Wednesday, November 18, 2009


60 Minutes, the CBS News magazine, reported on the relationship between chickens and dinosaurs, Prevailing theory, based on the scientific evidence, is that chickens are descendants of dinosaurs.

The video of chickens began with an attractive Golden Polish rooster, which the first person to comment on the story remarked upon. A few years ago, the most likely place the news team would have gone for video of chickens would have been a commercial producer. Instead, they showed some attractive traditional breed birds.

In my mind, that's an indication that people know more about chickens than they did a few years ago. Awareness is increasing.

On a more recent time scale, The Java came to the U.S. at least by 1835 from the East Indies (hence the name) and were admitted to the Standard of Perfection in 1883. As a high-class market fowl, its breeding was desirable and contributed to development of the Black Jersey Giant and the Barred Plymouth Rock. Indirectly, their influences reached many other breeds, including Orpingtons and Australorps. Javas are probably the source of yellow legs and skin in Dominiques.

They had nearly disappeared by the end of the 20th Century, but in recent years, attention from specialty breeders and historical societies has given the breed a second chance. Garfield Farm Museum in La Fox, Illinois,, in the 1990s has played a significant role in the recovery of the Java breed as part of its commitment to historic stewardship.

Garfield Farm is an 1840s living history farm and inn museum. In the course of its breeding program of Black and Mottled Javas, which are black and white, a pure white strain appeared in 1999. While this is no longer recognized by the standard, it is a legitimate variety and may find official recognition some day. Breeders are nurturing it with an eye to campaigning to have it included in the Standard of Perfection again.

The farm museum supplies Java eggs to hatch at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry’s “Genetics: Decoding Life” exhibit. That connection has supplied thousands of chicks to breeders around the country.

The museum breeds over 8,000 Java chicks each year. Out of those, two brown ones showed up in 2004, the remnants of the Auburn variety that disappeared in 1870. The Auburns are significant for their contribution to the Rhode Island Red.

Senior Exhibit Specialist Tim Christakos has shared the rare birds with local breeders who are nurturing the Auburns toward sustainable populations.

“We know they are not going to go extinct now,” he says.

Javas are a heavy breed, with cocks at an ideal weight of 9.5 lbs. and hens at 7.5 lbs. Like many historic breeds, Javas grow more slowly than industrial hybrid cross birds that feed our retail appetite for chicken.

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