Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New pullets!

Two new pullets joined my flock yesterday! A Speckled Sussex and a Partridge Rock, four months old, hatched in February. They are adorable, like leggy young teenagers. We introduced them to our current two girls, the White Dorking we hatched last June and the Buttercup we acquired from friend Barbara Bullock, last night before sunset.

We placed them in a cage inside the chicken house, where they could spend the evening and the early morning getting acquainted. We planned to separate them with a fence for a few more days, but these girls short-circuited that. They promptly flew to the top of the fence and over into the run with the grown-ups.

It's going well thus far. I put plenty of scratch along the run. The run gives them plenty of space to escape, when they need to. For now, everyone is settled down to scratching and packing.

I was excited to have the opportunity to acquire this Speckled Sussex from Larry Stallings, APA judge and local president of the Central Coast Feather Fanciers. She's a beauty -- I'll post pictures soon. This illustration was originally a free gift with Feathered World magazine back in 1912. It's reproduced in David Scrivener's Popular Poultry Breeds. From top left to right, it shows Brown, Light Speckled and Red varieties.

The illustration of Speckled Sussex was also included with your 1929 Feathered World magazine. The Sussex was developed from English flocks in that county in the late 19th century, recognized in the early 20th century as a distinct breed with four varieties.

Welcome to my flock!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

National Geographic targets heritage breeds

Food Ark

"A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them."

The article opens with a two-page spread of heritage chicken breeds, including this Silver Gray Dorking rooster, and includes them as important to food security. I like to think my work helped influence featuring chickens prominently.

"People eat more eggs and poultry than ever, but the world’s reliance on a few high-yielding breeds is edging out hundreds of others: Nearly a third of chicken breeds are at risk of extinction. That’s alarming because many varieties have traits, like heat or pathogen resistance, that could be invaluable in the future."

The article also notes that the legacy knowledge of breeders is vital to conserving heritage breeds.

"Still, storing seeds in banks to bail us out of future calamities is only a halfway measure. Equally worthy of saving is the hard-earned wisdom of the world's farmers, generations of whom crafted the seeds and breeds we now so covet. Perhaps the most precious and endangered resource is the knowledge stored in farmers' minds."

The article takes a broad view of the subject and covers important points, such as the claim that only high-yield hybrid crops can feed the world. The opposite is true: those crops are depleting the soil and pointing the world toward food shortages. Thanks to National Geographic for taking on this important issue.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hawk Attack!

LeeAnn Dunnington of Indiana took an amazing photo of her rooster, Kernal, defending his flock from a hawk flying down to attack. It's published on page 53 of the current, June/July issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.

LeeAnn writes amusingly about Kernal's flock management, apparently modeled on Foghorn Leghorn. Roosters can be buffoons, but their courage and solicitous care for their flock can't be doubted. They set another high standard of courtly behavior for us!

Thanks, LeeAnn, for sharing your story and photos with us.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bantam News! 2011 Yearbook and Legbands

Karen Unrath, ABA secretary, writes:

We have extended the ABA Yearbook Ad Deadline of June 20th, 2011 . I have included the information you will need to use if you want to be part of this book. You can also visit our website at www.bantamclub.com and submit an ad that way. Any questions, please email Karen Unrath at fancybantams@embarqmail.com. A big Thank You goes to all who support this year's book. We anticipate this year's book to be a winner! With your support - we can guarantee a quality product to enjoy for many years!

[This photo is Rusty Hart's lovely Pyncheon bantam cockerel.]

We do have some Premium Pages still available at $200 ea. These are located in the top positions of the book and are in FULL COLOR. They are offered on a first come, first serve basis. If you have an interest in any of these spots, please let me know via return email and we can work it out.

On another note, the 2011 Legbands are still available and can also be ordered on our website . They are .35 ea plus a $5 shipping and handling fee. The particulars were part of the newsletter which you should have recently received. Here is an article submitted by Russell Crevoiserat which may help those who use these for large fowl and waterfowl. Thanks again and enjoy!!

ABA Leg Bands on Large Fowl & Waterfowl

By Russell Crevoiserat, NH

The ABA has been receiving requests about sizing the seamless ABA leg band for use on large poultry. While some may ponder how a bantam size leg band would fit a large fowl, the answer lies in the fact that several years ago, the ABA began selling 18 and 20 millimeter bands for well-feathered feather leg bantams. As some breeders have discovered, these leg bands work just as well on some large fowl.

The ABA provides leg bands sized in millimeters as follows: 10, 11, 13, 15, 18 and 20. It would appear the 13, 15, 18 and 20 millimeters sizes will be most applicable to large fowl poultry. Unfortunately, due to variations in shank sizes within a class (such as American), a breed (such Plymouth Rocks), varieties (such as comparing White Rocks with Partridge Rocks) and even between certain strains within a variety, there is no one size fits all solution for your particular birds. However, knowing the shank size of your birds is the key to determining the correct band size for your birds.

Using a ruler or tape measure, determine the diameter of the shank on a male and female which have the largest shank. There may be variations in your flock and you will want to be certain to find the largest diameter for each sex. Next, you will need to convert the standard measurement to millimeters. Conversions are available on the Internet using Google or any other search engine, but a rough guide is provided below:

Standard Measurement ABA Millimeter Size

0.5 inch 13 mm

0.6 inch 15 mm

0.7 inch 18 mm

0.8 inch 20 mm

If your size is not listed here, please send an e-mail to the ABA and report the millimeter size for your breeds, varieties and the sexes that you have measured. Although leg bands larger than 20 mm may not be available for the 2011 season, the ABA can certainly order bands larger than 20 millimeter for the 2012 season if there is an interest.

The ABA leg bands are made of plastic and color-keyed for a specific year. The band data includes the letters ABA, year, millimeter size and a serial number. Leg band data for each buyer is registered with the ABA office. Waterfowl breeders have reported that the color and data do not fade with wet environments nor do they become brittle with age.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Egg labels mislead consumers

John Barna of the Gloucester County Times reports on egg labels:

CAMDEN – If you think that you’re using humanely produced eggs for your omelets or deviled eggs, think again. Egg companies recognize that most Americans care about the welfare of farmed animals and many market their eggs with labels claiming the hens were treated well. But a Rutgers–Camden law professor warns that many of the animal welfare claims on egg cartons aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be.

Sheila Rodriguez, a clinical associate professor at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, asserts that food consumers have a right to know how farm animals are raised and, for that reason, egg producers’ claims about animal welfare should be regulated by the federal government.

In a forthcoming edition of the Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law, the Rutgers–Camden professor argues that egg consumers have a right to know that “[m]ost hens are packed eight or nine hens to a cage . . . [The cages are] so small that [hens] are unable to stretch a wing. The overcrowding causes them to fight, so their beaks are cut off to prevent them from injuring other birds. The fewer than 5% of eggs in the U.S. that are not produced under these conditions are from hens that were not even allowed outside,” says Rodriguez.

In her article, “The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels,” Rodriguez contends that consumers need to understand that “‘cage-free’ hens are a subset of factory-farmed production. Even small farms that do not raise hens under industrial production standards purchase their birds from factory-farm hatcheries.”

Animal welfare claims on egg labels should be regulated to ensure accuracy. The Rutgers–Camden professor notes that “many of the production method claims made by egg producers cannot be accurately verified. Industry standards are factory farmed standards. Federally-verified claims made under the National Organic Program, though comprehensive, are problematic because of lax enforcement.”

Consumers also may be misled by such marketing claims as “natural,” “no antibiotics used,” and “no hormones administered,” which, Rodriguez explains, have no relevance to animal welfare. And while the terms “free-range” and “free-roaming” frequently appear on egg cartons, these are claims that apply to poultry, or birds raised for their meat, not to birds raised for their eggs.

Until clear and enforceable guidelines are established, Rodriguez argues, conscientious consumers should avoid purchasing most eggs.

Thanks, John for giving attention and space in your newspaper to Professor Rodriguez' research. Every family that keeps their own hens is one less customer for that system.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beautiful chicken art prints

Rick Bennett of North Carolina generously sent these beautiful prints of water colors he has done of his chickens.

He has captured the serious glint in Lizzie's broody eye in Lizzie Goes Broody.

Lucky is a handsome rooster who has been an inspiration to Rick.

The industriousness of hens at work, Waiting for Worms, shows how interested the girls can be in gardening.

The Bad Attitude Towards Authority -- is this Lucky, Rick, or is it you?

Rick works and exhibits at the Carter Building -- Glenwood South in Raleigh.

"What attracts me to watercolor is less science and is maore like alchemy. There are surprises, mishaps, and sudden beauty. Vibrant and transparent color layers over color to create subtle shifts or stark contrasts. Sometimes I scrape out shapes with my pocket knife or push pigment with an old driver's license." Rick teaches Watercolor at Pullen Arts Center and is a member of the Board of Directors of Visual Art Exchange.

His art has exhibited at the Charlotte Mint Museum, Fayetteville Museum, Raleigh Fine Art Society Annual Exhibition, Visual Art Exchange, Flanders Art Gallery, won Best in Show for Technique at The 2008 Raleigh Street Paintung Festival and a featured artist in 2010.