The other day, as I was writing about how much I love my Wyandottes, I had a thought. “I wonder how many different breeds I’ve kept over the last eight years? A lot. I should make a list and count.”
My husband often jokes that I never do anything by half measures. When I embark on a new hobby, I throw myself straight into the deep end every time. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? It’s so FUN to immerse oneself!
When I started keeping chickens I chose as many breeds as I could lay my hands on. I wanted all the chickens. They were so different from one another! Not just in looks and number of eggs laid. Chicken breeds are like dog breeds, their members share characteristics. Some breeds are loud and demanding (ugh, Ancona! I can’t abide a noisy chicken), while others are so quiet and self-effacing (Cochin, Orpington) that I almost forget they’re there. Some are skittish (yes Legbars, I’m talking about you!) and some are stoic (Marans). Some are as dumb as posts (coughpolishcough). Some are photogenic (Swedes). And some are as smart as a two year old child (Wyandottes).
So I made my list, and found out that as of today, I’m up to exactly 44 chicken breeds. That’s when my superstitious side’s jaw hit the floor, because four is my favourite number!
I was born on the 4th, I have four immediate family members (besides me), my address and license plate have lots of fours, I took pictures when my odometer hit 4444, and 44,444 and 144,444. Four is my lucky number. I joke about this often, pointing out auspicious fours here and there, and choosing them in preference to other numbers when minor decisions involving numbers need to be made. So how weird is that? I’m telling you… I couldn’t make this stuff up!
After the happy shock of finding 44 breeds on my list, I did some more figuring. Right now in my pens, I have 21 breeds. Seven pens of the breeds I like best (currently Wyandottes, Silkies, Swedish Flowers, Cream Legbars, Marans, Olive and Easter Eggers and Barnevelders) and fourteen breeds in “the laying flock”, all leftovers from various chicken breed trials.
I still want to try all the chickens (there are more than 200 breeds available in Canada) and I’m getting better at choosing now. These days, when I see an online auction for something new that might be fun, I study the pictures with a critical eye. How does the parent stock compare to their breed’s SOP (Standard of Perfection)? Do they and their quarters look happy and clean? How do their eggs size up and are they reasonably mud-free?
And then more practical considerations, like do I have room for another breed? Why do I want to try this one? How well does it produce? And just how far away are these eggs? Newfoundland or Alberta, the distance the eggs have to travel makes a huge difference to how well they are likely to hatch.
I don’t know if I will try any new breeds this year, the status quo (and the number 44) seems alright to me. But I may be tempted, something interesting could come up.
I am going to be very careful though, because if chicken breed #45 is anything like US President #45, I am better off doing what I bet a lot of folks wish they could have done in 2016…stuck with #44! 😉
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