Monday, April 28, 2008

Mystery chick

A friend sent this photo and asked whether this six-week-old bird is the Ameraucana that she was represented to be when they acquired her as a one-week-old chick. Ed Hart, an SPPA expert, gave this answer:

"Although the photo at my end is rather blurry and indistinct, I believe the bird in question could very well be an Ameraucana. Many of this "breed" vary widely in phenotype as they originated from crosses between the true blue egg laying Araucana and any old hen. Most of the offspring laid greenish colored eggs, which was the desired end result, without any regard to how the bird actually looked. I raised row run Ameraucanas when I was a kid and some of the pullets looked similar to this bird. If the bird in question grows up to lay a green egg the question will be answered, although it could lay a pale tan egg and still be an Ameraucana of the row run variety."

I'll stay in touch and report back on what color eggs she lays!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cross stitch

I started this cross stitch kit about ten years ago and found it during the move from Wisconsin to California last year. So I picked it up to finish it. It's nearly done now. A friend loves it and I found it on an English website, The site, Sew and So,, has a large selection of chicken stitchery. If I order anything, I'll report here on how it works.

My next project will require some design, to use the heritage poultry designs I acquired last year in a setting or sampler of some kind. Sometimes I'm in the mood for something complicated and other times repetitious projects suit me fine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dual Purpose Chickens

Most historic breeds are considered dual purpose, meaning that they lay plenty of eggs and are also good on the table as meat. After all, that's what people were keeping them for. In the modern industrial age, breeds such as the Leghorn have been developed to lay eggs above all, and hybrid crosses to convert feed into meat. But an integrated farm needs birds that have more general utility.
This Kraienkoppe, for instance. It's a breed that isn't recognized by the American Poultry Association,, but has a long history along the Dutch-German border, being recognized in that area since the 19th century. Originally, breeders were seeking to develop an egg-laying breed. Those are code words for Not Broody. The issue with broodiness is that the hen stops laying eggs while she is broody. The up side of being broody is that she will hatch the next generation and perpetuate the flock.
Malay, Belgian Game chickens, Dutch landrace chickens and Leghorns went into the mix. The Kraienkoppe emerged as a definable breed by 1885, when it was first shown in Holland. Along the way, it became a good egg layer but never lost the broody characteristic. "This does mean that production, though good, can at times be uneven. We’ve taken to freezing excess eggs so we never lack during those times when the hens all want to be mommas," says George McLaughlin, an advocate for the breed. His young rooster is pictured above.
He finds they do well in cold weather, continuing to lay through the winter, and manage hot weather equally well. They are vigilant and will take to flight when startled. They are friendly,k but not cuddly. "Kraienkoppes become alarmed, when one so much as pauses to focus a camera on them," he says. "The Kraienkoppe is very rare yet a good practical bird for the small homestead."
This kind of useful, intelligent and resourceful bird carries a proud history of partnership with humans. Any farmer would be blessed by a flock of them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


USDA Uses Marketing System to Increase NAIS Registrations

Family Farmers get signed up over their opposition

April 7, 2008

Livestock producers who sign up for marketing programs such as Process Verified, Certified Organic and Non-Hormone Treated Cattle may find themselves automatically registered in the National Animal Identification System.

The USDA's Agricultural Marketing System's Business Plan,, officially released last week, circumvents the opposition to NAIS, mostly from family farmers and small specialty producers, who participate in the AMS programs.

Promoted to the general public as protecting public health, NAIS imposes heavy burdens on small producers, despite their compliance with accepted health and safety standards. Family farms produce proportionately more and safer food than factory farms. Some have already abandoned their operations in states that are enforcing premises registration, animal identification and traceback requirements. Family farmers and small producers offer a healthy, safe and humane alternative to food from factory farms.

Although the program is described as 'voluntary at the federal level,' rules and regulations requiring registration and animal identification for program participation and commercial sales effectively make NAIS mandatory.

"Once NAIS is tied to an AMS-controlled program, small artisan producers will be forced into NAIS in order to use even simple marketing claims such as 'naturally raised'," said Mary Zanoni, founder of Farm for Life, an organization supporting sustainable agricultural operations.

Many family farmers have resisted registering their farms with the government due to the heavy-handed nature of the NAIS program. The USDA claims NAIS is needed to trace disease outbreaks in livestock animals, but its own veterinarians have conceded that, the overwhelming majority of livestock can be traced through existing programs. Opponents point out that NAIS does not address prevention or treatment of animal disease.

Rhonda Perry, a Missouri livestock and grain farmer and member of the National Family Farm Coalition,, said, "It is truly disturbing that USDA would be promoting NAIS thru the check-off system, which has for years been taking our money and promoting industrial livestock operations at the expense of family farmers. The factory farms under NAIS would be permitted to identify entire herds with a single number, while small producers would be required to tag every animal. This is yet another example of how the check-off system is an undemocratic abuse of our money."

Mark Kastel of Cornucopia Institute,, said, "It is outrageous for USDA to use the National Organic Standards Program to coerce farmers into the NAIS program. There are grave concerns that USDA will eventually force dairy and other livestock farmers to sign up for this expensive and intrusive program if they want organic certification. Since organic certification already requires a complete audit trail on all animals, bullying organic producers into NAIS is onerous and unjustified."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


A rural woman in Illinois called today, asking for help persuading her neighbors to be more tolerant of her guineas. She started with 12 birds, in addition to her chickens, for a project for her 14-year-old son. That small flock is reduced to six. Pictured at left is a Helmeted Guineafowl from the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

The neighbors, who live on their property across the street only part-time, object so strongly to the guineafowl that they have threatened to shoot them. They have run over several with their car.

The birds stay close to home most of the time, but when the neighbors arrive, they stray across the road to visit. Guineas are naturally curious and retain much of their wild nature.

I suggested that she build a roomy chicken tractor for them, with perches, to allow them some of the freedom of behavior that they crave while keeping them away from the neighbors and out of harm's way.

These neighbors have hardened their hearts against these lovely and amusing birds. All suggestions are welcome.
Read more about Guineafowl at

Monday, April 14, 2008


Bryan K. Oliver of South Carolina says "These birds are the most beautiful Buckeye stock that I have seen. Can you believe these birds were hatched on Nov. 24th, 2007? Their size is excellent and the structure is very pleasing."
This young cockerel shows beautiful color on his body, set off by the glistening tail feathers. His strong body is a good example of the majesty of this elegant breed.
Bryan says he won't have any stock to share for a year or two, but he will attend the Ohio National. That will be a perfect place to see these exceptional birds. Thanks, Bryan!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Breeders Directory

Mary Ann Harley, shown here displaying the trophy she won for her Nankins at last year's Ohio National, is compiling the next edition of the SPPA Breeders Directory.

This document is the single most important publication SPPA produces. Because historic breeds are rare, it can be difficult to find stock. The Breeders Directory is the only place where historic poultry breeders' information is collected.

It provides a route to making those crucial connections to finding new birds. Getting in touch with other breeders also opens doors to exchanging information about the experiences you are having with hatching and husbandry.

The form for information is included in this month's SPPA Bulletin. If you are not a member, contact me to join and get your information included. You will also receive the new directory when it is published in September.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Julie Drigot sent more pictures of her Brabanter roosters. Enjoy! She has captured their delightful inquisitive nature along with their colorful plumage. It certainly provides them with protective coloration! Thanks, Julie.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

CCFF Layer Sale

Central Coast Feather Fanciers,, held its annual Layer Sale this morning. Club members had raised New Hampshire, Ameraucana and Rhode Island Red chicks to pullets. They sold for $15 each. They are expected to begin laying in a month. It's the club's fundraiser, to buy new cages for the annual show, held the first weekend in October. It was a great turnout, with club members also bringing surplus birds for sale. There were Black Leghorns, Black Cochins, White Cochins, a White Cochin Frizzle and Bearded D'Uccle bantams. The Salmon Faverolles, below, caught my eye.

One man bought 20 pullets that will live in the sturdy chicken tractor he brought along on the back of his truck. He manages a vineyard and plans to use the chickens between the rows of grapevines. Future reports on his progress will be posted here.

Not all bought, but all enjoyed the birds and talking about their birds, past and present. One mentioned that he has two Araucana roosters he'd like to find homes for. Any takers? Contact me and I'll put you in touch.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Bryan K., Oliver of the Dominique Club of America sent these old pictures from the Reliable Poultry Journal of July, 1914 of the Buckeye breed. He also informed me of a new Yahoo group, Buckeye Breeders,*
Poultry breeders are often far-flung in rural areas, so Internet groups are a useful way to make contact. Thank you, Bryan.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bantams available for adoption

Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis, Minnesota,, rescues chickens and finds new homes for them. This one, Mannie Bantini, is a young rooster weighing less than a pound. He is one of a group of 11 that Chicken Run rescued. He and two others are inseparable, so they should be adopted together. The 11 Bantinis are Japanese bantams, probably hatched around October 2007. They are friendly and make good house companions. They are comfortable around cats, small dogs and larger chickens. They are indoor birds that require protection from Minnesota's cold weather. Prospective adoptive homes must be within 90 miles of Minneapolis, so that Chicken Run can deliver the birds in person and meet the adoptive family.

Chicken Run's Web site offers solid general information about keeping chickens, including basic information for those new to keeping chickens. It's a private organization that receives no financial support. The annual photo contest is under way, to select photos that will be printed in its fund-raising calendar. To view the entries and vote on your favorite photos visit the Chicken Run Rescue Photo Contest site at: Some of this year's calendars are still left, $25 each.

Mary Britton Clouse, Chicken Run's founder, is an artist. Digital prints of her work are available at She also sells notecards of chicken art, $15 per set. I have ordered some and will post a sample when they arrive.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rose Comb Minorcas

An SPPA member contacted me to locate White and Black Rose Comb Minorcas to add to his flocks of old European breeds, including White Dorkings, White and Mottled Houdans and La Fleche. He is acquiring Rose Comb Anconas, Crevecoeurs, and additional White Dorking stock this season.

He sells eggs and poultry at the local farmers' markets and has begun taking orders for dressed poultry. He expects the large Minorca eggs to sell well.

Because he lives in New Hampshire, the large combs of the Single Comb variety are not suited to the climate. They would freeze. Frozen combs never grow back and the ordeal is very painful for the birds. The Rose Comb, illustrated here from the APA Standard of Perfection,, and other small combs, such as the Pea Comb, Cushion Comb and Strawberry Comb make better choices for birds living in cold climates.

Although no breeders of this rare variety were listed in the SPPA Breeders Directory, one breeder had reported his birds to SPPA First Vice President Monte Bowen when he conducted the Poultry Census. Monte was able to locate the paperwork and put these two breeders in contact.

Locating stock of these historic breeds is very difficult. Breed clubs help. One of SPPA's most important roles is to be a network of communication for poultry breeders and others who support historic poultry breed conservation. The next edition of the Breeders Directory is currently being compiled. Join SPPA now to be included in the listings. It will be available in September.