For those who have yet to meet our avian friends out in the Ken Spencer Science Park, you’re missing out! In this outdoor gallery, you can get up close and personal with our very own backyard chicken ambassadors. These hens are an extreme example of ‘free-range’ and are often found digging for grubs around the Salal plants, resting in the shade of the trees or approaching guests for attention.
This past spring, we lost our beloved and spunky Bantam Welsummer hen, Milky, to old age. While we took some time to adjust to her absence and celebrate her time with us, we also knew that at some point, we’d like to add a new hen to the flock. Our remaining three chickens, Gourd, Downy and Betty Blue can always use another friend. After all, the City of Vancouver’s bylaw on backyard chickens states that you can have a maximum of four chickens, and we want to reflect that in our own urban agricultural space.
After many weeks of searching for the perfect hen, we finally welcomed the newest member of our Science World family to the coop. I picked her up from Briarwood Poultry on Vancouver Island (we bonded on the ferry). Briarwood Poultry is a small-scale family-run farm that specializes in very free-range, heritage breed chickens. She is a Black Copper Maran, a beautiful breed with shiny black feathers that cover her body and contrast nicely with the fiery colour of her neck and head. Her flame-like appearance inspired her name, Ember. Ember was hatched on March 17 of this year, which makes her a pullet—this means she’s not old enough to lay eggs yet. She should start to lay in a few weeks.
Her eggs are what make her extra special. Marans lay dark chocolate brown eggs. Interestingly enough, all egg shells start off as white inside the chicken, but coloured eggs have their pigment added in the oviduct at the end of the shell formation process. Brown eggs, like those from Marans, contain the pigment protoporphyrin, which is found only on the surface of the egg. We were amazed to learn that the colour can be rubbed off!
Glen and Sandra from Briarwood Poultry also gifted us a selection of beautifully coloured eggs to show off egg diversity—we have some of their darkest Maran eggs, blue Ameraucana eggs (what Betty Blue’s pale eggs should look like, but that is a whole other story) as well as some olive green eggs, which are a cross between these two breeds. Be sure to ask our staff about our beautiful diverse egg collection when you come to meet the chickens!