Sweet SweetPea. She’s one of the “OG’s” (Original Girls). There’s always been something special about SweetPea. She’s got something. Something my husband finally put a finger on just the other day.
SweetPea has gravitas.
This isn’t the first time I’ve wrote about SweetPea. In my series “About the Girls: Barred Rocks” you can learn more about SweetPea and her sister, Blackberry. If you ever doubted chickens had personality, I urge you to think again!
Going on 5 years old this May, SweetPea has long ago stopped producing eggs. But that hasn’t stopped her from being true to her spunky self. But this past year SweetPea faced a new challenge. SweetPea entered into the molt from hell. I don’t know how else to describe it. SweetPea has gone from a gone from sumptuously feathered, to near bald to…well…how do I describe it? Perhaps a deranged feather boa?
It may be better to let the photos speak for themselves:
This is SweetPea – about two years ago in her full fashionable feathered self:
This is SweetPea back in September…
And this is SweetPea again in November…
And today SweetPea looks like this:
At least she has something that resembled feathers now to keep her warmish. Though, I’m not exactly sure what they are. She looks like a frizzle! Or as I said before, a worn out feather boa.
In contrast to SweetPea her sister Blackberry is completely on the opposite side of the chicken spectrum. While SweetPea is thin, gangly and oddly feathered, Blackberry is heavy, robust and rarely is found with a feather out of place. How can this difference be such stark contrast?
While I would never ever give up my SweetPea, the truth is her bad molt is most likely the result of poor genetics. While mail-order hatcheries offer a variety of chickens to choose from in whatever denomination that suits your fancy for your backyard flock, it’s important to keep in mind that selective breeding is generally not taking place. Hens aren’t being evaluated for positive traits – such as foraging, mothering and even basic things like egg laying. Sure, certain breeds offer some assurance of the chickens physique – including coloring and egg size, but little else is assured. SweetPea and Blackberry are perfect examples of the rogue genetics that can be found in that box of chicks you ordered for spring delivery.
What to do then? Well, for me this has illuminated the need to find a reputable chicken breeder the next time we add more girls to our flock. While certainly you will still find variations between hens from any source, the trick is to find hens that have been raised for the purpose you seek them for. Strong egg layers for egg laying. Good feed conversion for meat birds and more.
In the mean time, I’ll just enjoy the antics of SweetPea. If I was to breed a chicken solely for personality, SweetPea may very well be a ribbon-winning example.