Friday, October 31, 2008

Green Parent

My contribution as a guest blogger on The Green Parent was posted October 16, One kind parent responded "Thanks for the article! My son is 3 and he is already taking care of feeding and holding our chickens, they teach responsibility, cut household waste (eat almost everything!) and give wonderful eggs in return!"

The Green Parent has a lot of useful information -- I sure I'd had resources like this when I was raising my daughter! Thank you, Jenn.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting Recognized in the Standard

The American Poultry Association has a detailed process for recognizing a breed. Since publication of the last edition of the Standard in 1998, several species and breeds have been recognized: Appleyard and Saxony Heavy Ducks, Welsh Harlequin Medium Ducks, Guineafowl in Pearl, like this one photographed at Yellow House Farm in New Hampshire by Robert Gibson, Lavender and White.

Birds of the breed applying for recognition must be shown at APA shows at least twice each year for two years. At least two hens, two pullets, two cocks and two cockerels must be shown on each occasion.

Judges then submit their opinions of the breed and a qualifying meet is held. No fewer than 50 birds must be shown at the meet. Judges expect the birds to resemble each other closely, to establish the breed type.

Marans are currently under consideration. The American Marans Club, logo on the left, is organizing efforts to get the breed recognized. Varieties like Cuckoo, one of the most common Marans varieties, tend to be less similar to each other than solid colors like white. Marans are also raised in Black Copper, Black-tailed Buff, Gold Salmon, Silver Black, Splash, Blue, Wheaten and Birchen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

APA National 2008

Derek Fry-Shaw, 12, shows off his Light Brown Leghorn pullet, which was the Champion at the APA National in Ventura October 25-26. She's a beautiful bird and he has every right to be proud.
The show was a huge success, with more than 2,600 birds exhibited. That exceeded APA president Dave Anderson's expectations, leaving him scrambling for additional cages as the show unfolded. What a great problem to have!
Two hundred twenty-five exhibitors brought their birds, from 14 states. Three Marans were on display. Two Marans Club members visited the SPPA table. They are eager to achieve APA recognition for their breed.
We sold quite a few books and signed up some new SPPA members. Terry Reeder won the book I donated to the raffle. He was excited to have it. Seeing old friends such as Duane Urch and Butch Gunderson was a treat. Butch kindly posed for some pictures for How to Raise Chickens, demonstrating what judges look for at shows. He said some young exhibitors have recognized him from the book, and even asked him to autograph it. I'm glad he's enjoying it. I'm grateful for his accommodating my need for photos and his good nature.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Healthy Food Shed Tour

Joel Salatin exceeds his press! He was a delightful host and a charming advocate for integrated farming and food production on our tour. At right, he lectures the group on the deep litter management system he uses for his cattle.

In cold Virginia winters, they stay inside the covered shed, where they can eat their fill of the hay he has mown during the previous growing season. They manure is mixed with straw, building up several feet over the course of the winter. He tosses corn down along the way, so that the pigs will have something to root for after he turns the cattle out in the spring. They turn the litter over and it is soon composted fertilizer for the rest of the farm.

Dan Sullivan, senior editor at The New Farm, Rodale Institute,, Joe Davis, TipSheet and WatchDog TipSheet editor for the Society of Environmental Journalists,, and I organized the Healthy Food Shed tour for the recent annual conference. Since Virginia Tech was the sponsoring institution, visiting Joel's Polyface Farm was a natural. He welcomed us graciously.

We piled onto the hay bales on the trailer and he drove the tractor, pulling us around the farm to show us the sights. Joel had a lot to tell us, and we were an eager audience. We fell behind our time schedule and rushed past the chickens, but there wasn't much to see at this time of year. He had recently butchered the meat birds. The egg birds, apparently Rhode Island Reds, were at liberty but looked somewhat feather-bare. Perhaps they had been confined until recently. He said they were molting.

His pigs have got to be the happiest on earth. They greeted us and rolled in the sandy soil, lying down as they munched on the grass.

Craig Russell, president of the SPPA, accompanied us and addressed the group on the bus. Joel's doing a great job, but hasn't yet turned his attention to traditional poultry breeds. Craig talked on that subject, an idea unfamiliar to the tour participants.

Mindful of the pigs' fate, we enjoyed pork (or beef or vegetarian) burritoes for lunch, courtesy of Chipotle Mexican Grill, The company makes a point of sourcing local foods as much as possible. They have worked with Joel to expand his pork operation to provide enough pork for one restaurant. Joel is emphatic about encouraging other producers to explore such commercial ventures.

We concluded the day at the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia,, where they have carefully acquired historically accurate chickens. They had Silver Gray Dorkings at the Irish Farm, Colored Dorkings at the English Farm and Spitzhaubens and Polish at the German Farm. The Colored Dorking rooster was magnificent, even if his tail lacked a few feathers due to molting. A regal fellow, indeed.

I am off to the APA National in Ventura, and will continue the tour, along with news from the show, on my return on Monday.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Polyface Farm

I'll have the opportunity to visit Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm,, next week, October 16. It's the Healthy Food Shed Tour at the Society of Environmental Journalists' Annual Conference,

Daniel Sullivan, senior editor at Rodale Institute, Joe Davis, SEJ WatchDog and I organized the tour.

In the wake of global warming concerns and food-borne illness outbreaks that could be partly the result of growing and processing methods used in industrialized agriculture, consumers are starting to pay attention to how their food is raised and how far it travels. Farmer, writer, and speaker Joel Salatin is the poster child of the local food and farming movement. We'll visit Salatin's 550-acre diversified Polyface Farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and find out why his spread is, in the words of Michael Pollan, "one of the most productive and sustainable farms in America." And we'll hear from other industrious farmers, policymakers and folks serving up everything from food to fiber to fuel in their communities. Finally, we'll take a trip back in time as we visit the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia (where we'll enjoy lunch on Chipotle, a chain restaurant committed to sourcing food locally) and have the opportunity to explore the diverse food ways and farming techniques of the first European settlers to the region as well as the slaves brought over from Africa by force.

I'll also host a lunch discussion on the National Animal Identification System during the conference. Other journalists will have this opportunity to learn more about it and to meet with reporters and editors who are covering this issue.

SEJ conferences are always terrific and I look forward to having a great time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Getty Villa

We recently visited the Getty Villa in Malibu, It's a remarkable museum of Roman and Greek art, housed in a replica of a Roman villa. The museum was built by J. Paul Getty and is funded by the foundation he established.
I was delighted to find these chickens in a still life on the wall at the top of the Outer Peristyle. The description is specific about the accompanying painting, but doesn't give anything about the chickens. I've contacted the museum to see whether they have additional information.
Dorkings are the breed still living that is most identified with ancient Rome, but certainly there were other chickens. These appear to have some small crest, so they may presage the crested breeds, such as Polish, Houdans and Crevecoeurs.
Admission to the Villa is free. Parking is $10 per car. It's an exceptional place worth a visit when you are in California.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

California Proposition 2

Proposition 2 on the California ballot would add a chapter to Division 20 of California's Health and Safety Code to prohibit the confinement of certain farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. The measure would deal with three types of confinement: veal crates, battery cages for chickens, and sow gestation crates. Wikipedia has a good summary of it and the arguments for and against it,
Egg producing chickens spend their entire lives in cages like this one photographed by the Humane Society of the U.S. I don't agree with the HSUS on every issue, but this one is clear to me. This is not humane.
Industry representatives argue that keeping chickens in small flocks is inhumane, that they are dirty and sick. I can understand the industry arguing that they make more money from chickens so crowded in their cages they cannot even extend their wings, but to argue that chickens living in more natural conditions are not safe and healthy is crazy.
"This outdoor access enhances the likelihood that such poultry will have direct contact with migratory and wild birds as well as other animals, substantially increasing the risk of Avian Influenza, Exotic Newcastle Disease and other diseases," according to the United States Animal Health Organization, quoted at Californiasn for Safe Food, This kind of industry organization masquerading as a grass roots or public interest organization is called astro-turf, because it is misleading as to who its constituents are.
Farm Sanctuary,, says "Prop 2 is a modest proposal, simply asking that these animals receive the most basic considerations, yet it prompts a dramatic shift in the public’s recognition that these animals are sentient, deserving of protection and should not be treated as mere commodities. "
The American Egg Board,, notes that flocks of 100,000 laying hens are not unusual in the major egg producing states and some flocks number more than 1 million. Each of the 235 million laying birds in the U.S. produces between 250 to 300 eggs a year.
The United Egg Producers, recommends 67 to 86 inches per bird, less than the area of a single sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Since that exceeds by so much what the egg industry offers their hens, they recommend phasing in such extreme changes over five years. To ask for more faster would inconvenience their members.
Surely those birds deserve a better quality of life. Prop 2 has given us a chance to hear these absurd arguments and understand the egg industry better.
The more people keep their own chickens and have fresh eggs from their own flocks, the fewer chickens will be needed in the industrial system. That's a good thing. Continuing to allow producers to increase profits by abusing the animals who produce our food is inexcusable.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

CCFF Poultry Show

The Central Coast Feather Fanciers annual show was held this weekend in Paso Robles, California. Everyone there had a great time.

Total 108 exhibitors included 63 juniors, so that's a major focus of the show. The 750 birds exhibited were fewer than 2007's 1,000, but they represented an interesting variety of species and breeds. I was esepcially attracted to the Blue Magpie Duck that was shown. An Egyptian Goose was reserve waterfowl, an unusual choice. Full results will be posted soon.

Conor Keegan recently qualified as a judge, and this was the first official show he judged. He was as excited as a kid at Christmas. He couldn't stop smiling. He and Jim Adkins and Dave Anderson agreed that the reduced number of birds made their judging more enjoyable by allowing them more time with the birds and each other, making decisions.

The SPPA table was well attended and many participants took an interest in my books. I've got an inventory of other fun items, coloring books and stickers and paper napkins. It makes a colorful table with something for everyone.

And the raffle! Always one of my favorite show events. How is it that everyone seems to win exactly what they most want? My ticket won me this embroidery kit for a 32" square cross stitch tablecloth and the jigsaw puzzle title Animal Awareness, with all these lovely chickens.
Both will make excellent projects. Thank you, CCFF, for such a great show! We are all looking forward to the APA National coming up October 25-26 in Ventura.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Heritage Turkeys in Backyard Poultry

In honor of Thanksgiving, Backyard Poultry magazine,, features traditional turkeys in its October/November issue. It leads off with an excerpt from the turkey chapter in my book, How to Raise Poultry, the next title in the Future Farmers of America Livestock Series from Voyageur Press.
Editor Elaine Belanger did a great job with it, including pictures of Bourbon Red, Beltsville White, Bronze and Royal Palm turkeys provided by readers. Ross Simpson's artwork of turkey feather colors helps explain turkey plumage. It's my hope that Ross will see it and contact me. SPPA lost contact with him a couple of years ago. Ross, call me!
The issue also includes the SPPA's Critical List of Turkey Varieties and an article by Tom T. Walker of Texas on the Harvest Gold turkeys he is raising. It's a new variety which he developed by crossing solid red and solid black turkeys.
A page of turkey recipes concludes the section: two historic recipes dating back to the 18th century, a modern recipe and modern safe food handling advice.
Thanks for another great issue of Backyard Poultry!