Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Icelandic chickens have found a home!

When I decided to hatch some eggs this year, I turned to a friend who raises Dorkings. He has several breeds, and has recently become enchanted with the Icelandics he acquired. The hens are such faithful layers, their personalities so interesting and sweet. He sent me a dozen Icelandic eggs along with the Dorkings.

As fate and chicken hatches go, two Icelandice roosters hatched in June. They have grown into beautiful birds, but I’m not situated to keep them. Before I have them dispatched and converted into broilers, perhaps someone would like to take them and start an Icelandic flock. They are both lovely birds in excellent health and the prime of life. See more pictures on the Starting from Hatch page on this blog.

In an article in Backyard Poultry magazine (April/May 2009), Laurie Ball-Gisch quotes a booklet from the Farmers Association of Iceland, Icelandic Livestock Breeds (Reykavik, 2004) about the origins and history of Icelandic chickens:

“Historical evidence indicates that poultry was amongst the landraces brought to Iceland by the settlers of Iceland. However, it seems likely that this native population came close to extinction, probably in the late 18th century. Such poultry was, and is still, kept in small flocks, know for great colour variation. They seem to be of ancient origin, most likely related to the Old Norwegian Jadar poultry breed. Special efforts were made by the Agricultural Research Institute in 1974 to conserve the remaining native population.”

SPPA member Lyle Behl in Illinois took an interest and was able to bring three dozen hatching eggs into the U.S. in 2003. Eleven chicks hatched – seven hens and four roosters – and his flock was begun. He has provided eggs to other breeders and thus they made their way to me.

Considering how rare these birds are, I wanted to find them a good home. Grover Duffield in Kansas has a flock of about 75 hens and pullets and only three roosters. With Kansas' cold winters, they will fit in well.

Thanks all who contacted me about them. We'll work together to get you the birds you want.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I'll talk with Andy Schneider, the Chicken Whisperer, on his radio program this morning, Every fourth Tuesday we talk about different historic breeds. Today we will talk about Cochins.

The Reliable Poultry Journal, published during the early years of the 20th century, published a separate book on The Asiatics: Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans. It was smong the collection donqated to SPPA. “Their origin is veiled in mystery, but from data gathered by numerous early fanciers, the period of their first appearance is fixed,” it says. A.F. Hunter, associate editor of Reliable Poultry Journal, recounts the history of the importation of various fowls from China, including those given to Queen Victoria in 1843. He refers to Wright’s “New Book of Poultry,” in which Wright refutes the idea that those birds are the antecedents of modern Cochins, although they were from the Cochin area of China. Those birds, as shown in the 1843 illustration, are tall and rangy, showing a Malay influence, he felt.

Modern Cochins developed from Shanghai birds imported to England in 1847, according to Wright. Although poultry writers continued to use the name Shanghai, “The public had got to know the new, big fowls as Cochins, and would use no other word, and so the name stuck, in the teeth of the facts, and holds the field to this day.”Hunter remembers Yellow Shanghais, Gray Chittigongs and Malays from 60 years previous, which would have made it around 1860, that were “so tall that, while standing on the floor beside it, they could eat corn off the top of a barrel that was standing on end.” Birds descended from those are reported to have reached 17 or 18 pounds in weight. They no longer reach that size, but Asiatic breeds are all meat breeds. Langshans, at 9 ½ lbs smaller than the 12-lb. Brahma roosters and 11-lb. Cochins, are considered a dual purpose breed with good egg production. The American Poultry Association recognizes Buff, Partridge, White, Black, Silver-laced, Golden-laced, Blue, Brown and Barred varieties of the Cochin. Many unrecognized colors are also raised, including Red, Silver Laced, Mottled and Splash. Seventeen color varieties of bantam Cochins are recognized by the American Bantam Association, including Black Tailed Red, Birchen, Golden Laced, Columbian and Lemon Blue. Their popularity is second only to the English Game bantam.

Franklane Sewell, noted poultry expert and artist, wrote in 1912 that although style had influenced development of birds with very short legs, the ideal is “one that will preserve all the vitality of the ancient Asiatic and prove, as they have with some fanciers who study their proper management, to be productive and pro­fitable as well as exceed­ingly showy.
He made this illustration of ideal Cochins in 1895.

Cochins International Club,, publishes three newsletters annually and updates its Breeders Directory every two years. Contact Jamie Matts, Secretary/Treasurer, 283 State Highway 235, Harpursville, NY 13787, (607) 725-7390,

Many SPPA members raise Cochins. Check the Breeders Directory or contact me for contact information.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ocellated Turkeys

This rare indigenous turkey of the Yucatan Peninsula is related to our wild turkeys, which became domesticated turkeys. They are hunted by the local natives, but this researcher hopes to save them and develop them as a sport hunting population that will support the local economy in a more sustainable way.

The current issue of Backyard Poultry magazine has an article I wrote about them. It's not posted online, so check your local bookseller for a copy if you aren't a subscriber.

Hear an interview with Jon McRoberts about ocellated turkeys today, October 25th, from 1-2 pm EST. You can live stream it at Shortly after the broadcast, you'll be able to download it at iTunes,, or

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cornucopia Institute fights fake organic egg farms

from The Cornucopia Institute,

Organic Egg Business Being Hijacked by Corporate Agribusinesses - Help Reverse this Scandal!

Industrial-scale egg producers are gaming the system with their livestock management shortcuts and are placing family-scale organic farmers at a competitive disadvantage. Some pasture-based organic farmers have already been driven out of the organic egg business.

The organic community has an opportunity to reverse this scandal and support authentic organic agriculture. The USDA's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will be debating the meaning of outdoor access and stocking densities for organic poultry and other livestock at the upcoming meeting in Madison, Wis., October 25-28.

Imagine 80,000 laying hens in a single building, crowded in confinement conditions, on "farms" with hundreds of thousands or a million birds. Is that organic?

These farms meet the ‘outdoor access’ requirement by offering a tiny enclosed concrete porch, accessible by only 3%-5% of the tens of thousands of birds inside a henhouse.

Show your support for meaningful outdoor access requirements by:

Appearing in person at the NOSB meeting in Madison and giving a five-minute oral testimony in support of strong animal welfare standards in organics.

Or, if you can't attend the meeting yourself, write a letter or sign and return a proxy letter ,, which we will hand-deliver to the USDA at the meeting in Madison.

The USDA is hearing from the well-funded and organized industry lobbyists.
We must ensure that they also hear from the organic community!

Please contact The Cornucopia Institute if you are interested in appearing in person for a five-minute oral presentation at the NOSB meeting in Madison, Wis. We will send you a briefing package with detailed instructions for how to sign up to speak, directions to the meeting, and other important information.

Please email us at (preferred), or call 608-625-2042 if you plan on attending the NOSB meeting.

The Cornucopia Institute P.O. Box 126 Cornucopia, WI 54827 608-625-2042

Poultry Show

The chickens I hatched in June went to their first poultry show this weekend, Central Coast Feather Fanciers 25th Annual Show. They didn't win anything, but I felt like a stage mother showing them off. They all did well. They were calm and well behaved.

Blondie, the White Dorking, has captured our hearts. Here my husband is holding her.

APA leader Dave Anderson told me he judged a large class of Dorkings at the Edmonton show. Lots of Chanteclers there, too. These breeds are finding their champions!

I'll look forward to seeing him again at the Bash at the Beach show in Ventura.

The sale area had some very interesting birds. A pair of Gray Junglefowl, two Marans roosters and a hen. The two roosters joined forces to guard that sweet hen! If you are looking for birds, find a poultry show and see what you can find. It's a great way to connect with other breeders.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Know where your eggs come from

The Coruncopia Institute has rated egg producers and posted the results online at Check out your brand of eggs.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Charity auction sells poultry

On September 24, the art auction house Sotheby’s in New York auctioned off heirloom vegetables and associated items for charity, The auction included heirloom poultry: a pair of Blue Slate Turkeys, such as this one of Mike Walters', and a pair of Dewlap Toulouse Geese, a trio of Barred Plymouth Rocks and a trio of Aylesbury Ducks. The 10 birds were sold as a group, bidding up to $4,300.

P. Allen Smith’s Heritage Poultry Conservancy,, donated the birds to the auction. The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm which teaches city school children about farming and cooking, was one of the beneficiaries. The farm is run by Great Performances, Sotheby’s in-house caterer. A new program, the New Farmers Development Project at GrowNYC, which works with immigrant farmers, shared the proceeds. More than $100,000 was raised.

Other items auctioned off were dinners, Greenmarket tours and visits to a beekeeper. Guests paid $1,000 a plate for dinner: a splendid tomato first course from Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen; caramelized Hubbard squash, by Jeff Gimmel of Swoon Kitchenbar, that was able to mimic a sea scallop; and a vegetable lasagna, the vegetarian choice from Great Performances, that outshone Andaz Fifth Avenue’s Roberto Alicia’s roasted pork shoulder with kale, the other main course option.

Guests were also asked to donate $20 a bag for vegetables, bringing the total raised by the event to over $250,000. Not small potatoes!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Exhibition Poultry magazine

Exhibition Poultry magazine is a new online publication, It's free!

It focuses on breeding and showing in the Southern states: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

It lists shows and show results, as well as articles relating to exhibition poultry. The first issue has an interview with P. Allen Smith and the first of what will be a continuing series, Ask the Judge, a profile of a poultry judge. This month it's Steven Jones.

Thanks for this new publication, which fills an important niche for poultry fanciers. I started posting a list of shows on my site to create a central place to locate show information. It's good to have this new resource.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Temple Grandin interview

Sara R. Wyant, Editor of Agri-Pulse, writes:

Fresh off an award-winning movie about her amazing life story, famed animal behaviorist Dr. Temple Grandin joins us on Open Mic to talk about animal welfare conditions in U.S. agriculture. Recently named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time Magazine, Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, says she wants to reform livestock and poultry handling and behavior practices on farms and ranches and in processing plants. She provides examples of industry players who are doing what she describes as the “right things” by animals and puts a percentage on the numbers that are not. The author of over 400 published articles within the field of animal sciences weighs in on The Humane Society of the United States' undercover investigations and makes a clear distinction between animal welfare and animal rights. The interview runs about 13 minutes and can be found at>

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Madison's Children's Museum

The new Madison Children's Museum, which opened this summer, includes a rooftop garden and six chickens, Photos of the kids meeting chickens are posted on Flickr at

Thanks, Madison, for completing the circle on sustainable food raising.