Getting to Know our Chickens: Mottled Orpington

Good afternoon, and welcome to Part Three of my series: Getting to Know our Chickens. I have really enjoyed writing the posts for this series, as I am learning facts about the chickens that I did not know before as well. It is somewhat overwhelming at times how much information is related to each breed, and just how much information is involved in chickens in general. They are quite interesting creatures!

We add Mottled Orpingtons to our flock sometime around February. We initially saw them when we went to pick up some different chickens from another breeder. When we picked up the other chickens, we purchased some eggs and decided to have these pretty babies on our farm as well.

ezy watermark_07-05-2019_15-27-46
One of the babies we hatched, April 2019

We love Orpington’s. They are such a good breed of chicken, as far as docility. They are great layers, and will often lay through the winter. The Mottled’s (MO’s) are somewhat a “designer breed.” They are considered a rare breed. They have the fluffier, feathered body style that is well known for Orpingtons, and they have gorgeous black and white feathering.

MO’s are considered a dual purpose breed. I have touched on this before, but dual purpose means they are slow growing, great egg layers, and still good for eating (if you choose to do so) when they stop laying. They do lay a light to medium brown egg.

One thing about the MO’s that is somewhat unique is that a lot of breeders have trouble with fertility in their MO’s. With their fluffy bodies, there are a lot of excess feathers around their vent. This can decrease or completely prevent the amount of semen that makes it to the eggs. Because of this, both hens and roosters must have the feathers around their vent either shaved or plucked.

ezy watermark_07-05-2019_15-28-51
Our flock of Mottled’s. We love their gorgeous black and white feathering!

Another tip that we have found with this particular breed, is that two roosters are better than one. We currently have 6 hens, and one rooster. The fertility rates/hatch rates have varied in our hatchings. We will add another rooster soon to hopefully increase our fertility and hatch rates.

In some parts of the world, MO’s are also called Spangled orpingtons. This can get confusing. We have always called our babies Mottled but many in other countries refer to theirs as Spangled. The MO’s were imported to the United States in 1903. They were originally “created” by William Cook. Mr Cook was a skilled breeder, and is responsible for creating multiple Orpington breeds, including Black, White, Buff, Jubilee (speckled), and Mottled (spangled) Orpingtons.

Overall, we are extremely happy with the chickens that we have added to our farm, and I look forward to showing you our other babies in the near future!

 

 

Advertisements

Building Chicken Coops

To say that I am not a carpenter is a huge understatement. I am quite sure that I have never built anything in my entire life. When B and I first started the idea that we would separate our chicken breeds from the others, we wanted to find a chicken run and house that was simple and cost effective. If you aren’t careful, you can spend a LOT of money on a chicken coop and run.

We decided to do some research on designs that we liked, and proceeded with building our first coop. The first coop we made was supposed to be for full grown birds…. Ultimately it was a failure. At least, it was a failure for what we intended it to be for.

For our design, we wanted to stick to a simple box where our birds could roost for the night, lay eggs, and be sheltered from the weather. The first coop that we built measured 6 feet long, 4 feet tall, and 2 feet wide. We intended for this coop to be split in the middle, and shared between two runs so that two kinds of chickens would share this space. Hindsight is 20/20, and we quickly realized this would not be nearly enough space for full grown birds. Even for the few we planned to have in each chicken run. Along with the design flaw of the first chicken coop, we immediately noticed a couple of things that we wanted to do differently with our second run. I stress again that neither of us are carpenters or builders.. With the run itself, we stapled cattle panels to 2×4’s, and bent them into a “tunnel.” We then attached the board to the back side, attaching our chicken coop to the backboard. We covered everything with chicken wire, and we were done. We recycled a door for the front of the coop, with the idea that this would be our entry and exit into the run/coop.

img_7393
Our rudimentary “first try.”

Our second run/coop was a little better. For version 2.0, we put three T-Posts down each side and ran a cattle panel on each side, securing it to the T-Posts. We then put three more cattle panels covered in chicken wire over the top in a “tunnel.” We used wire for the front and back, and then we decided to move our tiny little “first draft” chicken coop over to the second pen. We removed the divider in the middle of this little coop, and viola. We now have a grow out pen for our chicks that we have hatched that aren’t big enough to go with the grown hens but are too big for our brooders. The smaller coop is much more suitable for our smaller chickens in their grow out pen, and we built a new chicken coop for the adult chickens.

img_3481
Our second run, under construction.

For our new coop design, we went with a 4x4x6 box for our hens. Each box is plywood, reinforced with 2×4’s for stability. Each coop has a roosting bar inside, and a couple of brooding boxes as well. Some people out a brooding box for each chicken in their coops. We did not do that. Most of the time (almost 100% of the time) chickens will only use one or two of the boxes inside the coop. It was unnecessary to put more than two in each coop for the amount of chickens that we have in each coop.

Now that we have got our design down, we can focus on making minor improvements and adjustments. For example, we will go back to add a better roof for the coops so they last longer. We have looked at a lot of commercial chicken coops, and they are quite costly. Of course it does help that we have a lot of the wire, T-Posts, and cattle panels on hand. A lot of this design was considered because these are the materials we have free access to, simply re-purposing the supplies we currently have.

When looking at commercial chicken coops/houses, we have found them to be way too small and not cost effective at all. A lot of “good” ones cost $200+ and are quite tiny. We love having the ability to play around with our design to make improvements and build houses for our babies with materials that we have on hand.

Getting To Know Our Chickens: Black Copper Maran’s

Good morning, and welcome to “Part Two” of my mini-series, Getting to know our Chickens. I am excited to be telling you what I know about Black Copper Maran’s today.

Maran’s are a popular bird among “chicken people,” and we are partial to the Black Coppers. The reason these chickens are so popular is due to the fact that they are “chocolate eggers.” This means the eggs they lay are deep chocolate brown. This color of egg is highly sought after. Black Coppers (BC’s) are known for laying the darkest brown eggs.

BC’s are good for our farm for several reasons. First of all, they are good egg layers. On average a BC will lay 3 eggs per week, or 150-200 eggs per year. Second of all, BC’s are considered to be a hardy bird during the winter months. The flip side of that, however, is that they are NOT considered to be a hardy bird during the summer months.

BC’s are not considered to be an especially docile bird when compared to other breeds, but they are known for going “broody.” Broodiness is an excellent quality in a chicken. Broodiness is when a chicken will sit on the eggs to hatch them. Broodiness is rare in a lot of chicken breeds, and being a good mother hen is rare as well. Although we do have a hatcher and incubator for hatching our own chickies, it is nice to have hens on our farm who would make good mama hens if we decided to let them hatch naturally.

What we like most about the BC’s is their looks. Traditionally, male BC’s are black bodied with copper feathers around his head and saddle. Females are almost completely black, having only a bit of copper around their heads.

img_7798
Our Copper rooster, in with all of his ladies. We currently have him with Copper hens and Ameracauna hens.

BC’s have an interesting history. With a lot of breeds, their lineage is clear. What breeds were mixed to accomplish the final result. With BC’s, the lineage is not that clear. During the 12th and 13th centuries, English ships came to port in French towns. When they docked, the crew would generally release their game roosters who had been victorious in fights. The game roosters would then breed with “swamp hens,” and this was how the original Marans came to be. The local farmers began breeding the offspring with other local birds in the 19th century, selecting for egg size and coloration.

During this time, WWII brought on a steep decline in interest in the birds. Luckily, individual breeders continued breeding and working with Marans. Although BC’s remained popular with individuals, there was not a clear standard for these chickens. In the 1990’s, breeders got together to set clear standards, and there began to be world wide interest in the breed. In 2010 Black Copper Marans were accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection. They are one of the most sought after breeds, due to their unusually dark colored eggs.

img_7582
Black Copper Maran eggs are the darkest eggs you can find.