Can’t we all just get along?

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It was an accident that we ended up with two different breeds of chicken. We’d planned on eight buff Orpingtons because we’d read that they were friendly, docile, and cold-hardy. When we showed up to pick up our chicks at Cape Cod Feed and Supply, though, there was a run on Orpingtons. This had the two-fold consequence of making me act like a jerk and forcing us to integrate our flock, which is four buff Orpingtons and four Rhode Island reds.

Everyone should have an integrated flock. Having more than one kind of chicken has a couple of advantages that we, as first time chicken owners, hadn’t foreseen. For starters, they’re easier to count. You can also compare breed personalities. The Rhodies are more outgoing and, we think, smarter than their Orpington cousins, but the Orps seem a little less greedy and demanding.

We had read that the Orps were easy-going to the point of being a target for bullies, and we were afraid that the Rhodies would pick on them, but we’ve never seen it. At feeding time, on the roosts, at the waterer, there has never seemed to be any tribal animosity between the buff chickens and the red chickens.

It is, of course, ridiculous that we take pleasure in the fact that our chickens seem blissfully unaware of their feather color. When we watch them pecking at a pile of corn – red next to buff next to red – we have a sense that all’s right with our peaceful, colorblind barnyard community.

On Martin Luther King Day, though, when Kevin went up to close the chickens in for the night, for the first time he found a segregated coop. Buffs to the right, reds to the left. We figure, though, that as long as we stick to one drinking fountain, they’ll get over it.

Calling Rosa Parks!

Calling Rosa Parks!

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Comments

  1. Interesting. We have only four Red Stars at the moment and have never had an integrated flock. We’re only allowed four at a time, so counting them has never been the issue. But Stonehead reported a while back that his much larger mixed flock does self-segregate. Can’t remember which breeds he keeps. Probably heritage breeds.

  2. We have such a mixed flock that we could be the United Nations of Poultry. I think we’re down to about 40 birds now. Bantams go to roost with standard breeds, and spend the day wandering around in loosely grouped subsets. But I don’t know what they base their preferences on.

    I agree – having different breeds gives you the all-important ‘compare and contrast’ opportunity, the basis of a good chicken education.

  3. Kate & Jen — It must depend on what kinds of chickens you have, whether you get them all at the same time, and other obscure factors like the phase of the moon. We’re thinking about a larger flock next time, and we’ll probably get at least four kinds. Not quite the UN, but at least a little diversity.

  4. Good post! I like having a bit of diversity too. Right now, there’s just 2 types. Haven’t figured out what to get this spring yet.

  5. I’m curious. We also have a mix of orphs and reds and also two wyandottes and they do often group themselves by breed, who knows why. But I wondered if you find that your orphs are less, well, intelligent, than the others. I swear two of our buffs regularly forget how to go back into the coop at night. I’ll go check on them and find everyone asleep on their roosts and those two sitting outside on the ground trying to figure out where the other ladies went. Most of the time it’s just funny but occasionally (like the time one could see out of the coop but could not find the HUGE OPEN DOOR to get herself out) it’s a little maddening…

  6. Gillian — We do harbor a suspicion that our Buff Orpingtons are a little IQ-challenged. It seems that the Reds learn things faster, although all of our chickens, buff and red alike, do manage to get in and out of the coop without trouble. As this is our first go-round with chickens, it’s good to hear other people’s experiences.