The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, also recognized as ALBC, has placed the Jersey Giant on a “Watch List” of Heritage Chicken Breeds. The group seeks to follow the population of particular chickens to ensure that they do not disappear from our American backyards. The Jersey Giant dates back to the mid-to-late 1800’s from breeders in New Jersey wanting to replace the turkey as the big poultry for the dinner table.
John and Thomas Black of Burlington, NJ created this large, single comb breed and the APA ( American Poultry Association) acknowledged the breed in 1922 (Hobby Farms, Guide to Chicken Breeds). Through observation we have learned that the hens are quiet, lay a medium brown-mauve- colored egg generously. They prefer to roost on top of the nest boxes or hop from there to our roosting bar. Rarely have I seen them fly.
The roosters are mildly behaved compared to the Ameraucana and Easter Eggers. I would definitely refer to our chosen JG rooster as docile. Their smaller single comb makes them both heat and cold tolerant. They are black with a green sheen to their full feathers. When going through molt, you can see that their insulating feathers are brown. If you pick the them up you will be surprised at how heavy they are compared to other egg laying breeds. The JG can naturally reproduce and so if you are looking for a dual purpose bird that will lay you beautiful eggs and fill a stew pot, I think this is the bird for you.
With a focus on acquiring Heritage breed chickens as our laying flock, it was very easy to land on the Silver Laced Wyandotte as a top contender for our small farm. They are a very pretty breed with great shimmery green on the laced black edges of their feathers. Known for their durability through harsh winters thanks to a rose comb and a heavy breed body, it was a good fit for our PA climate.
We ended up with only 1 hen with too many roosters this first season, so we retained just one rooster and sent the other off to freezer camp. Hoping to be able to breed this variety, we will hang on to the lovely hen Midnight who was our first chick to fly and roost above her peers. Clearly an intelligent bird seeking adventure, she fits right in on our little homestead. She is wonderful at foraging, allows our kids as well as our guests to approach and handle her. She lays a medium brown eggs with speckles daily (we call them freckles since we are all freckled) . This is a beautiful breed that I highly recommend for a small farm that would like attractive birds that lay frequently and have a wonderful disposition.
McMurray hatchery has a good description you can read here: https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/silver_laced_wyandottes.html for more information on this breed.
Marans come in plenty of colors as they are a frequently used as a project breed thanks to the lovely dark chocolate eggs that they lay.
Not recognized by the APA or ABA, the Marans that we have are called a Splash Marans. Ours come from the French strain of genetics as denoted by their feathered legs.
The legs are slate colored, combs are big and floppy on the on the rosters and small, and tightly fit the contours of the head on the hens. It is very rewarding for us to have this breed as the temperament has been super friendly, pleasant and docile. The one rooster enjoyed meeting us each morning by the front door and walking us to the bus stop. The hens are very consistent egg layers and aren’t picky about nesting boxes.
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.