Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Following up Chicken Whisperer

I enjoyed talking with Andy Schneider this morning on his Chicken Whisperer radio program about Self Blue Silkies, which have been recognized by the APA and ABA. I've written an article about them, and other breeders that are working on adding the color variety to their breeds, for the June issue of Exhibition Poultry magazine.

The subject came up while I was researching the story about the Black Copper Marans, both a new breed and a new color variety, which were recognized by the APA this past spring. That article was published in the May issue. The current issue of the magazine is free online, so don't miss an issue.

I mentioned Kelly Klober's new book about heirloom chickens, Talking Chicken, published by Acres USA. Kelly has years of experience with traditional breed poultry and we should all be grateful that he has put his knowledge into a book. Now we can all benefit from his wisdom. I'll write a detailed review in the near future. For those who were listening this morning, here's information so that you can find this valuable resource.

It's like sitting on the porch with Kelly and having him answer your questions. It should be right next to my books on every poultry lover's bookshelf!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Egg factory farm fined

A federal jury ruled this week that ammonia and other smells arising from a manure pond at a French Camp egg farm constituted a nuisance under California law and ordered the operator of Olivera Egg Ranch to pay $544,000 in damages to neighbors. This photo of the manure pond is from Recordnet.com. The 'farm' can house up to 700,000 hens, currently is at around 600,000 hens.

The judge in the case earlier tossed out charges brought by the Humane Society of the United States that the farm violated federal laws governing releases of hazardous materials, in this case ammonia.

It left both sides declaring victory.

The San Jose Mercury-News reported:

While the animal welfare advocates fought the case on federal air pollution violations, it was part of their larger mission to focus attention on a plethora of problems they say are created by factory farming.

"There is a link between massive, intensive confinement of hundreds of thousands of animals and the type of pollution and nuisance presented in this case," said Jonathan Lovvorn, the Humane Society's senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation. "The reality is that these facilities are bad for the animals, bad for the environment and bad for the community."

As far as recent changes, Lovvorn said that none have resulted yet in changes that have improved the lives of his clients.

"There's only so much you can do with a facility of that size," he said.

Amen to that! Every backyard chicken owner who keeps a few hens for eggs is one less customer for that industrial system. Each one of us undermines the false economy that justifies keeping chickens in concentrated conditions that pollute the landscape and condemn birds to miserable lives.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Ryan Zierke contacted me to ask about McGraws, a breed I'd never heard of. He explained:

The breed was known as Silver Spangled Araucana before they became known as McGraws. I have 25 chicks of this breed from Kevin McGraw of Anderson, Alabama, but am interested in finding breeders in addition to the few on the BYC forum. Here is a link to a thread about McGraws, post numbers 12, 17, 18 have some great information http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=6440034 .

I'm curious to see how these birds grow out. Anyone with more information about McGraws, please let me and Ryan know!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Java Breeders

Ruth Caron of the Java Breeders of America reports that a Java Meet was held at the Uniontown Poultry Show. Java Breeders of America Area 2 director Liesa Stiller organized the meet. Ruth has posted photos at www.javabreedersofamerica.com. Krista Martin's Mottled pullet, shown here, was the only mottled variety shown.

"I am quite sure that the founder of this Yahoo group and all its members, all previous Java Clubs and members of The Java Breeders of America are very pleased with our
progress," she writes. "Showing Javas to the Standard of Perfection and getting opinions from an APA Judge are a sure way to preserve this heritage breed and ensure its health beauty
and well being."

I look forward to a report from Derek Freund, who attended the Garfield Farm Rare Breeds show, on what was on display there. Garfield Farm has been a leader in preserving Javas.

The next Java Meet will be in club Area 4, at the LaGrange Fairgrounds in Texas in September. Three breeders have already entered ten birds. Contact the Java Breeders of America if you want to participate in that meet or arrange one in your area.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rodale's Pastured Poultry Workshop

Originally published in 2005, this three-part series details one couple's stumble into pastured poultry production and the lessons they learned. We've pulled the series out of the archives and dusted it off in preparation for the workshop, Eggs from your Backyard, May 14, with the author Jean Nick. Sign up now!

I'd differ with her on the advice about choosing a breed -- to me, traditional breeds have it all over modern hybrids. She gives a fair shake to the comparison, but I'm inclined to support the traditional breed farmers rather than the industrial system that creates hybrids.

"Much as we love our Buff Orpington girls they are not as efficient nor as easy to manage as modern laying hens. From now on we will probably run mostly the brown and black sexlink hybrids (brown egg layers), which have proven to do well in a pasture system," she writes.

That's undoubtedly true. However, those hybrids aren't sustainable in the sense that they can reproduce themselves and replenish the flock. Their parent flocks are kept isolated in industrial conditions to produce the chicks. It's a piece of that unpalatable industrial system. I hope her students choose traditional breeds instead.