Why Golden Comets?
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Discover the pros of owning golden comet hens, a one-of-a-kind chicken.
Story and photos by Erin Snyder.
OFTEN OVERLOOKED BY small backyard flock owners, Golden Comet hens have been raised mostly by commercial farms and for those wishing to start their own egg business. However, Golden Comets have a lot to offer backyard enthusiasts. With their excellent egg production and winning personalities, Golden Comets can’t be beat.
What Are Golden Comets?
Golden Comets are part of a group of chickens called sex-links, meaning the breed can be sexed by the color of its down when the chick hatches, saving backyard chicken owners the stress of unwanted roosters. Male chicks hatch a pale yellow that will turn into creamy white feathers as the rooster matures. Comet roosters also sport a little bit of red in the neck and saddle feathers. Female chicks hatch a reddish buff-colored down that will grow into beautiful golden-red feathers as the hen matures. Female Comets sport a few white feathers in their uniquely colored feather pattern.
Comets, like all sex-links, are considered to be a hybrid. The reason for this is the breed doesn’t breed true. If you breed a Golden Comet hen and rooster together, the chicks will not be sex-linked. The only way to sex the chicks accurately is through traditional vent sexing. The trait of not breeding true is often considered a con by many chicken enthusiasts.
The pros to not being able to breed true are that Golden Comets (and other sex-links) are not prone to many of the health problems found in purebred chickens. Also, starting each generation of chickens from the new parent stock keeps these chickens from becoming too interbred.
Golden comets should never be confused with auto-sexing chickens. The difference between auto-sexing and sex-links is that auto-sexing chickens breed true, producing auto-sexing young.
The number one reason most people keep Comets is for their excellent egg production. Hens produce an abundance of extra-large eggs for the first three years of their lives (averaging 5+ large brown eggs weekly) before egg production declines. Eggs vary in color from a light creamy brown to a deep red-brown. Some Comet hens will even lay eggs with speckles similar to a Welsummer hen’s eggs.
Golden Comets are reliable egg layers and will easily outproduce all the other hens in your hen house. There is a reason commercial brown egg farms and small egg business owners alike choose Golden Comets over any other breed.
A Golden Comet hen’s personality is easily her best trait. Her sweet, people-loving personality will win over the hearts of even the non-chicken enthusiast. Comet hens bond very close to their human families and will happily follow their owners anywhere. Some Comets even prefer the company of their favorite human over their flock mates.
Golden Comets require a lot of attention from their owners, especially if bonded from an early age to a human. They are sweet and affectionate hens who will happily sit on your lap for hours. When they are not snuggling with their favorite human, Comets can often be found begging for a treat. These girls are extremely food motivated, and some will even try to beg for treats from your neighbors. (Yes, that is experience talking.)
Common Comet Myths
The most common Comet myth is that they do not act like normal chickens. Many poultry enthusiasts believe that because they don’t breed true, this somehow makes these lively hens inferior to heritage chicken breeds.
Having raised both heritage and hybrid hens side by side, I can honestly say that Comets do behave just like every other chicken breed.
MYTH: Comets do not know how to forage.
Golden Comets love to forage and can easily clear a six-foot fence to find “greener pastures” or your next-door neighbor’s garden. While it is advisable to cover all chicken runs with ½-inch hardware cloth to keep poultry in and predators out, Comets must have a covered run to keep these girls contained.
MYTH: Comets are not good brooders or mothers.
This myth is both true and false. Comet hens do not generally go broody and oftentimes will not take on the role of a surrogate mother. However, my Golden Comets are usually the first hens to welcome new members of the flock. Most are very tolerant of baby chicks and will gladly hang out in the brooder with them. Keep in mind to only allow hens to interact with new chicks when you are there to supervise.
MYTH: Comets are mean to other chickens.
In my own personal experience, Golden Comets are the most peaceful hens in my flock. They don’t usually peck my other hens and prefer to stay out of flock squabbles.
Saving a Life
As mentioned above, Golden Comets are the brown egg layers of commercial egg farms, producing all the brown eggs you see in your local grocery store. Commercial hens (often referred to as battery hens) are forced to live in crowded conditions, with each hen living her entire life in the space of a standard sheet of paper. Battery hens have never seen the light of day nor felt green grass under their feet. So, why Comets? Perhaps, the question should be, “Why not Comets?”
The life of a battery hen is very sad, but thankfully there are several things backyard chicken keepers can do to help.
REHOME EX BATTERY HENS: Some backyard chicken keepers have started adopting battery hens and providing them with a loving home. To learn more about this endeavor to rescue battery hens, please visit https://www.bhwt.org.uk/.
BUY LOCAL EGGS: Refusing to buy eggs from your local grocery store is by far the most common practice to avoid supporting battery hen farms.
SAVE A CHICK: Choosing to add even one Golden Comet to your next chick order will prevent that chick from knowing the cruel life of a battery hen. While this may seem like a small contribution, knowing that you have made a difference in one hen’s life is very rewarding.
ERIN SNYDER lives in the Northeast with her family and flock of pet chickens. She first fell in love with Golden Comets 14 years ago and refuses to have a chicken flock without at least two of these wonderful hens.
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Thank you for the information on the comet chickens. I live in the country and had chicken before but now I will try a new chicken for my next flock