As of June we’ll have had our new hens for a year, and we’re very pleased with them. They’re unusual hybrids. They’re a cross between a Barnevelder, a pretty utility/show breed named after the Dutch town where it was developed, and the more popular Ameraucana. We got them from our friends at Winnetka Farms, who raise Barnevelders and tried this cross as an experiment.
They’re very nice hens. Pretty. Mild-mannered. Quiet. There’s never any squabbling or pecking. And then are prolific layers of big eggs with big yolks. And here’s what’s interesting: Barnevelders lay brown eggs. Ameraucanas are known for their blue to green eggs. Our “Winnetkavelders” each lay a distinct color egg.
We posted about this when they started laying, but as the hens got older, their eggs became even more distinct, so I thought it worth another mention. All four hens look the identical, but their eggs are different, each expressing different aspects of their parentage. One is classic Barnevelder brown, one is speckled, one is light olive green and the other dark olive drab. The picture doesn’t capture the olives at all.
It’s useful to be able to associate each hen with her egg, so you know if there are any problems with her laying. Unfortunately, these four ladies look so much alike–and tend to visit the nesting box in pairs–so we haven’t been able to ID their eggs yet. Closer surveillance is required!
And while we’re talking chickens —
Update on chicken integration:
Regular readers may remember that we had to integrate Handsome, the surviving elder hen from our last flock, with this new flock. This involved many stages, but no violence, thankfully.
At first, the new flock shunned Handsome. Handsome, a five-year old Ameraucana, who’d had only us humans for company for months, seemed sad. Then the tables turned and Handsome took over the coop. She had been the lowliest hen in our old flock, which was a tough bunch of birds with some pecking problems. Using the skills she’d learned under the dominion of the infamous Stewpot and other mean hens, it didn’t take her long to establish dominance over these peaceable, shy Winnetkavelders.
Thus the reign of bossiness began. Mild mannered little Handsome became Iron Claw. She never let them forget who was in charge. It must have been exhausting work for her.
There was no bloodshed, so I didn’t get too worried about coop politics. I only hoped the Winnetkavelders wouldn’t learn bad habits from her. But what happened instead is that over the course of the year Handsome absorbed their mellowness and now they all rub along peacefully. She is still the elder queen of the coop–sort of like the Dowager Countess from Dowton Abbey, but she seems to share day to day authority the largest and boldest of the Winnetkavelders.
It all goes to show that there is no way to predict how a hen integration will go, but more often than not everything smooths out just fine.