Ryan and I had the best day today. Shelburne Farms offers a "backyard layers" workshop for folks interested in raising chickens and it was a blast. Sam Smith, a super engaging and knowledgeable farmer, lead the session and had us laughing the entire time. His impression of a chicken finding a worm and trying desperately to simultaneously show it off and protect it from flock mates was one of the funnier things I have seen in awhile. Anyway, we learned a lot (did you know both kelp and oyster shells are great for chickens?), met some other cool self-professed "chicken people," and were even introduced to the ladies of the Shelburne Farms production flock (read: designed to lay lots of eggs) and education flock (read: a ragtag bunch of hens of various shapes, sizes, ages, and breeds). One of the best parts was that the production flock was almost 100% Buff Orps. After reading about them for so long, being able to pet one was lovely. They really enjoyed pecking at Ryan's shoelaces so we made a note to buy some rubber gardening boots ASAP.
Some additional (random) chicken facts: The more an egg "stands up" when you crack it, the better the quality. Hens are better behaved when there is a rooster in the mix. Hens do their best laying when they're between 6 months-2 years but some can live as long as 10+ years. Molting (when they lose their feathers) looks gross but is perfectly normal; a hen generally stops laying after she molts. [Correction: Hens decrease their laying rate after molting...but don't stop completely--woohoo!]
Here are some pics. of our day!