Tuesday, September 30, 2008


This sweet mother Dominique was sent to me by Bryan Oliver of the Dominique Club of America. This is a September hatch, but Bryan is in South Carolina, where he can expect mild weather.
The ability to hatch eggs is not well appreciated among the general public. I was discussing it with a journalist who was unfamiliar with poultry the other day. She didn't realize that the production Leghorns and Cornish-Rock crosses used in industrial egg and meat production are unsuitable for small flock ownership because they can't reproduce themselves. In sustainable agriculture operations and developing countries, being able to renew the flock without having to buy more chicks is important.
Broodiness has long been bred out of Leghorns. Broody chickens stop laying eggs for the duration, so it's economically undesirable to single-focus operations. Cornish-Rock crosses are bred to eat and grow until they die. They are physically unable to breed because of their large breasts and ungainly legs. They are the first generation cross between two different breeds and as such, will not reliably pass on their characteristics. A second generation would be a mix of characteristics.
A traditional breed such as the Dominique can mate naturally and the hens know how to set on the eggs until they hatch. They retain the instincts to care for their chicks and teach them how to find food and fit into the flock. These invaluable qualities distinguish them from industrial breeds. Traditional breeds are a valuable part of an integrated, sustainable operation and a requirement for productive small flocks in developing areas.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wake Forest Approves Chickens!


Raleigh News & Observer Wednesday September 24, 2008

Wake Forest approves household chickens
By Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, Staff Writer

WAKE FOREST - Emily Cole can have her chickens.

The Wake Forest town Board of Commissioners last week voted 4 to 1 to let Cole and any other town resident keep up to 10 hens.

Cole spoke to the town board last month, asking them to change a rule that required prospective chicken owners to get all neighbors within 500 feet to approve their plans.

Only one family has successfully convinced their neighbors to let them have chickens.

Cole couldn't. Though many neighbors had no problem with her plans, a few disagreed.

So Cole started a petition asking the town to loosen its rules. She eventually gathered several hundred signatures.

In August, town board members said they agreed that the rules needed to be changed.

Earlier this month, they considered a draft ordinance that allowed up to five chickens. Last week, after a public hearing, board members agreed to increase that number to 10. Cole had originally hoped officials would allow as many as 20.

"I'm really happy with the outcome, and I'm really excited that it didn't take six months to do it," Cole said. "I'm also really happy that the Wake Forest commissioners are open-minded. I'm excited that they realize it's a good step forward for the town."

Across the country, more urban and suburban residents are keeping chickens amid fears of the safety of the food supply and a desire to buy local products.

Until now, only the Bissette family in Wake Forest was allowed to have chickens. They were awarded a permit earlier this year after all of their neighbors agreed to their plans.

Neighbors and families at Holding Park across the street often stop by to see their hens.

The new rules mean that the Bissettes no longer have to get their permit renewed each year.

Dave Bissette said he wasn't concerned about getting the permit renewed, but it was a hassle. The family would have had to canvass all their neighbors again.

"I'm glad, quite frankly, I don't have to deal with it anymore," said Bissette.

Nobody came forward to speak out against the new rules at the public hearing. Town commissioner Pete Thibodeau was the lone dissenting vote.

Commissioner Frank Drake said many Wake Forest homeowners who live in neighborhoods where homeowner association rules ban chickens won't be able to keep them, despite the law.

Drake, whose grandparents tended chickens in a neighborhood when he was a child, said most people who contacted him supported the measure.

"I really don't think this is going to be as prevalent as vegetable gardening," he said. "Nobody seemed to have a problem with it once they realized that they lived in a neighborhood that had an HOA that forbade it."

Cole said last week that she wasn't sure when she will get her chickens, but it could be in the next week or so. Her husband has plans to build a miniature barn.

When Cole got home from last week's meeting, her husband and two young children were waiting to congratulate her with chicken drawings taped to the door.

They told her, the "chickens are coming."
I couldn't resist adding this photo of a Raleigh chicken coop, taken by Rick Bennett. This coop was included on the Tour d'Coop.
Great job, Emily, and all those who helped her. Including Commissioner Drake! His name reflects his poultry support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to Raise Poultry

How to Raise Poultry has occupied my attention for the past year, absorbing me completely for the past month. The text is now written and the photos selected. Most of my work on it is done. It is on track to be available in April 2009.
The people at Voyageur Press have been wonderful to work with. The experience has been a wonderful journey.
The book is in the Future Farmers of America Livestock Series, along with How to Raise Chickens. The series also has similar books on rabbits, cattle, pigs, goats and horses. How to Raise Poultry includes chapters on ducks, geese, swans, turkeys, guineafowl, game birds and pigeons, ratites (ostriches, emus and rheas) and, of course, chickens.
When I first told a friend the list of birds to be included in this book, he said, "That's going to be a very big book!" It is the same size as the other books in the series, so it does not include as much detail as How to Raise Chickens does. My goal was to write a book that would help beginners decide on what kind of birds suit them and get started. For experienced breeders, it includes interesting historical and cultural information about their birds and advice that will help them as they seek other ideas for managing their birds. It has more than 200 beautiful color pictures.
Keeping and breeding poultry is constantly challenging. I'm grateful to be a part of such interesting work.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Call ducks

Call Ducks are bantams, with a top weight of 26 ounces for an old drake and 20 ounces for an old duck. They are small, but delightful. Their advocates adore them'

The breed was developed as a decoy, to attract wild ducks within shooting range. They retain their call, quacking happily. Those who make companions of them often 'converse' with them, interacting vocally.

Breeders raise them in six color varieties that are recognized by the APA: Blue, Buff, Gray (which is the mallard color pattern, not strictly gray feathers), Pastel, Snowy and White. Pastel is a mallard pattern softened with blue, making the under-tail coverts soft powder blue and the body pale silver gray. Snowy is a variable color pattern with fawn and brown on the head. The feathers on the body are brown in the center and frosted with white on the edges.

They do like to quack, so consider whether your family and neighbors will enjoy hearing them as much as you do.

This group of Call ducks belongs to Kristine Tanzillo in Texas. Black and white Sundae is a Magpie color variety; behind Sundae is Butterscotch Stormy; the brownish/white duck up front is Huntress. Kristine sees her as a color pattern called 'yellow belly.' In this photo, she looks to me like she might be Snowy. The white duck with the tan head is Ellie, which Kristine calls apricot silver. The duck with the brown chest behind Huntress and Ellie is Duke, the only drake, in the familiar Gray color pattern.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Historic Cochins

A generous book collector has donated his antique poultry books to SPPA. They arrived last week. I am unpacking them and cataloguing them.
This lovely drawing on the right is of Queen Victoria's Original Cochins, made by Harrison Weir in 1844, is published in Burnham's New Poultry Book, Elegantly Illustrated, 1871. The changes are remarkable. The photo above was taken by Corallina Breuer for How to Raise Chickens.
Historic sources such as these books are invaluable in documenting the changes in historic breeds. I shall compile a list of the information in each book and make it available to SPPA members for their research.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

APA-ABA Youth Program

Doris Robinson, National Director/Coordinator of the Joint American Poultry Association-American Bantam Association Youth Program, told me that she is giving a copy of How to Raise Chickens to the winner of the youth photo contest at the APA National show, Bash at the Beach V October 25-26 in Ventura.

"I was looking for something that would relate to photography and I thought your book would be great with all of the beautiful, colorful pictures in it," she said.

Having my book awarded as a prize is a great honor. Thanks, Doris! I look forward to meeting the young photographer who wins it.

Many of the photos in the book were taken by a young poultry fancier, Corallina Breuer, who was a senior in high school when she took the pictures. She's a very talented young woman who has gone on to college.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month (NPM). NPM is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is a nationwide effort to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools as part of the Ready Campaign. Since we are thinking of First Aid for poultry, we should also remember to prepare for emergencies of all kinds.

I spoke with Lester Markham in Louisiana this week. Lester lost all his chickens in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago. Gustav has left him without power, but this time, because he was prepared, he lost only a few chicks.

There are four main focus areas for NPM:

a. Get a kit

b. Make a plan

c. Be informed

d. Get involved

Personally, I double everything on this list. Anticipate that many families in your neighborhood will not be prepared. Have enough to help others in a crisis.

Once a disaster has struck is the wrong time to learn that you, your family, or friends are not prepared. Preparing personal and family disaster kits in advance helps make sure that you have what you need, and don't get caught off guard. The Department of Homeland Security Ready Campaign recommends that a basic emergency supply kit include the following:

· One gallon of water per person per day, for three days – remember to include enough for your pets, too
· At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water and choose foods your family will eat: ready-to-eat canned meats, peanut butter, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola. Also pack a manual can opener and eating utensils
· Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
· Flashlight and extra batteries
· First aid kit
· Whistle to signal for help
· Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
· Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
· Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
· Local maps
The Ready Campaign also encourages an individual to think about the special needs of family members:
· Prescription medications and glasses
· Infant formula and diapers
· Pet food, extra water for your pet, leash and collar
· Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
· Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
We encourage you to visit http://www.ready.gov/america/npm08/getakit.html to download a free emergency supply checklist and get additional ideas.

Friday, September 5, 2008

First Aid for Poultry

Here's what I'd recommend to keep on hand for first aid for your birds:

Antibiotic ointment
Masking tape
Vet tape
Clean rags
Syringes – 1 cc with small needles
1 percent iodine or Betadine solution
Insecticide powder
Popsicle sticks or tongue depressors for splinting legs and wings
Veterinarian’s name and phone number
Emergency phone number

What's missing? What would you recommend?

Have a separate isolation area for sick birds. Remove any bird from the flock as soon as you notice signs of illness. Isolating a sick bird gives you a better opportunity to observe and treat it. Removing it from the flock can prevent a contagious illness from being transmitted to the rest of the flock.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Healing injured birds

Since following Tiffany's broken leg saga, others have brought me stories of borken legs and other amazing recoveries. Harvey Ussery recounted how he observed a Cornish Rock cross survive a broken thigh bone. When the bird was eventually butchered, Harvey wasn't even able to find any evidence of the break on the bone. Donnis Headley told me about a neighbor who used popsicle sticks to set a chicken's broken leg. The bird healed well.
Art Lindgren of Maine, whose Khaki Campbell and Pekin ducks are shown here inspecting his daughter's cheese-making, had two ducks seriously injured by a dog attack. A neighbor advised against trying to save them, but he and his wife Cheryl applied colloidal silver and both healed and regained full physical capabilities.
The lesson is, have faith in yourself as a healer and your birds as resilient and cooperative patients. I'll list what you should keep on hand for Poultry First Aid tomorrow.