Friday, June 27, 2008

Chickens in Wisconsin

A reporter from the Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin called me to ask for some Fun Facts for a children's activity book they are publishing in conjunction with the state fair, I found some:

Golden Laced Wyandotte chickens originated in Wisconsin in 1880, from the Silver Laced variety that came from New York State. The variety was recognized by the American Poultry Association for exhibition in 1888. Wyandotte is a familiar name in the Midwest, the name of a New York State Native American tribe now centered in Oklahoma. The National Poultry Museum is located in Wyandotte County, Kansas.

In 1910, L.A. Whitmore of Beaver Dam advertised his prizewinning Sunset Strain of Buff Wyandottes, like this one of Barry Koffler's, posted on, to prospective buyers. “Winona Kid” was his first prize cockerel, winner in Minneapolis and Omaha. Barry doesn't name this impressive bird.

The Buff color came from Buff Cochin chickens that arrived from China in 1845, big fluffy chickens that created a sensation in a nation soon to be gripped by Hen Fever. Hen Fever was the frenzied interest and competition among wealthy country gentlemen and others sparked by the first American poultry show in Boston in 1849. At its height, prize chickens sold routinely for $150 a pair, with prices as high as $700 a pair reported before the bubble burst in 1855. The buff color was bred into nearly all other breeds by the end of the 19th century.


Amy - "Twelve Acres" said...

Fascinating! I can't imagine anyone in the 1850s paying $700 for a pair of chickens! I wonder what that amount would equate to in today's economy? It seems only the rich could afford chickens during hen fever; now anyone can afford them!

PoultryBookstore said...

There's one book from the period, The history of the hen fever. A humorous record. By Geo. P. Burnham, published around 1850 and reprinted by the Michigan Historical Reprint Series. It's on my list of books to acquire! One academic at Princeton was doing research on the subject, but he has dropped off the horizon. Another friend is considering taking it up and writing a book. It's a great subject. She describes it as: I think that the Hen Fever was an extremely important phenonomon, the first broad conjunction of the agrarian, entrepreneurial, and new leisure elements, motivated to make money and fueled by righteousness in the name of livestock improvement.