We had some sad news at 5R Farm recently which is that I lost two of my best lap chickens in December, the remaining two Sweet Peas. They were shy and somewhat frail hens which is why they were among my favorites and spent lots of time sitting in my lap. Their breed was the silver gray dorking, which is one of the oldest known breeds of chicken domesticated for human use, reportedly having been developed during the Roman empire. They had a very sweet disposition, and the breed is known for having unusually short legs which gave them a cute waddle when they would come running for treats. The breed is categorized by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as Threatened, which is defined as having fewer than 1,000 breeding birds in the United States. I suspect that the line my Sweet Peas came from did not have very good genetics, since all three of my girls suffered from a variety of ailments and all three died before they were two years old, which is young for a chicken (they can live 8 – 10 years). One day I would like to get some more silver gray dorkings, but when I do I am going to try to source them from a breeder that is more concerned about maintaining the quality of the breed than the large commercial hatcheries that are more concerned with quantity.
With the loss of the Sweet Peas, it was time to hold auditions for lap chicken. A couple of the black australorp ladies have always been friendly, and Squeaky 1 and Ruby have been readily jumping into my lap for quite some time, so I already had a couple of willing replacements for favored lap chicken status. To my surprise, Twitchy, one of the more independent black australorps, began jumping into my lap for the first time after the loss of the Sweet Peas. Several other hens also began spending a bit more time in close proximity to me when I would sit down in the pasture, although I question some of their motives – I know some of them are in it just for the treats that they know are always in my coat pocket! A true lap chicken is one who wants to sit in your lap with no strings attached. The Sweet Peas would run over to me as soon as I entered the pasture, jump into my lap within a few seconds of me sitting down, and settle in for as long as I would sit with them. That’s what I was looking for with my new favored lap chicken. After several weeks of auditions, I’ve decided that it’s a three-way tie between Squeaky 1, Ruby, and Twitchy, three of our black australorp ladies. I really like this breed, both for their friendly personalities and for their beautiful large brown eggs, which is why we’ll be breeding them and raising our own chicks next month (read about it in Chick Dreams).
Coco Puff gets honorable mention in the lap chicken contest. Once I pick her up she is quite content to sit in my lap, and she usually tries to snuggle her top hat of head feathers under my arm which is quite endearing. Since moving to the farm, she’s become quite an explorer. Most of the time that I let her out of her coop for some yard time I spend chasing her around the yard trying to convince her to stay close to the back deck in relative safety. She, however, would much prefer to run across the wide expanse of grass up to the main chicken pasture, oblivious to the potential dangers in the skies above. Which is when I revoke her yard privileges and get in some snuggle time with Coco.