Pullets and Hens for Sale
*Update 12/16/22: 1.5 year old hens available starting February 10th*
What is a Golden Comet? This is a fancy name for a breed of red sex-link hen. It is a hybrid which means its parents were both purebred of different breeds, in this case it is either a New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with a White Rock hen.
Why would you want to crossbreed? One reason is that this is the only way to create "sex-link" chicks. This means that when they hatch the chicks are different colors (golden comet females are brown/red, males are white/yellow), which means that the birds don't have to be examined to determine if they're male or female, a process that is never 100% accurate anyway! The other reason is "hybrid vigor". Hybrid animals benefit from an increased genetic diversity that typically makes them grown faster and be generally healthier. If the purebred parents are also carefully bred for certain traits, you can end up with a hybrid offspring that performs better than its parents.
Golden comets are reliable layers of large brown eggs. These hens start laying early (first egg typically at 16-18 weeks old) and lay consistently year-round. A typical hen will lay 6-7 eggs/week during the summer and 4-5 eggs/week all winter.
Every fall I order day old golden comet pullet (female) chicks to raise on the farm and replace our layer flock.
We raise our own pullets because we are pretty far from any hatcheries that sell "ready-to-lay" 16 week old pullets and also most of those barn-raised birds have the tips of their beaks removed as chicks. While this makes them less able to peck and injure each other in a confined environment, it can also impact their ability to forage and we want them to be really good at that! I find that with enough space and compost to scratch through, my birds don't usually get bored enough to start picking on each other over the winter and in the summer they have an exciting life on pasture chasing bugs and scratching through cow pies!
I am not planning to sell any pullets this year and will only have 1.5 year old hens available. Read on below to learn more about them.
1.5 year-old Hens
Every spring, I sell my older hens as the new flock comes of age and starts laying eggs. These hens have done a full season of laying at the farm and still have another good year of egg laying ahead of them.
Why do I sell my hens after only one year of laying? This is so that when I sell them they are still productive egg layers. If I waited another year, they would be of very little use as egg layers for most people and I would probably end up having to process them as stewing hens, which is pretty time consuming! The other disadvantage of a hen's second year is that they will go through a molt period for a few weeks to a month in the fall where they lay very few eggs. While this is fine for the average homesteader, it's much better for my business if I can provide eggs consistently throughout the year.
Advice for Chicken Keepers
I will now step on to my predator protection soapbox (I have a lot of those lying around...) Birds do require protection from predators. For the warmer months, I recommend portable electric net fences. Free-range flocks are eventually discovered by predators unless watched carefully all day. Foxes will take birds in broad daylight! Fencing also helps keep birds close enough to their shelter that they can get undercover quickly if there are birds of prey overhead. Electric fencing also keeps nighttime predators from trying to get into your coop. Even a very secure coop can be gotten into by a determined predator digging/chewing its way in overnight. The portable fencing also allows you to move the chickens to fresh ground regularly, which keeps them from turning small areas into a dust bowl and helps prevent parasites.
Most chicken breeds don't need supplemental heat in the winter. The key is for their shelter to be both well ventilated and yet without drafts blowing directly on the birds. The enemy is moisture, not air temperature and chickens create a lot of moisture in a closed space simply through breathing. My strategy is to have venting above where the birds perch, so that as the warm moist air rises it flows out rather than creating condensation in the shelter.
Feeding and Nutrition
Birds like Golden Comets are bred to be high production birds, this means that we need to support them with a healthy diet! For laying hens that especially means plenty of calcium. With a high production breed like the Golden Comet, the amount of calcium in layer feed is often not enough, you must also provide them with a free-choice calcium source like oyster shell so they can get more calcium when they feel they need it.
It's also not a good idea to try and feed this breed solely on kitchen scraps, while they are good foragers, they are also very active birds and are creating and laying an egg almost every single day! Kitchen scraps won't provide enough protein and nutrition and a poor diet can result in birds picking their own and each others' feathers as well as behaving aggressively towards each other.
Golden Comets are great, productive birds, they just need a little more attention to diet and nutrition so they can perform their best.