Last fall, we ordered six Penedesenca chickens – two males and four females (we now have four – two of our females didn’t make it.) We might have ordered more, but they’re a rare breed and they’re only available two at a time from two (that I know of) large-scale hatcheries (and we couldn’t find any small breeders willing to ship chicks.) They’re also pretty pricey at almost $10 per chick! But from everything we read about them, we really thought we’d love this breed and so far we haven’t been disappointed! I’m really beginning to think they might just be the perfect breed of chicken. Here’s why:
1.) They’re a heritage chicken, which means they haven’t been hybridized and bred to be an egg-laying/meat-producing robot. They’re far healthier than their factory counterparts and are one of the few breeds of chicken left that have been serving our grandparents and great-grandparents for generations (I like to think that maybe some of my relatives from long ago had this breed roaming around their backyards.) Due to the rise in industrial farming which succeeded in wiping out many heritage breeds altogether, they’re a very rare breed so I also feel like we’re doing our small part in helping the efforts to preserve the breed.
2.) We don’t have to feed them. We free-range our chickens and Penedesencas are incredible foragers. It’s amazing to watch them around the other chickens – they find so much more to eat, and stay closer to the coop (presumably because they’re better at finding food than the others, who have to look all over the yard.) They exist almost completely on the occasional scrap we throw out to them and whatever bugs they find (I guess it helps that we don’t mow our lawn… we’re developing a virtual forest over by the coop!) We’ll have to supplement them in the winter, of course, but otherwise they’re on their own.
3.) They are incredibly watchful and alert, which makes them great candidates for free-ranging (that, and the fact that they rarely get on my porch which guarantees them a long life, safe from the butchers block.) In fact, I only have one good picture of a hen because most of the time I can’t find them!
4.) They are fairly terrified of us, (trust me, this is a good thing!) Besides the fact that I have never found one on our porches (although Bunchkin informed me that they do occasionally sneak onto the back porch to get leftover drops of milk), they also avoid the children, so we don’t have problems with them attacking us (this link will take you to an article on my old blog… for some reason, it never got transferred over to this one. We have lots of experience with mean roosters.)
5.) They are prolific layers, supposedly laying about 5-6 eggs each week (ours are just starting to lay, so I haven’t seen this proven yet, but even if they only lay 2 or 3 eggs a week for us, they’ll be virtually free eggs so I’m happy with that!)
6.) Their eggs are beautiful! They lay a very dark terracotta colored egg. I don’t have a picture, so I snagged one from here:
See the reddish-brown one in the middle? That’s a penedesenca egg. And the cool thing about it is that if we can ever figure out how to keep the three breeds of chickens we have separate, we can breed the Penedesecas with the Ameraucanas and end up with a chicken who lays an olive green egg:
(got this picture from a forum page. Pretty, huh?)
Our plan is to get some breeding pens set up soon so that we can hatch more of these perfect chickens!!! Maybe we can even start to sell the occasional egg or two. Anyone want some green eggs and… mutton?
PS. I should mention that while Penedesenca’s are amazing free-range birds, they do NOT make good “chicken tractor” chickens. So I guess they’re not the perfect breed for everyone, but they’re definitely the perfect breed for us!