Go figure: Polish are French. They all have distinctive topknots that look coifed on the hens and like Elvis on a bad hair day for the guys. There are lots of color varieties; we've chosen silver-laced for no particular reason other than their prettiness. They are surprisingly good layers of bullet-shaped large eggs; they are also good moms. Warning: keep them with some other breeds that are good at spotting hawks. Polish can't see much above their heads, so they need an alarm bird and some cover to run to.
Pros: Endlessly amusing but smarter and more independent than they look.
Cons: Roosters can be aggressive with other roosters. Muddy topknots may need an occasional shampoo.
If you're setting up a small backyard flock - or you're an aspiring chicken farmer - consider the advantages of tried-and-true breeds. Unlike modern hybrids, the heritage breeds proved thrifty and valuable to generations of backyard and small commercial operators. They lay past their first couple moults, they are resistant to disease, they grow well in varied conditions and are good flock citizens. You're likely to have more success with birds who have stood the test of time -- and more fun too.
Hybrid chickens (some sex-links and Cornish crosses are included here) are bred to lay well through their first year and are then slaughtered. Most won't lay well beyond that; they also tend to be aggressive with other chickens, especially other breeds. The Cornish crosses grow so quickly -- they're usually slaughtered at ten weeks -- that they can suffer heart attacks and develop leg problems. Turkeys have been developed with such big breasts that they cannot mate naturally. In general, breeds and hybrids developed for industrial situations are not suitable for the small farmer -- no matter what the catalogs say. No matter who you buy from, ask how the breed gets along with other chickens. You shouldn't have to be monitoring your flock -- the birds should get along on their own.
Laughing Frog farm sells day-old chicks, started chicks (five weeks old and able to get along without a mother hen or a heat lamp), pullets, and older hens and roosters in northern California. We don't ship; pick-up or delivery can be arranged by email. We're small, so we may not have what you want exactly when you want it, but give us a try, and we'll do our best to provide you with a flock of entertaining easy keepers who will pay back your good husbandry with lots of delicious eggs.
If you’ve seen Picasso’s roosters you’ve seen Buff Catalanas. From the Catalan region of Spain, they’re the second largest of the Mediterranean breeds, and the most mellow. Unlike other Meds, the hens are good moms. Excellent layers of tinted white eggs, and the roosters have a curious trill to their crow.
Pros: calm for a light breed, great layers of large eggs.
Cons: not a candidate for commercial egg production because of occasionally broody hens and slower growth than other Mediterranean breeds.
Americaunas were developed in the United States, partly from South American Aracauna stock. They feature the beards, muffs, and wild natures of their southern ancestors, but differ in several important ways: Americaunas have tails, their eggs are blue rather than green, and they are much better layers. Don’t confuse our birds with so-called Easter Eggers, which are not purebred and can’t be entered in poultry shows. Our strain tends toward wild, and would prefer to have nothing to do with people.
Pros: blue eggs, good layers, often first to start again after a moult, roosters especially protective of their flock.
Cons: tend to scream when caught, and in general can be on the hysterical side.
A rare and beautiful bundle of contradictions, the Sumatra is not for the novice. Closest to the wild of any modern breed, Sumatras are excellent foragers, but tend to be domineering in a flock, even when they’re the smallest birds. Some in fact can be downright difficult. However, if you want to train a chicken you couldn’t pick a better breed. Spare layers of small white eggs.
Pros: Their wild instincts will lead them to alert the flock when a predator is near.
Cons: Definitely not the bird for egg production, and might make your neighbors call the police when you pick one up (unless you handle them frequently, in which case they can be sweethearts).
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P.O. Box 145
Laytonville CA 95454