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Rare and Heritage Breed Chickens - Surprising things we have learned while keeping them

By Edited Nov 26, 2015 1 2

Great Backyard Chicken Keeping Experiences

Unexpected bonuses from keeping free range poultry!


  1. Chickens pets are great fun to have around.  What starts out as wanting  a few hens for eggs can turn into loving hatching and raising young fluffy young birds.  It's possible to like them more than pet dogs or cats, and they have the bonus of providing fresh eggs!
  2. There are many beautiful colours and breeds of poultry out there with their own neat characteristics.  Have a multicoloured flock, or choose the heritage breed or breeds best suited to your situation.
  3. You can put their manure on your vegetable garden (unlike dogs and cats), and right away if mixed with lots of shavings.
  4. They love to eat your leftovers and vegetable scraps. They will beg for them if they see you coming with a bowl or bread bag.  A varied diet keeps them healthy and saves on feed bills.
  5. Free ranging chickens will run up to see you.  It is nice to know you are appreciated for the work that comes from looking after chickens.  Some breeds are friendlier than others.
  6. Hatching eggs 
    Friendly Welsummer Chicks
    is an amazing experience.  You can hear chicks peeping in the shell before they hatch and they will reply if you cheep at the egg.  They can take over 24 hours to hatch after pipping the first hole in the shell.  Chicks take 12 hours or more to dry off when they hatch and look like drunken drowned rats at first, then the fluffy and cute once they dry.

Keeping chickens for fresh eggs

  1. You do not need a rooster to make your hens lay eggs.  Chicken flocks will lay eggs whether you have a rooster or not.  If you try to incubate them though, there will be no chicks.
  2. Eggs come in a range of beautiful colours.  Imagine a rainbow of greens, blue and white.  Or shiny, speckled brown ones.
  3. Not every hen lays an egg a day.  The production Leghorns and laying hens usually do, but the heritage hens are more laid back with most producing  3-5 a week.  Some lay more, some lay less.  Depends on breed, feed, comfort/security, day length, whether they are molting (getting new feathers). 
  4. You will have more eggs than you need.  Once you have a few hens for pets, you will end up with more eggs than you can eat.  family and friends often love the gift of a few fresh eggs.
  5. Selling fresh eggs is quite easy and
    Rainbow of Rare Chicken's Eggs - Green, blue, white, brown, tinted and chocolate brown eggs
    demand is usually good.  Selling farm fresh eggs requires some work on your part to make sure eggs are fresh, collected promptly, clean, refrigerated and unbroken.  This is someones food, so take care of them well.  Rules about selling vary with your area, but most places you can sell eggs from you property to people to come to you.

Not so good surpises!

  1. Predators want to eat your free range chickens all the time, but mostly at night.  Raccoons can tear through hexagonal chicken wire.  Protecting chickens is a neccessity and welded wire will help keep your flock safe.  Research and plan for likely chicken predators that live in your area.
  2. Chickens have a social order and psychology that you need to work around.   Keeping keep them safe and content often means building more housing than you thought.  This is to keep birds of mixed ages or roosters that fight or are bullied.  It is called pecking order for a reason.
  3. Chickens can get sick too.  Infectious respiratory diseases are common and coccidiosis kills many chicks each year.  Good housing and avoiding overcrowding help a lot.  Quaratine any new birds add to your flock, it may save the lives of the rest of your chickens.
  4. Some heritage breeds are more aggressive than others.  Pick your poultry breed wisely, do your homework and ask the breeder or seller about temperament.
  5. Production laying hens tend to have a short life.  Many die of egg-laying complications after a year or two as their eggs can be enormous.  They rarely miss a day laying and burn out.
  6. Not every hen is a natural mother.  Some broody hens won't sit for the 21 days leaving the unhatched chicks to die in the eggs.  Others poop on the eggs infecting them with bacteria or are rough with them breaking them, or kill the hatchlings.

More informaton of Poultry keeping

I hope this has given you some insight into the joys and surprises of keeping poultry.  Despite a few unpleasant surprises, we find them wonderful and well worth having.

Extremely Rare Black Penedesenca Hen that Lays Choclate Brown Eggs

We have had close to 1000 chickens in 40 breeds in 4 years and have learned so much.  We'd love to share our experience and save you some trouble.  Easy Chickenry by Skeffling Lavender Farm has photos, tips and articles to learn more about keeping birds and Rare Heritage Breed Chickens.

These are among the best rare heritage breed chickens 



Aug 21, 2011 8:59am
Great article! I think it's great if hobby farmers can help keep the heritage breeds alive. Love the plate of eggs!
Aug 21, 2011 9:46am
Thanks Judy! I love my heritage breeds, they can be so different to each other, and look gorgeous free ranging across the lawn. The inside of those eggs are even prettier with bright healthy orange yolks ;-)
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