Urban Chickens

Here at the Spring Street Farm Project, we keep our urban chickens in the teaching garden which we call the Green Lab.  They roost inside at night, putting themselves to bed each evening at dusk. They are a wonderful addition to any garden!! Each breed has a distinct personality-we currently have the following heirloom breeds in our flock:

Buff Orpington-
Egg Shell Color: Brown.
Use: A heavy dual purpose fowl for the production of both meat and eggs.
Origin: Orpingtons were developed in England at the town of Orpington in County Kent during the 1880s. They were brought to America in the 1890s and gained popularity very rapidly, based on their excellence as a meat bird. As the commercial broiler and roaster market developed, the Orpington lost out partly because of its white skin.
Characteristics: Orpingtons are heavily but loosely feathered, appearing massive. Their feathering allows them to endure cold temperatures better than some other breeds. They exist only in solid colors; are at home on free range or in relatively confined situations; and are docile. Hens exhibit broodiness and generally make good mothers. Chicks are not very aggressive and are often the underdogs when several breeds are brooded together. They are a good general use fowl.

Speckled Sussex-
Egg Shell Color: Brown.
Use: A general purpose breed for producing meat and/or eggs. One of the best of the dual purpose chickens, a good all-around farm fowl.
Origin: Sussex originated in the county of Sussex, England where they were prized as a table fowl more than 100 years ago. They continue to be a popular fowl in Great Britain and the light variety has figured prominently in the development of many of their commercial strains. Sussex is one of the oldest breeds that is still with us today in fair numbers.
Characteristics: Sussex are alert, attractive and good foragers. They have rectangular bodies; the speckled variety is especially attractive with its multi-colored plumage. Sussex go broody and make good mothers. They combine both exhibition and utility virtues but are more popular in Canada, England and other parts of the world than in the U.S.

Egg Shell Color:
Use: Meat or eggs.
Origin: America. The Silver Laced variety was developed in New York State and the others in the north and northeastern states in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century.
Characteristics: Wyandottes are a good, medium-weight fowl for small family flocks kept under rugged conditions. Their rose combs do not freeze as easily as single combs and the hens make good mothers. Their attractive “curvy” shape, generally good disposition and many attractive color patterns (varieties) make them a good choice for fanciers as well as farmers. Common faults include narrow backs, undersized individuals and relatively poor hatches. Also, it is not uncommon to see single combed offspring come from rose combed parents. These single combed descendents of Wyandottes should not be kept as breeders.

Egg Shell Color:
Use: Generally a very good egg producer with a fairly meaty body of intermediate size.
Origin: The Australorp was developed in Australia from Black Orpington stock. It is smaller than the Orpington with a trimmer appearance.
Characteristics: Australorps have intense beetle-green sheen on the black birds, dark eyes, deep bodies and are very active. They are one of the best dual-purpose fowls, having gained attention in the 1930s and ’40s by being one side of the successful AustaWhite cross. This cross of Australorp x White Leghorn became the successor to purebred breeds on many Midwestern farms. Broodiness was a problem with the cross and some markets discounted the tinted eggs they laid. Therefore, it soon fell victim to the inbred hybrid crosses of “Hyline” and “DeKalb.” Australorps are good egg producers and hold the world’s record for egg production with one hen having laid 364 eggs in 365 days under official Australian trapnest testing.

The Barnevelders are the most popular dual-purpose breed of Holland. The breed has recently gained a large following in England, and during 1923 seemed to increase in popularity. The male has a black breast and tail, with red in hackle and saddle, like our Partridge Plymouth Rock. The female also resembles the Partridge Rock female, except that she has a heavy lacing on the feather with secondary lacing within. Where selection has not been along fancy lines, the color of the stock is mixed black and red. In 1922, effort was made in Holland to Standardize the Barnevelder stock as it existed in the hands of farmers. Of over 100,000 birds in the Barnevelder district, 2,000 were accepted by the inspector as possessing good breed quality. The breed has yellow skin, produces brown shelled eggs, has a single comb and red ear lobe.

Barnevelder fowls are hardy. They are good layers, sit and rear their own young. Hens should weigh about 6 1/2 lbs., and cocks, 8 1/2 lbs. Cold winds sweep over the home district of this breed, and the climate is very damp. Because of the climate conditions a thrifty type of fowl was developed. The females lay a good sized egg.

These fowls were discovered in South America. A few were brought to the U.S. but have been crossed with other chickens so much so that characteristics of size, shape, etc., were dispersed. The trait of laying blue or greenish eggs persisted and now breeders are attempting to standardize the physical makeup of the population and gain them recognition as a breed. Some of the Araucanas were rumpless and possessed some interesting ear tufts. Probably at some time in the future, these fowls will be developed into an interesting breed with both economic and ornamental attributes.

Silver Laced Cochin-
Egg Shell Color:
Use: Mainly an ornamental fowl, but their ability as mothers is widely recognized and Cochins are frequently used as foster mothers for game birds and other species.
Origin: Cochins came originally from China but underwent considerable development in the U.S. and now are found and admired in many parts of the world.
Characteristics: Cochins are literally big, fluffy balls of feathers. They are mainly kept as an ornamental fowl and are well suited to close confinement. The profuse leg and foot feathering makes it desirable to confine Cochins on wet days and where yards become muddy to keep the birds from becoming mired or collecting balls of mud on their feet. They exhibit extremely persistent broodiness, are good mothers and are intense layers for short periods of time.

White Leghorn-
Egg Shell Color: White.
Use: An egg-type chicken, Leghorns figured in the development of most of our modern egg-type strains.
Origin: Leghorns take their name from the city of Leghorn, Italy, where they are considered to have originated.
Characteristics: A small, spritely, noisy bird with great style, Leghorns like to move about. They are good foragers and can often glean much of their diet from ranging over fields and barnyards. Leghorns are capable of considerable flight and often roost in trees if given the opportunity. Leghorns and their descendants are the most numerous breed we have in America today. The Leghorn has relatively large head furnishings (comb and wattles) and is noted for egg production. Leghorns rarely go broody.

Cuckoo Maran-
Marans are generally quiet and docile; but they are quite active, taking well to free ranging in rough terrain and are also tough and disease-resistant. They were originally bred in the marshy areas of France and can cope with damper conditions.
Marans lay around 150 dark brown eggs each year. Marans are an historically dual-purpose bird, prized not only for their dark eggs but for their table qualities as well.

Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts-this is a great meet up group!  In addition to their regular gathering, we have an annual meet up at our site in Long Beach.  Terrific message board and lots of current and pertinent information.  It is an active and well informed urban chicken support group.


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