Here's what I've noticed:
First Flock - six New Hampshire Reds bred locally and obtained at 8 weeks of age in early July 2016. They like to free-range and loved being near us while we were outside, often just hanging out with me. The first bird started laying right around 20 weeks of age and the others quickly followed with only one holdout to January of 2017. Most importantly, they laid eggs all winter. I typically got four eggs a day and frequently got six. They did very well with the cold, minimal frosting on the combs and totally willing to explore the pasture despite it being covered in snow. They were also very sweet natured and, unless they'd just laid an egg, quiet. Cooing was typical (especially if they were cuddled up around us) but the "I just laid an egg" announcements were loud and proud. In fact, you could hear them at my Dad's.
|The first flock enjoying free-ranging
|"You coming out to play?"
|Calm, interested, not aggressive
|Checking out the dog
|Gotta be in the middle of things
I've added a branch to the run so they can play around and I give them stuff to peck (whole veggies, fruit) and scratch to find in the very deep hay I've put in there, so they aren't getting bored enough to peck at each other. And I'll add another bale of hay soon and let them spread it out as they will. The hay helps with insulation as well as giving them something to do.
I've pretty much decided that Flock #3 will be the New Hampshire Reds again and I'll get them from my local feed store as I did the first time. The breed laid well, was fairly quiet, and had enough weight to serve as a dual-purpose bird.