Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More City Chickens

This Russian Orloff rooster belongs to Michelle Conrad. He doesn't live in a city, but many urban dwellers are raising their own chickens. Just Food in New York City, http://www.justfood.org/, works with New Yorkers to help them raise vegetables, fruits and chickens in the city.

New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik talked with members of the group for the article published in September, which was where I heard about them, see the blog entry for September 21. I sent them a copy of "How to Raise Chickens" and they are delighted!

Training and Livestock Coordinator Owen Taylor wrote to me that it is now the first book he hands to gardeners on the subject of chickens. "The pictures are beautiful and the content is very useful, " he says.

He is also adding information about it, and the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, to the next edition of Just Food's "City Chickens: A Guide to Raising Hens for Eggs in New York City."

Thanks, Owen. I look forward to hearing more about City Chickens.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Avian Influenza and the UN's FAO

A recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/projects/en/pplpi/docarc/pb_hpaiindustrialrisks.html, directs responsibility for the development of Highly Pathogenic Viruses, including Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, H5N1, at industrial livestock operations. However, major news coverage has focused on one veterinarian at FAO who is pointing his finger at domestic waterfowl in Europe, claiming that they are silently harboring the virus. Europe should prepare for more outbreaks from them, reports quote.

This kind of confusion has marked both official policy and news coverage of HPAI. Despite the facts that connect HPAI with commercial operations, policies focus on small flocks. The Marans rooster above is a French breed. The picture was taken by Michelle Conrad of Ohio.

If we wanted to create highly pathogenic viruses, we could think of no better way to do it than the concentrated animal feeding operations of industrial agriculture. The fact that they are causing problems should not result in policies that destroy small flocks.

An enlightened agriculture policy would favor small flocks and protect them from the creations of overcrowded livestock conditions. As it is, the industry somehow turns policymakers around so that they devise policies that protect the source of the danger and decimate the small flocks that are the best defense against it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Game Bird Antiquities Preservation Act

I've had an inquiry from a poultry lover about the USDA's Game Bird Antiquities Preservation Act. He tells me it was adopted around the time of Woodrow Wilson's administration, in response to over-hunting of game birds such as the Passenger Pigeon, which had driven it to extinction. Other game birds, such as the Labrador Duck, Heath Hen and Great Auk had also disappeared.

I have never heard of this and don't find anything on search engines, but any information would be gratefully received.
Wild turkeys like the one pictured above, as painted by Arthur Schilling in 1943, have made a good recovery. Other game birds can recover, with management. Having regulations directed at that goal would make a big difference. Please contact me if you know anything about this regulation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Avian Influenza

The New Farm Newsletter, which you can sign up for free at http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/newfarm/forms/newsletter.html, has an excellent column in the Ocober 18 edition on Avian Influenza by Paul Beingessner, http://www.newfarm.org/columns/saskatchewan/2007/101807.shtml. Paul is a columnist, transportation consultant and third-generation farmer in Truax, Saskatchewan, (306) 868-4734, 868-2009(fax), beingessner@sasktel.net.

He takes note of a recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/projects/en/pplpi/docarc/pb_hpaiindustrialrisks.html, taking a closer look at the role played by concentrated confined commercial poultry operations. The evidence is mounting that Highly Pathogenic viruses do not occur in nature, but are the product of confinement operations. Small flocks are not the vectors they were portrayed as being, and the onus is being removed from them. That's expecially good for people in less developed countries, who depend on their poultry for a significant part of their nutrition.

The predicted spread of Highly Pathogenic virus by migratory birds has not developed. That threat was the justification for requiring poultry in suspected outbreak locations to be confined, the theory being that an infected bird could fly overhead or mingle in the water supplies of domestic birds. Since no, read none, of the more than 134,000 specimens tested over the past two years has shown Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, that route can be put to rest.

It hasn't left public consciousness, and the public and most news reports continue to point the finger at any chicken or duck they can find. But opinion leaders like Mr. Beingessner are doing the world a service in placing responsibility for this threat at the commercial poultry houses where it belongs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ohio National Poultry Show

Coming up November 10-11 in the Voinovich Building of the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus! Show secretary Eric Markely, (419) 568-7402, markley@ohionational.org, expects as many as 4,000 birds, many of rare and historic breeds to be on display.

The 2007 show will mark more than 200,000 birds, owned by more than 10,000 exhibitors, over the show’s more than 50 years of history. To commemorate reaching that number, Don Krahe (pr. Kray) will draw one name from this year’s exhibitors to be honored as the Official 200,000th Bird, along with $200, a plaque and a free entry in the 2008 show. Mr. Krahe has attended every Ohio National over the years and will also be honored with a plaque. Mr. Krahe has raised many breeds of poultry over the years, specializing in Hamburg chickens and waterfowl.

“For more than 30 years, the Ohio National has been the Number One show in the country,” said Craig Russell, president of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. He will conduct tours of the rare and historic poultry on exhibit at the show, at 1:30 and 4 pm Saturday. Meet him at the SPPA table 15 minutes before the start of the tour.

Rare birds include Steinbacher Geese, the gray variety shown above in a drawing by Bob Gary. This breed has recently been returned to the U.S. by Michigan breeder Bernd Krebs. These German geese are a traditional fighting breed.

I will be at the SPPA table to sign and sell my book. This will be a wonderful opportunity to see some rare birds indeed. SPPA members are encouraged to attend. A membership meeting will be held at 11 am Saturday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wisconsin International Poultry Show

The Wisconsin International Poultry Show was held in Portage, Wisconsin September 29. That was the week we were packing to move, so I apologize for the delay in posting information about it. It was a big success, with more birds than ever, a total of 2,338.

Open entries included 870 Bantams, 276 Waterfowl and 243 Standard birds, for a total of 1,389. Juniors entered 570 Bantams, 113 Waterfowl and 266 Standard birds, a total of 949.

The birds were all excellent quality and showed a lot of work and pride, as well as expertise. The Rosecomb Breeders added attractive green foliage to their cages, a welcome touch.

The Bantam Chanteclers caught my eye, an unusual entry. I haven't seen the Porcelain variety of Belgiana Bearded d'Uccles before, so that was exciting, too.

The Wyandotte Breeders of America, http://www.crohio.com/wyan/, had a meet there. The bird above is a Golden Laced Wyandotte, but not from this show. The club Web site has lots of great pictures under the Photo Gallery. Dave Lefebre, Secretary-Treasurer advised the group, "If you really love your birds, keep them clean and they will stay healthy." He reminded them of the Menomenee and Beaver Dam shows coming up.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Breuer, show secretary, who steered the show to success. Best wishes to Butch Gunderson, show president, who collapsed with a heart attack while working on setting the show up the previous week. He underwent bypass surgery and is at home recuperating.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rio Grande Turkey

My friend Laura Paskus in Albuquerque, www.laurapaskus.com, sent this photo of her daughter, Lillie, who will be two years old in January, and their Rio Grande turkey. They acquired him and his mate from the local feed store, but the hen was killed by a hawk last spring.

So now he plays with Lillie. She chases him and when they tire of that, he chases her. The chickens get out of their way when they are chasing around.

Although the turkeys were intended for the table, this one has charmed his way into their hearts. "It looks like we will not be eating him for Thanksgiving," she writes. "Even my cold-hearted, hunter, I-kill-everything-butcher-it-myself-and-eat-it-all-year husband can't bear the thought of butchering him."

Rio Grande turkeys are a variation of wild turkeys, but are easily tamed. Thus the beginnings of domestication! Turkeys were originally domesticated in Mexico.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wild Turkeys

I was sitting at my work this morning when a familiar sound penetrated my consciousness: a turkey gobbling! sure enough, there were 11 turkeys in our front yard, happily foraging for food.

We arrived here on California's Central Coast only a week ago, but one of our neighbors had already told me about the turkeys. One hen has a bad leg and limps, but she should be fine so long as there is enough food.

Turkeys are the only indigenous food animal the American continent has contributed to our foodways. They were first domesticated in Mexico long before contact with Columbus, who brought some back to Europe on his second trip. They became a sensation, the darlings of the aristocrats. Sabine Eiche chronicles the turkey's history in Europe in her book, "Presenting the Turkey: The Fabulous Story of a Flamboyant and Flavourful Bird." The book is filled with wonderful art reproductions that illustrate this remarkable history.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


It's been a few weeks since I posted because we have moved, from Wisconsin to Cambria, California. During that time, Gloria Hermontolor sent me these terrific pictures of her rooster, Pooster, his companion, Meanie Hen and their chicks.
She is enchanted by these birds, which resulted from crossing a Fayoumi rooster with a Game hen. She is so delighted with them that she is looking for more Fayoumis.
Fayoumis are Egyptian chickens, small in size, with males weighing about four and a half pounds and hens three and a half. On a recent television program about Egypt, the narrator mentioned that Fayoum means flower. Does anyone know if this is where Fayoumis got their name?