To prepare for the arrival of a flock of hens, that a local farmer raised from baby chicks for me, I loaded our shop vac and an extension cord into my wheelbarrow and headed to the chicken coop. Cobwebs daintily draped every corner. So very pretty glistening in the sun streaming through the windows, but they had to go. Since we don't house our hens over the winter, and trees shade the coop during the hot summer months, a few sporatic pieces of cardboard insulation hugging the coop's interior walls weren't necessary and they were in nasty condition. So, with chisel and hammer, I pried lathe loose that held the ragged cardboard insulation in place. Before I knew it, I had a huge pile of debris. Oops. I may have approached my task a wee bit aggressively.
The coop did look so much cleaner and apparently the boards that I had removed were not structurally crucial, as the coop hadn't toppled to the ground. To complete my cleanup, I inserted clean straw into each nesting box, spread pine shavings on the floor for bedding, filled containers with water, feed, grit and oyster shells, and opened a window to freshen the air. Oh, yes. I'm ready.
And here they are. My six 18 week-old Black Star Hens. Pearl, Flossie, Olga, Phoebe, Cora, and Henny-Penny.
A Black Star is a first-generation hybrid chicken bred from a Rhode Island Red Rooster and a Barred Rock Hen. They are bred to be superb egg layers that lay five to six large brown eggs each week beginning at 19 1/2 to 20 weeks old. The adult males (roosters) are black with white barring, while adult females (hens) have gold feathers on the neck and breast. Black Star Chicks of both sexes are black, but a white spot on the head distinguishes the males. Hybrids, such as Black Stars, are not recommended as breeding stock because the chicks will not retain the same characteristics in future generations. (It's like saving seeds from hybrid vs. heirloom plants. Seeds collected from heirlooms for replanting in successive years will produce plants true to their parentage. Hybrids do not. New seed must be purchased each year.) I have no rooster and don't intend to hatch chicks, so this breed is a good choice for me. The only problem I have with my hens being hybrids is that man has messed with nature. We do too much of that.