I always wanted to try Wyandottes, but after my sister got two Silver Laced Wyandotte chicks who grew up scrawny and mean and laid small eggs, I wasn’t so sure.
After my research turned up a real mix of opinions on the breed, I realized that there were both good and bad lines out there. Some people breed for temperament and some don’t care. I just had to find some good ones.
Then last summer, I hatched a single spectacular Blue Laced Red Wyandotte pullet, who grew up all curves, ample and round and gloriously beautiful; docile, quiet and a good layer. Now I really wanted MORE.
So this spring I ordered three batches of eggs from breeders in BC, Alberta and Quebec, and hatched out 21 chicks in all, silver, gold and blue laced red.
My Wyandotte chicks now range in age from ten to 15 weeks, it’s easy to tell the girls from the boys, and their feathering patterns are clear (and diverse!) It’s time to select a cockerel or two, and five or six pullets, and sell off the rest. I must choose well, only the best birds should be kept for breeding.
The more I study, the clearer I can see which birds I should keep. What am I studying? The American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection, of course. 1920 version, online thanks to the Cornell University Library. Updated every five years since 1874, the SOP is the authoritative source for “a complete description of all recognized varieties of fowls.” And it doesn’t go out of date, it just gets bigger and more detailed. The SOP for Wyandottes hasn’t significantly altered in more than a hundred years!
How’s the shape? Is she set low, short-backed and short tailed or all elbows and knees with a hollow comb and squirrel tail? Short, arched neck and wide crown? Deep, round, broad breast? How’s the temperament? Is he gentle and kind or pushy and mean? What about vigour? Does she move smoothly, jump easily, keep up with the rest? Is he heavy for his size, solid and athletic? And the plumage. Is it abundant and glossy? Are his hackle and saddle feathers silvery with black lines through each feather? And his breast, are the feathers well laced and even? Tail feathers short, curved, fluffy and black with green iridescence? Two rows of lacing on his wings? Orange eyes? Yellow legs? Slate undercarriage? And what about the underlying genetics? Why are all my silvers male? Sex linked colour genes of course! Now how does that all work? Do I keep a silver and a gold cockerel? Or a GL blue? Do my gold cockerels from breeder 1 have the most recessive genotype, so next year I can hatch all the colours? Decisions, decisions.
Some folks hatch hundreds to choose a few specimens to breed. Some folks study chicken confirmation for years and years. I don’t have the room for hundreds, and I am at the five year mark for chicken expertise; my little chicken hobby is humble in comparison. But it absorbs me, it keeps me thinking and active, and it chases away stress. I am having a ton of fun with my Wyandotte project, and for me that’s the whole point.
Our three kids were away this weekend at a music festival, so we puppy sat. Chance the dog-crazy dog was delighted to hang with his two favourite gals, Liza and Mocha, all weekend. Liza was much less thrilled, especially when Chance and Mocha wrestled, but both bitches behaved better than when their owners are near.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the mature Lassie look-a-like is the one with the attitude problem, not the Staffordshire Terrier puppy!
The high point of the evening was, as always, chew chew time. Lucky for them we have treat-stuffed bones for three!
Alsty did it again. Four Swedish Flowers, two Polish, and two Hoppy babies! I knew I could trust good old Alsty. Tonight at dusk I will tiptoe out to her brooding pen with a bucket of nine. Nine more chicks that is…eight Black Copper Marans and one Hoppy baby. The last incubator-hatched chicks of the 2017 season. Alsty can handle 17 just fine. She mothered 18 last time.
And then guess what? For the first time since January 1st, no chicks in the house!
It will be nice to take a break, and enjoy watching the young ones grow up. The coops are overcrowded, but everyone free ranges most of the day, all over half an acre of field, and tree-lined creek, and wood chip paddock, and horse barn; so it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of night perches, and by the time the cold wet weather keeps the flocks under cover, I will have chosen next year’s breeders and layers, and sold off the rest.
I’m glad I decided to hatch a few Hoppy eggs. She’s no fancy purebred, but she is the most indomitable chicken I know. With three chicks, I should get at least one girl. Hopefully she will take after her momma.
This gorgeous young Swede has a whole flock of admiring young females, and some of the older ladies think he’s pretty hot too. On the petite side, like all Swedish Flower Hens, David may not be the beefiest man in the barnyard but the girls don’t care. They’re in love with his big brown eyes, his suggestive swagger, and his long shiny feathers.
The gold, silver and blue laced wyandotte teenagers got their freedom today. Most of the pullets and the very youngest cockerels stayed home and basked in the sun. But for the brave boys (and couple of brave girls) who ventured outside, it was a VERY exciting day. They darted here and there in little gangs, sampling the new green grass, and leaves, and bugs, and gazing all around at the world they were suddenly in, instead of watching through a chicken wire door.
It was blustery, and each big gust sent alarmed birds barrelling back home for a few minutes of comfort before out they’d dart again. As dusk came on – every chicken’s curfew – they all went home to roost, and sleep well I’m sure. Dreaming of sunny, windy, green grass and bug filled afternoons.
Each morning after chores, the dogs beeline ahead of me to the house and breakfast, Liza out in front. Over the bridge, Chance always sticks to the left side, avoiding the steel mesh footing.
Full stop on the other side while he inspects the road. Anybody out there? Nope. And then, best buddies for the moment, the two of them bodycheck each other the last few feet to the back door.
Everybody drinks out of the horse’s water trough. The chickens perch on the edge and admire their reflections. I caught Callie, sneaking a drink but poised to run if Chance should head her way.
Well camoflauged, isn’t she? You wouldn’t think grey stripes, white and peach blotches would help her hide, but it definitely does.
Hatching season started in December this year, when the first batch of eggs went in the incubator for an early January hatch. At the height of the season, I had three incubators and a hatcher going non-stop. My units are small, none holds more than 40 eggs, so I’m not a large producer. But the chicks kept me busy enough anyway, not sure I would want to deal with more.
Now the last few Black Copper Marans eggs are cooking, and will hatch in two weeks. Then I’ll scrub my incubator room from top to bottom and clean and store all the equipment. I am tired of incubating now, but I expect the itch will start up again as January rolls around.
Alsty may be young, but she is proving herself to be one serious momma. After successfully raising 18 chicks, 10 of her own hatchlings plus an extra 8 incubator babies, and kicking them all to the curb at the six week mark, she has gone broody again.
With what I am learning is her usual efficient decisiveness, she hunkered down on Thursday morning and indicated with a growl that she was ready to bake more eggs. [Insert joke about the fact she is a Teutonic breed 😊]
I gave her some polish n’ Silkie mix eggs, plus entrusted her with my very special *last* six Swedish Flower eggs for this season. I know my Swede eggs are safe with my little Austrian chicken.