Five years ago my family and I raised our first flock of chickens. By a combination of luck and care, we kept the predators at bay — until late last summer, when a fox and her kits grabbed two out of the three in broad daylight. We were devastated. Tilda and Honey were more like pets than livestock. They ran to greet us when we went into the yard and would watch us through the French door in our kitchen, begging for treats. Amelia, always the shy one, was the lone survivor. The perks of being a wallflower. Being alone for the first time, she was clearly stressed. She spent a week pacing frantically back and forth. Fortunately, we happened to be incubating Serama eggs at the time, so we kept one of the hatchlings (the only one that was a hen) as a companion for her.

Here are the chicks, just a couple of days old.

Clockwise from top left:

Clementine, the Faverolle, is a big puffball and likes to sleep in the brooder box with her face wedged into a corner.

Cleo, the Delaware, is named after Cleopatra because her eyes looked rimmed with kohl.

Leela, the Wyandotte, is a typical middle child.

Gilda, the Barnevelder, is named after Rita Hayworth’s character because she is a knockout redhead.

Pixie, the Dominique, is (strictly between you and me) my favorite because she’s so cuddly and mellow.

Left with an Ameraucana hen that was well past her egg-laying prime and a Serama, a tiny unproductive bantam, we knew we wanted to get chicks this spring. After poring over Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry and the websites of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and My Pet Chicken, we made a wish list. We were looking for breeds that are cold hardy, can tolerate confinement, are good egg producers, are less common heritage breeds, and have some interesting feature, like unusually beautiful feather patterns or unusual egg color. Not all of our picks met all of those criteria, but we decided on a Double-Laced Barnevelder, a Golden-Laced Wyandotte, a Dominique, a Salmon Faverolle, and a Delaware, all ordered through mypetchicken.com.

Barnevelders lay chocolate-brown eggs. Yes, please! Wyandottes are very dependable egg layers, and the golden lacing is just phenomenally beautiful. Dominiques are an endangered breed and pretty to boot. With their beards and muffs, feathered legs, and five toes, Faverolles are a little freaky. We love eccentric ladies. Delawares are also threatened as a breed and are reliable layers.

When the box of chicks arrived in the mail, it was pandemonium in Storey’s lobby. How excited does everyone look?! The post office had told me they would call me when the shipment arrived so I could pick them up, but our mail carrier delivered them in person instead. I think it probably made his day.

 

 

 

Alethea Morrison

Alethea Morrison is the author of Homegrown Honey Bees. She lived in San Francisco with her husband, photographer Mars Vilaubi, before stepping into the wild yonder of rural Massachusetts… See Bio

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