Our New Chickens

When I put out the call to you, our readers, to name the ideal urban chicken I got a call from my friend Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms. He said something like, “Duh, the Barnevelder, of course!” Craig and his partner Gary Jackemuk have an ambitions breeding program to take the Barnevelder from show chicken back to farm chicken. So far the results are impressive.

I took this as a message that I should fix my run and get ready for some new chickens. This weekend, I picked up four new pullets from Winnetka Farms, all crosses between a Barnevelder and an Americauna. I call them “Winnetkavelders.”

The Barnevelder, according to Craig and Gary, are a great dual purpose breed that is both heat and cold tolerant. They also take well to confinement.

The “Winnetkavelders” that now live at the root simple compound have an unusual characteristic. At least one of the pullets is laying an olive green egg:

Hmm. This color may not display correctly. Basically, the green-ish egg they lay is exactly the color of a cocktail olive. Not one of those fancy (and suspiciously) bright green olives, but the true drab olive you’ll find in your typical dive bar martini olive. (No offense to the hens! We’re just talking color here.) Yesterday we were joking with a friend that we should paint red pimento spots on the end.

This is the result of crossing the blue/green egg color of the Americauna with the dark brown of the Barnevelder. Another of the Winnetkavelders is laying an amazing dark brown egg like a purebred Barnevelder and a third is laying a green/olive egg with brown spots. They’ve been very productive and are taking well to their new surroundings.

A big thanks to Craig and Gary!

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  1. Yay! New chickens!

    I love the looks and pretty eggs of my Ameracauna, but in a lot of ways she is a problem child- bossy, lazy and loud! I wonder what kind of temperament tbe Barnveldters have.

  2. Let me know how broody they are. So far my purebred Barnevelder has shown the propensity to sit in the nesting box but not lay. That said, lovely personality. Gorgeous. Friendly. And when there is an egg, it sure is pretty.

  3. Awesome egg color! I did a Welsummer x Ameraucana cross this spring that I’m hoping will get me some olive eggers. That drab green is so pretty!

  4. How loud are they? I would love to have a few girls again, but in my neighborhood I have to be really careful about noise levels. I don’t think anyone would object to my having a few chickens, but they WILL object to a noisy flock.

    • I can’t speak to pure Barnevelders, but so far our crossed girls only make noise at laying time. All hens make noise at laying time. Not just the layer, but sometimes the others join in for a cackle party. I’ve never figured out why cackle parties happen some days and on other days the laying goes on with almost no noise.

      Oh, and any flock will make a racket if they’re upset about something. This batch has already had a noisy alert over a cat which was stalking the coop, and they also made a lot of noise at sunset last night. It turned out that our elder hen was blocking the door to the hen house, so the new pullets were crying to be let in so they could go to bed.

      I’ve got to say that in our experience our neighbors either a) don’t notice the noise because they’re at work or b)plain don’t care or c) genuinely like the barnyard noises.

    • Don’t believe it when people say chickens don’t make any noise. When one is laying, the others get all freaked out that she’s “missing” and start squawking incessantly. And the layer will squawk during and after laying, probably to announce her great feat. This usually happens between 6-10am. With the windows closed, you can barely hear them, but with them open, it is loud. My neighbor doesn’t care because his bedroom is on the other side of his house and not on the side where my coop is.

  5. My sister has barnevelders. They are quieter than my fixed flock (rir, americanas, whyndotte, speckled sussex and wellsummer) but very very broody. This spring alteast 5 out of 6 hens has gone broody. She has enjoyed hatching chicks with some one else’s fertile eggs but I imagine she’s going to get tired of their broody ways. I have two Americanas. One lays a litght teal egg and one lays olive green eggs. Both seem to be good layers.

    • We were thinking about doing a separate post on this, but the short answer is that they’re fine. I was worried. The old hen was at the bottom of the pecking order in the old flock, and I worried that a new gang of girls would beat her up, but that’s not the case. The new hens are wary of her, and she, being lonely for so long, really wanted to be part of their gang. It brought back all my junior high anxieties to see her left at one end of the coop while they clustered at the other, ignoring her. But I think they’ll integrate eventually, and even if they don’t, no one is being outright nasty. I think integration is always different, depending on the players.

    • That is a complicated question, Brian. The short answer would be “as much space as you can afford” — because we believe the more room they have, the fewer problems you’ll have. That said, chickens are also pretty adaptable and can tolerate tighter spaces. It also depends on if they have free range time. If they get out every day, you need less space. If they’re always locked up, you need more.

      Ours have a ton of space–I believe Erik will be posting the specs on the new run soon. We give them lots of room because it makes for a healthier living environment, which leads to less likelihood of diseases, smells, etc., and also fewer behavioral problems, which can be more distressing than illness. Also, we now have a little room to grow the flock if we want to–which is another consideration to keep in mind. You don’t want to have to build the run twice! I think you if you look at lots of pictures online you’ll start to get a feel for run sizes that seem to work for other people.

  6. I read that hens cackle to find the rest of the group. Never mind she can see them 3 feet away! Jungle fowl would have been wandering around, so the instinct now is to give a little egg song to find the rest of the group. Some days, all three of mine are cackling like crazy when one lays an egg.

    I live on a corner, so the hens are on the side of the house that is streetside. There is a fence barrier and foilage barriers to keep the back house from hearing sound. The people across the street and on the side of me may hear a bit, but only when they put up a ruckus. When the raccoon was after them yesterday, I am sure they could be heard for blocks, but only for the attack part. They walked around clucking and alarming for an hour, at least.

    Oh, the house back of me has two noisy roosters and a dozen hens.

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