I got chickens last year primarily as pest control, since we were overrun with grasshoppers & scorpions. It had been many years since I'd had chickens and I had forgotten just how entertaining they can be! I did some research and decided I wanted to try SS and Marans, so I found someone local (if you can call a 1 hr drive "local") and went to pick out my girls. They've been such a joy to watch grow up and they definitely earn their keep! When they were about 5 months old, I had started letting them free range for a bit each late afternoon while I watched over them. I saw one of my girls looking at something with great interest...then she dove down into the grass and came up with a small rattlesnake in her mouth. One of my other birds spied it and ran over ..... and stole it, running gleefully away with it to gobble down. I was impressed after I got over my initial shock.
They all have such different personalities. One of the marans, Annie, aka "don't touch me Annie" is the head hen and she always reminds the others of that fact. She'll come hang out with me but if she even THINKS I'm going to pick her up she squawks at me loudly. She's also a very consistent egg layer and has been from when she first started laying. Then there's Bella, another marans, who was the very last to start laying. She lays the prettiest, darkest, almost round eggs ever! She has the oddest and loudest egg song too. She must be SO proud! My last marans is Groucho.
She loves to get behind me and pull my ponytail. One of her favorite games. She also regularly lays double yolks and 1/4 lb eggs.
My speckled sussex, I notice, are much better at foraging and love to forage more than the marans do. They're the first out when I open the run and BOY do they "run" up the hill to the horse paddock! Sophie:
She's the only one that didn't moult this winter (apparently she's the only one who read the manual that they're not supposed to moult their first year) She loves loves loves people and hay rides. She jumps up on the bale of hay that I put in the wagon to haul out to the horses. She'll also follow you anywhere including the house or car. She has the sweetest personality-always talking and climbing around me when I sit out there. She lays sorta small eggs, but she finally gave up laying in the rose bushes and now lays in the nest box, for which I am SO appreciative! I hated reaching into the roses for her egg.
Lastly but certainly not least, is Chewie (named for Star Wars' "Chewbacca")
She is absolutely stunning to look at (now that she's got her feathers back). She moulted really hard this winter-poor thing looked like I plucked her! She's extremely friendly, loves hanging out with the horses more than most anything else (except stealing scorpions and grasshoppers from her sisters). She sings before and after she lays.
I've had so many folks ask me why on earth I named my chickens. My response is always the same, "they're part of the critter clan-they HAVE to have names!"
My German Shepherds and my rat terrier get along great with them, protecting them and just hanging out in the yard with them so yes, you really CAN teach an old dog new tricks (one shepherd is 9, the other is 6)
I'm so glad I got my "Pest Control" chickens. Eggs were only a bonus, but I'm getting 2 dozen a week from these 5 gals. One other little bonus I had not expected is the roadrunner and the wild quail that come hang out with my girls. I can get really close to them, too. It's as if they notice that the chickens aren't afraid, so they take their cue and hang out. The roadrunner has taken to following me out to feed horses. He flies up in a tree and watches, the flies down to follow me back down the hill. The quail hang out in the shade in the summer and drink from the wading pool my chickens get. It's been a great adventure so far!