The Hens of Pumpkin Hollow

20180214_152811They, too, wait for spring when fresh greenery pushes through to be pecked at and enjoyed by the hens of Pumpkin Hollow Farm.  I love chickens.  And the thing we missed most when we were away from a farm was having chickens.  They make a farm a home anywhere you can keep them.  Their colorful feathers, changing in the sun, their strut through high weeds and the way they tilt their head to look at you with one eye.  They are hilarious in demeanor and each one is as different as my cats.

Yogi and Hindi are Jersey Giants and we refer to them as the Jersey girls.  They tend to stick together.  Their large black feathers sparkle emerald in the sunlight.  They lay large brown eggs.  They were late bloomers but seem to be catching up with others.

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Eloise was supposed to be a Marans but she lacks speckles and I think she is actually an Australorpe.  She lays small tan eggs wherever she pleases; outside the coop door, near the chicken food-as if the egg popping out surprises her.  She wants to be pet but then changes her mind.  She sleeps by herself and is a little…um…special.  But she is very sweet.

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Buttercup is the tiny queen here.  A clean, white egg can be found each day.  Her breed is Buttercup which is what led to her name.  She looks like a miniature leopard with a rose shaped crown.  She wants nothing to do with us.  Unless we have a bit of cracked corn.

Owlette is an Auracana.  This lovely breed looks like an owl and lays blue-green eggs.  I would like a few more of these ladies.  They are sassy and good layers.

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We have fallen for Salmon Favorelles.  These girls are beautiful in their French finest and petticoats.  They lay pink eggs regularly and are very friendly.  Bubba is especially sweet.  Our granddaughter named our chickens.  Bubba and Chichi are cute names indeed.

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We feed organic layer feed and organic scratch.  They eat scraps from the kitchen as well.  They have a large fenced in area that was likely a dog run in the past with seven foot fencing.  They live in an adobe house with trumpet vine that climbs prettily up the side in the summer.  We are all ready for a little color and for winter to pass!  They are able to wander the yard on the days the puppy goes to the shop with me.  I don’t trust his puppyness quite yet.  Chickens are very easy to keep.  They require little more than a straw strewn shed or chicken coop, fresh water, scratch, oyster shells, scraps, and feed.  They love dirt baths and bugs and sunlight.  They put themselves to bed in the evening at last light.  All you have to do is open the door in the morning and close the door at night.

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We are vegan but we do eat the eggs from our own chickens.  Our chickens lead a very nice life with pets, treats, and lots of wandering adventures.  They will live here their entire life and so in that way they are lucky.  No factory farms, cages, enclosed barns, or slaughter for them.

So now as spring approaches we have the question to answer; do we “adopt” five more chicks even though the hatcheries are horrific and provide five chickens with a beautiful future or do we wait and see if we are sent five chickens that need rescuing?  There are many moral decisions to be made on a small hobby farm.  We do know that chickens make this mini-farm a happier place to live.  A farm without chickens is not quite a home.

For the Love of Chickens (a look at different breeds)

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“How did you decide on these chicken breeds?” someone asked me.

I can’t say I did a lot of research.  When we went to the feed store to get chickens the first year, we hadn’t reserved any so we got who hadn’t been picked up.  One of the breeds I hadn’t heard of.  Golden Buffs.

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Mahalia has never laid an egg.  But her sisters, Peep and Daffodil, are great layers.  They reliably lay a large brown egg a day.  They are slowing down in their third year of laying, but they are still good layers.  They have great temperaments.  Peep runs up to strangers and wants to be pet.  The other two are less lovey but are not aggressive  in the least.

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Our California girl, Ethel, was another breed that we got that year.  She is a great layer (again slowing down now) but she laid a white egg that was perfect for boiling and Easter eggs every day for a long time.  She is sweet.  She also likes to fly.  Not away, but into the goat yard.  The grass is always greener on the other side for California Whites.  She doesn’t leave our actual yard though.  A clip of a few feathers could keep a California girl in her own yard if needed.

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Our Jersey Giants are still great layers even though they are older.  Nearly every day we can count on a small, beige egg.  They are very sweet and docile.  They are not near as giant as I had imagined.

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The next year we researched breeds that were docile, affectionate, and good layers.  The Buff Orpington came up in many suggestions.  Though I have heard that many are affectionate, mine peck at my ankles and fight with each other.  They are good layers but they are not the fun loving birds I thought they would be.

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At a farm we were touring there were these black and white birds that laid dark chocolate eggs.  I was smitten.  They had a nice rooster that was with them who was also a Marans.  We got three girls, Liesel, Brigitta, and Louisa.  Louisa soon became Henry Higgins.  And indeed, he is a very nice, docile, yet bossy and protective, rooster.  I just love him.  I love to hear him singing in the morning.  I love how he herds the girls to safety if he thinks anything is amiss.  He is a gentle giant.  He is very passive with us.  The eggs the girls lay range from medium to dark brown, some variegated with lovely stripes.  Brigitta wants to be picked up and has had many a photo shoot with our granddaughter.  They are one of my favorite breeds.

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I have always loved the blue and green eggs that Araucanas produce so we got three Aracauna girls, two beautiful gold and black girls and one white who still lays blue eggs every day.  They like to fly as well and for awhile laid all their eggs in the front yard.  They are passive, sweet chickens as well.

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A friend of ours had Brahmas.  They were black and white lace patterned with petticoats and floofy slippers.  I loved them as well.  They are dual purpose, meat and egg layers, so they will not be prize winning egg layers, but they will add to the pretty factor on this farm.  We are fickle farmers.  I pick animals based on their cuteness.  Not scientific, but fun.  Two of them will be joining our farm next month.

Backyard chickens are a joy to have and easy to take care of.  An essential component of any mini or large farm.