A long time ago when my daughter was 2 I thought it might be a good idea to think about getting a dog, I had only ever had cats growing up, but for whatever reason I thought maybe a dog was a good idea. I bought a book called “The Perfect Match”, A Dog Buyers Guide, which details the characteristics of each breed so that you can pick the breed best suited for your family. We found a puppy and 2 weeks later I was begging the breeder to take him back… I was ignorant and had a small child, I didn’t know a puppy was like having another baby! That book has been on my bookcase ever since and I found a use for it in November.
In November I hosted a Backyard Chicken Seminar and I used that book to help explain the little known fact about Heritage Chicken Breeds. That incredible fact is that you can apply the same principle to selecting Chicken Breeds. There are loads of different Chicken Breeds and each is unique and like dogs, you can select a breed that is going to best suit the vision you have about the type of backyard flock experience you want.
I have just myself learned the lessons of understanding Breeds and how that ties into the expectations and enjoyment of my backyard flock. I primarily have Black Ameraucanas and Welsummers, last summer I ordered a new bloodline of Welsummers and the breeder offered me the Black Maran chicks she had hatched out as well, so I took them all. As soon as those Marans turned 7 weeks old, all hell broke lose in their A frame nursery tractor outside. The Marans began to pick at my Welsummers and this began a frustrating series of tactics trying to manage my newest additions. I wanted to give the Marans a chance, I wanted to see if they’d change as they matured. I continue to have issues with most of my Marans, only 2 out of 6 behave they way I want them to.
I was recently talking with my friend Hilton who has had chickens most of his life and I told him about these Marans and he gave me some information that explains their behaviour. He said that the Maran is a busy breed, they need to be kept busy, lots of space and do not tolerate boredom well at all. He said if they get bored, they will find something to do, and picking on a friend is something to do. And it makes perfect sense, they are the only bird that will be out in the pen when the weather is miserable, and if I watch them, they tend to be scanning and looking about all the time.
The Backyard Chicken experience we envisioned and have is a large coop with a large fenced in pen. In the winter the pen space is reduced to less than a quarter due to snow, so in the winter their square footage is significantly reduced. The Ameraucanas we have are an ideal breed for this set-up, they are not what I would consider to be a “busy” breed, they are very happy to be tended to and treated like pets. They are happy to have their food served to them, have their babies raised for them and very happy to hang out in their designated space. The Welsummers are a bit busier but not as assertive as their coop-mates, so their busy nature is occupied by avoiding their bossy friends. The Marans on the other hand are busy and bossy and therefore are just not a good fit for my set-up. Hilton is right, the Maran needs lots of space, and I haven’t been able to give them that, and that has been the root of the problem from the very beginning and it started in that confined A-fame tractor space last summer.
As you prepare the Backyard Flock experience that you have envisioned, take a lesson from me and research the breeds your interested in, and find your ideal that will fulfill your expectations… your perfect match!