Choosing Backyard Chicken Breeds and Supplies

Reader Contribution by Tammy Kimbler

The day had come. We finally received our City of Minneapolis backyard chicken coop inspection during a Polar Votex in January. Our urban chicken permit arrived a month later. Now it is almost Easter and time to buy our new chicks and supplies. We had our hearts set on Buff Orpingtons, an orange, friendly egg layer. We arrived at the cute urban ag supply store only find that they were out. If we’d like some Buff Orpingtons, our best bet would be to order them and they would arrive a couple of weeks later. The looks on my family’s faces confirmed that this was unacceptable. Oh, the best laid plans.

Selecting a Breed

After consulting the internet, we found a local joint a half hour outside of Minneapolis called Anoka Farm & Garden Store. We were greeted by a tiny, jaunty Banty rooster, then by Dave, one of the store clerks. We asked after their friendliest, cold-hardiest and least flighty egg layers and came away with with two Jersey Giant Blacks, a Dominique and a Dark Cornish. All these birds are known for good to great laying, cold adaptability and all-round personable natures.

The Jersey Giant Black is an American heritage breed developed in 1880 and is the largest poultry breed in the world. This great laying, friendly hen can weigh more than 10 pounds!

The Dominique is the original American heritage breed, existing well before 1750 in the colonies. The hens are docile, hardy, good layers and exceptionally self-sufficient.

The Dark Cornish is a heritage English breed, imported into the USA in 1887. Like the Dominique, they are known for their calm, docile nature and are rumored to be the best bug catchers around. While their egg laying abilities are in great debate, it sounds like even the hens will chase off predators to protect the flock, and they are exceptionally friendly (to humans at least).

Chick-Rearing Supplies

In addition to choosing our birds, Dave set us up with chick feed, a heat lamp, waterer, feeder, pine shavings bedding and some electrolytes to help the birds adapt better and prevent them from getting dehydrated and sick. We were not sure about what container to keep them in. He suggested just using a Rubbermaid plastic storage bin with a hole cut in the top, then cover the hole with chicken wire. The heat lamp can then sit right on the chicken wire to heat the bin. Once the girls are about a month old, we will move them to a large, heavy duty cardboard box, still in the house, then to the coop once they are at least 2 months old and the night time temps are over 50 degrees. It will be at least 4 to 6 months before they begin to lay eggs.

During the drive home, my daughter, Claire, her friend AJ, my partner, Christopher, and I solidified our chick’s names. We decided to name them after our great aunts. The two Jersey Giants would be named Maude and May, the Dominique was named Pearline and the Dark Cornish became Chicki Boots. AJ & Claire came up with Chicki and Christopher added the Boots. Chicki Boots is a nickname from one of his racy great aunts. We will have a full summer to get the know our new family members and get them comfortable with their home. Welcome to the neighborhood, ladies!

Tammy Kimbler grows, forages, cans, dries, pickles, ferments, brews, ages, cooks and eats from her Minneapolis, Minn., backyard. At One Tomato, Two Tomato, she aims to show how easy, accessible, healthful and delicious gaining control of your personal food system can be. Connect with Tammy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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