Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Black Australorp Hen

One of our two Black Australorp hens checking out the fresh nest boxes this A.M.
This Australian breed was developed from Black Orpingtons imported from England.
They are very large gentle birds who lay brown eggs and stand confinement well, which is important in a place with snowy winters.
A hen of this breed laid a record setting 364 eggs in 365 days.
She is my favorite hen and the one who is most often found setting on a clutch of eggs.
I would love to have an entire flock of Black Australorps.

Although we live near the west coast in Southern California, we are at 6,750' elevation and our temperature extremes go from -18 to over 100 degrees F, and we've had 4 to 5 foot snow accumulations on several occasions.
Our chicken coop is the downstairs part of what used to be the kids fort years ago, where they kept their bikes, wagons & stuff during the winter.
The ceiling is maybe 5' from the floor and in cold weather I close the window & large door much of the time, and there is a small door at floor level for the birds which I close on winter nights.
I'm 6'1" so this low ceiling makes collecting eggs and cleaning the coop more of a back-bending chore, but it keeps the heat down close to the birds, and maybe helps my old joints stay a bit more limber as well.
Most of our hens were Priority Mailed as day-olds from the Murray MacMurray Hatchery about six years ago, the big breeds, and we raised them under a heat lamp in the coop.
Every one of them grew up healthy and productive, and the only cold related problems I've noticed are a tiny bit of blue-comb in a couple of the birds with larger combs.
It seems to go away on its own as the weather warms, but if I order hens again, I'll try to stay with small combed birds.
We keep the floor of the coop in deep litter alternating from alfalfa to straw (the hollow tubes of the straw help to aerate the litter and the chickens like to eat the alfalfa.
Our eight nest boxes are filled with woodchips, curtained with old blue jean material for privacy, and we have two long perches so all the birds can be up close to the ceiling at night where it's warmest.
In six years we've not lost any birds to the cold.
The coop itself includes a small outside 'winter yard', covered with a roof, and double layered with chicken wire on the sides to keep out raccoons. I put rocks & concrete about a foot down around the perimeter walls so raccoons, or dogs for that matter, can't dig under.
When the snow melts they have a large outdoor area where they browse and scratch. Posted by Hello

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a lot of eggs!

9:39 AM  

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