Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Picking the Hippest Chickens and Playing Chicken Roulette

I usually do things backwards.  I commit to a goal, and then figure out how to make it happen.  So in deciding what chickens were going to become a part of our little clan, I started first with what breeds I wanted.  (Whether I could find those exact breeds in LA that were all available and born at the same time would come later). 

As an initial matter, I was only after baby chicks.  I liked the idea of getting to know the chickens while they got to know me, and the idea of nurturing little fuzz balls from day-old babies to old hens.  I wanted to experience the process from start to . . . lets not talk about the latter part. I also figured that if these babies knew me from day one, then maybe they would be a bit nicer/tamer when they grew up!

So I started with Chapter 3 in my trusty "Chicken in Every Yard" book, a mug of coffee, and a hour train ride to visit my sister in San Clemente. Every breed sounded like the holy grail :  "your most petlike bird," "easily tamed," "low maintenance," "most quiet hens around," "a real team player," "true American breed," "docile yet regal," and, my favorite, "these hens will eagerly tag along with you in the yard."  I decided to rank my priorities. 

First, an eclectic array of colorful eggs.  Really, what is the joy of having backyard chickens if not to have a basket full of colorful eggs?!  Besides, this way I can keep of track of each hen's laying schedule (nerd, I know).  White egg layers were out of the question.  Light brown egg layers really needed to bring something else to the table if they wanted to keep their name in the pot.  Blue and green egg layers were the blue chip players in this draft. 

(As a sub-category, I also eliminated chicks that had a low-egg laying average.  I can't stand laziness, in my pets or otherwise.) 

Second, personality.  I was drawn towards any breed that was "good for beginners" or, better yet, "good for kids."  Because really, I'm a kid, when it comes to chickens and otherwise, and because I am such a chicken newbie.  I also really, really like the idea of chickens sitting on my lap or following me around the yard. 

Third is a mixed bag of what I like to call "the hip factor."  After all, these are Silver Lake chicks, and Silver Lake is ranked the hippest neighborhood in America (see Traits falling in this category will be things I brag about after I addressed the first two categories.  For example, stylish coloring or being a heritage breed.

Finally, if a breed generally does not do well in confinement but prefers an open yard, they were immediately eliminated.  Have you met the bird pointer dog(/monster) that lives with us?  These chicks are going to remain safely in an enclosed area, and need to be able to tolerate confinement.

After carefully (albeit obsessively) considering each breed, I decided there were two breeds I HAD to have:  (1) Ameraucana  - blue/green egg layers (green eggs and ham?) with a "sweet personality" that will "likely become a favorite of adults and children alike", and a (2) Plymouth Rock  - described as a "team player" (they had me at this), "great layers and fast to mature" (see previous comment re laziness, and yeah, I'm competitive), and known for "lively unbeatable backyard antics."  Plus this breed gets extra hip points for being black and white "zebra chickens" and an "America original" that was once a "threatened" but is now a "recovering" breed - (hipsters love a good cause!).  For these reasons, I can tolerate that it lays medium-brown eggs. 

Two breeds selected, done and done.  Right?  Well..... it turns out there is not a wide variety of baby chick suppliers in Los Angeles.  There are some, but the variety leaves much to be desired.  I was adamantly against ordering chickens via mail because the thought of sending day-old-chicks with the postman was just too cruel to bare.  And almost all suppliers require a minimum of 25 chickens (yeah, Dan didn't go for that one).  But then I discovered, a magical online store that carries a whole range of chickens and will ship a minimum of three chickens in insulated boxes that include a "high-tech, long-lasting heating element."  YAY! This means I get the chickens I want and they will be cozy during their journey.  I just had to convince Dan that 3 chickens was a good idea, and we were off! The winning argument:  if one chicken dies in transit, the other will need a friend! It worked.

For my third breed I selected a Rare Maran.  Marans are dark chocolate to cooper egg layers (priority 1), get fat when they grow up (awesome), are originally from France and known for their great looks (priority 3), and lets be honest, who doesn't love anything "rare."  This chick will either be a Black Cooper Maran or a Blue Splash Maran, but I won't know until it arrives - it is like playing Chicken Roulette!

I also had to substitute the Ameraucana for an "Easter Egger," which are hybrids that carry the blue egg gene of Ameraucanas but can lay a blue, green, pink, white (rare - I would be so pissed!), or creamy brown eggs.  I won't know what color this chick will lay until her first egg . (Sidenote - each chick only lays only color her whole life).  Another round of Chicken Roulette!  These chickens are pretty UGLY (at least acccording to their online dating profile), but I NEEDED a blue/green laying chicken, and Ameraucanas were not offered. 

Three chickens were ordered, to be delivered on October first, done and done. Right? (Poor Dan).  About two weeks before the chicks were supposed to arrive, I was perusing (yup, nerd again), and I saw that they JUST got some BLUE AMERAUCANAS in!!!! These are blue birds, that lay blue eggs, which gave me the perfect grounds to sell Dan on the fourth chicken.  The winning argument - a DODGER chicken! It worked, and I immediately called and added this chick to my order (the last Ameraucana that would be hatching that day - it was meant to be). 

SO the final count (which went from 1-2 to 4):
(1) Blue Ameraucana
(2) Easter Egger
(3) Barred Plymouth Rock
(4) Rare Maran (specific breed tbd)



  1. Your Blue Ameraucana - it's got to have a Dodger name. You ARE naming your chickens, aren't you?

    Let Dan name it; he deservs it for putting up with all this.

    Some suggestions from Dear Old Dad...

    Campy - Roy Campanella, HOF Dodger

    Duke - Snider, another HOF Dodger

    Bulldog - the hero of '88; also, a really cool name for a chicken!

    PeeWee - unsung hero of the Boys of Summer

    and, of course,


    Dear Old Dad

    1. Hey Dad! Dan is one step ahead of you. He is thinking about naming the Blue Ameraucana "Duchess" - a female version of the Duke! But we both do really like "Jackie." And yes, of course we are naming them, as soon as they reveal their names to us!