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Does a Golden Comet have a place in our flock?

Young chickens

As soon as the first 2011 pullets begin to lay, I plan to delete our ancient hens from the flock and start over with a homegrown rooster and six hens.  But which breeds will make up the new flock?

Pullets in the weedsIf you've been reading our chicken blog, you can probably see the writing on the wall --- our addiction to Golden Comets is giving way to more homestead-worthy breeds.  The Black Australorps have proven themselves to be the best possible foragers, and I hope that the Cuckoo Marans will live up to their reputations as good mothers.  I want to hedge my bets on getting a broody hen by keeping two marans, even though they're only so-so layers.  Does that mean four australorps and two marans with an australorp rooster?

Golden Comet chickMaybe, maybe not.  Both homegrown 2.0 and homegrown 3.0 (hybrids of a Golden Comet mother and a Golden Comet X Rhode Island Red father) are less keen foragers than their brood-mates, but are more sociable and prone to risk-taking.  All of our australorps and marans are scared of huge, bumbling humans, but the homegrown chicks are willing to come visit me when I walk into their space.  Since their flockmates often follow the intrepid homegrown youngsters, that makes the whole flock less skittish and more willing to check out new fixtures in their coop and pasture.  I figure this will also translate into the flock being faster to snap up bugs and worms I throw their way once the old girls lose their monopoly on treats.

That said, I'm pretty sure homegrown 2.0 is a cockerel, and I'm not willing to devote half the genetics of future flocks to a Golden Comet hybrid rooster.  If homegrown 3.0 is a girl, though, I'm tempted to keep her.  What do you think?  Is it worth making space for a less keen forager in the flock to keep the other chickens tamer and more inquisitive?

When introduced to their new coop, the scared marans were going to sit in the corner until I left, but homegrown 3.0 ran straight to our chicken waterer, leading the flock to hydration.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Comment by Errol Tue May 31 08:05:49 2011
I agree with Errol - if the second one is a girl, I would keep her.
Comment by Ikwig Tue May 31 12:05:53 2011
Diversity for Diversities sake is a fools errand. Breed the traits you like and desire.
Comment by Mike Tue May 31 13:32:42 2011
I'd make the decision at a later date, and hope the others pick up her positive habits in the mean time.
Comment by Brian Tue May 31 13:45:07 2011

I had to laugh at the radically opposed viewpoints on chicken diversity. :-)

I don't think I'd keep her just for the sake of diversity (if it is a her), but filling different niches does make sense. Now I'm hoping it's a girl --- too bad the tail feather test makes it likely this one is a boy too. What are the odds that three homegrown eggs in a row are all boys? (12.5%, I guess, which isn't all that unlikely.)

Comment by anna Tue May 31 13:58:50 2011
Something seems to have been going on with the website this afternoon, and either that or my heat-fogged brain accidentally deleted a great comment by...someone?...suggesting that we take a wait and see approach with the Golden Comets, and hope their good traits rub off on the main flock meanwhile. Great ideas! Sorry I deleted you... :-/
Comment by anna Tue May 31 20:17:16 2011

I'm not sure that the opinions are truly "radically opposed," but I will admit that my knowledge of how genetics works in chickens is pretty limited. Just out of curiosity, if, in the best of all possible worlds, you were hoping for friendly foragers, would you get that if you kept a Golden Comet boy and a bunch of Black Australorp girls? And feel free to laugh at me if that's a truly ridiculous question; most of my ideas about genetics comes from my freshman biology course, heh. :)

In re: website issues, I could see the comment about waiting and seeing and hoping the friendliness rubs off on the other chicks, but I did have to reload the page three times in order to be able to see any comments other than Errol's. I've never had that sort of problem with your website before, so since you seemed to be having some issues too, I thought you might want to know. :)

Comment by Ikwig Tue May 31 22:27:52 2011

I can see Brian's comment now too. Hmmm. Well, hopefully whatever that hiccup is, has worked its way out. Sorry for making you reload!

Your flock would definitely work --- a Golden Comet boy and a bunch of Black Australorp girls would probably make more friendly foragers. The main problem I have with the idea is that the boy gives half of the genes to every offspring, so I'd basically be turning my flock into half Golden Comet --- more weight than I want to give to the friendliness gene. If I could add just a single hen to the flock, though, I could hedge my bets for the second generation, adding a much smaller percentage of Golden Comet genes to the flock.

On the other hand, if I was going to do Darren's two flock approach, I might try one flock your way and one flock my way. I can definitely see how people end up keeping way too many chickens.... :-)

Comment by anna Wed Jun 1 07:18:07 2011

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