Updated: Jan 14, 2021
There are a number of reasons we chose to raise Cochins at Saffron and Honey. Their size made them less likely to be bullied by the geese or the ducks. Their heavily feathering makes them extremely cold hardy - vital to Maine winters. Their calm natures make them easy to handle Since we intend to eventually open our homestead to the public to educate about heritage breeds, this was a vital requirement for any animal we have here.
However, our major reason for choosing the Cochin was their ability to mother just about anything. Having self - reproducing animals here was important for us as we strive to raise our animals as naturally as possible.
In addition, we have the added benefit that Cochins will raise - not just chicks - but basically anything that hatches out of an egg. Our hens have hatched and/or raised guineas, ducks and our big girl, Wanda, was quite insistent that she should be allowed to hatch a goose egg.
The geese disagreed...
Our little Blue was initially offered two chicks and a duckling to raise last spring and took right to it. However, several weeks later we ended up with two more ducklings and no idea where to put them. I have never have a mother hen that would take chicks almost a month into the process! We would have to brood them ourselves.
However, first we brought them in to get them a little feed and water and they began to peep...
Well, that was decided...
The true fascination, however, was our guinea keets. Not because our white hen brooded them without question - that isn't abnormal. What made this something special was that as soon as the keets decided it was time to leave the nest, both the hen who had been sitting on them, and her sister took up the task of keeping them safe.
For those who have never raised them, guinea keets are monsters. Their parents get a reputation for doing a bad job, because out of a nest of 20, you will be lucky to have 5 live to adulthood. However, this has little to do with bad parenting, and everything to do with a keet's apparent desire to die from the minute they hatch. They will literally go everything dangerous, and their parents cannot be in 20 places at once.
Enter our hens. Between the two of them, all seven guineas made it to adolescence, and six made it to adulthood.
To this day, the guineas love their Momma. While she has moved in to the goat barn now, they still run up and talk to her through the fence regularly.
Even cooler, is that George also took up a hand in their raising. For several months he was not even with them, yet when the birds were integrated, he still took over as Dad immediately. They still love him too...
Next year we hope to introduce turkeys and possibly a second breed of chicken. We also plan to grow the number of chickens we have. While they might not lay as many eggs as some breeds, or look as funky as others, these wonderful parenting skills will absolutely help us have the best flock we can have.