Running to the store for a dozen eggs was nearly out of the question for 19th and early 20th century farm families. Buying, selling, trading, or giving away hens and eggs was the norm. A popular attraction at the Sikes adobe farmhouse yard is a large wooden frame wire coop. Inside are five large colorful hens. Their job is to be simply beautiful as an interpretive talking point for docents.
Recently, a visitor took interest in our feathered friends and asked how the hens stay warm through the winter. Well, not in the historic method. Thanks to our volunteers, the Sikes henhouse has an automated temperature regulating heater for those chilly nights. Not only do they have modern heaters, but they also get misting spray and a fan breeze during the hot summer days. In addition, several generations of hens have been through coop remodels to protect them from invasions of squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, and other friends of nature who are seeking an easy meal and call San Dieguito River Park home.
These are no Ordinary Sikes Hens
To our best guess the little hen flock has two dark grey Brahmas who have the key distinguishing features — feathers on their feet. A quick internet check will enlighten the subject with tomes of information that point to a Victorian era when a burst of interest in colorful breeds of hens took over back yards. Who started this craze? Queen Victoria, of course. Her obsession was the Cochin chicken known for its soft and flowing feathers.
The Brahmas breed had their roots in China when in the 1800’s a Malay and Cochin were cross bred to create a Shanghai hen. When USA sailors bought them home, they were bred with the Grey Chittagong from India, thus their name was derived from the Brahmaputra River. The strong and hearty Brahmas will lay approximately 180 brown eggs per year.
The other three ladies in the pen are Ameraucana, known commonly for their bluish green lightly tinted eggs, like Easter eggs. If you look closely, these gentle hens have cute feather muffs and beard among their interesting features. Now does this peck your interest? Next visit to the Sikes adobe, spend a minute observing the feathered friends living in the northeast corner of the yard.
Sikes hens are in the care of property caretakers, Ileana and Tim. “We actually let them out probably every other day to forage. They love eating bugs, worms, grass, weeds etc. We always stand guard due to so many predators including hawks, snakes, and coyotes. But the girls are predators too! They chase and eat lizards, crickets and any bug they can dig up.”