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Choosing your chicks.

Did you know there are more than 500 different chicken breeds? With so many different types of chickens, it can be confusing deciding on what breed will work best for your homestead. There are meat birds, egg layers, and dual-purpose birds. The meat birds are raised solely for their meat. They grow fast and large and are usually butchered at around 9 weeks old. Egg layers are simply chickens that you bring to your homestead to provide eggs. The dual-purpose chickens are a larger breed that lays eggs, but you could also butcher the chicken and have a nice meat to bone ratio. I researched different chicken breeds for 2 years before I finally chose Easter Egger chicks.

Most people want chickens so that they have their own farm fresh eggs. So, what are the criteria for choosing an egg layer? I considered several factors when choosing my chickens. I wanted a gentle bird, one that didn't mind being held. I have small grandchildren; it was very important to me that the chickens would tolerate a curious toddler. Consider the climate where you live and take that into consideration when choosing your chicks. I live in Michigan, and we get cold winters. Chickens that have tall combs on the top of their head are more prone to frostbite, so I chose a breed that has a small rose comb that is closer to the head. Next, I had to decide how many eggs I would use in a week. Some birds lay 4-5 eggs a week, some only 2-3, while other breeds have been known to lay nearly one egg every day!

Prior to researching the different chicken breeds, I believed that all eggs were white or brown unless one used dye to change the color of the shell. The color of an eggshell does not change the flavor, taste, or consistency of the yolk or egg white. I chose Easter Eggers because they lay pastel eggs! For me, the egg color was important! As an artist, I find color to be very inspiring. What is more inspiring than opening an egg carton and seeing, mint green, olive green, sky blue, turquoise, and pink eggs?!

Easter Eggers, often called "EE's", are a surprise from the start. An EE chick is one color when you get the little, tiny puffball, but by time it is full grown, it may be a completely different color! EE's are a mixed breed chicken, crossing a brown egg layer with a South American Araucana chicken that lays beautiful blue eggs. Each EE chicken will have different feathering colors and patterns. The crossing of the breeds is why the egg colors vary, you never know what color egg it will lay until it lays its first egg! For example, if the chicken lays a blue egg, it will always lay a blue egg. That chicken will never lay a pink or green egg. Pink is a rare egg color, with blue or green being very common. I am lucky enough to have a pink egg layer!

Lastly, please research prior to getting your chickens. It is so important to fully understand the chicken breed you want to get. Also, consider where you get your baby chicks from. I encourage you to look for a reputable hatchery. If buying from a farm store, make sure you know how to identify a healthy chick.

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