and checking the nest box (doghouse) for eggs and have had no success! Well I went out to bring the girls some kitchen scraps last night and defeatedly decided to peek inside. And what did I find? My very own egg! Now it’s not brown, so it didn’t come out of the Red Sexlink, and the Langshan (RaptorChicken) should be laying pinkish tinted brown eggs, so it didn’t come from her. I had been hopeful that the Ameraucana mix would be a blue or green layer, but we got a greyish putty colored egg. Not particularly exciting, but it tasted damn good!
Things had been chugging along relatively fuss-free with our 3 young hens. We had been experiencing a few very loud squawking events a week, each time requiring that I go outside to get the chicken’s attention, which then totally stopped the yelling that she was doing. It was (for the most part) at a manageable level, albeit annoying at times. Part of the understanding that we came to when I essentially forced Craig into letting me get chickens, was that we aim for quiet chickens, and that loud ones do not have a place in our yard. We don’t need to be “those neighbors” with the noisy pets. It is not endearing.
It has been an eventful week. We got our first egg on Friday (small but cracked) and then a second one again on Sunday. But boy-o! Sunday morning was a rough experience. For about 5 hours, the chickens made so much noise. It wasn’t just one of them either. They were making the loudest noises that they could muster. We were in our house with the windows closed, the AC on, and a television show playing, and we could clearly hear the ba-GAWKing of those stinkin’ birds in our yard. My presence to distract them didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Things had come to a head. We had to get rid of the chickens. I was devastated, but maintaining our relationships with our neighbors as well as a peaceful marriage is far more important than a handful of eggs and the hilarious antics that come from.. well… bird brains. So I photographed them, and posted them up on my local chicken facebook group, offering them to whoever could come get them first. Strangely enough, after the final plans had been set, they quieted right down! A woman who lives nearby and has an acre and a whole pile of chickens already came and got them. And the next day, informed me that one is a rooster! He had not yet started crowing, but had the telltale spur that the hens did not. I didn’t know to look for it, and it wasn’t even on my radar that I might have ended up with a male, so it was a total surprise to me! Either way, this woman had already been gifted “my pretties.”
Craig was sad too. We both loved the chickens. They are hilarious, cute, ridiculous, and they also make eggs (I love eggs). We have both put so much time, effort, and emotional energy into having a flock of backyard poultry that we are not quite ready to give up. We agreed to find a few hens that have been “verified quiet.” Of course any chickens are going to make noise, it is part of them being alive and chickens, but certain individuals are certainly noisier than others. Just as one of our dogs rarely barks, certain hens are far less predisposed to talk for the sake of hearing their own voice. I found someone who lives nearby to us and has so many chickens. We spent a few minutes in their chicken yard with them, selecting a few that first and foremost are not noisemakers, and after that, not bullies, and after that, have potentially neat eggs. Icing on the cake is that they said to hold onto their number, and if one of the birds ends up being a noisemaker, we can “trade her in” for another bird. This makes the whole setup more appealing. Either way, we ended up with:
A year old Red Sex Link – These chickens have a tendency to be less prone to being scared by predators than the average(not good for free-ranging survival, but great for my totally secure backyard setup). They lay large eggs often, which will probably result in a shorter laying lifespan (thus a shorter altogether lifespan in my yard), but are generally friendly with people. In the several hours we’ve had them, it’s become clear that she is the dominant bird. Here’s hoping we don’t have a bully on our hands! The name “sex link” is because at hatch, all of the males are yellowy blonde, and the females are a more distinct brownish color. Hence, the color is linked to the sex of the bird.
A 4ish month old Black Langshan – This is a breed of chickens that originated in Asia. I have found very conflicting information regarding the commonality of this bird. Many places say they’re “endangered” but then other places classify them as common. I don’t know. What I do know is that so far, this is my favorite of the three. They have crazy long legs that have feathers running down the whole outside so they kind of look like fringed chaps. They move like tiny raptors, are fast runners, and so far, this individual bird seems to be the most chill of the three. Someone compared them to her great dane dogs, tall, stately, and the “king” of her flock. Apparently depending on the line the birds come from, they are nearly as tall as turkeys. I am very much looking forward to watching this little lady fill in a bit.
A young (probably 4ish months old as well – not sure if she’s laying yet) Easter Egger – This is not actually a breed of chicken. Easter Eggers are birds that have been bred and crossed to produce colored eggs. These can vary from light to dark, and range between blue, green, and pink. This particular bird is an Ameraucana cross. Ameraucanas are crosses of Auracanas which are a silly little rumpless bird that has a tendency to be a little more difficult to keep than standard backyard flock stock. Either way, she is a major mutt and seems to be the least outgoing of the bunch so far. Here is hoping that she has really neat eggs.
We have had the birds for less than 24 hours at this point, so time will tell if they are actually as quiet as we are hoping. We will give it a little time and a lot of hoping. If it doesn’t end up working out, we’ll have to tear down the enclosure and come up with a gardening plan for that shady corner that now has very fertile soil!