Searching for chickens that would provide color varieties in my egg carton led me to the Welsummer. Heritage breeds were the way to go for our homestead and you cannot get a more classic looking rooster than the Welsummer.
The hens we have tend to be more skittish and less social but we are getting eggs almost daily with a great orangey-yellow yolk. It is worth mentioning that the pullets look like a little chipmunk as chicks and so telling the difference between the pullets and cockerels can be done at a young age. The rooster is colorful and grows to an impressive size. Our Hercules is a handsome one with a loud crowing to call those girls in and warn of predators.
After researching breeds of chickens that would fare well in our humid PA summers and cold winters, I settled onto the fluffy butt of the Buff Orpington. This heavy breed is known for a docile personality, however we did not find this to be the case in our young birds. In the early months, they were adorable and the epitome of cute yellow chickeny goodness. However as they progressed to living outdoors, both the pullets and the cockerels had some attitude which included pecking and asserting their dominance towards the humans.
As they grew into their adult size they seemed to definitely become more calm and actually sought out some interaction from us in a very rewarding way. By rewarding I mean they laid us lovely light brown eggs, allowed our daughter to handle them and stopped pecking at us when we entered. It’s possible that chickens are able to communicate about our intentions and they understood that the aggressive cockerel was sent to freezer camp early on and they hoped to avoid this fate.
In keeping with my goal to have a collection of colorful eggs in every carton, it led me to the Easter Eggers. We got 5 at first and 4 of them grew into cockerels. This lets you know that you cannot tell gender at a young age. In fact until my favorite pullet started to crow, I was convinced I had 2 pullets. Bummer.
Easter Egger Chicken is also commonly referred to as the Ameraucana. The Ameraucana Chicken Breed is recognized by the APA in many different color variations. The breeder I purchased from had a Wheaten rooster over Ameraucana hens. You cannot determine egg color by looking at leg color. Our EE birds have slate colored legs but if you go to their ear, you will see that it is a slightly gray color which is more closely linked to their egg color.
The Berkshire swine traces back to over 300 years ago, with importation to the United States happening around 1823.
“Three hundred years ago – so legend has it – the Berkshire hog was discovered by Oliver Cromwell’s army, in winter quarters at Reading, the county seat of the shire of Berks in England. After the war, these veterans carried the news to the outside world of the wonderful hogs of Berks; larger than any other swine of that time and producing hams and bacon of rare quality and flavor. This is said to have been the beginning of the fame of the Reading Fair as a market place for pork products.
This original Berkshire was a reddish or sandy colored hog, sometimes spotted. This would account for the sandy hair still sometimes seen in the white areas of some modern Berkshires. Later this basic stock was refined with a cross of Siamese and Chinese blood, bringing the color pattern we see today along with the quality of more efficient gains. This was the only outside blood that has gone into the Berkshire breed within the time of recorded livestock history. For 200 years now the Berkshire bloodstream has been pure, as far as the records are known today.” Source Credit, the Oklahoma State Agricultural Department.
We have selected the Berkshire for our farm for the rich meat and characteristics of this breed. They are good foragers, have a strong heritage / lineage and predictable growth as differentiated from the common hog.
Our line of Berkshires is coming from another local breeder, who we are working with to establish our first boar and sow pairings. In our first year, we experimented with a couple of breeds, including a Berkshire cross and a Landrace, and going forward our intention at this point is to focus on Berkshire, and potentially add one additional breed that might focus more on bacon production or be otherwise differentiated. All of this is part of our learning process and we have learned there is so very much to learn!
Our Llama (Dalai) was originally purchased to be the herd guard animal. He has filled that role well and integrated into the family quite well. His personality is still stand offish unless you have food in your hand, in which case he is your very best friend!
Llama make great protectors, and seem to instinctively know the role. Dalai has cornered our large dogs on more than one occasion, not hurting them, but certainly containing them. We have had no predator losses in the area covered by the Llama, so while that is not definitive confirmation of efficacy, it certainly does support the case!
Dalai is from Chile, or more accurately, his father is from Chile. He was bred to be larger and of the guard temperament.
Our alpaca, Buddy, is a fun little guy and keeps Dalai the Llama company in the paddock. We don’t raise the alpaca for farm use, though we will sell the fiber to a co-op to get some fuzzy warm socks or scarves. Mainly they keep each other entertained and Buddy likes to get into the barn and investigate everything and maybe steal a bit of food from anyone who is not looking!
Our Nigerian Dwarf goats are a fun addition to our farm. When we got them, they were quite skittish and the oldest, Sushi, would not let us near her. Over time, as we spent more time sitting with them and begin around them, they came to trust us and now wont leave us alone if we are in the pen!
All three girls are pregnant and we now have our own buck, named Mattis, after General James Mattis.
The only auto-sexing breed we currently have. Copper, our rooster, was received as “packing peanuts” from a hatchery. He was very tiny and cute which endeared him to our son, Tommy. Copper has a very high pitch cockle doodle do. We bought 6 pullets to accompany him as we learned that telling gender upon hatching was simple and the hens lay a pastel blue egg. What’s not to like about that?