Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Which came first, the feather or the bird?

National Geographic featured The History of Feathers in its February 2011 issue. Other related material is included, such as blog entries about recently discovered evidence of feathers on dinosaurs. This model speculates on what Deinonychus might hve looked like with feathers.
A NatGeo television program, Dinomorphosis, explores the this nw evidence further. It reports that the chicken shares more DNA with T. rex than any other surviving animal. New research techniques make it possible to speculate even about feather color. They've created models, giving us more material to imagine the dawn of animals on Earth.
Like many kids, I was fascinated by dinosaurs and wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up. I didn't find that path, but as it turns out, poultry isn't far removed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chickens will be Chickens!

Tina Tyzzer of Indianapolis, Indiana sends this story of one of her chickens:

Girty earned her name…short for Dirty Girl. She’s been living on my backporch for a few weeks, because she didn’t feel well. It’s always a good thing to separate sick ones so it doesn’t spread to the rest of the flock. I’m not sure how familiar you are with chickens, but they LOVE to take a dust or dirt bath…and it’s good for them. It seems contradictory, but it’s how they keep their feathers clean.
Well, I didn’t THINK there was any place to take a dirt bath on the back porch, but she proved me wrong last Friday. And yes, that is my seeding table that she is on and yes, it was organized by seed type and clean before Girty got up there, and yes that tray had been filled with greens seedlings before Girty ate them and then got in for her dirt bath!!
That’s Lucky Tom outside the window wishing he were on the warm back porch too.
And just so my Saturday wasn’t too dull, Riley (my little wry neck hen) decided to have a tantrum. I couldn’t calm her down, her poor little head was bobbing and she was turning in circles. When she gets stressed like that, the only thing I can do is put her in my lap and stroke her feathers. Surprisingly, she calms right down and even starts to snuggle. This time was different though and every time I tried to put her down she would start up again.
So, there we sat until she started making this unusual noise. Riley doesn’t make any normal chicken noises, so I didn’t think much about it until I felt warmth on my lap. Nope, she didn’t poo on me, but laid a big beautiful brown egg. I can now add “Chicken Midwife” to my resume, right next to “Turkey Herder” and “Mother Hen” !
I hope this message with its view of dirt and seed starting makes you think “SPRING”, despite the snow in the window!

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Chicken in Their Hearts

This great chicken story reflects how chickens become part of our lives, as individuals as well as in our communities. Thanks to the New York Times for giving it an audience beyond Bed-Stuy!
The chicken involved, Gertrude, is a Rhode Island Red like this one. They are very popular, the most common hen kept commercially for brown eggs. They are often kept as backyard chickens and their owners adore them.
Welcome back, Gertrude!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dorking rooster and Beltsville White Turkey

My beautiful Colored Dorking rooster has proven too loud for my neighbors. I've been directed by the county to find him a new home by February 10.

He was hatched in June, making him technically a cockerel. Photos are posted on the Starting from Hatch page of this blog.

As I've been looking for a home for my Dorking rooster, I connected with Romaine Swanson-Rose in Paso Robles, who has a Beltsville White Turkey tom that needs a good home, $60. He's a show bird and a pet. Call her at if you are interested, 434-9722 home phone, cell 459-1942.

Popular Poultry Breeds by David Scrivener

Popular Poultry Breeds
David Scrivener (Author)ISBN13: 9781847971036
Price: $55.00
224 pages, Cloth, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2, 268 Color Photos
Pub Date: July 2009

David Scrivener has performed a significant service to the poultry world by setting down his knowledge in these books. Popular Poultry Breeds, companion to Rare Poultry Breeds, catalogs the history and breed information for the breeds each of us is most likely to encounter.

Rather than organize them by Standard classification, he simply lists breeds alphabetically. This makes the information easily accessible. You don’t need to know how a breed is classified in order to locate its section.

Although he writes specifically for the British Standard, he includes helpful information for Americans. Alternative names, such as Cornish in America for the breed known as Indian Game in the U.K., are provided. He adds names as appropriate for other countries, such as Hollandse Kriel, the Dutch name for our Dutch Bantams.

My heart is with him in his devotion to providing historical context for each breed. Teasing out the confusions of history is challenging. Cochins, for example, got their name from a location that contributed a different breed to England and the United States. Scrivener sorts that out neatly. He traces the significant characteristics of each breed across time and place, such as the Barnevelders’ dark brown eggs and the importance of that locale to the Dutch poultry industry. By citing sources and references, he provides those who follow him, like myself, with the information needed for our own research.

Because of his interest in breed history, he provides historic as well as contemporary illustrations. For historic breeds, a picture is worth a thousand words. The graphic documentation he gives us in this book is invaluable. His judge’s eye gives us conformation for each breed as well as feather color and markings and other points significant for exhibition and breeding to the Standard.

Although the Standard is the first essential work for every breeders’ shelf, Popular Poultry breeds adds valuable depth to the nuts-and-bolts of the Standard description.

His years of poultry breeding give him crucial insight into special management needs that some breeds have. He advises that Cornish (Indian Games to him) “need exercise and grass to keep fit and fertile…” Early feeding builds muscle and bone, but then should be restricted to keep them from getting fat and reducing fertility. He suggests breeding “Taller, less extreme, cockerels” to “winning short-legged, wide-bodied hens for best results.”

It’s the kind of detail that turns on the light of insight for experienced breeders as well as guiding novice efforts. Don’t let the price deter you from acquiring this important book for your own library.

Publisher's product description: Popular Poultry Breeds examines 40 popular breeds of chickens and bantams. Most breeds exist in several plumage color varieties, and in large and bantam [miniature] size versions, all of which are also included in this comprehensive book.
David Scrivener is a Panel A poultry judge and is Chairman of the Rare Poultry Society.