Thursday, August 25, 2011

Win at Crossroads!

The Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities will award the winner of Best Rare Breed at Crossroads Poultry Show in Indianapolis a copy of the 1905 Standard of Perfection. Cash awards will also be given to winners in all categories.

"SPPA is delighted to share our fascinating poultry heritage with other poultry lovers," said Mary Ann Harley, SPPA vice president. "I look forward to seeing many wonderful birds at Crossroads. Which one will win this prize? Our judges will have the wonderful experience of seeing them all."

SPPA maintains a collection of antique poultry books and magazines, managed by historian Christine Heinrichs in California. In August, she provided research from the collection to members inquiring about Crevecoeurs, Jersey Blues and Rhode Island Whites. The collection got its start from a generous donation by Louis Meyi of New Orleans. Other donors have contributed additional books and magazines. The 1905 Standard is a duplicate copy from the collection.

The volume measures six inches by eight inches and has a dark green cover embossed in gold. A Polish rooster is impressed on the cover, although it's not visible in this image. It is illustrated with original drawings by noted poultry artist Franklane Sewell. The American Poultry Association still relies on Sewell’s drawings, and Robert Frost mentioned him in his poem about his favorite hen, “A Blue Ribbon at Amesbury.”

Cornish were called Cornish Indians in 1905, judged in the Oriental Games and Bantams class. There were only six American breeds, four Mediterranean, three English. The Continental Class had not yet been consolidated, so Polish, Dutch and French had their own classes.

Stop by SPPA’s table at Crossroads to see the book on display.

Enter your birds for a chance to win this unique book. To be eligible, join SPPA by sending $15 to Dr. Charles Everett, 1057 Nick Watts Rd., Lugoff, SC 29078, (803) 960-2114 or join online at before October 1. Participate by adding your financial donation to the prize. Prizes will be awarded for Champion and Reserve Champion Rare Breed Large Fowl, American Class; Champion Rare Breed Duck; Champion Rare Breed Turkey; Champion and Reserve Champion RCCL Bantam; Champion and Reserve Champion SCCL Bantam. Donate $80 to contribute $10 to each award. Donations are tax-deductible.
Be part of history. Help conserve historic breeds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Avian Influenza

The World Health Organization reports that a six-year-old girl has died from Avian Influenza in Cambodia. While this is tragic, it's worth remembering that the Highly Pathogenic form, H5N1, does not exist on North America or South America. Although the virus that causes Avian Influenza can theoretically be carried by migratory waterfowl, years of sampling in Alaska have discovered no infected birds. None. Not one.

Even the US Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center emphasizes that there are no cases and no evidence that wild birds can transmit HPAI to people or to backyard chickens:

"Researchers have no evidence that the Asian strains of HPAI H5N1 are present in wild birds or poultry in the North American continent. "

Backyard flocks present no documented hazard to anyone. Don't let anyone tell you different.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oriental Games

I’ll be discussing Horst Schmudde’s excellent book on Oriental Gamefowl with The Chicken Whisperer on Tuesday, August 23. Check out my blog posts from February 13, 2009 and November 19, 2009 for information about the book and this group of chickens. This beautiful painting is from Lewis Wright's 1890 Illustrated Book of Poultry.

In the process of writing an article about Egyptian Fayoumis with Kermit Blackwood this month, I learned more about the history of Games in India. The Asil in India fought as a proxy for the gods in religious ceremonies as well as for sport. Asils came overland from India with traders to Canaan, present-day Israel. There, the Canaanites, the Hebrew people of the Levant, bred it selectively into an egg-layer, the first egg production breed. Chicken and eggs play a prominent role in Jewish cookery. These historic Hebrews were probably the first people to mix eggs into flour to make bread and noodles. Chickens and their contributions to the diet were one of the cultural additions incorporated into Roman life after the Romans conquered the Middle East.

That Game background influenced not only the Fayoumi, but spread into Mediterranean breeds such as the Leghorn and Minorca and the Lakenvelder. Ultimately, through the Fayoumi, it influenced Silver Campines and Friesans, which have plumage similar to Fayoumis.

Tune in to The Chicken Whisperer Tuesday for the discussion.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Raising drug-resistant diseases in industrial flocks

Results of a new study show that poultry raised on farms that have shifted to organic practices have significantly lower levels of antibiotic- and multi-drug resistant enterococci bacteria.

Results of a new study show that poultry raised on farms that have shifted to organic practices have significantly lower levels of antibiotic- and multi-drug resistant enterococci bacteria.

Use of antibiotics in conventional animal food production has been linked to the rise in strains of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to one or multiple antibiotics. The results suggest that removing antibiotic use from large-scale poultry farms in the US “can result in immediate and significant reductions in antibiotic resistance for some bacteria,” according to “Lower Prevalance of Antibiotic-resistant Enterococci on U.S. Conventional Poultry Farms that Transitioned to Organic Practices,” published in the August 10 online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

We initially hypothesized that we would see some differences in on-farm levels of antibiotic-resistant enterococci when poultry farms transitioned to organic practices. But we were surprised to see that the differences were so significant across several different classes of antibiotics even in the very first flock that was produced after the transition to organic standards, explained Dr. Amy R. Sapkota, the study’s lead researcher, an assistant professor with the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. “It is very encouraging.

The scientists found that 67% of Enterococcus faecalis obtained from poultry from conventional poultry farms were resistant to the antibiotic erythromycin, while only 18% of the bacteria from newly organic poultry farms were resistant to it. Significant differences were also found in levels of multi-drug resistant bacteria – organisms resistant to three or more antimicrobial classes, according to the report.

Well, duh. If you stop the practices that are known to cause antibiotic resistance and interrupt that cycle, fewer dangerously resistant germs develop. It's gratifying to see this supported by research, but it's obvious. Pressure from the industry requires that plain facts be demonstrated repeatedly, then ignored.

Recently in California a court overturned the plastic bag industry's demand that plastic bags couldn't be banned without requiring the community to produce an environmental impact report. No report required for use of plastic bags, though.

Enough grumpiness! Every person who keeps a few chickens is one less customer for the egg industry and will see the meat industry differently.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Poultry quilt auction

The Poultry Science Association Annual Meeting, Saturday July 16 through Tuesday, July 19, will include a silent auction to benefit the PSA Foundation during the Awards Reception. Be sure to bring your poultry "stuff" to the meeting to raise funds for the Foundation in a fun way. Austin and Susan Cantor, University of Kentucky, are again generously donating a handcrafted quilt to the PSA Foundation. The quilt features covers from nine volumes of The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, shown here. Last year, a total of $1,300 was raised through raffle ticket sales during the week of the Annual Meeting.

For the past few years, Susan Cantor (with a little help from husband Austin) has created a quilt with a poultry theme for the Poultry Science Association raffle at the annual meeting. This year the theme will be developed using men's ties with poultry motifs.

She is looking for men's ties she can cut up and use for the quilt.

If you have poultry-related ties please send them to Austin Cantor at:

Austin H. Cantor, Ph.D., P.A.S.

Associate Professor

Department of Animal & Food Sciences

606 W. P. Garrigus Bldg.

University of Kentucky

Lexington, KY 40546-0215

Telephone: 859-257-7531

FAX: 859-323-1027


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

National Heirloom Exposition

The National Heirloom Exposition will be held September 13, 14, and 15, 2011 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California. It will include a Garden Art Show, a Giant Pumpkin Contest, Produce Exhibits, and a Poultry and Livestock Show. Poultry will be judged by APA judge Walt Leonard. The prize for Best of Show will be $500; for Reserve Champion $200!

Entries are free.

Contact Paul Wallace, The Petaluma Seed Bank (707) 509-5171,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pullets starting to lay!

Our large White Dorking hen started up a loud egg announcement this morning, so I went out to see what she was cackling about. She doesn't usually bother with so much fuss. No egg in her usual egg box, but my eye was drawn to the corner of the coop beneath it: two lovely light brown eggs!

Perhaps she was claiming credit for them, or perhaps she simply wanted to get attention to these unnoticed eggs. Whatever it was, I was excited to find that the new pullets -- at least one of them -- are laying. They are both the same lovely light tan, so perhaps they are both from Lady Fanny, the Light Sussex. I expect the Partridge Rock will lay darker eggs, but time will tell.

Eggs always feel like a sweet gift. Thanks, girls.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Humane treatment

A study from the University of Kansas and University of Michigan supports the idea that consumers will pay more for information on humane animal treatment. It's a cautionary report from sources entrenched in supporting the food animal industry.

"When initially asked, 61.7% and 62.0% of survey respondents indicated they would be in favor of mandatory labeling of pork produced on farms using gestation crates/stalls and of eggs produced using laying hen cages, respectively. A series of subsequent survey questions were asked and models estimated to evaluate demand for mandatory labeling. The typical U.S. resident was estimated to be willing to pay about 20% higher prices for pork and egg products in exchange for mandatory labeling information conveying the use (or lack thereof) of gestation crates/stalls or laying hen cages. This estimate is prone to what economists call hypothetical bias suggesting it may overstate actual demand and hence should probably be considered an upper-bound . Several factors were identified to influence the willingness to pay of survey respondents. Females and younger consumers stated higher demand. The perceived accuracy of animal welfare information provided by livestock industries relative to consumer groups was also identified as an important demand determinant."

I liked that women and younger people were more concerned than men and older people. The market of the future will demand better treatment for their animals.

The August 2011 issue of National Geographic features Homes for Hens, photographed by Ed Thompson in England.

"Does a coddled hen catch your eye? It is a curious sight. But it also represents a serious issue. Year-and-a-half-old hens in British battery farms—known as factory farms in the U.S.—are deemed expendable, despite having several years to live and many eggs to give. These images show how folks are opening their hearts and homes to these refugee birds."

These people are not only willing to spend more for humane treatment, they are willing to step up and provide better treatment for hens who have been in that industrial system to make their lives better. I hope the members of the American Egg Board read National Geographic!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Graduate degree in Backyard Flocks

Darrin M. Karcher, PhD, Poultry Extension Specialist is looking for an undergraduate who may be looking for an M.S. "I am trying to identify an individual who would work on a Masters revolving around programming for backyard flocks. Any leads would be greatly appreciated. I would look to fill this position ASAP," he writes.

Anyone out there interested? Or know some bright young person who'd like to be in the forefront of this great movement?

Contact Darrin at:
Dept. of Animal Science, Michigan State University
1287 Anthony Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824-1225

Phone: 517-775-0485
Skype: DMKarcher

F: 517-353-1699