Why do some people raise sheep with black faces? Are they any different than sheep with white faces? Let’s look into some breeds.
Sheep breeds with black faces include: Suffolk, Hampshire, Shropshire, Black Welsh Mountain, Dorper, Karakul, Romanov, Scottish Blackface, Clun Forest, Valais Blacknose and Swartbles.
Any sheep can have a black face if it gets those genes from it’s parents. Both wool type sheep and meat type sheep can have black faces.
Generally speaking, sheep with black faces are from breeds that are fast growing and will produce a meatier lamb to sell.
This would also be the type of sheep that kids show at county and state fairs in the market lamb classes.
Raising Sheep For Profit is an article I wrote showing you how to figure up the potential profits from raising sheep as a business. If you are interested in the numbers, check it out and see if raising sheep would work for you!
People have sheep both black and white faced for many reasons from fun, family activities to the main family income. Click here for my article listing out reasons why in our modern world people still choose to keep sheep.
Here is a list of some black faced sheep breeds. There are many more black faced breeds the world over, this is just a small selection to give an idea of the variety worldwide.
I have kept the breeds in three sections listed (from an American perspective) as common meat breeds, breeds found in the U.S. but not so common, and breeds are not in the U.S.
Black faced sheep breeds
Black Welsh Mountain
Suffolk sheep are popular for showing
Common in U.S.
The Suffolk sheep is the most popular meat breed in the U.S. first imported to New York in 1888.
Suffolk sheep have black head and legs but no wool on the top of the head or down the legs and minimal wool on the underside of the belly.
These are the most common ram used to produce show lambs for fairs because of their longer legs, muscular body and attractive black head.
Suffolks are large, fast growing sheep with a great rate of gain when well fed.
A Hampshire sheep has a wool cap on it’s head
Common in U.S.
The Hampshire is a large meat breed sheep from Hampshire, England. Strictly speaking they have a chocolate brown (not black) face.
The main selection criteria for Hampshire breeding stock is the ability to efficiently convert forage into meat.
These lambs are fast growers with a high quality carcass. Hampshire sheep are adaptable and productive in many areas of the U.S.
The fleece is relatively short, medium wool. This breed has a cap of wool on it’s head, not extending below the eyes.
Shropshire was very popular in the 1930’s
Common in U.S.
The Shropshire is a black faced sheep originally from the counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire in England.
Shropshires have been an established breed since 1848 and were first imported to the U.S. in 1855.
These sheep were so popular because of their ability to adapt to grazing conditions, hardiness, short fleece to shed snow, and longevity. In the 1930’s Shropshires were the most popular sheep breed in the U.S.
Shropshire sheep are medium sized, structurally sound (this means having a body structure that will last) and meaty.
Shropshire sheep tend to be gentle, prolific and good mothers.
Black Welsh Mountain are solid black
Found in U.S. but not as common
The Black Welsh Mountain is a small very hardy sheep from the high mountain valleys of South Wales.
This is an old breed popular in the Middle Ages for excellent mutton and still known today for carcass quality. While these sheep are popular in the United Kingdom they did not make it over to America until 1972.
As the name suggests these sheep are black with no wool on the face or below the knees. These sheep are known for easy lambing and fast lamb growth.
Since they are an active, more independent sheep -qualities that make them great take care of themselves sheep-they will be less tame and harder to fence.
Black Welsh Mountain sheep have a fleece that is 4 inches long that is a beautiful solid black that is becoming more popular with handspinners.
Dorper sheep are hair (not wool) sheep
Found in U.S. but not as common
The Dorper breed is a sheep breed very popular is South Africa-this is also where the breed originated.
Blackhead Persian sheep were crossed with Dorsets to get a meaty sheep that will do well in a warmer climate.
The Dorper is very fertile, has a long breeding season and are docile.
Dorper lambs grow quickly to weaning weight because of it’s ability to start grazing at a young age.
These are hair sheep so they do not need to be shorn. In the winter Dorpers will put on a slightly wooly coat that it will shed out in the spring.
Because they have such thick skin the Dorper has a more valuable sheep skin than most breeds at 20% of total carcass value in some cases.
Interestingly enough, not all Dorpers have a black face! About 15% of the breed is naturally white both the face and the body.
In our area, Ohio, Dorpers are seeing a huge amount of interest. Lots of folks are considering getting into sheep, with Dorpers as a favorite, especially among the Amish.
Karakul lambs are born black
Found in U.S. but not as common
The Karakul is native to central Russia and is thought to be one of the oldest breeds in the world.
Karakuls are small long lived sheep with drooping ears. These sheep are hardy and adaptable to a wide variety of climates. Karakul sheep have strong teeth and are resistant to foot rot and parasites.
Single lambs are normal for a Karakul. Lambs are born black and turn lighter as they age. There are some lambs born blue or red but black is most common.
Karakul wool is long and generally thought of as carpet wool. Some handspinners like to use it because of the long fibers and the fact that this wool felts well.
Occasionally a Karakul is white, but more normal fleece colors range from silver to reddish to white with others colors flecked through out.
Romanov sheep are prolific, year round lambers
Found in U.S. but not as common
The Romanov sheep first came to North America in 1980 imported to Canada.
These sheep were traditionally raised for pelts in the Volga Valley northwest of Moscow, Russia.
Romanov sheep are famous for early maturity and high birth rates-multiple lambs are normal.
This breed can have lambs year round even as often as every eight months. Lambs are born black and turn light grey as they age.
Scottish Blackface are very popular in British sheep production
Found in U.S. but not as common
The Scottish Blackface sheep is a hardy hill breed from the mountains of Scotland.
These sheep are very popular in the less hospitable sheep raising areas of the British Isles since these are hardy, fast growing sheep that do well on sparse forage.
Ewes are good moms but need a bit more feed to produce and care for twins than they will normally get in the harsher mountain areas.
Scottish Blackface are an impressive looking breed with a long fleece, dark speckled face and horns on both rams and ewes.
Clun Forest sheep are becoming more popular
Found in U.S. but not as common
The Clun Forest sheep are from the ancient town of Clun in the mountainous area outside of Shropshire, England.
The first Clun Forest sheep were imported in 1959 with larger importations in the 1970’s.
Clun Forest sheep were bred to thrive on grass, be hardy, have high fertility and be easy lambing -they regularly have twins.
They have a medium wool that can be used for handspinning.
Clun Forest sheep are also known for longevity tending to live productively for 10-12 years.
Valais Blacknose are interesting looking sheep
Not currently* in U.S. however in 2016 some semen was imported to the U.S. to use in an upgrading program.
*Update: Our shearer was here on April 1 & 2, 2023 and said that he has shorn a few 100% Valais Blacknose (from embryo transfer) and multiple grade ups (50% +) so this breed is currently in the U.S.
The Valais Blacknose are an old breed from the Valais region of Switzerland.
These sheep have black nose, ears, eye rims (making them look like they have two black eyes obtained in a fight of some sort) and black knees and ankles. Rams and Ewes both have horns.
Look these up if you get a chance they are darling!
Valais Blacknose sheep are know for being very hardy and good grazers in the rough, rocky areas of their homeland.
These sheep were only found in Switzerland for hundreds of years then in 2014 some foundation stock was imported to the United Kingdom and in 2016 semen was imported to the U.S. to use in an upgrading program.
As of this writing, a third generation breeding, 87.5% Valais Blacknose, can be registered as a Valais Blacknose sheep versus a sheep upgrading to Valais Blacknose, which is registered as Recorded.
I could not find any definitive information on the importation of frozen embryos, which if purebred (100% Valais Blacknose) embryos were used, that would make the resulting lambs 100% Valais Blacknose.
As mentioned in the update above, there are a few 100% Valais Blacknose sheep in the U.S. now (2023), resulting from embryo transfer.
Zwartbles are black bodied with a white blaze
Not currently in U.S.
The Zwartbles sheep is a black sheep famed for top notch mothering ability.
The name Zwartbles comes from Zwart=black and Bles=blaze which is the white stripe down the sheep’s face.
They were first imported from Holland in the 1990’s to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Both rams and ewes are polled (no horns).
Zwartbles fleece is medium to fine with excellent crimp and length making it a good handspinning choice.
These sheep are known for being docile, great moms and are easy to lamb. These are a triple purpose sheep being used for meat, milk and wool.
Look over this table to help you sort out which chicken will suit you best then read below for a more complete breed description.
Eggs per week
3-4 large size, brown
large body size
3-4 medium size, brown
3-4 medium size, light brown
low body carriage
3-4 large size, brown
meaty build (surprisingly heavy for size)
3-4 large size, brown
3-4 large size, brown
3-4 medium to large, white
wonderful setters and moms
3-4 large size, brown
2-3 medium size, white
2-3 medium size, white
5-6 large size, brown
productive (most eggs of any breed listed here)
Rhode Island Red
5+ large size, brown
3-4 large size, dark brown
4-5 medium to large size, brown
versatility and color/pattern choices
4-5 small to medium size, light brown
bearded face and feet
3-5 medium to large, dark brown
3-4 medium size, brown
heat and cold tolerant
3-4 medium size, dark brown speckled
2-3 small to medium size, white
2-3 small to medium size, white
rare breed, great broody hen
Jersey Giant chickens are 13+ pounds
3-4 eggs per week
slow to mature
The Jersey Giantis an American breed originating in New Jersey around the year 1880.
Jersey Giant is a large, very large chicken with roosters weighing 13 pounds normally with caponized roosters (capon means neutered) getting upwards of 20 pounds.
Everything about this bird is long and broad giving ample space on the skeletal frame to put on weight.
At our county fair an exhibitor always brings a pair of these beautiful chickens to show. They really are an impressive sight. These birds even have big tail feathers!
Appearance wise Jersey Giants have a single comb (the classic rooster comb shape) and most commonly black plumage.
White Jersey Giants were developed mid century and Blue laced most recently.
Hens are broody and will lay 3-4 large sized brown eggs per week. Jersey Giants tend to be slower to mature than other breeds simply because they are growing so much bigger.
These chickens are docile and can become very tame. Because of their large size and weight, Jersey Giants might be too much to handle for kids without adult help.
What Is Laying Mash? will go over what this specific feed is, the reasons why your flock would need a special diet like this and times when they do not.
Brahma chickens have a calm demeanor
3-4 medium sized brown eggs per week
popular backyard bird
The Brahma chicken is originally from India. It is a large friendly bird that looks stocky -shorter neck and broad body.
We have had some of these in the past and I always like their calm demeanor, especially when compared to some of the more excitable breeds.
In the looks department they have feathered legs and feet, a pea comb (a small comb that is close to the head so it is good for areas that get cold) and multiple color and pattern choices with something for everyone.
The head and tail are a contrasting color to the body with black head, neck and tail feathers being common.
The more usual Brahma colors include buff, dark, and light. Unusual Brahma colors and patterns include penciled (dark edge outlining the feather) silver, penciled partridge, penciled blue, and the columbian varieties.
A Brahma hen will lay 3-4 eggs per week once she gets to maturity which will be six to seven months old. Hens will lay a medium sized egg well into the winter as they are very cold hardy.
These gals make nice pets, are easy to handle, get along with other birds and are relatively quiet-all qualities that make the Brahma a popular backyard chicken.
The Cochin breed of chickens is from China. A larger breed of chicken that has a fluffy low set look.
These chickens are big and wide. They have feathered feet and a single comb. Since they are so pretty and naturally friendly they make good pets and show birds alike.
Color options are black, blue, white, buff, silver laced, partridge, and cuckoo which is black and white striped multiple times across each feather.
Cochins are not flyers so they can not get up off of wet ground or get away from predators but they will be very easy to fence.
Hens will lay a medium light brown egg 3-4 times per week.
Cornish are very wide bodied chickens
2-3 eggs per week
naturally built as a very meaty chicken
The Cornish chicken is from the United Kingdom, specifically the counties of Devon and Cornwall.
These birds were called Indian Game Fowl or Indian Fighters since they were created to use as fighting cocks.
The Cornish were too slow to be fighters being that they are naturally a placid, easy going bird but were and still are perfect to be used as table birds.
Cornish are one of the foundation breeds for the modern broiler. They are an obvious meat bird choice because of it’s extremely wide, heavy build, fast growth and calm nature.
Cornish roosters weigh 9-10 pounds and seem to waddle more than walk-these guys are broad. Hens lay 2-3 light brown eggs per week, are good foragers and like to get out and peck for food. They are not broody.
Color choices are just a few with double laced being the most popular. The other colors of Cornish are red white double laced and white and red white laced.
The Orpington chicken is a docile and affectionate bird originating in the village of Orpington, England.
Orpingtons have a single comb and look low to the ground because of their full body and plentiful feathering.
These are big, heavy birds that are very popular world wide because of their ease of training and wide selection of color variations.
Orpington roosters are large weighing up to 9 pounds. These chickens are good grazers and easy to pen because being heavy means they are not likely to pop up and over your fence.
Orpington hens are wonderful layers producing 3-4 large brown eggs per week. She is broody and a good, reliable mom when the chicks hatch.
The most popular color for Orpingtons is buff. My father in law had a flock of these in his yard. The buffs were lovely to see and provided eggs for their house with plenty of extra dozens for neighbors and friends.
Other Orpington colors include black, blue, barred, multiple penciled partridge and my favorite buff black laced-a beautiful bird! These are just a few of the wide range of colors for Orpingtons, there are tons of choices.
Plymouth Rock is a classic backyard chicken
wonderful choice for beginners
3-4 large brown eggs per week
The Plymouth Rock is an American breed recognized in 1874.
Then it was called Barred Plymouth Rock since all of the original birds were the barred (having small alternating white and black stripes across each feather) pattern.
These are large chickens with roosters weighing 10 pounds. Rocks are one of the most popular breeds of chickens in the U.S.
Rocks are a dual purpose breed meaning they are good for meat and egg production.
Hens will lay 3-4 large brown eggs per week and are good foragers. These are friendly, calm birds that would make a great choice for beginners.
We have a small flock of the barred variety now.
Plymouth Rocks are good at laying eggs through the winter and ranging out to find bugs, weeds and grass shoots in the summer but will also readily come back to the coop when you take them some feed.
Dorking is the foundation breed chicken
3-4 medium large white eggs per week
a foundation breed used to develop many other breeds
The Dorking is a very old chicken breed from the United Kingdom. These chickens are a heavy, table breed with tremendous flavor.
Dorking was so well regarded for it’s eating qualities it was consistently used as one of the base breeds to create multiple other table breeds including Faverolles and Houdans (to name just a few).
The Dorking is a heavy chicken with roosters weighing 11 pounds and hens weighing 9 pounds.
Hens are wonderful setters and attentive moms. She will also welcome chicks hatched by other hens-not all hens will take care of chicks that are not hers.
This breed has a very low stance due to having a deep, long body and short legs. Dorkings have a large single comb and a fifth toe. Other breeds that also have a fifth to have Dorking breeding somewhere in their making.
The most common Dorking color is silver partridge. This breed also comes in partridge, white, red and cuckoo.
Dorkings are friendly, calm chickens that need some room to run around to keep in good shape. Hens will 3-4 medium large white eggs per week even through the winter.
Sussex chickens are becoming popular
quickly becoming a top backyard chicken choice
3-4 large brown eggs per week
will raise chicks
The Sussex chicken is calm and friendly. They are a strong, hardy chicken that likes to forage for some of their own food.
Sussex hens lay 3-4 large brown eggs per week, even continuing to lay through the winter.
She will be broody and a wonderful attentive mom if you decide to let her accumulate a clutch of eggs, set and raise her chicks.
Sussex chickens are from the United Kingdom where they remain steadily popular. These chickens are a heavier built bird with white legs and a medium sized singe comb.
Sussex chickens come in red porcelain (also called speckled), columbian, buff columbian, red columbian, fawn, brown, white, cuckoo and grayish silver. The color commonly available is red porcelain.
The Crevecoeur chicken is another wonderful breed from France, this time the Normandy region.
These are crested birds that also have a beard and a fifth toe. Crevecoeurs were originally a table breed so they are meaty birds developed for its high proportion of fine, white meat.
Calm chickens grow faster so Crevecoeurs breeders have always kept an easy going temperament as a breed trait.
These chickens are calm enough they can stay in the pen but like other chickens enjoy getting out into the yard for some exercise and free time to peck around.
Hens will produce a large white egg and are occasionally broody.
Color choices are easy with this breed -black if you want the original with blue and white options if you are interested in the more recent color variation.
The Crevecoeur has a very low numbers in the U.S. so it is on the Conservation Priority List at The Livestock Conservancy.
Crevecoeurs are a breed that could use some help regaining popularity. Good growers with a peaceful temperament-sounds like a great family friendly choice.
Australorp is an egg laying machine
highly productive purebred egg layer
5-6 large brown eggs per week
friendly birds with beautiful shiny black/green feathers
The Australorp is from Australia developed in the 1920’s. These chickens were bred as a dual purpose breed so they have good meat and egg laying qualities.
Actually, the Australorp is the highest egg producer on this list. Hens are non broody and start producing early at five months of age. She will lay 5-6 large brown eggs per week.
These birds are friendly and love to roam about your yard. Australorps are most frequently black with a green sheen to the feathers. They also come in white and laced blue.
There are a lot of great birds on this list, but Australorps are a favorite for me. They are the complete package and I am constantly surprised that they are not more popular!
Rhode Island Red is an American breed
classic barnyard/backyard chicken
lays 5+ eggs per week
The Rhode Island Red chicken originated in the U.S. over one hundred years ago. It was started as a utility breed meaning a meat, eggs, and easy care chicken in the State of Rhode Island.
Rhode Island Reds are wonderful layers of 5 or more large brown eggs per week.
High egg production, tied with Austrolorp for the most productive calm layer, combined hardiness make Rhode Island Red a popular choice for homesteading chicken enthusiasts.
I have just one of these hens right now, she is an egg laying machine!
These gals like to forage which is great for you because when chickens eat bugs and grass you benefit from the much healthier orange egg yolks.
The more orange the yolk, as opposed to pale yellow like store eggs, the more the hen had access to a variety of foods so she got more nutrition that she can pass on to the eggs for you or better hatching healthier chicks.
A word of caution here-the roosters can be aggressive in this breed. If you just want eggs, no problem, hens don’t need a rooster around to lay eggs.
If you want fertile eggs then by all means keep a rooster just keep your eye on him and get rid of him if he starts acting differently than the hens-a sure sign he’s thinking to push you around.
As far as color, Rhode Island Reds only come in red-probably as you expected.
What you might not have expected is that outside of the U.S. Rhode Island chickens come in two colors white or red.
In the U.S. the Rhode Island White is considered to be a completely separate breed from Rhode Island Red.
Marans are gentle and lay dark brown eggs
lay 3-4 dark brown eggs per week
great, family friendly personality
come in a variety of colors
The Marans is a breed originating in the village of Marans, France. Marans are friendly, gentle birds that are available in multiple colors and lay very dark brown eggs.
The Marans hen is a good layer producing 3-4 large sized dark brown eggs. These are strong, hardy birds that are seldom broody.
These gals like to forage and are heavy enough that flying out of your pen is unlikely.
Marans come in a variety of colors including brassy black, cuckoo, golden cuckoo, black, silver cuckoo, white, and columbian.
Interestingly enough, the brassy black coloring has a brass or copper colored sheen to the feathers. This is unusual because other black colored chickens breeds have a green sheen.
Wyandottes are a great all round chicken
gentle, good sized birds
heavier (more meaty) than they look
lots of colors and patterns to choose from
hardy and reliable producer
The Wyandotte chicken is another American breed started in the 1860’s.
These chickens are friendly and great with kids so they would be ideal for someone who just wants a few gentle and tame hens for the grandchildren (or yourself).
Wyandottes are good sized birds that will love to forage around your yard.
Wyandotte hens lay 4-5 medium to large sized brown eggs per week. Egg shell color can vary from lightly tinted to brown. She is broody and an excellent mom.
The original Wyandotte color is silver laced.
They also come in a huge variety of other colors including white, black, blue, blue laced, buff, red, barred, gold black laced, yellow black laced, silver black laced, golden blue laced, yellow white laced, columbian, buff columbian, buff columbian blue marked, cuckoo, triple laced partridge, triple laced blue partridge, triple laced penciled silver partridge, and black white mottled.
To me, Wyandottes are the perfect breed for anyone who wants production, great attitude, color choices and a wonderful stewing hen.
I always recommend Wyandottes to anyone with homesteading or in mind or who just wants a hardy, reliable chicken.
Faverolles are very friendly, gentle birds
interesting looks with a feathered face and legs and a 5th toe
These are the chickens also pictured at the beginning of the article.
The Faverolles chicken was created over 100 years ago in order to fill the growing demand for table fowl-meaning people wanted a bigger bodied, meatier chicken for roasting.
Local chicken breeders crossed their existing flocks with Brahmas and Dorkings to get more size and meatiness.
Faverolles were developed in France in near the village of Faverolles, hence the breed name.
Faverolles are known for being very friendly, gentle chickens to raise making them a great choice of a chicken to have around kids.
Hens will lay 4-5 smaller sized light brown eggs throughout both the summer and winter. My Faverolles hens also are good setters, hatching out and raising 10+ chicks each time.
Faverolles have feathered feet, a fifth toe and a single comb. These birds are fast growers that will need a bit of exercise to keep in good shape.
Faverolles have three basic types: French, German and British.
All Faverolles chickens have deep, heavy, elongated bodies with the three types varying in how high the birds carry their tails.
The head of a Faverolle is memorable-it has a kind of crazy looking puffy beard that forms three clumps so the beard feathers stick out to the sides as well. Both roosters and hens have a puffy beard!
Originally the Faverolle was the salmon colored French type but now there are also cuckoo, white, black, blue and columbian varieties.
Interestingly enough, once mature the rooster has a very different color pattern than the hens almost making it look like they are from completely separate breeds.
Barnevelder is rising in popularity
hearty, great forager
3-4 dark brown eggs per week
The Barnevelder chicken is from the Netherlands and is well known for being a calm, docile chicken that lays dark brown eggs.
These birds are a hearty chicken that will do well foraging around-they are also heavy enough to be unlikely to escape over your fence.
Barnevelders lay 3-4 large dark brown eggs per week.
As with all dark brown eggs the shell color will fade as the hen lays more eggs but will return to dark again her next laying cycle after she molts (sheds her feathers and grows new ones).
Common colors for these gals include black, white, double laced and blue double laced. The double laced is the most common Barnevelder color.
Dominique is an American original
adaptable, broody hens
3-4 medium eggs per week
The Dominique is considered as America’s first chicken breed. It also was called Blue Spotted Hen, Old Grey Hen, and Dominiker.
Dominiques are barred chickens that were popular in the eastern states in 1820’s.
These are a medium sized bird that is gentle and calm making it easy to show. Roosters weigh 7 pounds and hens weigh 5 pounds. Dominique hens are broody and will lay 3-4 medium sized brown eggs per week.
Dominiques are known for being very adaptable to both cold and hot temperatures. They are good foragers that like to range around your yard.
Welsummer have dark brown, speckled eggs
beautiful warm red and brown coloring
3-4 medium sized dark brown speckled eggs per week
The Welsummer is a breed from the Netherlands known for their beautiful warm red partridge coloring and for laying dark brown specked eggs.
These hens will lay 3-4 medium sized dark brown speckled eggs per week. They can be broody but generally more so in the spring.
Welsummers love to be out and about in your yard or pasture foraging.
They are capable of getting nearly all of their own food themselves. These birds are docile and easy to handle.
The red partridge color is the original with a few countries like Germany breeding Welsummers in additional colors.
Polish chickens have character
many colors to choose from
The Polish chicken actually is from the Netherlands. They are also called Dutch Crested.
Polish are one of the smaller breeds on this list and one of the more interesting breeds.
Polish chicks have a crest knob on their head-this is where the crest feathers grow from. The crest knob makes the chicks look like they each have a cotton ball stuck to the top of their heads!
As the chicks grow up the crest feathers get longer until the chicken can no longer see to the front (but can still see to the side and down).
We had a flock of the white crested black variety a few years ago. They are fun chickens to watch and relatively easy to catch.
We let them run around loose but we live back a longer drive. You will have to check on them because occasionally one will wander off and need brought back to the rest-she’s not trying to leave she’s “lost”.
Polish hens lay 2-3 small to medium sized white eggs per week. These gals are friendly and rarely get broody, but it can happen. We had one hen hatch out chicks, but just one.
Polish chickens come in three types of colors: same color for both body and crest, white crest and contrasting colored body and black crested with a white body.
Colors include black, white, blue laced, yellow white laced, cuckoo and black mottled just to give you an idea of the choices.
The Sultan is the smallest chicken listed here making it perfect for people wanting a friendly, calm chicken that will be happy in a smaller yard or in town.
Sultans are white, small rare breed of chickens with feathers everywhere! They are called Sultans because the sultan of Constantinople (now Turkey) kept these chickens in the castle gardens.
They have feathered legs, a crest and a beard, not to mention a fifth toe and blue skin on the legs.
Sultans produce 2-3 small to medium sized light brown eggs per week. Hens are non broody.
Sultans are a rare breed on The Livestock Conservancy’s list of endangered chicken breeds. This means that the U.S. population of this breed is very low.
You can help increase the numbers of this wonderful breed! If you’re looking for a calm, friendly urban yard sized chicken consider getting a few Sultans.
Chicken breeds have specific characteristics
Chickens like any other living thing vary widely in looks, ability, and temperament.
The picture at the beginning of the article shows my Salmon Faverolles that I picked specifically for being calm and friendly, and they are!
Some breeds were selected for color or other physical characteristics like size, style of comb, or specific feather pattern coloring.
Other chicken breeds were selected for one main characteristic like egg production, super fast growth, or having lots of muscle mass compared to other chickens.
Location affects chickens traits selected for
Additionally, the geography and economic particulars of the area where the breed originated plays a big role in selecting the chicken breed characteristics.
In an area of the world where the chickens are expected to fend for themselves a more agile and scrappy style of chicken will be the one to reproduce and populate the area.
A bigger bodied bird will have to find more food each day and probably not be as good as evading predators as a smaller faster chicken.
In areas where the chickens are kept more as a hobby or a fun way to provide a eggs for the family then birds can be selected for reasons that would actually be a hazard if the chickens did not have a person caring for them.
Birds of tremendous size, birds that don’t hatch or can’t hatch their own eggs, or simply birds that are pretty and a family favorite are all examples of reasons to keep or develop a line of chickens that is not as self sufficient but easier or more enjoyable for the owner.
This article outlines a variety of chicken breeds known for being more people friendly. The trade off here is that generally speaking these breeds do not have super high egg production or crazy fast growth.
If you are wanting the most eggs from your hens for your feed money go with a hybrid specialist egg production breed like the Golden Comet.
If you want the most meat the quickest, think about choosing broilers instead.
If you want a more easy going chicken that will give you plenty of eggs for your family and have a more friendly demeanor then consider one of the 20 calm chicken breeds listed.
You will frequently see the term broody used to in the descriptions. Broody just means a hen that is likely to sit on eggs to try and hatch her own chicks.
If you are not finding a chicken breed that grabs your attention try my article 12 Crested Chicken Breeds. They are not all as calm as the birds on this list but they definitely have a great look!
Resources: The Livestock Conservancy website-these folks list endangered breeds of livestock and poultry-go check them out
The Complete Encyclopedia of Chickens by Esther Verhoef and Aad Rijs; and Meyer Hatchery Catalog, Meyer Hatchery Polk, Ohio
Do chickens lay blue or green eggs?
Multiple chicken breeds lay blue or green eggs. The most common chicken to get if you want colored eggs is the Araucana, famed for laying eggs in many shades of blue, green and other colors.
Do chickens lay eggs everyday?
The number of eggs a chicken lays per year will depend upon how well she is taken care of and her breed. All chickens stop laying eggs at about 18 months of age in order to molt (shed her old feathers and grow new feathers). After her new feathers are grown in hens will start laying again.
Sheep Breeds For Handspinning: Breed/Fleece Suggestions
Looking for a new type of fleece to experiment with? It’s easier than ever to get fleeces, or prepared wool if that’s more to your liking, and there are tons of choices. Let’s look at a few of the options!
The wool from any sheep can be used for handspinning, with medium wools being the most beginner friendly.
I love to play around with wool. All the colors, the huge variety of breeds it’s just really interesting to me. Our home flock is mostly Dorset based crossbred ewes so the easy choice for me was to start spinning with our wool.
The great news is using our own wool gave me tons of practice wool that was low cost.
Even if we had sold the fleeces I was learning on the wool was worth $10 or so in the high priced years (some years closer to $2.50) so I didn’t feel bad about all of my learning projects being well learning projects.
As I’ve gotten better at handspinning, I began to see the way I like to spin and the wool we have at home are not the ideal match.
Plus I love natural colored wool and felting neither of which happens in our Dorset based wool.
Dorset and Dorset cross sheep are wonderful ewes to choose for your farm! For my hobby time messing around with wool and handspinning I wanted to branch out a bit.
The rest of this article is my opinion about what is working for me regarding fleeces that I have used.
Some of the wool I purchased if it is a breed we do not have on our farm.
What will work for you depends upon your spinning style, what you want to make with the finished yarn if you want to felt the wool and if you want natural colored wool or you prefer white wool.
This link will show you a chart I put together of more than 100 breeds of sheep and their wool characteristics. Check it out if you want more choices than those listed below.
Breeds of sheep for handspinning wool that I have used
Blue Faced Leicester
Blue Faced Leicester
The Blue Faced Leicester was developed in northern England about one hundred years ago. These sheep are known for being great moms and having one of the finest long wool fleeces.
Their wool is semi lustrous meaning a little silky feeling, can be natural colored and comes in locks. Spinning Blue Faced Leicester is fun and easy.
I love the color and the silkiness of the spun yarn. Not surprisingly silky yarn means that whatever you knit will drape well because there is little springiness to the yarn.
The Dorset is originally from England and is known as a wonderful ewe to have in your home flock because of her likelihood of raising twins.
Interestingly enough there are horned as well as polled (no horns) type Dorsets with the polled type being much more popular.
Dorset wool is easy to work with and common enough you should be able to get a fleece for a good price.
Dorset wool only comes in white. This the wool I learned to spin and knit with.
Finnsheep are a newer breed to the United States being imported from Finland in 1968.
Finns are known for having litters of lambs 3-4 being common. We have a few Finns here on our farm.
They are a smaller sheep with a friendly disposition. The fleece can come in many natural colors but white is most common.
I like spinning this Finnsheep wool. The yarn is soft and has a lot of fluffiness-not normal for my spinning.
I tried spinning it in the grease meaning not washed first just straight off the sheep. It spun well but did not rinse as clean as the wool I washed first then spun.
Finn wool felts well -even on the sheep! Keep a close eye on the sheep and consider shearing twice a year to prevent the wool from felting before you get to it.
The Lincoln is a longwool breed from Lincolnshire, England. For me Lincoln worked so well actually I wish I had purchased more of it!
Everything I made with this wool did well for me. It was mostly hats and some felting projects.
Lincoln wool can be natural colored -the fleece I got was a nice mouse like grey. This wool would be great for anything that will need to be able to take some abuse like socks.
Shetland is an ancient breed from the Shetland Islands which are located north of Scotland. Shetland sheep came to Canada in the 1980’s then the United States.
This breed actually had low enough total numbers in the world it was considered endangered.
Thanks to it’s popularity with handspinners because of the huge variety of fleece colors and the breed’s attractive looks this breed is now well established on both sides of the Atlantic.
Shetland is my current experimental fleece. I’m having a great time with this wool. I purchased an entire natural colored fleece at a fiber show and am glad I did.
The fleece is a dark brown almost black really and easy to work with for me.
I like to spin straight from the raw fleece-no washing, combing or carding first. Just sort out the shorter bits, second cuts and sometimes hay chaff and start spinning.
Sheep breeds on my wish list
Since I enjoy trying out new breeds and seeing for myself what the fleece does (or doesn’t do) for me I always am on the look out for my next handspinning adventure.
I buy a new one every year or so just to try out something that catches my eye.
It takes a while to use an entire fleece. If you’ve never purchased a fleece before start with just one!
Each fleece will provide plenty of wool for many projects.
Here are the breeds on my “wish list”. This list contains wool from breeds that I have heard or read about or just maybe I like the looks of.
I’m sure I will add more breeds to the list sooner or later- probably sooner!
California Variegated Mutant
California Variegated Mutant
California Variegated Mutant is a natural colored sheep started in the early 1960’s from one of Glen Eidman’s purebred Romeldale ewes.
His Romeldale ewe gave birth to a multi colored ewe lamb, then had another colored lamb. The second colored lamb one was a ram lamb a few years later.
This was the start of the CVM. The CVM was developed over the next 15 years to be a long lived sheep that produces twins.
The fleece has a long staple length and is fine wool. Fine wool means each wool fiber has a small diameter so is soft and good for wearing next to the skin-Merino is a famous and popular fine wool breed.
I love that the CVM has so many natural colors for the handspinner to choose.
I do have to admit that with my spinning style and knitting ability (I am self taught with both) I tend to have a harder time with the fine wool fleeces. With as great as the CVM fleece looks to me I am willing to up my game.
Update: I just got a CVM fleece and it is wonderful! I did have to up my spinning game quite a bit including a new wheel to spin a different type of yarn, but wow does this fleece spin well!
Corriedale was developed by crossing Merino, Lincoln and Leicester sheep. Corriedale originated in Australia and New Zealand in the 1800’s and was brought to Wyoming in 1914.
The fleece is medium fine dense and has good staple (fiber) length. Corriedales are very popular among farmers and handspinners alike so it should be easy to get a fleece to try.
So far I have only used commercially available Corriedale, but it is easy to use and very spinner friendly.
Cotswold is another breed from England. Cotswold sheep have very long fleeces-growing 8-12 inches per year!
We purchased a Cotswold ram lamb but have not shorn his wool yet so this will be the wish list fleece I’ll get to first.
Cotswold wool is coarse and hangs in ringlets so would be a great choice for weaving handmade rugs.
Romney breed is named after the area they came from the Romney Marsh in England. Romneys are quiet sheep that do well on pasture.
Their wool is much finer and more lustrous than that of other longwool breeds.
Romney fleece is known for being easy to use when handspinning and some of the sheep are natural colored-a point of attraction for me.
Romney is definitely next up on my “great fleeces that I plan to buy” list!
Update: instead of a fleece, I purchased some Romney top. It was super easy to spin but a touch more on the coarse side than I tend to like.
Tunis sheep is an American breed developed in the southern states. Tunis are known having for more heat tolerance than other breeds of sheep, will breed out of season and are good mothers.
This was the most popular breed of sheep in the South at the start of the Civil War and now is quite popular with people who show sheep.
The wool is said to be very spinner friendly.
Tunis lambs are born red and turn white bodied as they grow but the head and legs keep the red coloring. The red coloring alone is enough to make me want a few!
What sheep has the softest wool?
The softest wool from a sheep is called fine wool. The most popular fine wool breed is the Merino.
What are Finnsheep used for?
Finnsheep are used in crossbreeding programs to increase the lambing percentage of the ewe flock.
Why does a cow eat grass? A cow has a pretty big body to support and grass doesn’t look too filling.
How can cow and a bunch of other large animals wild or domestic survive and actually thrive on grass?
Cows are biologically designed to eat and thrive on grass. Cows have a specially adapted stomach that has four compartments, which allows her to combine cud chewing and digestive microbes in order to digest fibrous plants.
Maybe you’ve thought to yourself how can an animal that big live and grow on grass.
Eating vegetable matter only does not provide many calories. We all know this-think dieters and salads.
We’ll be looking into the basics of cows eating grass-getting into some things you probably knew or were pretty sure of and some things that just may be totally new.
Maybe you are looking for a starter herd of beef cattle? Read Getting Your Starter Herd to show you the things you should be looking for and looking to avoid when buying cattle.
Cows are biologically designed to eat grass
Cows eat grass because grass and other forages (plants the cow can eat) are the food source cattle are biologically designed to eat.
Grass grows all over the world. Cows can eat the grass fresh from the plant or can eat it dried and stored in a barn to be feed later in the year. This dried and stored grass is called hay.
Grass has the ability to remain nutritious through the winter. Even when the grass is dormant (not growing) cows can eat any of the plant that is still standing from the previous growing season.
Many farmers keep their cows out of some of the pastures leaving the grass to grow then be eaten by the cows in the winter.
This is also why wild herds of grass eaters move around-they are looking to find an area of grass to eat in the non growing season.
Eating grass is called grazing
Eating grass is called grazing. When a cow gets her lunch from the grass out in the field she is grazing.
Grazing is the term also used to describe any wild animal eating grass for a meal.
A cow grabs grass with her tounge
This is one of those things that might surprise you-cows do not have upper teeth!
She eats by wrapping her tounge around a hunk of grass to hold it then kind of sawing off the blades of grass with a sideways motion of her lower teeth against the top ridge of her jaw.
Every bite, over and over until she’s full.
Grass is perfect food for a cow
Cows can survive on grass because of a special digestive system that makes a cow and other grass eaters like her able to digest things that animals like us cannot digest.
A cow has a four compartment stomach that allows her and other animals with the same special stomach to get nutrition from plants.
Animals like us with a more simple stomach cannot get nutrients from the plants the cow is eating.
Here is an article from Big Picture Beef on why grass is such a great food source for cattle.
Cattle are ruminants, they can live on grass
The ability to digest these plants is what makes the cow a ruminant. A ruminant is an animal capable of digesting plants that we cannot because of her digestive system-specifically the four compartment stomach.
Her stomach has millions of organisms mostly bacteria that allow her to get nutrition from grass.
She will eat grass or other forages until she feels full then she will chew her cud.
Chewing her cud means she makes little bundles of grass and brings it back up to her mouth in order to more completely chew the forage fibers.
Her single celled workforce (all the organisms in her stomach) need well chewed food so they can utilize all of the energy and nutrients the forage has to offer.
Cows are not always eating
Cows like to take in all of their grass as quickly as they can so they can get to chewing their cud.
A cow is actually only eating if you are seeing the grass or hay go into her mouth and be swallowed.
Cows spend lots of time chewing cud
After she swallows she finds a comfortable place to sit so she can thoroughly chew her cud.
She will spend hours a day chewing her cud to grind up the grass as much as possible.
Grinding up the grass gives her micro organisms in her specialized stomach complete access to all of the nutrients in the blades of grass.
If you are looking for other interesting cow behavior explanations consider clicking here for another of my articles on cattle and why they do what they do.
Cows can eat other forages
Cows can eat a number of things besides grass.
Many herbs, broad leaf plants and even weeds that will naturally grow in a mixed pasture are high on the list of good stuff to eat as far as a cow is concerned.
Some people choose to feed grain like corn to their cows. Feeding grain is very common on farms.
Grain has a lot of energy in the form of carbohydrates that is easy for the cow to get. It does not take long at all for a cow to eat a scoop of grain.
Cows use the carbs in grass for energy
Actually with plentiful high carbohydrate grasses she can get fat just by eating grass.
For the health of the cow staying in good shape-not too fat not too thin-will give her the best life. This is the same for any animal including other livestock, pets and people
Cows can eat many types of grass
A cow can eat nearly any type of grass that other livestock like sheep or wild grass eaters like deer would eat.
The grasses grown for hay, like orchard grass and timothy, are easy choices but also common yard grass like bluegrass will fill her up.
Cows stop eating when they are full
She will stop eating when she has eaten enough forage to be full so now it is time to start chewing her cud.
If a cow totally stopped eating, for instance she did not eat anything today, something is up. You need to investigate.
Your cow is counting on you to look after her.
Not eating is a huge red flag health wise that something is wrong. This is true for any animal and people too.
What do cows eat in the summer?
Most cows eat grass in the summer and hay in the winter.
Why does a cow have four stomachs?
Actually, a cow only has one stomach.
Her stomach has four compartments kind of like you have one house with multiple rooms. The four compartments allow her to digest plants that people can not digest.
Do hens need a rooster around to lay eggs? This is a big question for the new backyard chicken raiser.
The rooster takes up space that could be used for a hen, but you still want eggs. What can you do?
Hens do not need a rooster in order to lay eggs. It is common for farms that produce eggs to have hens only, since hens will lay eggs without a rooster. However, if you want fertile eggs, you need to have a rooster.
Good news! If you just want the eggs and not the rooster, you are still good to go!
There are many reasons why people would want hens only, like someone with very limited coop or run space.
However, the roosters do have some redeeming qualities that you may not be aware of.
Let’s look into the basics of egg laying and a few reasons to consider keeping a rooster anyway.
All hens will lay eggs at maturity
All hens lay eggs. Hens are the female chickens that are laying eggs.
A female that has not laid any eggs yet is called a pullet. Only the females will ever lay eggs, a rooster will never lay an egg.
Since all chickens come from eggs, it only makes sense that all breeds need to lay eggs to make the next generation of chickens.
However, the egg size, shell color, and frequency of laying the eggs varies considerably between breeds.
Some hens lay eggs nearly everyday
Most chickens do not lay an egg everyday, it is actually more like every other day.
This is especially true with any hens from a flock selected for show stock.
Chickens from parent lines that are kept and selected for showing are chosen based on physical characteristics like correct feather coloring and patterns or having the ideal comb type not production ability.
Show chickens are fine birds for your farm flock and a necessity to have if you want to do well at the poultry shows.
Show line chickens tend to be much bigger and prettier than the production lines of the same breed just be aware the show lines will not lay as well as the hens selected for egg producing ability.
The super productive breeds like Australorp and hybrid chickens like the Golden Comet will lay an egg nearly every day for about a year until they molt.
Is milking a cow good for her or just plain mean? I’m sure you’ve run across both ideas searching around online.
What is the real deal? Those two statements are pretty far apart, so where is the truth?
A cow needs to be routinely milked to keep her healthy and encourage her to keep producing milk in the future. Not milking a lactating dairy cow causes her discomfort and disrupts her normal routine.
We have a family cow, Aleene, the Jersey pictured above. My husband and I share milking duties and I’m the one getting ready to milk her this time.
Your Family Cow’s Milk Production is an article I wrote to help you understand the milk production from your cow and how the amount of milk will fluctuate depending upon what she eats and how long ago her calf was born.
Why am I telling you this? So you will know that we spend time with our cow everyday.
This is first hand experience talking when I tell you Aleene likes to be milked. She seems to find it relaxing.
Normally, we don’t even need to tie her, she just stands still for milking.
Think about it, if milking hurt her or she was trying to avoid it, why would she stand there?
She’s not in a pen, she just zooms around the yard and a few small fields close to the house.
She could easily be somewhere else when I show up with the milk pail. She could outrun me or just push me away, but she does neither.
Aleene chooses to stand and allow us to milk her because she is comfortable and milking is part of her daily routine. Cows love routine!
Now that you know a cow is fine with being milked, we move on to why are we milking her in the first place?
Let’s look into some lactation (milking) basics.
Cows need to be milked to stay healthy
All cattle produce milk to feed their calves (baby cattle are called calves or calf is there is just one).
Cattle kept for beef only, wild cattle and, of course, dairy cattle, all naturally produce milk to feed a baby.
Milk production for the baby is the main characteristic of mammals -including us as humans.
As her calf grow she will produce more milk each day up to her maximum genetic ability which is generally around six weeks after the calf is born.
She will produce at this level as long as feed remains plentiful and her calf continues to take all that she can produce.
If she and her herd mates are providing for themselves, as soon as the good feed starts to be less plentiful she will start to lower production of milk.
She needs to have enough body reserves to survive the coming harsh season-this would be winter here in the states but summer is the toughie in other parts of the world.
People take care of domestic cattle needs
For domestic cattle, especially dairy cattle, the harsh weather conditions and time of dietary restrictions are not something she has to deal with.
The farmer takes care of food, water, shelter and health care for her and the rest of her herd.
This life of plentiful resources for the cow makes taking care of herself much easier.
A happy well fed cow milks more and has a better life in general.