Posted Dec 24, 2013
The title says it all: Hazel was probably the best chicken I'd ever owned. A silver-gray Dorking, she was easy to handle, got along with every other animal on the farm (mean roosters and moody pigs included) and never had a problem with visitors poking at her, invading her privacy or peeking on her at random times.
Hazel was very broody and made a wonderful mama to all the chicks she hatched in her five year run. We're not exactly sure how old she was when she came to us, as she was a reject from another farm that had been foreclosed upon, but she lived out her life in peace and quiet here on the farm.
She was a very beautiful hen - very striking feathers and a keen intelligence in her eyes. It was clear she'd been bred well and that was a trait I wanted to continue with her chicks, so I was careful to keep her away from the roosters unless I wanted them to mate (Snowball, our Cochin, was a little persistent and snuck in more than once, however! Thankfully the chicks all seem to have inherited their mother's temperament, as Snowball is a mean little sucker).
Out of all the chickens I've owned, I'd recommend this breed to just about everyone, children included. They're great beginner birds, though the noise and the mess can be a little off-putting at first.
They're so easygoing and mellow that they make great show birds, although I only showed her in an informal capacity for educational events and Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) training events. Even so, Hazel was calm in public and tolerated noise, touch and visual stimulus exceptionally well.
She required little as far as management went, but really did take up a lot of space in the coop. She liked to have her own "personal space bubble" that was bigger than most of our other hens, which proved problematic until we built an addition just for her and her chicks. When she retired to the coop, she liked to have her space, despite being so easygoing when out in the yard.
Hazel never had a health problem until the day we found her dead - a coyote had gotten on the farm and tried to get her. While he didn't succeed, her injuries were too great and the only real humane choice we had was to put her to sleep. I think she would have survived had she been a little less heavy-breasted and able to get away quicker, but I'll never know.
No real problems to speak of, and I can't speak to the meat quality or commercial value of these chickens as that's not how we keep our chickens at the sanctuary. She was a great layer and even when not producing chicks, her egg quantity and quality was excellent.