Friday, January 29, 2010

American Buckeye Poultry Club

The American Buckeye Poultry Club has redesigned the website, This illustration is by W. Harry Smith, reproduced in the 1910 Standard of Perfection.
The new site is offering lists of breeders by state. This is a valuable service for current breeders who want to expand their flocks or introduce new breedings, as well as a place for aspiring Buckeye owners to start their flocks.
Thanks for the work you have done on this, Buckeyes!
Breed clubs and organizations serve an important role in helping members find each other. Heritage breed keepers are as rare as the breeds they are keeping. Join the breed club to support the breeds you admire, even if you aren't in a position to keep birds right now. Membership will keep you in the loop and you will be ready when the time is right.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Wyandottes are mentioned as early as 1873, but were not admitted to the APA Standard of Perfection until 1883, when the Silver Laced variety was admitted. Their origins are variously reported as New York State and England, which are reflected in early references to them as American Sebrights and Sebright Cochins. The Silver Laced large fowl has the color and pattern of Sebright bantams, as illustrated by this rooster and hen from the Wyandotte Breeders of America,

According to Wikipedia, the name comes from Wyandotte, or Wendat, Iroquoian Indians from the eastern woodlands. Their name is thought to mean "dwellers on a peninsula" or "islanders." The name is frequently found in the Midwest. The Wyandotte Nation is a federally recognized Native American tribe, located in Oklahoma.

They reflect their Asiatic ancestry in their yellow skin. Their eggs range in color from light to rich brown. Their rose combs with a downward curved spike are distinctive, probably inherited from their Spangled Hamburg forebears. The comb remains a significant point for breeders. Its small size close to the head makes it resistant to freezing, an advantage in cold climates. Dark and Light Brahmas gave them size and color pattern, although the Dark Brahma color markings are unacceptable in the breed now. All Wyandottes have rose combs regardless of feather color. They feather quickly as they grow. They are substantial birds, with mature males weighing 8 ½ lbs. and hens 6 ½ lbs. Hens lay around 200 eggs a year, with some reports of as many as 240.

I was interviewed today on the Chicken Whisperer's radio program,, discussing Wyandottes. As promised, here are some drawings from the American Poultry Advocate of April, 1912 showing the ideal conformation of Wyandottes.

Breeders often advertised their Wyandottes. The breed was very desirable, both for breeding as as egg and meat producers.
Proud owners displayed full page pictures of their prize birds, as these from the American Poultry Advocate of March 1913.
Wyandottes are a traditional American composite breed worthy of more attention. Consider them when you choose a breed for your flock.

Friday, January 22, 2010

CBS Evening News

CBS to air story on antibiotic use in livestock and poultry

The agricultural press is buzzing with the announcement that CBS Evening News plans next week to air a story on antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production, according to Tribune Co.'s The Morning Call Web site,,0,743948.story.

For the story, CBS anchor Katie Couric visited Koch's Turkey Farm in Tamaqua, Pa., which raises its turkeys free-range and antibiotic-free.

Originally scheduled to air this week, the segment has been rescheduled for sometime next week due to this week's Haiti crisis coverage, CBS producer Ashley Velie was quoted as saying.

The segment also is expected to include footage on Applegate Farms, a New Jersey producer of antibiotic-free, ready-to-eat foods including deli meats, bacon and hot dogs.

CBS has been to Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Denmark to research this story and is expected to focus on antibiotic use in pork and poultry production, according to industry groups that have been contacted by CBS.

They aren't a bit happy about this focus on the antibiotics that are implicated in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which cause devastating infections impossible to overcome. The stated reason for feeding subclinical doses of antibiotics as part of the regular feeding regimen is that they make the birds grow faster. The antibiotics also help control infections, which would be rampant in the filthy, overcrowded conditions in which industrial chickens are raised.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Therapy Chicken

Pat Foreman brought her therapy chicken, Oprah Henfrey, to a nursing home to bring some cheer to the residents. Pat gave her that name for her highly developed social skills, empathy and entertaining talent. She is a young Buff Chantecler pullet. She was a big success. These ladies enjoyed sharing her attentions. Clearly, they are chicken fanciers who instantly communicated with Oprah.

Some found Oprah enjoyed some back tickling.

This young man is catatonic and his response to Oprah was the most animated he had been for a long time.

Thanks for letting Oprah brighten these people's lives, Pat. And thanks for sharing the experience with us.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rodale on Chickens

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Chicken is chicken, right? Well, not exactly. More and more research is finding that chickens raised in industrial settings are more likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria when you buy their meat at the store. A new Consumer Reports analysis found that two-thirds of the store-bought birds they tested were either contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter—or both. Those pathogens are the top bacterial culprits behind foodborne illnesses.

• Know who fed your chicken. "Contamination is possible in any flock, but small-flock owners are more likely to keep their birds in cleaner conditions. Producers who sell directly to their customers have a powerful investment in making sure the chicken they sell is clean and safe," says Heinrichs.

Read the rest of the article here,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Backyard Chickens in Brooklyn

Here's a nice video of some hen-loving chicken keepers,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Traditional breeds are the best choice for small flocks. There's a Buff-Laced Polish eating out of her hand, a Black Australorp and the other two look like Rhode Island Reds.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Poultry plus Gardens equals Success

The Shenandoah Valley Poultry and Garden Club is connecting poultry and gardening. What a great combination! These ducks are enthusiastic gardening assistants. They eat slugs and snails as well as the more desirable worms.

The group is getting started with its first meeting January 12th, 2010 at 7pm in the Extension Conference room in the Rockbridge County Administrative Building located at 150 South Main Street, Lexington, Virginia, 24450.

Pat Foreman, who wrote City Chicks,, is inviting a gathering of folks who are interested in chickens and local foods. This club is for chicken owners (and wannabes) who keep poultry for pets, eggs, meat, show and garden helpers. It is also for gardeners who are growing food (or want to grow food) for themselves, and perhaps others to generate income, for barter and/or to participate in local farmers’ markets. We collaborate with the 4-H poultry club with lectures, workshops, field trips and participating in poultry shows.

This Meetup group combines poultry and gardening by exploring how chicken “skill sets” can be employed in a “Chicken Have-More Plan.” Instead of using oil-based chemical fertilizer, chickens can give you (locally produced) organic fertilizer with their manure. They help create compost from kitchen and yard waste. Chickens also serve as mobile, stealth, (non-toxic), pest control, weed control and slug control in your yard and garden.

The group focuses on how chickens are bio-recyclers and can be employed as clucking civic workers in solid waste management systems. Chickens help keep tons of biomass (kitchen, leaf and yard waste) out of landfills. Turning this biomass into compost, instead of dumping into landfills to produce greenhouse gas methane, makes it into a valuable product. Chickens combined with composting give a low- to no-cost strategy in solid waste management systems. Environmental chickens can save thousands, even millions of precious taxpayer dollars.

I'd add ducks, geese, turkeys and guineafowl to that list. These turkeys work in the tobacco fields at Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Virginia, picking worms and other insects from the plants. "I have seen a hen jump five feet straight into the air to pluck a worm off the top of a tobacco plant," JD Engle, facilities manager there told me.

Geese have long been used to 'grass' cotton fields, because they are such discriminating eaters that they will pluck only the grassy weeds, not the cotton plants. Jeannette Ferguson has written an entire book on Gardening With Guineas, They are especially known for their tick removal, controlling this noxious and disease-carrying pest.

The local foods movement is, uh, mushrooming and chickens are its mascot. People have an inalienable right to feed themselves, including keeping a family flock of chickens. The urban homestead and urban agriculture are coming back in vogue as America rebuilds itself into a can-do, self-sufficient nation that feeds itself nutritional, wholesome food produced locally and sustainably.

Local folks are encouraged to come join the group. Find out how to raise a small flock of chickens and produce good-for-you-food from your backyard. They offer support and assistance to other groups wanting to get started with the “Chicken Have-More Plan.” Receive meeting and announcements through Meetup group

"We eggstaticly” and “eggcitedly" meet the second Tuesday of each month at 7pm in the Extension Conference room on the second floor on at the at Rockbridge County Administrative Building located at 150 South Main Street, Lexington, Virginia, 24450. For more information call or email Pat Foreman, 540-261-8775,, or Jessica Hastings, 4-H Program Associate, (540) 463-4734,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Providing Food to Pheasants

Feeding ringneck pheasants in the wild can have negative consequences, according to Pheasant Forever, It's not a long-term solution to winter survival. The core range of wild pheasants, from the Dakotas and Minnesota to Iowa and Illinois, is frozen under Arctic air and heavy snow. Concerned hunters and conservationists are willing to provide food to get the birds through the winter, but the experts at Pheasants Forever advise against it.

Their advice is: Habitat is the Effective Long-Term Solution.

For pheasants to survive the winter, they need winter cover that will protect them from the cold, what PF calls "quality thermal habitat." Although birds that don't have adequate cover available this winter may die, offering them food doesn't help "More than anything, feeding is reactionary to the winter, when the best thing we can do is be proactive about improving quality habitat," said Rick Young, Pheasants Forever's Vice President of Field Operations, in a press release. "Unfortunately, many well-intentioned people who provide corn and other grains as food sources actually harm pheasants more than they help them."

Feeders attract predators, making the birds easy prey for foxes, hawks and owls, that are also struggling.

While this may be no consolation this winter, consider that resources spent on establishing high quality winter cover will yield far greater results and the best winter survival rates down the road. The lesson to be learned from a tough winter is the need to plant more high quality thermal cover this spring.

PF says it's more likely that a pheasant will freeze to death than starve. Feeders may draw the pheasants out of their protective winter cover and compete for food. The exertion and exposure puts them at greater risk of freezing.

If you are worried about pheasants in your area, contact Pheasants Forever Field Staff through the website, They can also answer questions about habitat and help you plan to improve habitat when the weather warms up.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail, and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness, and education. "The Habitat Organization" has over 125,000 members in 750 local chapters across the continent.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Royal Palm turkeys

Frank Reese notified me of a Royal Palm Turkey situation. It's a rpoblem with the Standard that came to light when a Royal Palm Turkey, Ike, shown here, was awarded Grand Champion at the Ohio National show this year,

When Frank looked at the bird and compared it to the Standard, he found that the Standard requires a black band in the greater coverts of both toms and hens, a "double rainbow" of black on the tail. Ike, the winning bird, does not have such a second black band, the lack of which is specified as a disqualification. However, Frank does not know of any Royal Palm turkeys that have the second black band. He talked to other turkey people and none of their birds have a second band, either.

Researching the SPPA collection of antique books and magazines, I didn't find any photos from the 1920s and later, to document that second band, or the lack thereof. Most of the collection pre-dates the 1930s, though. The accepted date for development of the Royal Palm is 1938, in Florida.

Sam Brush of the APA has been notified and expects that the standard may be modified to reflect this change. If you have any documentation of Royal Palm turkeys, please let us know. Ideally, that would be photographs of actual birds from that time period. All input is welcome.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Urban Chickens, English Style

This delightful video shows how a family in East London is keeping chickens happily in their yard,

The three include a Leghorn, a Polish and an undetermined dark-feathered variety. Perhaps a Cuckoo Marans, since her owner says she lays dark brown eggs. The Leghorn, bless her, continues to lay through the winter. This Leghorn and her eggs are from Purity Feed in British Columbia,

Although the owner's plan is to eventually kill and eat them when their laying declines, I couldn't help but note that although they are already past that, he hasn't gotten around to it yet. This is a dilemma for backyard chicken keepers. If you are committed to efficiency and economy, then feeding chickens who lay few eggs doesn't fit that plan. However, people and chickens being what they are, people generally become emotionally attached to their birds when they keep only a few. So dispatching them and eating them becomes unacceptable.

Some small farmers who keep chickens as egg producers have resolved the issue by giving more weight to the value of the eggs produced during those productive years, balancing the future less-productive years. They commit to the chickens for their lives and keep them on regardless of how many eggs they produce.