Leafhopper Farm’s laying flock reaches 30 birds. Another 13 chicks will soon join their older sisters in the hen house. As temperatures drop to below freezing and light begins to vanish as early as 4:30pm, egg production is down. Today only 10 eggs came from next boxed that only a month ago offered a solid two dozen. There’s also potential rodent issues still haunting the old coop. The cats have wrecked 4 rats that were confirmed exterminations. There are still signs of rats, and they might be taking eggs.
The health of this flock is good, with no feather loss, picking, or other illness. Their diet is dominated by Scratch and Peck Organic Layer Feed. The birds also get kitchen scraps and leftover bread from a local senior center. Rotational grazing offered all these ladies and their rooster protector, Black Jack, fresh greens and outdoor freedom on most days, with rainwater for drinking, and bug bonuses from the meal-worm growing operation from time to time.
The diversity of Leafhopper’s flock is noticeable; egg verities are also reflective of these colorful genetic traits. Note in the picture above, the black hens with dark brown, almost red looking manes. There are four lined up clearly off Black Jack’s left shoulder. The two hens closer to him are Copper Marans, and the two further back to the right (side by side) are hybrid gals from the farm flock with Ayam Cemani roosters. The black faces of the farm flock bred hens tells me who the father’s are.
Here we see rooster genetics at work; the red male on left has some typical maran coloration (his red saddle feathers are so beautiful!) The blue legs say Americana genetics are present. Black iridescent green tail feathers and the darker face are aspects of the Cemani genes. Those are reflected again in the white male on the far right of the photo above. He has blue legs, dark face, and even a darkening comb, unlike his brother to the left who sports red comb and light legs like his mother, most likely a bardrock. Big Comb, our other breeding Ayam Cemani rooster, shows off the black genes of his breed. Even his comb is a little more red in pigment than ideal.
The upcoming chick group is full of black genes, and I look forward to seeing more of this pattern in future batches of incubated chicks from Leafhopper eggs. The young flock who will be pullets by next spring and in full production with the rest of the flock by next summer, putting the laying hen count to over 40! That’s a milestone from the original 12 ladies purchased from feed stores in the area in 2014.
This flock has grown into a fine collection of active layers. In another five years, Leafhopper hopes to have a strong Ayam Cemani dominated flock with diverse egg colors still cultivated through annually obtained hens with breed specific characters outside Ayam Cemani roots. Some preferred breeds include:
Rhode Island Red– great layers, cold hardy, good “scratch action” in yard-they go for things on the ground and scavenge
Buff Orphington– wonderful brood hens-they sit on nests and incubate eggs/brood chicks *does not mean they are good mothers too, prolific layer of cream colored eggs, larger birds make larger eggs, cold hardy, *does eat more, prefers inside eating (less scratch action on the pasture)
Ameraucana– blue eggs (crossed with white layer and you get olive), cold hardy, good scratching action,a little high strung, good layers, *they can be more feral and try to brood in hidden nests during warmer months -> frustrating!
Speckled Sussex– cream eggs, prolific layer, calm domineer, excellent scratch action, good brooder (maybe too good) *hen will not stop brooding through the summer- put her to work!
Lacey Wyandotte– great all-around duel purpose breed, excellent egg laying, big bird-big egg but eats more, docile and calm
There are many other genetics we’ll try with the Cemani genetics in the Leafhopper Farm layer flock. It’s so much fun to learn about chickens and the strategy to breeding good, home-stock hens and healthy future generations of chickens which work well in our landscape and adapt to the needs of the farm. Without these hens, there would be a severe lack of eggs for eating, meat for soup making, kitchen scrap enjoying, bug gleaning, and fertility of the soil creating. Chickens are an easy, and very cost effective way to introduce livestock to your land, while keeping a low impact on the ecosystem. Leafhopper Farm will continue to use chickens as a major animal system of the permaculture practices and productive stewardship to improve economy and ecology.