Giving Salmon Faverolles Chickens A Chance
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by Sherri Talbot In the fall of 2021, we decided it was time to add a second chicken breed to our little homestead. While we love our standard Cochins, the hens all tend to go broody at once, meaning that our egg production drops to practically nothing for the summer months. Since Maine’s short, dark winter days already mean they don’t lay in the winter that often, we needed something a little less broody. Enter Salmon Faverolles.
Sticking to Heritage Breeds
Our goal at Saffron and Honey Homestead is to keep only heritage breeds, and the Livestock Conservancy’s Priority List plays a large role in how we choose our livestock and poultry. We wanted an egg-laying heritage breed that was capable of dealing with traditional, snowy Maine winters without requiring a heated barn. Mind you, like lots of other places, our winters are changing, and we now have days of pouring rain, alternating with intense cold. We needed hardy, cold-weather birds.
We weren’t opposed to a breed that went broody, as long as it wasn’t quite so broody as the Cochins. Also, despite their docile nature, a lot of parents with small children are hesitant about the Cochins because of their size (between 8 and 11 lbs.), so we decided a smaller bird would be nice. Finally, our homestead is built on the ideas of education for all and showing off our animals. We needed something that our visitors would love to watch.
Enter Our Salmon Faverolles
We purchased our Salmon Faverolles from one of the few local breeders that raised them. While neither of us had personal experience with the breed, we knew someone who had them and was crazy about them. They met all the qualifications we needed in a new chicken breed and were definitely striking to look at! The fact that we could tell the males from the females at only a few days old was certainly a bonus. Our initial flock consisted of one male and five females, raised up by one of our (surprise, surprise) broody Cochins.
Their behaviors were fascinating even as chicks. Despite having been raised up by Cochins, and spending their time surrounded by Cochins, the Faverolles segregated themselves as soon as they began to feather out. The hens would only roost with “their” rooster and stuck either with him or with each other. If I picked up a Cochin hen and she squawked, there was no response from the Faverolles rooster, but if I picked up one of “his” hens, he would come running.
He also seemed to have little interest in the Cochin hens. Even when we lost our Cochin rooster to old age, he didn’t compete with the younger rooster for their attention. Despite being only about two-thirds the size of the Cochin rooster, he likely would have won if he had wanted the whole flock because he has far more spunk than his larger competitor.
Their appearance has been everything we hoped. We had three roosters initially, and while they were all unique and lovely in their own way, the one we kept is absolutely beautiful. He is the poultry-run center of attention at all our events and tours. The difference in coloring between him and the ladies has resulted in a number of double-takes, even from those familiar with chickens!
Their eggs are smaller than the Cochins. We were initially startled at how much smaller, and their beautiful, delicate pink shells have been quite a change from the Cochins as well. It certainly hasn’t been difficult to tell which eggs came from which birds! While we have twice the number of Cochins as we do Salmon Faverolles, many of our Cochins are getting older, so the Faverolles are already providing us with a more stable supply of eggs than we have gotten from the Cochins this year.
A Room of Their Own
We made the decision last month to separate the Faverolles from the Cochins in order to hatch out purebred chicks. We left the Faverolles with the geese, guineas, and ducks while the Cochins were sent to pasture with the goats. This is primarily because the Faverolles – while smaller than we had expected – are bolder and more aggressive if the bigger birds try to bully them.
We have actually been surprised at the aggression in those tiny forms. Our research had suggested they were placid birds like our Cochins, but they even stand up to our guinea fowl. The guineas seem to respect this because, short of a few initial tussles, there have been far fewer incidents than when the Cochins lived with them. The ducks aren’t able to hog the food from them, and the geese are perfectly happy to just live and let live, as long as the chickens stay away from their nest.
The one point of contention seems to be between the Faverolles and the ducks over nest boxes. The ducks have tire-nests that have always served them well but this year several of them seemed determined to lay in the same boxes as the Faverolles. The hens refused to be driven out of their boxes, but the ducks refused to stop trying, resulting in a few stalemates.
Despite their size and personalities not quite being what we were led to believe, salmon Faverolles have certainly not disappointed. In all the areas important to us – egg-laying, cold hardiness, and appearance – they have been everything we hoped for. Even their greater level of assertiveness has turned out to be a benefit. The rooster is able to protect his ladies, but he is not so aggressive that we ever fear attack. All-in-all, a great choice for us.
Sherri Talbot is the co-owner and operator of Saffron and Honey Homestead in Windsor, Maine. She raises endangered, heritage breed livestock and hopes someday to make education and writing on conservation breeding her full-time job. Details can be found at SaffronandHoneyHomestead.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SaffronandHoneyHomestead.
Originally published in the August/September 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.