Earlier this summer I bought 4 beautiful young pullets - 2 cuckoo marans and 2 Araucana/Ameraucana mixes (also known as Easter Eggers or EEs). One of the EEs was lost during Hurricane Irene (thankfully the only bit of "damage" we had was her running off into the woods never to be seen again as the storms started). The other 3 colorful egg layers have been taking their sweet time, mooching off us, without laying a single egg :-P Until last week!
Here's Bunny - our Araucana mix/EE:
Yes, she's supposed to be shaped like that, teehee. Araucanas are rumpless, bearded, and tufted, originating from South America. They have giant black eyes and gray legs. Aaaaand... they lay blue eggs:
See it?! Isn't it fabulous?! Yes, yes it is. See its majesty among the boring old white and tinted/brown eggs (and one kinda cool speckled egg)?! Yeah. Awesome.
And here's one of my cuckoo marans (Marans is the breed, Cuckoo is the barred color pattern):
Marans originated in France and are relatively new to the US, still not actually a recognized breed here. They lay "chocolate" colored eggs - kind of the color of an Advil pill, but ideally much darker. The eggs get darker as the chickens get older and are darkest at the end of their laying cycle (just before they molt). So theoretically their first egg is going to be the lightest egg they ever lay... and this was my first ever marans egg:
It got scratched up on the poop board (yes, she laid it on the poop board underneath their roost). The dark color is actually just a coating on a normal brown egg, so if it gets scratched at all, the darkness goes away. But hooray for chocolate eggs! Is it Easter yet? Cause I'm totally ready :)
Last week Dave and I worked on the coop to get it ready for winter. Can you see the light streaming through the spaces between the boards? That's a problem...
So we put battens on the outside, and now the coop is draft-proof... and stripey!
Some people say that coops should be insulated and/or heated so the chickens don't get cold or get frostbite. I'm of the opinion that if the coop is draft-free but also ventilated, then they'll be fine. It also helps to have fluffy, cold-hardy breeds, which I (mostly) do.
I *am* supplementing their daylight though - as the days get shorter, chickens lay less frequently or go into molt and stop laying altogether. Since I sell eggs (and eat them too), I wanted to avoid this, so there's 2 lights in the coop that come on at 5am and go off at 10pm. That might be a bit overkill, but it's keeping their production nice and high, so I'm happy!
I also had one other thing to do for the chickens to get them ready for winter... take a look at Pippi:
Sasquatch and Little Boy Blue are very... amorous. And because Pippi is a hybrid production layer, pretty much all of her energy goes into making eggs instead of taking care of herself. So she's had a really hard time growing her back and wing feathers back. I didn't worry about this during the summer, but I don't want the poor girl to freeze, so I made her a saddle (aka "apron"):
I won't lie - she kept it on for about 2 minutes. But I think if I just make it a little more secure, she won't have a choice - she will have to wear her saddle/apron/sweater :) I'm not crazy... it's entirely for warmth... so I don't lose my best layer... for economic reasons... and um... yeah, I think it's adorable!
Jen & Dave Paul, owners & operators of Old Post Farm