As it would be for anyone to say the “best” in terms of chicken breeds for a small homestead, I am being totally and completely biased. Full disclosure, the Silver Laced color variety was originally bred in Wisconsin and I am so dang proud. The Wyandotte breed has a total of eight color varieties, which include Black Laced, Blue Laced, Buff, Buff Columbian, Columbian, Golden Laced, Partridge, Silver Laced, and Silver Pencilled. I think that the Silver Laced Wyandotte is the prettiest though, but to each their own! Now let’s get on to talking about why Wyandottes are great for the small-scale homestead.
The number one thing for our homestead was finding an egg laying hen that would do well in the cold. Since the Silver Laced Wyandotte was first bred in Wisconsin, it is a hardy breed that can withstand colder temperatures. Six months out of the year we are below 40 degrees F, and even dip down to -15 degrees F in January and February. Our girls need to be comfortable in that type of weather. The breed is on the larger side, getting up to 8 lbs, because of its size and dense plumage it can hunker down in that cold weather with a bit more ease. Another reason the breed does well is that they have a rose comb instead of a single comb. A comb is that red fleshy growth or crest that sits on top of the chicken’s head. The single comb is a simple straight row of spikes beginning at the bird's nostrils and sweeping back its head. The rose comb, on the other hand, is flat and close to the bird's head, which allows it to better stave off frostbite.
The next wonderful quality of the Wyandotte is that it is an excellent egg layer. Hens can produce upwards of 200 eggs a year, reaching even to 240 eggs a year in superb conditions. Talk about more bang for your buck! This rings home to the small-scale homestead mentality where less is more. By having eight hens laying, we have more eggs and fewer mouths to feed. I don’t know about you, but eggs are one of the greatest staples of our diet. We have between five and six eggs for breakfast, then one in our salad dressing, and sometimes two more if I am baking. That’s anywhere from five to nine eggs a day for us! The egg production will be best during the summertime because hens depend on the sun to regulate their egg producing cycle. We plan to let our hens slow down when the light wanes in the cooler months.
While we’re on the subject of eggs, this breed produces my favorite kind, large brown shelled eggs. Nom nom nom. Something to note is that this breed has a tendency to go broody. What does “broody” mean? When a hen goes broody it means that she is parked, come hell or high water, on her egg with the sole intent of hatching it. Their intense mothering instinct kicks in and the hen is no longer producing eggs and trotting away, rather she is momma chicken versus the rest of the world. Dealing with broody hens can be challenging, but the trick is to get the eggs out of the nests ASAP so that the hens don’t have a chance to get too attached. I’ll be checking the nests throughout the day so fingers crossed this won’t be too much of a reoccurring issue.
Let’s move on to the Wyandotte’s personality. The breed is known to be especially docile, but with just a hint of sass. Basically the recipe for never-ending entertainment on the homestead. We will be keeping the chicks inside in my office so that we can pick them up and give them as much human contact as possible. By handling the chicks regularly, gently of course, we will be conditioning them to be more human friendly. I also plan on playing some audio tracks on my computer during their chickhood in order to condition them to certain sounds - dogs barking, dirt bikes revving, oh, and Taylor Swift of course. I mean if Taylor ever comes to visit my homestead I want my chickens to recognize her voice!
The next big thing on our small-scale homesteading checklist is they must be good foragers. This means that the hens can’t be wired to depend solely on chicken feed, instead they crave and thrive in an environment where they can peck and scratch out on open pasture. Wyandottes are bred to be foragers, which will be their second job behind egg laying on Green Willow Homestead. Our yard between the back of the house and up to the first set of gates will be their foraging territory. This comes to about 2.5 acres worth of grass, bugs, and seeds for the hens to eat. I am still debating on how I want to keep the hens safe while they are free-ranging. There is a large enough population of hawks, coyotes, and weasels in the area to make me nervous enough to protect them while they are free-ranging. (Update: check out how we built our own DIY mobile chicken tractor!)
Another aspect of the Wyandotte I love is that they bear confinement well. This loops back to those harsh winters where the coop and chicken run will be their only environment five months out of the year. Of course you should provide some entertainment for your hens during those winter months to keep them fairly occupied. I’ll be putting together a blog post on that in future. For now, another two points for the Wyandotte breed when it comes to small-scale homesteading.
Last, but certainly not least for us carnivores, is that they Wyandotte breed is a dual purpose bird. If your hens stop producing eggs or you see a big trip in your future where a neighbor cannot take care of the birds on your behalf, their meat is delicious and does not disappoint. Many people will cringe at this thought because you might see the chickens as pets after so many months or years, but we shall see. Remember I am a beginner, but I do have experience with raising animals for meat. Time will tell!
Thanks for reading and I hope I’ve thoroughly convinced you that Silver-Laced Wyandottes are the best EVER. Truly, any color variety of the Wyandotte are worthy contenders for the best chicken breed to have on a small-scale homestead. My chicks are coming March 23rd and I can’t wait!
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2. Braiding Sweetgrass
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4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
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