Friday, February 29, 2008

Antique Poultry Magazine

The American Poultry Advocate issue of August, 1912 is one of the three donated by Lester Markham to SPPA. These images are of the front and back covers. It sold for five cents a copy, fifty cents for a year's subscription.
The contents list articles on: The Farm Flock of One Hundred Hens (Part VI); The How and Why of Poultry Profits (Part IV); Profits in Pure Bred Poultry; Editorial and Editorial Jottings (more a compendium of news and announcements than an opinion); The American Dominique and Black Java; Some Good Poultry Yarns (which include the story of an egg that was heated to hatch early, and resulted in a chick that matured so fast it died of old age in one day, stimulating chicks with electrical current to make them reach broiler size in half the usual time, and a turkey who got lost in a haystack but kept herself alive by laying an egg each day for 42 days and eating it);Making a Profit Out of the Back-Yard Poultry Plant: The Care of Exhibition Stock; National Egg Laying Contest; and Annual Field Meeting of the Connecticut Poultry Association.

The advertisements on the back cover are as interesting as the articles inside. The headline, "Ready to Win in September" reflects how significant poultry shows were at that time. That was the era of the Stringman, who would travel from show to show, sometimes occupying an entire railroad car with his cages, earning enough by winning to make a living.
Stringmen performed valuable service by exchanging stock along the way, invigorating local lines with their birds.

It's past time for a historical review of that era. Craig Russell tells me he has a copy of the only book written about stringmen. I look forward to borrowing it some day, and using it as a starting point for another book. It's a project I'm eager to take on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Araucanas and Ameraucanas

An interested Ameraucana fancier contacted me with a question about distinguishing Ameraucana cockerels from pullets. On the right is an Ameraucana hen, showing full, well-rounded muffs.

On the right is an Araucana hen, with ear tufts. Corallina Breuer took these photos, which are also in "How to Raise Chickens."
Ann Charles of Sky Blue Egg in Mena, Arkansas,, tells me that she can separate the Araucana cockerels from the pullets by four and a half to five weeks of age "with about 95% accuracy. The pullets combs will be yellow at this age and the cockerels will be pink. The cockerels are usually the bigger more vigorous chicks at five weeks."
Araucanas are rumpless and lay blue eggs. They are a breed unique to South America, first mentioned in North America in 1914 and introduced via illustration in The National Geographic Magazine's special issue on poultry in April 1927.
Ameraucanas are a production breed developed in the 1970s to incorporate desirable Araucana traits with more practical strengths. They lay either blue or khaki green eggs. The khaki green color results from the blue gene combining with a brown egg gene.
Various breedings have brought the delightful coloration into other chickens with less distinct blood lines. Any chickens that lay blue or green eggs are called Easter Egg chickens.
All other ideas on sexing young Ameraucanas and Araucanas gratefully received!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Defining Heritage Chickens

Frank Reese,, has developed a definition of Heritage Chicken that covers the subject for marketing purposes. One of his goals was to write it so that it would not be subject to being subverted by the poultry industry the way 'natural,' 'free range' and 'organic' often are. Definitions get stretched to the point that they are meaningless. According to Consumers Union,, "the term 'natural' is so loosely defined by USDA that virtually all fresh cuts of meat and poultry qualify as "natural."
'Free range' may mean chickens that are given access to a small barren yard after they are several weeks old and not inclined to explore even that far. It may offer nothing worth scratching and eating to attract them, as these Light Brown Leghorns, Dark Cornish (and one White Laced Red Cornish cross) and Barred Rocks are at Ryon Carey's farm in Lindsborg, Kansas.
Frank's definition is:
Heritage Chicken must adhere to the following:

1. APA Standard Breed
Heritage Chicken must be from parent and grandparent stock of breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association prior to the mid-20th century; whose genetic line can be traced back multiple generations; and with traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed. Heritage eggs must be laid by an APA Standard breed.

2. Naturally mating
Heritage Chickens must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating. Chickens marketed as "heritage" must be the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.

3. Long productive outdoor lifespan
Heritage Chicken must have the genetic ability to live a long, vigorous life and thrive in the rigors of pasture-based, outdoor production systems. Breeding hens should be productive for five to seven years and roosters for three to five years.

4. Slow growth rate
Heritage Chicken must have a moderate to slow rate of growth, reaching appropriate market weight for the breed in no less than 14 weeks. This gives the chicken time to develop strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.

Chickens marketed as 'heritage' must include the variety and breed name on the label.

Terms like 'heirloom,' 'antique,' 'old-fashioned,' and 'old timey' [I would add 'historic'] imply 'heritage' and are understood to be synonymous with this definition.

Abbreviated Definition

A Heritage Egg can only be produced by an American Poultry Association Standard breed. A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a heritage egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard breed established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive life.

Prepared and endorsed by the following individuals:

Frank Reese, Reese Turkeys, Good Shepherd Ranch, Standard Bred Poultry Institute and American Poultry Association; Danny Williamson, Windmill Farm, Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch and American Poultry Association; Marjorie Bender, Research & Technical Program Director, Don Bixby, Technical Program Manager and Don Schrider, Communications Director, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy; D. Philip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, Technical Advisor, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Professor, Veterinary Pathology and Genetics, Virginia Tech; R. Scott Beyer, PhD, Associate Professor, Poultry Nutrition Management, National Center for Appropriate Technology; and Kenneth E. Anderson, Professor, Poultry Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cooking Heritage Chickens

Cooking Heritage Chicken in the Heartland, Frank Reese's culinary event featuring Standard breed chickens in Kansas February 15, was a huge success. The featured breeds included Barred Rocks, such as these photographed on Ryon Carey's Lindsborg farm, Cornish, Buckeyes, New Hampshires and Jersey Giants.
Frank's initiative focuses on producing Standard breeds rather than the industrial Cornish Rock cross which is presently the only kind of chicken available to consumers. He is working with the Animal Welfare Institute,, and Animal Compassion Foundation, the nonprofit funding arm of Whole Foods Market, to establish the Standard Bred Poultry Institute on his Good Shepherd Ranch in Lindsborg. The SBPI would be a learning and resource center to conserve and preserve heritage poultry genetics and the husbandry skills necessary to raise these birds successfully.
The feast comprised four complete dinners, cooked by ten chefs. Each dinner reflected the kinds of birds that would be available in the four seasons and the kinds of dishes that they are best suited to. In Spring, Chicken and Noodles and Chicken and Dumplings would be prepared from the older birds which had wintered over but were being culled from the spring breeding flock. Summer is the only season during which fryers would be available. Fried chicken is a popular picnic food, as are Chicken Salad and Pressed Chicken sandwiches. Less cooking means a cooler kitchen in the hot season. Fall's cooler temperatures make firing up the stove for longer cooking desirable. Dishes such as Dutch Oven Roasted Chicken and Chicken Soup with Butterballs, rich little dumplings are made from the chickens the farmer determines are not worthy of being fed over the winter to be part of the next year's breeding. The kitchen stove helps warm the house in Winter, making Baked Chicken, Huntington Chicken and Chicken Pot Pie from chickens suitable for the table but not the coming year's flock.
"The best way to save the old time poultry is to return them to our dining tables," Frank says. He's bringing that into fruition with his partnership with Whole Foods.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Commercial Poultry magazine, 1910

Lester Markham of Amite, Louisiana received three antique poultry magazines from a friend and donated them to SPPA. Thank you, Lester!
They are all in excellent condition. This issue of Commercial Poultry is dated April 1910. It was a monthly magazine that sold for 50 cents a year.
The ads are as interesting as the articles in these magazines. Many of the farms were sold complete with animals and equipment. The ads for poultry equipment reflect a time when most people kept poultry and every farmer raised at least some. Breeds that are now rare were competitively advertised: Houdans, Wyandottes, Langshans, Minorcas and Orpingtons were popular. Many breeders advertised Barred Rocks and the magazine has several pictures of them.
Does anyone know what happened to Commercial Poultry magazine? When this issue was published, its circulation was 50,000 and the masthead states that it is "The only Poultry Paper in the United States occupying its own building and operating its own printing press." It had 13 ad reps in major cities around the country.
It wasn't that long ago. Perhaps under the pressure of high fuel prices and overwhelming pollution and infection in industrial poultry-raising, raising poultry in small flocks will regain that popularity.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Old English Games

Old English Games are a historic breed that has a devoted following in the historic poultry world. They are varied in color and feathering, sturdy and resilient, good foragers and good brooders and mothers. They embody the strengths of utility chickens along with beautiful plumage and lively dispositions.
This Muffed and Tasseled Old English Game pullet belongs to Ed Hart of Sorento, Illinois. He edits the SPPA Bulletin. The muff refers to the feathers under the chin, also called whiskers. Her tassel is the feathers behind her comb.
Old English Games trace their lineage back to cockfighting in England, which was outlawed in 1835. For exhibition, cocks must be dubbed, have their combs trimmed off. This custom harks back to their fighting history. Combs were trimmed off fighting cocks so that there would not be any escess skin for an opponent to catch hold of.
They are recognized by the American Poultry Association in nine color varieties (Black,, Black Breasted Red, Spangled, Blue Breasted Red, Lemon Blue, Blue Golden Duckwing, Blue Silver Duckwing, Self Blue and Crele) but fanciers raise many others, including Fawn, Brassyback, White and Wheaten.
Because they retain their utility qualities, this is a good choice for small flock breeders who want hens who will incubate their own eggs and raise their own chicks. Captain J.L. Lawrence wrote in the New York Sun, quoted in the New England Poultryman of July 15, 1939, said," The term Thoroughbred, connoting much more than mere breeding by pedigree, has been applied deliberately to the running horse of Arab and Barb ancestry, and the game cock, only; and the parallel is not far fetched, for both creatures are bred, with singular care and devotion to ideals, for the highest attainable degrees of health, vigor, courage and bouyancy of spirit. Not unnaturally, beauty has accompanied the other attributes of these Thoroughbreds in their development, and there is no reasonsable answer to the question of why fanciers and other lovers of fine poultry have virtually ignored and passed by the most majestic, symmetrical and superbly plumaged member of the gallinaceous family."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cooking Heritage Chickens in the Heartland

Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Farm in Lindsborg, Kansas,, has organized Cooking Heritage Chickens in the Heartland for Friday, February 15. Ten chefs will cook five different breeds in ten different ways.

They will cook Barred Rock, New Hampshire, Black Jersey Giant, Dark and White-Laced Red Cornish and Buckeye chickens, shown here.

I'm excited to be invited to attend. Molly O'Neill, New York Time food writer,, will attend, with two assistants. She is researching a new book, American Cookbook: Portrait of a Nation.

I'll also have an opportunity to visit Frank's farm. His turkeys are raised on pasture and protected by dogs. His is the first farm to receive Animal Welfare Institute’s Animal Welfare Approved certification.

I'll report on the event and post updates here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Craig Russell Acquitted

Craig Russell, president of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, was acquitted of animal cruelty charges in Snyder County, Pennsylvania, Court February 7, 2008.

“I feel the nightmare is ending,” he said.

Above, he demonstrates a Java's wing feathers at the Columbus National Poultry Show, 2007.

The charge of cruelty to animals for failure to provide necessary veterinary care was entered after his dog was seized while under care at the Companion Animal Hospital in Selins Grove, Pennsylvania July 23.

The dog was one of 127 animals that the court ordered the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to return to Mr. Russell after he was found not guilty of 15 charges of animal maltreatment in Snyder County Magisterial Court June 22. SPCA returned the dog, Boss, on June 28. Mr. Russell was convicted of one count involving caged birds. He is appealing that conviction

Mr. Russell found the dog underweight and worm-infested when it was returned from more than three months in SPCA care. Overnight on July 13, Boss and another dog got into a fight. Mr. Russell treated Boss for his injuries at home for three days, but sought veterinary care on July 17, when some of the wounds became infected.

An SPCA official informed Mr. Russell by telephone on Monday, July 23, that the SPCA had seized Boss, who was still in intensive care at the veterinarian’s office.

The foster care person currently having custody of Boss was not present in court. Jim Best, attorney representing Mr. Russell, will pursue a court order for Boss’ return.

“Hopefully, this will end the witch hunt,” Mr. Russell said.

The SPPA is a 501c(3) organization dedicated to protect and preserve, for historical, educational and recreational purposes and in the public interest, standard-bred domesticated poultry, waterfowl, turkeys and guineas. Join by sending $15 to Dr. Charles Everett, 1057 Nick Watts Rd., Lugoff, SC 29078 or online at

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Poultry Coloring Book

I couldn't resist putting some of my tickets in the bag for this wonderful coloring book at the California Classic Poultry Show in Hollister last month. The drawings are by wonderful poultry artist Diane Jacky, The American Poultry Association commissioned the book and sells it from its site, Cackle Hatchery,, and other sites also sell it online. I enjoy coloring and dot to dots and other kids' activities., which is why I sell the Farm Animals Dot-to-Dot on my site. Parents and kids are always interested in it at poultry shows. These pictures are a delight and I look forward to sitting down with my crayons.

The book includes drawings of 50 kinds of poultry, from tiny Japanese bantams to Malay large fowl, Rouen ducks, Royal Palm turkeys and Sebastopol geese. this would make a great gift for any kid -- it's excellent text is accurate and coloring the pictures accurately would be a good project for anyone who wants to learn the breeds. Notice I didn't confine this to a children's audience. I'm sure there are plenty of adults out there who would enjoy picking up this book and spending a quiet hour coloring.