Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chicken Heroes

Chickens often demonstrate greater scope than they typically receive credit for. Stubby has only one leg, but he willingly adopted ten chicks after their mother was killed by a hawk. His owner has entered photos of him in Mary Britton Clouse’s Chicken Run Rescue Photo Contest, Here’s one picture. There are more on the site. He may be missing a leg, but he has plenty of heart. A rooster is making his presence known as a therapy bird in Charlotte, North Carolina:

Fowl play good therapy for humans
Charlotte Observer
He's the size of a softball and is never going to lord it over a barnyard. He has a soulful sort of cluck and is never going to wind up on a plate next to the potato salad.
For the complete story ...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Coop tours

Poultry enthusiasts are scheduling coop tours in other cities: Seattle will have one July 21, $30 per family or $25 for Tilth members. 12 noon to 4 pm. Barrington New Hampshire has one coming up on June 29, 10 am - 3 pm, which includes Yellow House Farm, Joseph Marquette of Yellow House Farm is specializing in White Dorkings shown here in a painting from Wikipedia,White Houdans and La Fleche, all very old and now rare breeds. He also raises ducks, geese and turkeys. He sells chicks, eggs and meat through his site.

Dorkings can be traced back to the Roman Empire. Chickens with similar plumage and the characteristic five toes are depicted in Roman mosaics and other art. The Dorking is considered a foundation breed, meaning that it is not created from other breeds but has its own unique history. As such, its existence is more significant than modern composite breeds, such as the Rhode Island Red. Dorkings are one of the breeds from which the others are derived.

Those of you in the Barrington area will enjoy the opportunity to see these rare chickens as well as lovely Yellow House Farm on the coop tour.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tour D'Coop attracts hundreds

Kirsten Reberg-Horton's hen Hickety Pickety peers out to see who is coming to view her coop as one of the entries in Raleigh, North Carolina's Tour D'Coop last weekend. She is a black sex-link hen, a modern hybrid. From the penciling on her feathers, she has inherited some interesting genes!

Organizer Judy Morgan-Davis reported they welcomed "Over 600 visitors to our tiny garden and coop. I believe we raised over $3,000 and 1,500 pounds of food." Here's the link for some of the television coverage:
Congratulations, Judy, on a successful event for all concerned!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Goslings introduced successfully!

Rhonda of Northern California, see the blog entry of May 3, took these goslings out and introduced them to the adult geese on the floating platform in her pond, and within 90 minutes they were adopted. Watch her video at
It works better with geese than other species. With chickens and ducks, it's better to let the hen go broody on eggs and introduce the chicks or ducklings at night. In the morning, the hen will most likely accept them as if they had hatched under her.
If you don't have a broody hen, the transition may not work. Watch closely if you introduce chicks to an existing flock. One flock owner last week recounted how she had separated the new chicks from the mature hens with chicken wire, to give them a chance to get to know each other before she put them together. One of the babies was able to get under the chicken wire and the hens killed it. She plans to hold off until the chicks are big enough to hold their own before putting them in with the flock. She's also increasing the size of her chicken yard and coop.
As with all new additions to the flock, quarantine the newcomers for two weeks to avoid introducing pathogens along with them to the flock.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tour D'Coop

Raleigh, North Carolina's third annual Tour D'Coop will be held Saturday May 17, It will feature 20 coops, including this Chicken Palace. A local blog includes some fabulous photos from the preview tour for hosts last month:, where guests admired this coop.
Coop tours require some organization but can be excellent events to bring people with poultry interests together. Such events also get the word out to those who yearn for poultry but are hesitant to take the step. If you are eager to organize a tour but need some advice, contact me and I'll help you put it together.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Manx Rumpies

A reader from Texas inquired about Manx Rumpies today. Several determined SPPA members raise this very rare and unusual breed. This picture of a pair is from, courtesy of Dr. Albert McGraw of Alabama. Also known as Persian Rumpless, they are sufficiently common in the Middle East that observers have reported seeing them in the background in news videos. Three Iranian scientists have examined the "Genetic Diversity in Five Iranian Native Chicken Populations Estimated by Microsatellite Markers" in the journal Biochemical Genetics,, with the intention of establishing the breed as native Iranian chickens,

Rumplessness is an inherited characteristic, resulting in the absence of some bones at the base of the spine and incomplete preening glands. It occurs naturally in about one in 1,000 chicks, but is an established characteristic of this breed. Aldrovandi mentions it the Rumpless Fowl in his treatise on chickens,, the first printed work devoted to the subject in 1600.
This is a historic breed with interesting connections to our modern world. It's one well worth saving.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kitchen Literacy

In "Kitchen Literacy,", Ann Vileisis reviews the past few centuries of Americans' relationship with food, to tease out what we have lost along the way. We've lost knowledge and understanding of how what we eat gets from field and farm to our plates. Her insight helped me get a grip on the overview of a subject that has often seemed overwhelming.
She starts back in the 18th century, with a terrific resource: a woman who kept a diary of what happened in her life for 27 years. Martha Ballard's diaries have been chronicled in "A Midwife's Tale" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich,, and is available online through the George Mason University Center for History and New Media: Her accounts open a window into the everyday life of our forebears. Vileisis grounds her account in Martha Ballard's tales of how she fed her family: from vegetables and fruit grown in her garden, some of which fed the livestock that provided meat, eggs and milk. She knew every detail about every bite she and her family ate.
From those agrarian days, Ms. Vileisis brings us forward through time, noting the influence of wars and calamities (food was first canned to bring provisions to Napoleon's armies), the waves of immigrants who brought their own food preferences and styles, to the marketing and advertising of centralized corporations that inform us about our food today. It's a long journey and she has extracted the significant to help us understand how we became ignorant of the processes and routes by which our food travels.
Ms. Vileisis footnotes every fact and supports every assertion. The bibliography alone deserves a place on the bookshelf of every person who is curious about our food system and willing to change. Much of our journey has been a passive one, accepting the decisions of business and government as to what is appropriate. This book can inform what she calls Kitchen Countertrends against corporate food.
I purchase only books that I will refer to and rely on. This is definitely one of them. Check your local bookstore.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cal Poly Organic Farm

California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo has an organic farm, We visited it Wednesday May 7, as part of the Paso Robles Agri Business tour, It reflects the growing interest in knowing more about where our food comes from. These carrots are growing well.

The farm doesn't have any plans for adding chickens and eggs to their production, but perhaps they will one of these days. They were interested in the idea of using guineafowl to control insects.

As we got on the bus, a couple noticed the sign on the back of our car and asked us about it. They acquired their first chickens, two Barred Rocks and two Golden Laced Wyandottes, three weeks ago. They operate a bed and breakfast here in Cambria and plan to offer their guests fresh eggs. What could be better?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


A chicken owner recently asked David Sullenberger, also known as Professor Chicken,, what could be causing occasional weak shells in her seven-year-old Australorp's eggs.

"She is still laying every day whereas others her age seem to be laying every other day," she explained.

He advised her to get a good rooster with her and hatch some chicks to perpetuate the strong genes that make her such an excellent layer. Most chickens stop laying daily after the age of three years. They will continue to lay, with production gradually declining. At age seven, few hens are laying even three eggs a week. So this formidable chicken is to be honored for her success!

As chickens age, they are less efficient in digesting food and absorbing nutrients. Thus, her body isn't able to make egg shells as strong as when she was younger. However, making sure she and her sisters are getting sufficient calcium and phosphorus in their diet, through free-choice oyster shell or other supplement, is worth ascertaining.

Australorps are an Australian variation of English Orpingtons, developed for egg production. They are black, as shown in this illustration from Welp Hatchery in Bancroft, Iowa,

Monday, May 5, 2008

Toronto considers City Chickens

Toronto residents are keeping their chickens below the radar, according to an article in the Toronto Star, Ontario. Increasingly urbanites concerned about about food miles and safety are pushing their local governments to be more flexible about backyard livestock.

Alice, the pseudonymous chicken owner featured in the article, keeps her chickens in an Eglu, shown above. Chickens and their advocates are being heard!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Introducing goslings

Rhonda in Northern California sent this photo of her African/Toulouse cross geese. She and her husband built the floating platform for them to live on in the pond on their property. They were concerned because they thought the geese were all females, so they didn't expect to get any goslings.
As geese often do, however, they surprised Rhonda and her family by hatching babies! Male and female geese are not sexually dimorphic, which means having different appearances, the way chickens do. Hens and roosters are easy to tell apart. Not so for geese.
This happy turn of events complicated life a bit, though. Rhonda had purchased some goslings that she intended to raise for four or five months, until they were big enough to take care of themselves, and then introduce them to the flock. With the new babies, she asked whether she could slip the newcomers into the family right away.
As Craig Russell, president of the SPPA says, "For geese, it's all about family." He was confident that even if the mated pair that hatched the goslings wasn't willing to take them in, one or more of the other adults would be happy to adopt them. Such adoptions are common among geese.
Rhonda said she would introduce the goslings to the flock. I'll post news as I hear from her.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chicken combs

Ross Simpson has done a wonderful job drawing the variety of combs chickens display. He is a remarkable poultry and wildlife artist.
Unfortunately, I've lost track of him. Ross, if you are out there, please call me. If anyone knows where he is and has contact information for him, please let me know.
I'd like to use some of his artwork in my next book, How to Raise Poultry and wish to get his permission.