Over the past few years one of our major projects at the farm has been rebuilding our bird enclosures, and with that, we’ve taken the opportunity to introduce some new chicken breeds. At the moment, we have Cream Crested Legbar, Buff Orpington and Silver Spangle Hamburg chickens, along with our five turkeys. Over time we’ll be looking to introduce some new breeds to the farm.
Our chickens lay a lot of eggs (especially when the weathers nice!) which we collect every day. At certain times of year we might use the eggs in our incubation project, but most of the time they go into the Farm Shop or Barn Owl Café either for sale or for egg mayo sandwiches! Because we collect the eggs every day, it doesn’t matter whether they’re fertile or infertile, as nothing will have had a chance to start developing inside the egg.
In each of our pens there are several hens and one cockerel (or rooster!). As well as helping the hens to lay fertile eggs, the cockerels job is to look after the hens and you’ll often be able to hear him crowing to let everyone know that it’s his territory! You can easily tell them apart from the hens by looking at the over all size, the larger comb and wattle (the red skin around their head and beak) and his pretty tail feathers. See if you can spot the cockerel in each of the chicken pens!
The Cream Legbar
These pretty looking chickens are one of the many rare British breeds we have on the farm! They might not look particularly exciting (though Brixton, our Legbar cockerel is a very dashing fellow), but these chickens are a bit of a farm favourite. Our initial Cream Legbar chickens and eggs came from Vauxhall City Farm.
The hens lay lovely pale blue eggs, and the breed itself is one of relatively few that showcases something called autosexing. With many young birds, it’s impossible to accurately sex them, often it’s a case of waiting until the chicks grow up and start to show their male or female characteristics. With autosexing birds, the male and female chicks actually have different patterns, which means you can sex them from the moment they hatch – very useful!
Cream Legbars are generally kept for their egg laying ability. Ours are very keen layers, and the hens lay 4-5 eggs a week when they’re in the mood!
The Buff Orpington
The Buff Orpington is one of our very iconic British rare breed chickens. Both the males and females are large and golden coloured, but you can tell which ones the cockerel by his big red comb and wattle (not to mention, the crowing, when he feels like it!).
The Buff Orpington was originally developed as a dual purpose breed, meaning it would be good for both laying eggs and meat. They lay brown eggs that look very similar to what you might find in the supermarket, and the chicks are very cute – yellow and fluffy!
As a whole, the Buff Orpington is generally a large and docile breed, they are friendly but hardy, and don’t suffer from being outdoors when the weather gets colder. With those qualities, it tends to be a very popular chicken to keep, and ours are no exception! We don’t tend to do much handling with our Buff Orpington chickens as they’re a bit large but they are certainly always very curious and nosey about new things, especially new treats to eat!
The Silver Spangle Hamburg
The Silver Spangle Hamburgs are the smallest of the domesticated chicken breeds we keep at the farm. They are delicate small to medium sized chickens which can come in a variety of colours and patterns. We keep the silver spangled variety with their black and white feathers, the cockerel is easily identifiable by his long white tail feathers and large spurs on his legs.
They are largely an ornamental or exhibition breed, meaning they’re kept for their looks and showing rather that practical uses, but they can be fairly reliable egg layers. They lay glossy white eggs, which are noticeably smaller than the eggs you might find in the supermarket.
The Hamburg in general has a bit of a bad rap for being a flighty and hard to manage breed needing vast amounts of space, but ours at the farm are very well behaved! Due to their small size, they often get used for handling and are very well mannered, and often come with us to schools as part of our incubator scheme or mobile farm.
We’ve been working hard on our new chicken area, if you’d like to sponsor our chickens, check out our website here!