Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dutch Chicken Book

This delightful book arrived in my mail yesterday from Hans L. Schippers of Amsterdam, Holland. Loyl Stromberg of Pine River, Minnesota showed him my book during his recent visit, and he was impressed enough to want a copy. He sent me his in exchange.

He has been a leader in rare breed poultry for many years and his compliments mean a great deal to me. I am delighted that my book will find a place on the shelves of his library.

This unexpected contact feels like a sign of good things to come in the New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Chickens on YouTube

On Christmas Eve, I am delighted to invite you to share videos on YouTube, These are amazing videos -- I especially liked Beanie and her amazing musical performance. Beanie has her own blog,

Who knew? Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

California Classic Poultry Show

Gold Coast Feather Fanciers are sponsoring the California Classic Poultry Show January 5 and 6 in Hollister. I'll be there with a table for SPPA, under the SPPA banner.

The 2008 Critical List of old and rare breeds will be available. It includes large fowl chickens, bantams, waterfowl and turkeys. The list focuses on both breeds that are in danger of disappearing and varieties within breeds that have become rare.

Bantam varieties of large fowl are not included. only true bantams, for which no large fowl correlate exists, are included, such as the Dutch, Nankin, Rosecomb, Sebright and Silkie.

Contact John Monaco, 1600 Maple Ave., San Martin, CA 95046, (408) 779-2383,,, for the show catalog.

The Show page on my site is now updated -- some glitch from the Web hosting company made it difficult for a while, but that is now resolved. Check it out for upcoming shows, and contact me with information to post about any that are not included.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Twelve Days of Christmas - Six Geese a Laying

These lovely West of England, also known as Old English geese, drawn by SPPA artist Bob Gary, are a good example of a historic breed. They may well be the breed that came over with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower.
They were an important American regional breed, particularly in New England.
Goose is the traditional festive bird for the holiday feast. Geese do not thrive in the intense husbandry conditions of modern agriculture, so they are not as plentiful as they were when we all had a few around the farm. Most American cooks have never roasted one, so recipes have disappeared. Sppa is working on collecting recipes for goose, and for the goose fat that is a product of roasting, to help get this bird back on the American table.
Prominent cook Nigella Lawson is a champion of goose. Her recipes are posted on National Public Radio at Breakfast recipe at
SPPA has a brochure detailing historic goose breeds, how to identify them and how to save them. Contact me for a copy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


A new article by David Gumpert in the online version of The Nation gives an excellent summary of the program and its effects and implications,

Getting this article into a general interest magazine is a big step to getting NAIS the attention it needs from the public. Up until now, only small farmers and rural people have opposed it, small potatoes to the assembled agribusiness giants and their influence at the USDA. Shining a brighter light on it should generate support to defeat it among reasonablee people.

That would make a Merry Christmas for a lot of people!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Twelve Days of Christmas -- Marans

The 's' in Marans is correct, since this breed was named for the port town of Marans, France, although it is not pronounced.

Developed in the marshy Marais Poitevin, this breed is a hardy forager that does well in damp conditions. Its origins reach back to the fighting chickens that sailors brought to port on trading vessels. Those birds, crossed with local chickens, resulted in the breed that took the city's name. Part of their charm is the dark chocolate brown eggs they lay. They are also known for their docile temperament.

Marans may have feathered or clean legs. The breed was shown at the National Exposition of Agriculture in La Rochelle, France in 1914 with feathered legs. English breeders brought them home and bred them to clean legs.

World War I devastated France and the Marans. New stock was returned to France from the English strains, which French breeders then bred back to feathered legs.

Both varieties exist in the U.S., but the breed has not yet been recognized by the American Standard. Breeders are working toward recognition, which requires at least two hens, two pullets, two cocks and two cockerels birds be shown at APA shows at least twice each year for two years. Judges then submit their opinions and a qualifying meet is held. No fewer than 50 birds must be shown at that meet.

"Favorite Recipes of The North American Marans Club," a cookbook assembled by that group, is available through It includes recipes from many fans of this delightful breed, including Martha Stewart, who raises them, and myself.

Thanks again to Barry Koffler,, for this picture.

Twelve Days of Christmas -- Faverolle

The Faverolle was developed from Houdans, Dorkings and Asiatic breeds, named for the village of Faverolle in France. The goal of the crossings was heavy table birds that laid well into winter. The breed was recognized in the U.S. in 1914.

This sweet bantam hen's light color is very different from the rooster of the Salmon variety of the breed. Where her beard and muffs are creamy white, his would be black. Where her tail is salmon brown, his would be black. Her breast is creamy white, his is black. Her head is salmon, his is straw. Her back is salmon, his is reddish brown edged with lighter brown with black under color, topped with straw saddle feathers.

Feathering of most chicken breeds is similar between males and females. Salmon Faverolles are an exception for their dissimilarity.

The eggs the hens lay are always light brown.

Barry Koffler of provided this picture.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Twelve Days of Christmas - Houdans

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a familiar traditional carol, and it includes many fowl. Day Three delivers Three French Hens, such as this Houdan bantam hen.

Houdans are an old French breed with five toes, like the English Dorking, to which it is probably related, and Chinese Silkie, to which it is not. Most are Mottled, like this hen, but a White variety is also recognized. Breeding the black mottling out of the white feathers is a challenge to Houdan breeders.

I once owned a Mottled Houdan rooster, whom we called M'sieur. He did a lot of bossing the girls around, although they took little notice of him. He went into a breeding program and the current owner reports he has become quite aggressive. She enters the coop holding a garbage can lid to protect herself.

Perhaps that's why the gifts in the carol specify French hens.

Thanks to Barry Koffler of Feathersite,, for this picture.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Homeless chickens in New York

Chickens who escape from captivity in the New York area have a champion at

This reminds me of a story I heard some years ago, about a bus driver who opened the door at a stop and a chicken hoped on to the bus. The driver kept her on board for the rest of her shift, and when no one claimed her, took her home.

It may be an urban myth, as it was told to me as 'This happened to a friend of mine,' but it could be true. Chickens are very resourceful and often bold in making their way in the world.

Historic breeds are known for their ability to forage and find their own food. It's a quality that doesn't manifest in show competition, but breeders who seek to maintain the characteristics of historic breeds select birds who are good foragers for their breeding pens.
This photo from the University of Wisconsin,, shows how chicken tractors can take advantage of this natural behavior. As the chickens clean up the insects and weed seeds in the area under the tractor, it can be moved to another location for them to start over. This kind of system makes chickens part of a sustainable system.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Art glass chickens

I've been in Florida visiting my daughter Nicole. An artist friend there, Nick Liguori, created this glass rooster right before our eyes!

He heats the glass in a gas flame and rapidly works it into the shape that exists only in his mind's eye until it takes shape. It's an amazing performance as well as an artistic challenge. He knows his medium and is able to make it reflect the creation in his mind.

Nick is able to make any animal and works to order. If you wish to have your breed of chicken created and can provide a photo, he will make it for you. Call him at (813) 215-9798.