Why golden comets? – Backyard poultry

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Discover the benefits of owning Golden Comet Chickens, a one-of-a-kind chicken.

Story and photos by Erin Snyder.

OFTEN NEGLECTED BY owners of small backyard flocks, Golden Comet hens have been raised primarily by commercial farms and for those wishing to start their own egg business. However, the Golden Comets have a lot to offer backyard enthusiasts. With their excellent egg production and winning personalities, the Golden Comets are unbeatable.

What are golden comets?

Golden Comets are part of a group of chickens called sexlinks, which means the breed can be sexed by the color of its down when the chick hatches, saving backyard chicken owners the stress of unwanted roosters. The male chicks hatch a pale yellow which will change to creamy white feathers as the rooster matures. Comet roosters also sport a bit of red in their neck and saddle feathers. The female chicks hatch a reddish buff down that will turn into beautiful golden red feathers as the hen matures. Female Comets sport a few white feathers in their unique color feather pattern.

A herd of mixed breeds, including golden comets, is beautiful and productive.

Comets, like all sex bonds, are considered a hybrid. The reason for this is that the breed does not reproduce faithfully. If you raise a hen and a Golden Comet rooster together, the chicks will not be sex related. The only way to sex chicks accurately is to use traditional vent sexing. The trait of not breeding is often seen as a drawback by many chicken lovers.

The benefits of not being able to breed are that Golden Comets (and other sexual bonds) are not prone to many of the health issues seen in purebred chickens. Additionally, starting each generation of chickens from the new parent stock prevents these chickens from becoming over-crossbred.

Golden comets should never be confused with self-sexing chickens. The difference between self-sexing and sex-bonding is that self-sexed chickens breed true, producing self-sexed young.

Egg production

The main reason most people keep Comets is for their excellent egg production. Hens produce an abundance of extra-large eggs for the first three years of life (on average 5+ large brown eggs per week) before egg production declines. Egg color varies from a light creamy brown to a dark reddish brown. Some Comet hens will even lay eggs with speckles similar to the eggs of a Welsummer hen.

Golden Comets are reliable layers and will easily produce all the other hens in your coop. There is a reason commercial brown egg farms and small egg business owners choose Golden Comets over any other breed.

Nice personality

A Golden Comet hen’s personality is easily her best trait. Her sweet, people-loving personality will win the hearts of even non-chicken lovers. Comet hens bond very closely with their human families and will happily follow their owners anywhere. Some Comets even prefer the company of their favorite human to their herd mates.

Golden comets require a lot of attention from their owners, especially if they are tied to a human from an early age. They are gentle and affectionate hens who will happily sit on your lap for hours. When not snuggling up with their favorite human, Comets can often be found begging for a treat. These girls are extremely food driven and some will even try to beg treats from your neighbors. (Yes, that’s the experience speaking.)

Common myths about comets

The most common myth about comets is that they don’t act like normal chickens. Many poultry enthusiasts believe that because they do not reproduce faithfully, it somehow makes these lively hens inferior to heritage chicken breeds.

Having raised heritage and hybrid chickens side by side, I can honestly say that Comets behave like any other chicken breed.

MYTH: Comets can’t feed themselves.

Golden Comets love to forage and can easily clear a six-foot fence to find “greener pastures” or your neighbor’s garden. Although it is advisable to cover all coops with ½ inch hardware cloth to keep poultry in and predators out, comets should have a covered pen to keep these girls confined.

MYTH: Comets are not good brooders or good mothers.

This myth is both true and false. Comet hens generally do not brood and often do not act as a surrogate mother. However, my Golden Comets are usually the first hens to welcome new flock members. Most are very tolerant of chicks and will happily spend time with them in the brooder. Keep in mind to only allow hens to interact with new chicks when you are there to supervise.

MYTH: Comets are mean to other chickens.

In my personal experience, Golden Comets are the most peaceful hens in my flock. They usually don’t peck at my other hens and prefer to stay out of flock quarrels.

Save a life

As mentioned above, Golden Comets are the brown egg layers of commercial egg farms, producing all the brown eggs you see at your local grocery store. Commercial hens (often called battery hens) are forced to live in crowded conditions, with each hen living its entire life in the space of a standard sheet of paper. Battery hens have never seen the light of day or felt the green grass under their feet. So why Comets? Perhaps the question should be, “Why not comets?”

Battery hens

The life of a battery hen is very sad, but fortunately there are several things backyard chicken keepers can do to help.

REHOME EX HEN IN BATTERY: Some backyard chicken farmers have started adopting battery hens and providing them with loving homes. To find out more about this battery hen rescue attempt, please visit https://www.bhwt.org.uk/.
BUY LOCAL EGGS: Refusing to buy eggs from your local grocery store is by far the most common practice to avoid supporting battery hen farms.
SAVE A CHICK: Choosing to add even a Golden Comet to your next order of chicks will prevent that chick from experiencing the cruel life of a battery hen. Although it may seem like a small contribution, knowing that you have made a difference in a hen’s life is very rewarding.

ERIN SNYDER lives in the northeast with his family and his flock of pet chickens. She first fell in love with the Golden Comets 14 years ago and refuses to have a flock of chickens without at least two of these wonderful hens.

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