About white Italians, Sussex, Danish country and a lot of eggs

It looks like keeping the Sussex rooster is a success. No more crowing at 1:30 AM, no more bullying, no more bad behavior all in all. It’s nice to see how friendly and well behaved poultry can be towards each other.

Since we slaughtered all the faverolles the other day our rooster has become new best friends with our 4 young Danish country hens. They go together as a group and either stay in the coop or in the chicken run or they stroll through the garden.

It’s clear that the rooster isn’t just following them around, no, the hens are seeking his companionship as much as he seeks theirs. It’s just beautiful.

Hens are said to be quite delicate creatures who can stop laying eggs for any stretch of time if only one of their fellows is taken away, so we were rather interest in how they would take it that five of the younger members of the group were taken out of the game. Not that we want the hens to lay a lot of eggs actually.

See, we – or my daughter and son in law – started this coop with four saved white Italian hens from an egg battery.

I don’t have first hand knowledge about it, but I’ve been told what is done to the hens in an egg battery. Apparently they are put into small cages, 4 or 5 hens in each cage, so they don’t have any of the things a free bird would have in nature. There is no dirt to scrape, no worms and beetles to eat, no sun that’s shining on them or dust do bath in, nor are there any of the other things a bird would normally do. So they just sit there, with not enough space to move around and nothing else to do than to pick each others feathers.

They get food and water and very likely antibiotics so a single stray bacteria won’t kill them all, and they also get things to eat that will make them give more eggs, and in their world it never gets dark, because the more light they get, the more eggs they give, so the light is on all night.

They sit there until the first natural dip in the stream of eggs they produce occurs, and then they are destroyed in a really nasty way. They are taken from their cages by their feet and while they’re still alive and conscious, they are thrown into a shredder and they become fodder for minks.

Sometimes some nice people are able to convince some of the egg farmers to spare the lives of a few of the hens – lets say 250 out of several thousands – and give them a chance to get a good life.

My daughter and son in law got 4 of the lucky ones this spring. They were skinny and practically naked, their feet were crooked and their combs were white, but they were alive. They also were traumatized and afraid of their own shadows.

Since then they’ve come a long way. Their feet are fine, their combs are red, they’ve gained a little weight, they’ve got feathers and best of all, it looks like they love life. Come rain, come snow, come storm, those four are the first at the hatch every morning, and they’re out and looking at the world before I’ve secured the hatch with a millstone we use to keep it either open or locked, so the hens and the rooster can come out during the day and the fox can’t come in during the night.

They go and smell the flowers and scratch and scrape in the dirt and take a sunbath whenever they get a chance. When they see or hear me come out of the house, it looks like they are pulling up their skirts and they come running to see if I have a special treat for them. Sometimes they just stand and look around without doing anything else, and I think they’re happy.

They also lay a lot of eggs – one each every single day – and they’ve done so since spring.

The eggs are very good, with a good hard shell and a beautiful dark orange yolk, because the hens get out and can eat whatever they want to.

As much as we appreciate their eggs, we also think the hens need a break now, because we still think they are too skinny and because it’s winter and dark. We’ve decided not to turn the lights on in the coop, not at night and not during the day, to keep the animals as natural as possible, and I at least was very interested in seeing how they would take the demise of the faverolles.


This is what I found the next morning. Not only did each of the white Italians lay her usual eggs, one of the new Danish country hens had put her second one right next to theirs – it’s a little bit smaller and a little bit beige compared to the others.

So much for going natural. I really hope the hens are going to take a break soon.


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