Pros: Beautiful, Alert, Great Foragers, Inquisitive, Survivalists, Economical, Fantastic Layer, Bold, Territorial
Cons: Somewhat Flighty, Easily stressed when confined, Territorial
I usually don't get an animal on a whim but that's exactly what happened with my Hamburg. I had reserved three 10 week old Easter Egger pullets from a local farm-share and made the arrangements to pick them up but when I arrived, they had forgotten to crate my girls the evening before so we set out on the task of catching my little ladies, none of whom had really been handled prior to this point. Although I'd previously been set on adding 3 EE's to my flock, These petite Spangled Hamburg beauties with their blue legs running around the tunnel caught my eye. They're very refined looking...more like some wild game bird than any chicken I'd seen. Not all of them were spoken for so I was offered to add to my reservation or swap my EE's for them. I opted to exchange 1 EE for a Golden girl.
I was in the process of upgrading coops and my old one was not large enough to house my established flock of two AND the new girls, so with the lack of space, I had to keep them in a large crate in the house at night and in a separate run alongside the older girls during the day.
I took this opportunity to handle them frequently and get them used to my children, our Newfoundland and our cat. My daughter read to them every night and my son loved to feed them strawberries and bugs. We also got them used to eating from our hands. Spending this time with them made a TREMENDOUS difference...especially for our GSH...now named Amelia Earhart on account of the breed being notoriously flighty...in every way.
They've all moved out to the finished coop with the big girls now and despite the size differences, on the extremely rare occasion she gets cornered by my Silver Laced Wyandotte (who is determined to keep her position as second hen in the pecking order) she has ZERO problem sticking up for herself but she's so small and quick she doesn't usually find herself in that situation. Spending all that time with her has also taught her that humans = safety so she will use me as cover when my SLW gets pushy. On occasion, Amelia Earhart will even let me pet her, although she prefers to be scratched on the chest vs. having hands near her back. I believe she feels less threatened.
She is very curious about her surroundings but definitely has a survivalist approach to everything. When they see something new, she hangs back and waits for the other hens to go first and when she sees they've not been harmed, she'll go for it too, then run like heck away from it before turning to approach it again...and again. And again. Just to be certain that new potted plant or bench that mysteriously moved from there to here isn't going to devour anyone. Her process is quite entertaining to watch. Especially when she knows what she's doing but confuses the rest of them into taking her lead and they all run into each other during the riot while she moves on from the event and goes about her business. Who needs television?
She loves to be up high on the branches in the run and when they get time outside of the run she's well hidden while she forages through the undergrowth and beneath the big leafy plants in the gardens. She's more likely to eat whatever she finds whilst the rest of my girls have far more particular tastebuds. Being so petite, Hamburgs don't require as much feed and they prefer to forage but are still prolific layers of small to medium sized eggs, making them rather economical to keep.
This is definitely NOT the breed for everyone but if you are someone who either has no preference or has a lot of patience who enjoys just sitting with your birds and observing them without having to handle them frequently, then you may enjoy this breed. And who knows...spending enough time with them may make them trusting enough that they won't mind a petting every now and then but keep the expectations on turning lap-chickens out them extremely low...or better yet, non-existent.
Overall, I'm glad to have welcomed one into my flock and if Amelia continues to grow more trusting of we humans (we're making progress every day), I will eventually add more to my flock but next time I will get day-olds to imprint instead of started pullets.
22 SEPTEMBER 2014 UPDATE:
Amelia is now approximately 7 months old and I've had a bit more time to observe and interact with her as she is maturing. She began laying later than I had anticipated, at 6 months but is by far my best layer; giving me a lovely almond colored egg every day for about 10 days before finally having a day off. Her eggs are fairly small so I use twice as many when recipes call for large eggs but considering how often she lays, that's not a problem for me.
Hamburgs prefer more natural nesting places over anything man-made so I do keep the flock confined to the run until late morning, after she has laid but she paces like no other trying to get out and cooing to me to be sure I know she wants out. I hate to do it but I'm almost certain when she first started laying she had a hidden nest that I've still been unable to find due to such thick undergrowth along her favorite forages sites.
Amelia certainly does fit the stereotypical Hamburg who doesn't do well when not able to free-range. She is also excellent at flying and can easily get 20 feet or more off the ground when she wants to and will clear 150' to 200' without a hitch. Her coloring makes her extremely well camouflaged when she takes to the undergrowth and after her warning calls, she becomes eerily silent and perfectly still when she sees a predator (mainly aerial around our property) which keeps her from being easy prey (unlike the rest of my flock who all "whisper" to each other and stick out like sore thumbs because they won't stop fidgeting) .
As for personality, hers is in abundance. As she has matured, she has gained great confidence and is always the first to investigate instead of the last as she had been when we began and I'm less inclined to say she's "flighty" and more inclined to refer to her as "alert" and "quick" as she is not fearful. She doesn't care to be caught so I wait to handle her until she's gone to the roost for the night but she settles right down when I hold her and grips onto me, refusing to budge whenever it's time to place her back on the roost. During the day when I'm working outside, she's never more than a few feet away from me and if she happens to find the front door open when I'm in the house, she never hesitates to let herself in and find a spot near me to preen herself before settling down for a nap (if I'm not quick to shoo her out of course). She's a bit of a loner with the rest of the flock but she's always on alert and quick to warn them all when there's something around that "doesn't belong". She is very territorial and will not accept intruders, whether it's robins, squirrels or even my neighbors' Australian Shepard dogs. I have watched her charge at non-resident dogs without hesitation when they entered the yard. She also spends quite a while each day guarding the wild bird feeder from squirrels and she's saving me a small fortune in sunflower seeds as I haven't had a problem with the squirrels raiding the feeder since she discovered it. Naturally she gets rewarded with some of those seeds for all her hard work and very willingly accepts treats from my hands.
She continues to grow more comfortable with human interaction every day and there is no question that I will be refining my flock down to these stunning beauties in the near future.