Over the past few weeks, our flock has been slacking off on the egg laying. A couple girls are broody, we've had a couple go missing, and the rest…well they are either hiding nests or just being lazy. We are now getting 4-6 eggs a day from 15 chickens. That just ain't right! So we have been patrolling Craigslist looking for laying-age hens. There seems to be quite the market for them.
The Portland area is huge for backyard chicken enthusiasts, and it seems that people are always looking for or getting rid of chickens. But it's usually one here or one there. We are looking for about 5 little ladies (Portland proper limits you to 3 hens only, but we are out in the outskirts of Happy Valley, and we have customers to support about 20 chickens, so darnit, that's what I'm gonna have!!!) I'm also finding that backyard chicken enthusiasts have a tendency to have fancy, exotic pet chickens as opposed to heavier layers. We don't need commercial, production varieties, but we need at least a 'very good' layer. The breeds I'm finding either lay tiny eggs, go broody a lot, or lay an egg every three days if you're lucky! We'll keep working on getting some layers, but I want to show you some of what I've found that doesn't work.
I'm getting much of the breed information posted below from Henderson's Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart. Pics are all from Feather Site.)
The Silkie - We actually have one of these. Her name is Silkie Sue and she was a stray that wandered into our flock and never left. (She is also the one that got all tore up by the neighbor's dog, growl.) These little chickens are the stuffed animals of the chicken coop. Basically, a walking toy. But they still lay okay (smallish eggs), and have a tendency to go broody and be good mamas. Their feathers are 'hair-like' and they have a poof on top of their heads. Too cute. They come in several colors: Black, White, Blue, Buff, Partridge, Gray, Splash to name a few.
The Cochin - Another poofball, but this time with feathers as opposed to 'hair'. We have 2 cochins, both of the bantam size, but they come in standard as well. They go broody often and make very good mothers (we've used ours to hatch eggs before and they lived up to the reputation!) They lay a small egg every few days. They also come in many colors, such as Buff, Red, Blue, Barred, White, Black, & Partridge. Cochins can be found in pretty much any color chickens come in. Each should be named "foofy pants".
The Polish – A very ornamental bird, with a huge tophat of feathers. The birds may have difficulty seeing due to these feathers, and really don't do well in bad weather. They are really neat looking and I would love to add one to the flock, but egg production varies quite a bit. They will lay white-shelled eggs and do not have the broody tendency. I've seen a couple after being in the rain, and they look like rock stars.
The Frizzle - I love this chicken and want one (or ten). It looks like it is permanently stuck in a tornado. Talk about a bad hair day! The frizzle quality of the feather is actually a genetic mutation which causes the feather to curve outward and towards the head. They can be standard or banty size and tend to go broody. Every time I see one of these I think of The Wizard of Oz – they must have been in the tornado that picked up Dorothy and Toto.