Back to life in Essex and – as I told you the other week – we sadly lost Molly, one of our hens, after a fox broke into our supposedly ‘fox proof’ egglu. Since then, we have been busy reinforcing the run and searching for new feathery recruits to keep our remaining hen, Lexi, company.
DJ decided that, as we’ve had hybrid hens for the past five years and have never managed to see them much past their third birthdays, (they are the James Deans of the poultry world – bred to live fast, produce a lot of eggs and die young) we should try our luck with pure breeds. While the pure breeds don’t produce anything like as many eggs as the hybrids, they tend to live longer (foxes willing). But what we have also discovered so far is that some pure breeds are also a heck of a lot bigger!
Our hunt for two new girls has seen us scouring Essex and Suffolk. After looking online and in local outlets for pure breeds that would produce a reasonable amount of eggs, not be flighty and be friendly, we decided to go for an Orpington and a Sussex. Luckily enough, although pure breed point-of-lay hens are a bit scarcer this time of year, we didn’t have to travel too far in the end.
We had considered a Welsummer but one breeder warned that they can be flighty. Lexi and Molly were both flighty, so we were keen to get new hens that would like hugs as well as lay eggs. They are pets with benefits first and foremost. We picked up a lovely buff utility Orpington from a great place in Hullbridge where the guy had been breeding them for 30 years. I wanted to get two but DJ was concerned that they were so big that two of them, plus Lexi, might not fit in the egglu henhouse at night!
After settling the Orpington in, who we have christened Marmalade – aka the Honey Monster (the resemblance is uncanny) – we trekked to the Suffolk border to pick up a beautiful speckled Sussex from a farm in Constable country. When we got her home we realised she was just as big as the Orpington but bossier. She immediately started pecking Marmalade who, after putting up a brief fight by jumping over the Sussex’s head (bless her) squeezed into a gap between the feeder and the water container to get away.
Lexi went very quiet too, which made us wonder if the Sussex would end up ruling the roost. But when I (foolishly) let all three out together the next day, Lexi was clearly top dog. A brief fight broke out between Lexi and the Sussex before the Sussex submitted to Lexi’s rule. Then both took it in turns to chase the Orpington around the garden. Oh dear.
Fortunately DJ had the idea of dividing up the bigger run with bamboo canes, allowing the girls to be together but have their own space. The effect is slightly reminiscent of a POW camp but seems to work. When we let them out into the garden over the weekend, the bullying was much reduced and Lexi and the Sussex – who we have named Morgana/Marmite – actually dust bathed near each other. Steady on, girls! Could peace break out soon? No eggs as yet, though, and Connie who left a message on the blog warns that, as an Orpington, Marmalade could be 40 weeks old before she lays her first egg. Oops. But who needs cable TV when you’ve got chickens to watch through your kitchen window? Magic.
Do you keep chickens? Which breeds do you like keeping and why? Leave a message and let me know.
|StumbleUpon||Technorati||Yahoo! My Web|