The Chicks I Picked

I wasn’t going to get more chickens this year. Really. The Gems will be turning two years of age, and twelve mature hens are plenty to provide eggs for my table (even with those darned broody Orpingtons and a Cochin that looks pretty but doesn’t do much else!) However, I’m working with a nursing home to bring the contentment of watching a busy flock of hens to their residents. The coop will be installed by March and I’ll be stocking it with pullets. I want to supply them with seven distinct birds, all in different plumage, so that the residents can identify them from a distance (we’re siting the coop so that the memory loss residents can watch throughout the day from their activity room windows.) I want to provide the nursing home with winter hardy, easy to care for hens, so no top-knotted Polish, or Cochins that suffer from the heat. I want hens that have mellow personalities that get along well with others and are friendly to people. All of the chickens have to be girls. No crowing! I decided that in order to meet my criteria, I’d have to raise chicks myself, and raise more than they need, watch them mature, and pick the right seven for the job. As long as I was raising extra chicks, I figured I’d get some for myself. The minimum chick order is 25. Seven for the nursing home, four for me, and I’ll sell the remaining pullets.

This is my order:

3 Blue Andalusians – I have a thing for blue-grey hens. I think they’re gorgeous. I’ve never had this breed but hear good things about their temperament. I’m hoping to keep one.

5 “Araucanas” – these are not true to breed standard (other hatcheries call them “Easter Eggers”) but they lay eggs that vary in color from bright blue to olive green. It’s been a few years since I’ve had a blue egg in my basket, and I miss the cheerful color. There’s much variation in the plumage of this breed, and I’m hoping that some will be muffed (fluffy feathers around the face.) I’m going to keep two.

3 Black Stars – these are high production hybrids that also have lovely, friendly temperaments and are very easy to care for.

2 Buff Orpingtons – despite how prone they are to broodiness, they’re also mellow, and their yellow feathers are pretty and distinctive.

2 Cuckoo Marans – Marans lay dark brown eggs. It’s a breed that I haven’t any experience with, but several people have insisted that they are nice birds that “play well with others.”

3 Delawares – Opal, my Delaware, is a sturdy and placid big hen. I think the Delaware at the nursing home will become a favorite.

2 Dominiques – this breed has the same black and white striped feathers as the Barred Rocks, but they are less aggressive to other hens.

2 White Leghorns – I’m sure that many residents will remember Leghorns from their youths. Leghorns are active, friendly and curious. I think they’ll interact well with the many people who will be visiting them.

3 Brown Leghorns – Despite the fact that most of the nursing home residents remember Rhode Island Reds, I didn’t order any as they tend to be very pushy with other breeds. Instead, I’ve selected these pretty red hens, which will, hopefully, have the same personality as their more popular white cousins. I’m planning on keeping one.

How quickly it adds up to 25 chicks! There were so many great breeds that I didn’t order. It was hard to leave out the Speckled Hamburgs and the Welsummers. A shiny black Australorp would have been nice….

Now that I’m done with the chick order, I’ve been perusing the seed catalogs. At least when I buy too many seeds I can tuck the extra away in a drawer. But, chicks go quickly from tiny fluff balls that fit in your hand to spiky pterodactyls. This is a Buff Orpington at 4 weeks. It’s a good thing that I can fit a large brooder into my barn!

Buff Orpington chick

What breeds are on your chick list?


  1. Im with you I love Blue/gray hens Like my white crested blue polish…. I think this year I am going to get red or black stars or perhaps Australorp I would high egg producing chickens… Of course i will let my hens hatch out a few eggs from my mottled houdan roo… I want a cross with him and my jersey giant , my white crested blue polish, buff orp , And my blue silkie and of course my mottled houdan hen.

  2. Hi Terry ,
    Thats very exciting !
    I love what you are doing for the residents of the nursing home .
    If you need an assistant let me know . I have worked in a skilled nursing facility for years .
    Also depending on the breeds you have left over for sale I would be interested in buying a couple
    to add to my small flock of 3.

    • Thanks for your offer of help, I doubt I’ll need any at first, but hopefully, this will be a pilot program. I’ll be letting everyone know what pullets are for sale later this spring, but I wouldn’t wait for mine :)

  3. I will have to live vicariously through the “chick cam”. I can’t wait to see the little babies grow. If we blink, we could miss it.
    You are doing a great thing for the nursing home.

  4. P.S. Candy really does like the cold doesn’t she? 10 degrees and she’s just hanging out on the hay. I bet she won’t be able to coax the girls out in this weather. :)

  5. I think it is so great that you are doing this project for the nursing home! The residents are sure to be delighted. Are you building their coop as well, and will you be tending it, or does the staff do it? And what a nice bonus for you that you get to pick out and raise new chicks. I’m so jealous :)

    • The nursing home has purchased a prefab coop, to be installed this spring after the snow melts. When that will be is a guess at this point.

  6. I’m so jealous. I swore that this would be the end of my chicken adventure, as my youngest are 2 and a half now, but when I read this, I thought… well, maybe one more round? I have such a desire for “blue” birds and have never had one… Great choices on your girls. I have one cuckoo marans, and she is an absolute darling, but only lays once in a blue moon. Also have 3 Ameraucanas, with very different personalities and coloring. One lays blue eggs, one lays green, and one lays speckled green. 2 of them are dears, but one is a pushy little beast. My partridge cochin was the gentlest bird I ever had (RIP, Hawkie) and produced eggs almost till the end, but those feathered feet were problematic. Best of luck with your new girls. The nursing home residents are so lucky to have you!

  7. I think those are excellent choices for hens and what a wonderful project you’re working on! I too love blue hens. We’re planning to add new hens to our flock this year, I’m particularly interested in Faverolles and bantam Wyandottes. We also raise a few birds each year for our dinner table.

  8. Great choices & such a great project idea! I’m really interested to hear about your experience with the Andalusian. I nearly ordered one this past spring, but I backed out. I have a cuddly, sweet, but slightly aggressive game hen and I was worried that it would be a bad combination since I read that Andalusians can be a bit flighty. Can’t wait to hear more about your littles once they arrive in a few months!

    • Friends who have them rave about their temperaments, but there’s variation between strains, I’m sure, so we’ll have to wait and see.

  9. What a great idea, especially so many different breeds. Our 8 birds are all different so we could tell them apart, and enjoy their pretty colors. To help remember what specific breeds each hen is, we gave them names that would help. Our Danish Brown Leghorn is Dana, our Partridge Rock is Shirley and our Buff Orpington is Buffy.

  10. If I were limited to one breed of chickens, we would have only Marans. Even coming from different sources (online hatchery, craigslist, feed store) they’re consistently the best layers. And we have one now that’s a very good little mama too. I’m actually hoping that she goes broody again this Spring to save me the trouble of heat lamps and raising chicks myself.

  11. You are such a blessing! Thank you for being an inspiration in kindness!

  12. Is Buffy OK? I noticed that she is not out and about yesterday or today.

    • Buffy hasn’t been vibrant for months. But, she is eating plenty and roosting. None of the older hens forage anymore, but Buffy is the slowest of the group.

  13. I’m excited for you! I’ll be watching with interest when the new girls arrive, all fluffy and cute then growing feathers the next minute :o). That is such a great thing for the residents to have, will make them feel part of their world and create lots of interest for them, a good thing!

  14. What a great project!

    You probably won’t remember (I wouldn’t expect you to) but last year when you asked this question I was looking forward to a small flock of three dominiques (pleased to see them on your list). Well a month down the line one of them turned out to be a roo. I took him back to the farm I got him from as they will breed from him and asked which two other hens they recommended to add to my remaining two. They gave me two of their own breeds of a similar size and age which were a longtown brown and a chalkhill blue.

    It turned out for the best as I have so enjoyed having a mixed flock and mixed coloured eggs (dark brown, pale blue and pale pinkish brown) and they get along really well and have such different personalities. Sorry to ramble on but I just love them to bits and all of the information that I have sponged up from you has been so useful.

    Can’t wait to see the babies and it will be wonderful for the nursing home.

    • I do remember! I’m so glad that it all worked out. The two new ones you mention are hybrids found only in England. Wish we had them here.

  15. You know what I would have! Well done for avoiding Hamburghs – they are barking mad and fly very well although they are beautiful. Only Minorcans are more trouble….
    Shame you couldn’t have squeezed a Light Sussex in there – everybody needs a Gladys!

  16. Rhode Island Reds! Love them, they have been the easiest to care for are respectable around my hostas and are quiet!

  17. Love your choices….particularly the Andalusian and Araucana chicks. What colour variety will the Araucana`s be? I am sure there will be many happy people at the nursing home when their new family of hens join them. I am curious though on who will look after them? Will the residents themselves be mobile enough to be able to do the chores?

    • Because these are “tinted egg layers” and not true purebreds, I won’t know what they’ll look like until they feather out, and they’ll all likely be unique.
      The residents will not care for the hens, daily chores will be done by a gentleman who takes care of the property.

  18. Your choice of Andalusians surprises me: they seem to be short-tempered and don’t like to be touched. At least, that is what my chicken handbook says. Can you believe it: I bought a chicken handbook because of your blog. I don’t even have chickens :-)

      • Well, my garden is in fact the church garden. I doubt whether the church council would appreciate a coop right in front of the church. :)

  19. Will you set up a Nursing Home Chicken Cam? Some of the less-mobile residents might like being able to check in on them. It could also be a good way of having residents keep in touch with family members who don’t live nearby or can’t visit often – kids often suck at writing a letter to grandma who is kinda losing it, but they might be more interested in talking with grandma about the crazy little brown chicken chasing bugs through the grass, and the kids might be more motivated to visit as well.

    Will there be any room to have a garden for growing chicken treats? Maybe some sunflowers or pumpkins or things that will attract yummy bugs? Most of the assisted living facilities in my town have some sort of community garden where residents grow fruits & veg. The residents have to work out between themselves who’s got which plot, who gets to use which tools when (sharing the community equipment), and it helps keep the residents physically and mentally active and social.

  20. I really admire this new project. My grandparents have both suffered from memory loss, and my grandmother is still with us and resides at a memory care facility nearby. It’s a wonderful place, but I know that the monotony of days spent in such pattern can lose a sense of liveliness. I have no doubt that the hens will bring a surplus of life and happiness to the nursing home where they’ll be housed. It’s special enough to have a talent or hobby one cares so much about, but to be able to use it (as you do) as a vehicle to spread happiness to others is simply priceless.

  21. I guessed a few that were right mainly with the Delware and Marans. I was suprised about the Brown and White Leghorns, and pleased about the other breeds including the black stars, who wil be half Barred Rock and the Dominques. Good luck with your Easter Eggers, I know more likely than not as hatchery chicks they will be just be tan and black, but maybe you will end up with a nice white colored pullet. I really love how a white easter egger looks, and that they will be more friendly than your last EE.

  22. Our favoritest chicken was an Araucana…with a beautiful fluffy face. She’d let my son gently lay her on her back and she’d “watch TV with him”…too cute. I love the idea of a coop at the nursing home where the residents can watch them. We took several of our chickens to our church for various events and loved the reactions of the adults who grew up with “not-so-friendly” chickens and thought we were nutz the way we loving cared for our girls…as well as several people who shared fond memories of their favoritest chicken from their childhood. You are inspiring! Can’t wait to meet the new ‘girls’ and watch them grow up.

  23. Glad you have Araucanas coming. I am partial to those beautiful blue/green eggs.

  24. Hi Terry someone dumped a hen in my back yard last September she was molting and not looking very pretty at the time but now she looks great and is giving us one egg a day.I figured out she was a Australorp I raised those as a kid along with Rhode Island Red which we showed and Leghorns.Her name is Hermione Cluck and she is very very mellow and easy going with people and children.I would recommend Austrolops if you are going to do another batch of hens for another care home.

  25. This year I embarked on my first ever chook keeping adventure.

    I chose bantams for convenience as we only have a small backyard, and I was pretty limited in what was available: I ended up with a white sussex, two wyandottes and a barred rock. 4 is my limit for now – we seem to be having a heat wave and it is taking considerable effort to keep them happy!

    In my one day future life I want Asutralorps (Blue and Black), Buff Orpingtons, RIR, and a host of different coloured egg layers (chooks are definitely habit forming).

  26. I just live vicariously through you and your adventures. Thanks for sharing everything with us!!

  27. LOL their are a lot of ANDS if I only hatch on of my own for sure it would be an egg from my Black Jersey Giant I would love to always have and chicken that derived from her around she is so majestic and and sweet. Though I guess the problem lies with not letting its father breed with the offspring. LOL I haven’t quite figured that out.unless I get a another Roo which I don’t need and can’t have. Which presents another issue. Though I guess if we buy a farm all problems resolved or prevented as far as inbreeding and rooster population…. chickens are so addicting!

  28. If you only decide to keep one of the Blue Andulusians I would buy one from you. Your only a few hours away.

  29. I think I’m gonna try some Plymouth/Barred Rock chicks in Spring. I’ve only had “mutts” before, and I’ve heard that they’re sweeties, so I’m gonna try them!

  30. My mother lived in a nursing home for years. All the residents there suffered from memory loss. No matter how apathetic many of them where, they all responded to small children or animals. Children and animals brought life back into their eyes. The nursing home had a small coop with a few hens in the central garden. Residents, especially with farming backgrounds, were stimulated to help feeding the hens an collecting eggs. Finally after a few years the project stranded, because the staff was too busy to take care of a coop with hens. So if you want your project to be successful, you need either staff members or volunteers with affinity to chicken keeping. I really hope this project will prove to be succesful. Every nursing home should have pets!

    • The coop will have an automatic door, so the caretaker’s schedule won’t be too difficult. This nursing home director is forward thinking, and already has built a barn and installed llamas and goats, and there are two dogs in residence.

      • I`d like to put my name on the waiting list of that Nursing home… I like to think I live in a very forward thinking prov. (B.C.), in Canada, but have never heard of such an amazing place to live out one`s final years. I`m assuming it is a private home?

        • It’s part of a nationwide chain, but the director has convinced the corporation to pay for barns and coops. We’re going to try and collect data to show what value the chickens bring to the residents. Stay tuned!

  31. Fantastic project. I work with the elderly and one of biggest complaints is boredom,these once active people are now resigned to long days of nothing but tv and looking forward to visits from familys. I think chickens are a wonderful addition, I hope other facilities follow.

  32. This will be my first year with chickens! Im hoping to get Black Stars,Delawares,Speckled Sussexs,Sebrights,Leghorns,Hamburgs,Partridge Sillkies,Australorps,Buff Orpingtons,Gold or Wilver Campines,and RIRs :)

      • Hahah,yes! Our friends have 19 chickens(used to have 27,lost them to cars,weasles,and getting lost) and we care for them whenever they go on vacation. They also have two goats,whcich are a big pain,but so worth it!

  33. I have a blue splash naran and she is just the sweetest bird. Loves to sit in your ap. talks up a stomach and very easygoing with the other birds. I highly recommend the marans! No eggs et as fit thm in June. But she looks about ready. Good luck.

  34. Me too, sometimes these moments make me laugh out loud! I have to read it again to see if makes me laugh the second time and yes it does! Sorry!!

  35. I am looking forward to some new chicks this year, but right now am worried and trying my best to care for my best layer and favorite hen Goldie, who I noticed yesterday had a prolapse. Using Terry’s information and information gleaned from a couple of other sites I washed and bathed her, pushed the prolapse back in using some Preparation H (which has stayed in for the last 36 hours) and put an antibiotic and vitamins in her water cup. She seems to be doing ok, eating, drinking, moving around in the large dog crate in my enclosed breezeway, got another bath today and another application of a topical anti-bacterial and Prep H, but she is not pooing very much at all (maybe a good thing? or could she be “clogged”?). I am proud of myself that I have done what I have done for her thus far, as I am a very squeemish person and certainly no nurse! It is amazing what you can do when you care so much about the welfare of your animals! I am hoping for the best – time will tell.

    • Good nursing! Do a blog archive search for prolapse and see that I used honey to keep the prolapse in. More effective that prep-H! I hope she’ll be fine.

  36. I’m getting some Black Copper Marans, Easter Eggers, and Welsummers. But what I’m really excited about are the Cream Legbars that I have ordered. I’m excited to work with such a fun, rare breed.

    • Should be a very pretty flock. For readers who don’t know – Cream Legbars are a British breed, developed in the 1930s.

  37. Our flock consists of 6 girls; 2 araucanas, RIR, Barred Rock, Golden laced wyandotte and white leghorn. My only comment is that from the house the white leghorn is the only one I’m sure is there every Morning! It’s tough to see the darker ones from a distance. With the lower vision nursing home residents lighter colored chickens would be easier to see and identify. I’m so excited you’re involved in this!

    • Good point. They’ll be getting distinct breeds, several with light-colored feathers, so they should be able to see them all.