Meet Prudy, the newest addition to the farm animals. She is the first hen I’ve ever named. Not sure why I did, there’s just something special about this chicken.
I spotted her in the chicken pen my veterinarian keeps in his yard beside the clinic. The vet has six Welsummer hens he bought as chicks last year. Suddenly, last week I noticed this silver Ameraucana hen in with them.
I’ve been struggling for several years to breed silver Ameraucanas. I can’t seem to get the numbers up enough to keep the color strong. Last year I had a gorgeous silver rooster, three silver hens and two black hens. Black can be mated with silver to help improve the color. Unfortunately, black seems to sometimes completely over-ride the silver. From those six birds, this spring I got a lovely silver cockerel for next year, several black hens and two nice black cockerels. No silver hens.
The black roosters are unnecessary since there is a good silver, so they are being sold. Breeding the black hens may produce only black chicks next year. The end of the silver line. I have one silver hen left from this year’s breeding stock. Looks like when I sell the year-old stock this fall, the silver hen will be retained for next spring. Having an older bird with younger ones doesn’t always work well. They tend to be bossy and aggressive with junior hens. I try to avoid it. But I have little choice if I want to try to get more silvers.
Then, I realized, aha! What about the silver hen at the vet’s? A lot of people sell their laying hens when they begin to molt in the fall. I decided to ask the vet if he’d sell his hen to me. The vet, Dr. Danner, is a great guy. Very empathetic and easy to get along with. He said the hen was given to him. A client had two hens and one developed a sour crop. Dr. Danner was unable to cure the swollen, infected crop and the hen died, leaving one lone hen. He said he didn’t even know what breed she was. The clients gave her to him to put in with his birds so she wouldn’t be lonely.
He quickly agreed that she should come to our farm and maybe have a chance at making some babies next spring. He knows a free-range life is idyllic. He said he thought the hen is two years old, but still lays–brownish eggs. Next year she will be quite an old bird, yet she may produce enough eggs to have offspring. I hope so.
I plucked her from her warm roost at the vet’s after dark on Monday, popped her in a cat carrier and brought her to the farm. The first day she was separated from the other chickens in a pen where they could see each other. When the hens went out to free-range in the afternoon, I let her have the run of the hen house. She was very curious and explored all over. She is friendly and hung around me talking in soft little clucks. She can be scooped up and carried with no fuss. An unusual chicken, indeed.
This morning Prudy was anxious to be released from her small enclosure. I let her out with the other birds to eat scratch. Perhaps because she is a year older than the other hens, Prudy is barely phased by the glares and disgruntled squawks of the younger birds. She mostly ignores them. If one gets close and wants to fight, she turns her back and moves away. She likes the rooster and he took to her in no time.
This afternoon after I let the hens out to free-range, I kept her and the rooster together in the hen house for a couple hours. They got along, no problem. So I released them both to free-range. Prudy spent the time exploring by herself. I lost track of her after awhile and couldn’t spot her. It made me worry I’d let her out too soon and she would forget how to find her way back to the roost. No need to fret. At dusk she ambled out from under the hedge, went straight to the barn and in with the rest of the flock. I have never seen a new chicken assimilate as easily as Prudy. Nothing seems to ruffle her feathers.
She is not a fine example of a silver Ameraucana. Her feather color is a little off, her eyes are rather pale, her comb is too large, as are her wattles. And she lays brown eggs. Ameraucanas are supposed to have blue-tinted eggs. Luckily, the young rooster was hatched from a very blue egg. The blue gene is strongly dominant. If Prudy manages to make any little girl chicks, they should have the blue gene from their father. In her favor, she does have muffs and tufts of feathering on her head, as a good Ameraucana should. Her skin is white, another required trait. And best of all, she’s silver!
So, if I’m very lucky, there will be two silver hens for breeding next spring and they might even give me some silver pullets. Perhaps her calm demeanor will rub off on the other silver hen and she won’t pick on the younger hens. Hope does spring eternal in the chicken breeder’s heart.