Our Ancona hen is probably one of the most unusual laying hens in our flock. Her companions being comprised of Barred Rocks, Speckled Sussex, Australorps, and Golden Comets ,and others are more typical birds you’ll find among a group of chickens.
She came to be here when one year I let the children flip through a poultry catalogue and each could pick anyone they wanted. This was Lydia’s choice and the sole survivor from that order as the rest fell victim to playful kittens.
Personally, I think Ms. Ancona is just fine with that situation.
As it turns out Anconas are loners. She’ll be in the general vicinity of the flock, but she doesn’t roost or eat with any of the others. She is very nervous, hates to be near people, and quickly runs away if you get too far inside her comfort zone. This nervousness has probably served her well over the years not allowing predators too close either.
She doesn’t like it when other hens are in her comfort zone either and can’t tolerate being cooped up with the rest of the flock. She will not roost in the coop, but rather finds a high corner or nook in the barn- which is also usually where she prefers to lay her eggs. If confined, she always manages to break an opening in the chicken wire bordering the top of the coop area and fly out.
Even though, as our only white egg layer, I can always discern her eggs from the others, I feel I can’t vouch for whether the projected annual egg totals are at all accurate since so often we’re only gathering her eggs when a whole nest of them is found. Who knows if there are nests we’re missing?
This desire of hers to roam free and nervousness makes the Ancona an excellent choice for a free-ranging bird, however if yolk color is any indicator of a particular hen’s ranging abilities, her yolks are always more yellow rather than orange like the other eggs produced in my flock. I don’t know if this is a characteristic of the breed or an indicator that she isn’t foraging as well, getting enough of the nutrients that darken the yolk color.
While our hen has never shown any sign of trouble in the winter, she is technically not considered winter hardy because the large floppy comb and wattles are more prone to frost-bite.
While on one hand, it’s always nice to have friendly hens in your flock, the nervousness of the Ancona and her preference to range makes her a nice fit for a freely ranged flock, particularly if you are on small acreage living in close proximity to the chickens. This isn’t a hen you’ll find hanging out on the deck or in the driveway. Which to me is a TREMENDOUS bonus.
However, the difficulty of always finding her eggs does offset this benefit since, after all, the eggs are the primary reason for raising chickens. Thankfully, for now, I have many little folks who are usually more than willing to go on egg hunts in exchange for a small fee.
Chicken Breed Profile: Ancona Chicken
Purpose– Egg Laying
Size– 4 1/2 pounds
Appearance– Large, floppy, single comb; black with white mottling, white earlobe
Temperament– Very flighty, nervous, avoids people
Estimated Annual Production- 180 eggs per year
Egg Description- Large white egg
Winter Hardy- No (because of the comb)
Foraging- Below average, however don’t do well with confinement
Have you ever raised Ancona hens in your laying flock? What are your thoughts on the breed?