Some of my friends and family might call me a little obsessed with chickens. The truth is I am obsessed with planning. I put a lot of thought and research in planning what types of chickens I wanted to purchase. The first couple of sets of chicken I had were not planned very well. Not planning caused me to buy chickens that were not hardy and a couple of them died. So this time when I decided I was going to buy chickens for the purpose of butchering for my family and for eggs I decided to do research. I also planned my eggs to vary in color because pleases the eye.
The Egg Layers
This may just be a California thing but I need to tell everyone in case you don’t already know. Brown eggs are not any healthier than white eggs. I think ever since the organic movement started sweeping the nation we have associated the unbleached, newspaper color brown with healthy. I did a lot of research when planning my chicken purchase and one of the things that kept coming up was that the egg color has nothing to do with how healthy the egg is.
Healthy eggs have to do with the feed and the overall health of the chicken. I am still doing a research on what feeds are best for even healthier eggs. Recently I met a true free-range chicken farmer and he had a lot to say about free-range feeding. But I am going to have the research the topic more before I can feel comfortable about writing about it. If you have any useful information on the topic of free-range please share.
My Chicken Breeds and the Egg Color
11 Ameraucanas (often called the Easter Egg Chickens ) - Med-Large green/blue or pink eggs
12 White Rocks – Med- Large Brown Eggs
7 Brown Leghorns – Large white eggs
4 Cuckoo Maran – Med-Large dark brown eggs
2 Black Austrolorps – Large brown eggs.
4 Dark Cornish Hens (these are a meat bird and not good layers) – Med-Large brown eggs.
I also have a few Roosters
1 White Rock
Going over the breeds.
#1 for egg production- Leghorns: Since my main purpose for having so many chicken is have enough eggs to share with others I want to make sure the feed to egg ratio was going to be as economical as possible. I also want to feed the best possible food without having to pay to much. What I discovered through my research is that the little ole Leghorn is the best producer of eggs while needing less feed because of their small size. They lay large white eggs and are a non-sitter. Brown and White Leghorn Hen’s general weigh around 4 1/2 pounds and are hardy and very athletic. The don’t really make the best “pet” chicken because they are kind of high strung and flighty. They are also known to roost in trees if they are free ranged. My Leghorns started laying at 4 months old. Update 11/2/10- Apparently Brown Leghorns don’t produce as much as White Leghorns. I do get around 4-5 large eggs a day from 7 chickens. White Leghorns are known to lay everyday.
#2 for egg production- Ameraucanas : Since it seemed that size might have a lot to do with how much a chicken will eat I decided to purchase another smaller bird to see if the feed to egg ratio was similar to the Leghorns. Ameraucanas,or Easter Eggers generally weigh about 5 1/2 pounds. I really like this breed because of their unique beard feathers underneath their beaks. The also have a noble almost prey bird type looking face. And their unique blue/green or pink eggs are a cool feature. My birds seem to be a bit skidish but that may be because I don’t handle them a lot. These birds are also dual-purpose (good for eggs or meat).
#1 for color – Cuckoo Maran: The Cuckoo Maran is probably not the best bird to have for eggs in terms of cost to feed the bird. Though I couldn’t find anywhere that says these birds eat a lot, my thought is that since this bird will probably reach around 10 pounds that they are not the best economical choice. However, I couldn’t resist the unusual egg color. I love the very dark brown spotted eggs they lay. Maran’s look very similar to a Barred Rock but if you were to see them side by side you could see the size difference. They seem to be calmer and more curious than any of my other breeds. These birds can also be used for meat. Update 12/13/10- These bird didn’t turn out to be much bigger than my Black Austrolorps. Some are even the same size as the Austrolorps.
The other breeds I have are more of the traditional ole chicken with no particularly unusual traits. In a future entry I will tell you why I chose White Rocks and Dark Cornish chickens for meat.