Thursday, October 29, 2009


Buckeye chickens, a hearty, resilient breed developed to withstand harsh Ohio winters, are getting more attention lately. Chef Emeril Lagasse,, demonstrated how to cook them on a recent show, The recipe is here: Look for an article I wrote on them in the next issue of Backyard Poultry magazine, This flock belongs to Bryan Oliver of South Carolina, who breeds Buckeyes as well as Dominiques.

Chef Emeril makes some important points: These birds, which take longer 14-16 weeks) to reach table size than the commercial Cornish/Rock cross (5-6 weeks) require different cooking methods. Slow moist heat helps tenderize the chicken and bring out its flavor. Otherwise, the meat will be tough.

As with all foods, some technique is necessary to produce the best results. Thanks, Chef Emeril, for giving the spotlight to Buckeyes and the idea of traditional breed poultry.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ventura Poultry Show

I'll be attending the Sixth Annual Bash at the Beach Poultry Show, hosted by SeaSide Feather Fanciers, in Ventura, California on Saturday, October 24. It includes the Rosecomb Bantam Federation National. Judges are Jeff Halbach, Tracy Hill and Troy Laroche.

The fairgrounds are right next to the beach -- how great is that?
"We are expectiong strong competition in the show room, as the Bash at the Beach has become one of the premier shows in California," writes show organizer Dave Anderson, also APA president. "We are expecting exhibitors from across the country."
I expect to see excellent birds such as this Spangled Orloff Bantam Cock that took Best of Breed at the 2007 Southern Ohio Poultry Show. The photo was taken by Neil Grassbaugh, who handles photography for many shows.
I'll take my own pictures and post them on my return. I'll have the privilege of traveling by train, the Pacific Surfliner, from my home on the Central Coast. The train route is one of the most scenic in the country, right along the ocean.
Is there anything more fun than poultry shows?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Dominiques are considered the first American breed. Their French-sounding name hasn’t always caught on with those who are otherwise devoted to them. Your grandmother may have called them her Dominikers. Historically, the name may be traceable to chickens, probably old French Cuckoos imported from Dominica. They may have provided the name but only a small part of the Dominique’s genetic background.

Dominiques are the rock solid dual purpose bird, comfortable as roasters or fryers at 7 lbs. for mature cocks and 5 lbs. for mature hens, and steady, reliable layers. They lay brown eggs.

Their slate-barred feathers are the color pattern known in other breeds as cuckoo. That color pattern may have provided protective camouflage for them when they found their own living by foraging in the barnyard. Dominiques are still good foragers.

Although their origins are clouded in history, the International Correspondence Schools Reference Library on Standard-Bred Poultry (1912) says they were plentiful in the United States by 1820 and were documented on Ohio farms by 1850. ICS cites Rose Comb White Dorkings and Black Javas as being among their forebears. Other 19th century writers, such as Lewis Wright in The Illustrated Book of Poultry (1880), credit the Rose-comb Cuckoo Dorking and the Scotch Grey, with the comb of a Hamburg. Harrison Weir in The Poultry Book (1912) cites the Dorking influence, but notes that Dominiques have only four toes and yellow, rather than white, shanks. He quotes T.F. McGrew’s opinion that Hamburgs had substantial influence.

SPPA president Craig Russell credits Cuckoo Dorkings and Hamburgs with giving rise to the Dominiques, with the yellow skin and legs coming from Javas in the 19th century.

Their barred feathers are similar in color to Barred Rocks. The black/slate varies in shade, and the barring is irregular. The males have longer sickle feathers. Their bright yellow legs stand out. Getting the rose comb perfect is a challenge to breeders. It may lack the required spikes or the spikes may be misshapen. Tail angle in both males and females can be difficult to perfect. Dominique tails should stand at a jaunty 45-degree angle. This flock of Dominiques belongs to Bryan Oliver, SPPA member who is also secretary of the Dominique Club of America,, who took the photo.

Kansas breeder and SPPA vice president Monte Bowen says, “The Dominicker is a bird that lays very well. I can depend upon eggs from those girls when nothing else on the place is laying. They lay well all through the winter, and will go broody sooner than the other breeds. I encourage broodiness in the birds and let them set when and where they want. I find I can move a broody hen to a quieter spot with no trouble. They will stay on a nest and do a marvelous job of raising their young. They are calm, gentle setters and are not hazardous to the health of the keeper. They squawk and ruffle up when I check the nest, but never peck. Once the chicks arrive, they become a bit more territorial, but I also encourage that in the birds. A hen that won’t protect her clutch is not worth too much.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Central Coast Feather Fanciers Show

was held October 10-11 in Paso Robles, California. Over 1,000 birds were shown. A photo album, 2009 CCFF Show, has been posted on Picasa at
This Frizzle Old English Game Bantam rooster was among the entries. Thanks, CCFF, for another great show.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Just Food

Owen Taylor is Training and Livestock Coordinator for Just Food, a New York City co-op whose mission is "to unite local farms and city residents of all economic backgrounds with fresh, seasonal, sustainably grown food."

Just Food has built three more coops in community gardens - all of which work with children. The chickens are doing great!

"It's a serious issue - it's no yolk," said Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of Madison, Wisconsin, when his city reversed its poultry ban in 2004. "Chickens are really bringing us together as a community. For too long they've been cooped up."

"Chicken has become the symbol, a mascot even, of the local food movement," Owen was quoted in an article about urban chicken keeping at World Watch Institute,

This photo of Abu Talib in the Bronx, at the one-acre farm he has tended for years, captures the affection between him and this hen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chickens in the News

The SEJ conference,, was terrific. I always have a great time, and this year was no different. One of the highlights was visiting Will Allen's Growing Power in Milwaukee, He has over 300 chickens there for eggs, and about 50 Muscovy ducks, for meat, among other livestock. The farm itself is the last agricultural land within the city.

I returned home late Sunday night to find myself featured in a front page article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, The photos are delightful.

This article is a great example of the interest other SEJ members expressed at the conference. I talked with many people who are looking for information to help their readers, listeners and viewers get involved with chickens. I look forward to working with them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Northeastern Poultry Congress

The ABA National at the Northeastern Poultry Congress will be held at the Big E Fairgrounds West Springfield Mass, January 16 & 17Th 2010. Cheryl Barbaba,, sends this comprehensive advance information:

Our prestigious judges line-up includes Warren Carlow, Jim Sallee, Jeff Halbach, Tommy Lee, Lew Cunningham, Clell Agler, and Matt Lhamon. Our most excellent Junior judge is Mr. Paul Kroll. The Junior Showmanship classes will be judged by the following experts: Dan Castel, Donna Schopac, Lindsay Halbach, and Melissa Cunningham.

Our list of Meets at this time is as follows: National Meets: The Modern Game Bantam Club of America, The Cochins International, The North American Hamburg Society, The International Cornish Breeders, and the International Waterfowl Breeders Association. For District Meets we are hosting the American Poultry Association, the Plymouth Rock Fanciers Club, the Nankin Club of America, the Rosecomb Federation, the American Lanshang Club, and the Wyandotte Club of America.

The Congress has several lectures lined up. Our round table hosted by Don Schrider is top on the list ! This ever-popular, Ask the Experts forum is centerpiece of Saturday's lecture series. Come prepared to get those nagging poultry questions answered! Dan Honor is presenting this year. Dan is a lifelong fan and expert on the Buff color. If you are working with Buffs, you won't want to miss this one, as you are going to need all the help you can get in this most beautiful of colors. Joel Henning is doing a lecture for us on Crested Breeds! In Crested, knowledge is power, so be sure to gain some by attending this most informative of lectures. Poulin Grain is bringing out their Chief Nutritionist to tell us just how we should be feeding our flocks. This most elemental of things is often over ooked back at the coop. For chickens, like humans, you are what you eat, so it’s a good idea to eat like a winner. We also have a most unusual and interesting class to announce. Dr Joan Smyth of UCONN is holding a poultry anatomy class. This will be a hands-on wet lab. Groups of attendees will be directed on how to properly post a predeceased chicken. Dr Smyth will then show you just what was ticking inside each of the posted birds. I guess the vegans among us may want to skip this one. The lecture series culminates with the Annual ABA General Meeting. The meeting will be hosted by the ABA’s President Jeff Halbach and Vice President Matt Lhamon. This is the most informative meeting of the year. Stick around and get current scoop.

For the new folks and the visitors, our friend Howard Kogan is holding two Show Hall tours. Howard will guide participants around the hall and answer their most challenging questions. For the ladies who prefer to get away from it all, Lynne Crevoiser will be arranging a shopping tour. Wear comfortable shoes and bring lots of plastic as Lynne has all the good spots mapped out.

As far as numbers go, I think this is going to be a pretty big show ! Of course we have no way of knowing what will happen, but I am confident it's going to be a pretty major event. In fact it may be a good idea to book your room now if you want to stay in the host hotel. There are lots of places to stay in the area, but there is only one host hotel. Details on our web page, We are expecting our biggest Junior show ever ! It's an exhaustive list, so please refer to it online.

For the gregarious, the Congress is hosting a Sunset Social at the Clarion host hotel Saturday night. That’s right, no banquet. However, there will also be no need to drive at night as you are already home ! The Sunset Social gives us a chance to get in the Groove and Chill worry-free.

There will be ample opportunities to make some pocket poultry money at the Congress this year. We are working hard to let the poultry buying public know we are here and that there are birds for sale. The sales area will be busting through to the arena side this year. One thing we will have is ample room! Sales spaces will be sold at fifty dollars for a 10’x10’ space. I know this is a cramp for some folks, but we just don’t know if we will have any extra cages as rentals this year. If we do, we will provide them at the show.

This year we are planning a special Eggs Alive fertile egg raffle. It will be a silent raffle with the top bidders taking home some great eggs. We believe that this auction could be a great fundraiser for the Congress. I sent out an email asking for donations of fertile eggs last week and the reponses were very good. One of our club members suggested I do a flyer promoting the egg auction with the names of the donors on it. It will be an impressive list for sure. Will you please consider bringing some fertile eggs as a donation from your farm? I know the birds may not be laying or the eggs not fertile (I will be sure to tell all bidders of this potential pitfall). One of our members had a great suggestion for dealing with this. She suggested we could place an empty carton with your name and the type of eggs your going to send via US mail to the winner in the breeding season.

IF all that is not your cup of tea, would you be willing to consider donating birds to our bird auction ? This is a tried and true way to raise some funds ! The Congress founders were really generous when it came to bird raffles. Would you be willing to save a pair til the show and donate to the raffle? Please let me know if you can do either the Eggs Alive auction or the Live Bird auction, as I would love to get you on the list ! THANKS !

Show Booklets will be out by mid-November. If you do not get one by that time, contact Janet Winnett at 508-923-0051 or click on over to our web site and download one.

A couple of reminders friends…. The Monday after our show is Martin Luther King Day. Perhaps you have this day off making your life easier. As for the local government, all you need is a current pullorum card. Please make a copy and mail it in with your entry. The State of Massachusetts is easy to a point. If you forget your paperwork you may be refused entry. So whatever you do, don’t forget your legal credentials. PLEASE NOTE THE ENTRIES close earlier than usual this year! Mark it on your calendar. It’s the holidays and you may forget otherwise. I will be hard pressed to accommodate The Late this year. So don’t be part of the Disappointed and get them in ASAP.

Recently I shamelessly stole a line from the March 1900 issue of The Feather. The magazine was reporting on the Madison Square Garden show. The following line works so well in 2010 I could not resist plagiarizing. It is as follows: "This show is a battle royal for supremacy and well may the victor shout his glory !" I promise to use this line again because I love it ! All it needs as far as I am concerned is the word "Her" ! The Pick of the Best is to be found at the Congress !

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mute Swans

I'll be in Madison, Wisconsin for the rest of the week, at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference. It's the most important professional meeting of my year. Also the most exciting and most fun.

Among other things I'll be doing at the conference is hosting a lunch on the subject of Wetland Ecology: Mute Swans. My new book, How to Raise Poultry, has a chapter on Swans, although they are something of a stretch for domestic poultry. Some kinds of swans are raised domestically.

Not usually Mute Swans, which are kept semi-domestically in England. In North America, they have successfully colonized some wetland areas, in the Atlantic Flyway and on the Great Lakes, crowding out other wetland birds. When populations expand, they can overexploit the available resources, eating more submerged vegetation than can recover.

So they are controversial. Wetland managers want to reduce the population, or eliminate them entirely, as documented in the Atlantic Flyway Mute Swan Management Plan 2003-2013, Atlantic Flyway Council, July 2003. Their advocates love them and want to protect them, The idea of hunting or otherwise killing these beautiful birds makes the public recoil.

We'll discuss how reporters can cover this story most effectively and help the public understand and participate in making decisions about the Mute Swan's future in North America.