My fascination with unusual chickens started at a young age. When I was nine I entered a trio of Silkie bantams in a show at the Warren County Fair. Silkies are pretty fancy looking birds. They are covered in downy feathers with a head crest and feathers around their ankles and toes, as if they are wearing a fur coat, cap and boots.
Since then I’ve raised a variety of birds some that I’ve given names including Slim, a Modern Game bantam; Jackie and Elroy, a pair of Barred Plymouth Rock bantams; Mottled Cochin bantams and French Porcelains.
Because space is limited in my urban home garden I’ve found the smaller bantam breeds to be the ideal size. However, the roominess of the Garden Home Retreat has made it possible to select some large birds like the colossal black Jersey Giant. First developed in the 1870s, they are still the largest American breed. Roosters can weigh up to 13 pounds and hens as much as 10 pounds. The chicks that I have are only a few weeks old and they are already as big as crows.
The second type of chicken I’ve selected is a French variety called Houdan. Like the Silkies, it’s a flashy breed with a feathery head crest and muff around the neck. They also have 5 toes.
Some friends of mine have been kind enough to keep the chicks for me until I’m ready to move them to the Garden Home Retreat. The construction of their new house is underway and its going to be something special. After years of checking out all the amazing houses people provide for their chickens, I knew exactly what I wanted to build – a portable chicken tractor. It is designed to protect the chickens from predators while giving them free range to graze on fresh grass. I took an old trailer frame and had it straightened and strengthened by a local welder. Then I stopped by to talk to a talented local woodworker I know and sketched out a design on a napkin. He took the plan and constructed a house on top of the trailer. Once finished, it was stained in the same colors as the other outbuildings. A portable electric fence is strung around the area to protect the birds. As the birds graze in an area and need fresh pasture, the entire house can be moved and the fence repositioned.
Cut Away Interior View
If you want to try your hand at raising chickens, spring is a great time to purchase chicks. For the best success, I recommend that you find a local breeder. You can do this by checking out the publication The Poultry Press or your local cooperative extension. For poultry raising supplies, nothing beats Stromberg’s. I have been purchasing material from them since I entered my first competition with 3 white Silkie bantams.
I also recommend that you purchase a copy of A Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow. It is an excellent book that will help you learn how to raise chickens successfully, and before you know it you will be sharing chicken stories of your own!