Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Today I am thankful for the inquiry from Andrea Mangoni who contacted me from his home in Italy. He asked for information on Polverara chickens.

He keeps a flock of this rare and very ancient breed. His birds are the ones pictured on This black hen, Nerina, was hatched in Spring 2008.

The breed is related to Brabanters, which have a similar crest but are associated with the Netherlands. The National Geographic of April 1927, which documented many breeds, cites Polveraras as being an ancestor of Polish chickens.

This nugget of information made the name Polish fall into place for me. There's always some discussion as to why the crested breed acquired the name Polish, since it is not associated with Poland. Having a crest on the poll of the head is sometimes advanced as the origin of the name, but being descended from Polveraras makes more sense to me.

Andrea is writing a book on the breed and has a web site,, and a blog,, devoted to them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Urban Chickens

Newsweek magazine has a feature this week on the phenomenon of City Chickens, the increase in people in urban and suburban communities keeping chickens, The reporter mentions two people who have touched my work, Dennis Harrison-Noonan and Owen Taylor of Just Food in Manhattan.
Dennis designs chicken coops and sells plans for those who are handy to build themselves at home. A picture of one is in my book, along with a picture of this one, illustrating community gardens. Dennis' son built this one as his Eagle Scout project.
Owen Taylor uses How to Raise Chickens in advising urban chicken owners in New York, see the blog entry of October 30, 2007.
The article mentions fears of Bird Flu and takes a much more measured and scientifically based attitude toward it. "But avian flu has not shown up in wild birds, domestic poultry or people in the United States. And, as the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute (an environmental research group) pointed out in a report last month,, experts including the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production have said that if we do see it, it'll be more likely to be found in factory-farmed poultry than backyard chickens. As GRAIN, an international sustainable agriculture group, concluded in a 2006 report: 'When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem.'"
The U.S. Geological Survey continues to attempt to make something of very little in a recent press release, Their oversight project analysed samples from 1,400 pintail ducks and found that less than half of them contained gene segments more closely related to Asian influenza forms than North American forms. The research identified only segments from low pathologic Avian Influenza.
USGS claims this challenges the claim that intercontinental transfer of AI is rare. However, it documents that thus far, despite intensive oversight and sampling, transfer from Asia to North America via migratory waterfowl is not established at all. Identifying one of eight segments of the virus does not qualify as proving that it is coming. It sounds more like they are coming ever closer to proving the negative.
After all, we know that the birds migrate and bring their innards and germs with them. I'm encouraged that USGS hasn't found any Bird Flu at all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Tiffany is the Buff Orpington who broke her leg a few months back. Her owner found a vet who was willing to splint her leg so that she could heal.

While she was recuperating, her owner put another chicken in her coop with her, to keep her company. They became very good friends and continue to spend time together. She and her friend Buffy and her brother Winston are perching, as Tiffany tries out her healing leg.

She and Buffy like to get on top of the table to peck some snacks.

Chickens can make remarkable recoveries. See Harvey Ussery's report of a chicken with a broken leg in the September 3, 2008 blog entry.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Breeders Directory

The 2009-2010 SPPA Breeders Directory is in our hands! It arrived in mailboxes today. SPPA second vice president Mary Ann Harley spearheaded the production of this edition. She did a great job.

The main focus of the directory is the listing of SPPA members, what breeds they have and how to get in touch with them. Because historic breeds are so rare, it's often difficult to find stock. Some breeds are so rare it's difficult even to find stock from unrelated lines. Keeping flocks vigorous and avoiding inbreeding can require careful selection of birds. The Breeders Directory is the most significant document SPPA publishes.

The listing helps prospective small flock owners find birds of different breeds to add to their flocks. It gives novices just getting started the information they need to contact experienced breeders for advice.

This edition includes articles on Saving Our Heritage Poultry; Small Flock Breeding; Grading; Further Breeding Options; Chickens in America; Natural Incubation; Successful Hatches; Shipping Mature Fowl; and Nankin Bantams-- A Success Story. The directory also includes a list of all SPPA members, SPPA Lifetime Members, SPPA's History and its Constitution and By-Laws.

Thanks to Mary Ann and her team for bringing us a great directory. Get your copy by joining SPPA, either online through or by sending a check for $15 for one year to Dr. Charles Everett, 1057 Nick Watts Rd., Lugoff, SC 29078.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Northeastern Poultry Congress

Terry Golson, author of The Farmstead Egg Cookbook and Tillie Lays an Egg, will be at the Northeastern Poultry Congress’ annual Poultry Show on January 17, 2009, From 10 am until 1 pm, she’ll be signing copies of both books. Part of the proceeds from the sale of these books goes to the APA Youth Programs.

“I'll be sitting at table near the ABA and the APA,” she says. “Let your blog readers know that I look forward to meeting them!”

The show is an annual event each January, at the Mallory Complex of the Eastern States Exposition Center in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The show welcomes Large Fowl, Bantams, Waterfowl, Turkeys, Trio Classic and Displays. It offers prizes for Junior Exhibitor and has a Showmanship Competition. For information, contact Cheryl Barnaba,

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Muscovy Ducks

At the APA National in Ventura in October, I purchased two National Geographic classics: January 1926, featuring Man's Feathered Friends of Longest Standing and Pigeons of Resplendent Plumage and March 1930, with Fowls of Forest and Stream Tamed by Man and Fowls of Field, Park and Farmyard.
Hashime Murayama painted 12 pigeon scenes for the 1926 issue and 16 ducks, turkeys and others for the 1930 issue. This painting of Muscovy Ducks is one of them.
Most domestic ducks are related to Mallards, but the Muscovy is a separate breed entirely. Muscovies are native to Central and South America and Mexico, where they were first domesticated. They remain wild in their native habitat. Several different strains, some with more wild characteristics, are available, so make sure you know what you are acquiring. In the wild, they roost in trees.

They take to domestication well, as they have since before contact with Europe. Columbus may have introduced them to Europe along with the turkey, or Spanish explorers may have brought them from South America to Africa in the 16th century. From there, they traveled along trade routes to Europe. They were exhibited at the first American poultry show in 1849 and included in the first APA Standard of Excellence in 1874.

They are excellent natural layers, the hens often laying as many as 20 eggs in a clutch and raising two clutches in a season. They are good mothers and often used to incubate eggs of other birds.

Many commercial operations raise Muscovies for the table. They grow quickly to market size, but overfeeding them to increase growth can cause leg and reproduction problems.

The caruncles, the warty growths on the head, are unique to Muscovies and an important show point. For exhibition, the caruncles should be equally distributed on both sides of the head, not so extreme that it interferes with the crest feathers on top of the head and not interfere with the bird’s vision.

They are personable and self-reliant, although some are inclined to fight and may be aggressive. Many small flock owners warm to their sociable personalities. Females may be inclined to fly, although males may be too heavy. Clipping primaries may be necessary, although they are faithful to a good home. They are the quietest duck. Muscovies retain the strengths of their wild past in domestic life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Sebright bantams date back to 1810 in England, when their advocates began holding informal competitions. Sir John Sebright spent 30 years developing them. Their breeders organized the first specialty breed club, the Sebright Bantam Club, in 1815. They are shown in both Silver and Golden varieties.

The difference is in the ground color of the feathers, silvery white or golden bay. Lacing should be lustrous black. They are small but sprightly, at a top weight of 22 ounces for cocks and 20 ounces for hens.
This painting of Silver Sebrights by Hishime Murayama was published in the National Geographic of April 1927, in its article "The Races of Domestic Fowl" by M.A. Jull. The article includes 67 illustrations, both color paintings and black & white photos and drawings. It's a classic.

The males lack sickle feathers, so both sexes are similarly feathered. This is sometimes called henny feathering.

"If the ladies cannot take to the Sebrights, I shall lose all faith in them (the ladies I mean, not the Sebrights)," writes Lewis Wright in The Book of Poultry, 1915 edition.

He cautions against the risks of inbreeding Sebrights to avoid infertility and deterioration in markings. He advises giving them time to mature before breeding, due to their delicacy.

"A pullet has not come to maturity, and hence has not gained her full strength," he writes. though if she be very forward and well grown and in good health generally, there is no reason why such a one should not be tried with the hens."

A reader is looking for Sebright breeders in Ohio. All contacts are welcome.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cream Brabanters

A reader inquired for information on Brabanters, an old Dutch breed. She has a flock of the Cream variety that she has been improving for some years, but is looking for others.

Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms in Cameron, Texas,, sells both Cream and Gold varieties, but is currently sold out until 2009. The cock pictured at right is a Cuckoo variety. The photo is by Stephen Green-Armytage, from his book, Extraordinary Chickens.
Wright's New Illustrated Book of Poultry, revised in 1915 by S. H. Lewer, describes them as popular in Holland and Belgium. "Without being heavy in bone the body is large and roomy, showing considerable posterior development with medium length of neck and legs, and indicative of a good laying quality. The Brabanconne is a crested race, which crest is often more developed in cocks than in hens. the crest, however, is not globular as in other breeds with which we are familiar, but somewhat flat, and the beard or muffs are also small. The comb is small and single."
Brabanters are not recognized by the APA for exhibition. They are known as good layers of large white eggs, but are not setters.
If you know anyone who keeps any Brabanter variety, please contact me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tillie Lays an Egg

Terry Golson's new book for children ages 4-8, Tillie Lays an Egg, is coming out in January. You can order it now, through and through chain and independent booksellers. Copies are expected to be available in mid-December, in time for holiday giving.

Terry got the inspiration for this book from her hen Snowball, a bantam of indeterminate breed but extraordinary personality. Read more on her WEb site,

Terry also wrote The Farmstead Egg Cookbook, a happy compendium of egg recipes and chicken information.

Terry's Webcam in her chicken yard is linked to my home page. Recently I contacted an office in Kansas for permission to reprint some material. The woman I talked with was enthusiastic and interested in the project. As we got talking, I mentioned Terry's Webcam.

By the following day, she had all her colleagues watching Terry's chickens! They were, of course, delighted.

One of the most fun parts of my work is meeting people who add so much to my life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

OE and American Gamefowl Show

For those in the California area, there is another poultry show this coming weekend.



Old English Games are a traditional breed often seen in English artwork. The one at left is photographed by Poultry Press. Games are a foundation breed which are bred into nearly every composite in one way or another. Their influence on modern fowl is substantial and they hold a significant place in poultry history.


Directions: From the 55 FWY - exit North on Fair Dr.

Country Meadows (lawn area next to Millennium Barn)

CLASSES: Black Breasted Red Light Leg, Black Breasted Red Dark Leg, Dark Leg Grey, Light Leg Grey, Golden Duckwing (Giro) Dark Leg, Golden Duckwing (Giro) Light Leg, Oriental, Trio (Hens and Cock must be of the same breed, variety and color), Any Other Variety (AOV), Hens and Bantam Classes.

JUDGE: Kenny Troiano. Judging starts at 10:00am. Birds must be cooped no later than 9:30am.
ENTRY FEES: $10.00 per bird entered. Bring your own drop pens. Please do not bring any sick birds or birds with bugs.

PRIZES: Best of Show - $500.00 GRAND PRIZE – Runner-up Best of Show - $250.00

All categories 1ST place - $100.00 per category including Bantams

Trophies - Ribbons ·

AUCTION – 50/50 RAFFLES – DRAWINGS Sponsored by local businesses ·

Kenny Troiano, author of “The Gamefowl Breeders Manual”· Anthony Saville – President of The American Gamefowl Society

Food and beverages onsite by OCFEC. No Alcohol Permitted! For more information, to offer help and/or donations contact: Frank Torres – (714) 785-2034 Daniel Torres (714) 390-4460

Please call us and let us know you will be attending.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Home Grown Evolution

Eric Knutsen visited the SPPA table at last week's American Poultry Association Bash at the Beach Poultry Show in Ventura. His blog is

His blog is a compendium of self-reliant advice, do-it-yourself technology and philosophical framework. He's a fancier of collectible poultry magazines, displaying covers of two issues of Plymouth Rock Monthly from the 1920s and acquiring a copy of The Poultry Review of June 1908. His technological expertise exceeds mine, and he has posted the entire issue as pdf.s for all to access. He's instructed me in how to do it, so I hope to soon have the magazines donated by Lester Markham similarly available to all.

These old magazines are an invaluable resource for the original source documentation not only of husbandry practices of the past, but also of breed conformation, as these diagrams of Java hen and rooster illustrate. Thanks for the advice, Eric.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Safe and Humane

These Pekin, Khaki Campbell and Cayuga ducks look at the cat with curiosity at a friend's home in Maine. They are all good dual purpose utility breeds. They can be managed to produce hundreds of eggs annually, the Campbells as many as chickens. Some people who are allergic to chicken eggs may not be allergic to duck eggs. Duck egg yolks are higher in fat than chicken eggs and the white is higher in protein. They substitute one for one for chicken eggs in cooking and baking. The higher protein content of the whites makes them whip up higher, making cakes lighter.
From Farmed Animal Net, the weekly news digest of Farmed Animal Net,
On Tuesday, October 14th, a panel discussion about Proposition 2 was hosted on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The program is “the highest-rated talk show in American television history,” averaging some 8 to 12.5 million viewers ( Entitled “How We Treat the Animals We Eat,” the show’s guests included Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the U.S., New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Krisof (see:, and opponents of Prop 2. A slideshow of the program, including investigative reporter Lisa Ling’s visits to intensive confinement facilities and free-range farms, is viewable on the Oprah website:
On her blog, Ling states: “When I visited the caged egg and pig farms, I was shocked by how efficient, mechanical and computerized everything was. They were literally churning out product at rapid-fire pace...animal product. I must say that it was hugely eye-opening to see 90 thousand hens under one roof. There were 6 to a tiny cage, all on top of each other, fed antibiotics--covered in feces. It wasn't exactly, the wide-open space farm that I envisioned… Anyone who says that it is anything other than the wholesale factorization of living things is fooling themselves.” Noting that she hasn’t stopped eating eggs or pig meat, Ling writes that she “can't help but wonder what would happen if we just produced less. Would we need to run the animal/meat industry like factorized machines? Might we waste less? Might we be less...fat? Would that be so bad?” See also More Than One Way To Raise A Hog:
Ellen Degeneres had Wayne Pacelle on her popular television show on September 26th to discuss Proposition 2. She has also made a public service announcement in support of the ballot initiative: and promotes Prop 2 on her website:

CONSCIOUS EATING... Lisa Ling, blog, October 11, 2008
I do not endorse everything the Humane Society of the U.S. does, but they have done us all a service in bringing this initiative to the ballot. It's an idea whose time has come, and I hope it is approved by the voters on Election Day.