Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Book of Eggs

Mark E. Hauber is an ornithologist rather than a poultry person. His Book of Eggs is comprehensive, covering what must be every bird in the world.
He begins with a general discussion of the basics of eggs and egg laying. It's an excellent brief summary of the important points. I expect to refer to it in the future. He's clear and concise.

Each species gets a page, with a brief description of the bird and its habits, a map showing its range, a small drawing of the adult bird and a large photo of its egg, a clutch and an actual size photo. The collection is massive. Each page holds another fascinating bird.

The birds are organized by scientific classification. It's truly a reference work, brought to life with beautiful illustrations and photos.

Mark Hauber is professor in the Animal Behavior and Conservation Program at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has produced a scientific reference that will be useful to those of us who enjoy wild birds as well as domestic ones.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Poultry art

Jersey Giants, A.O. Schilling 1948
Back in the 1920s, the Poultry Tribune’s publisher decided to commission oil paintings of important poultry breeds. He selected the three best poultry artists and honored the paintings with gold frames. Today, those 72 paintings, produced between 1928 and 1952, are carefully preserved by the now global publishing company. They include 57 of chickens, two of geese, five of turkeys, six of ducks and two of chicks and ducklings. They’re seldom seen, though.
Bourbon Red Turkeys, L.A. Stahmer
Only four are on display, at Watt Global Media’s corporate headquarters in Rockford, Illinois: Rhode Island Reds and Lamonas, both painted by A. O. Schilling in 1941; Old English Games by Schilling in 1946; and S.C. Black Leghorns, by F. L. Sewell in 1946. The rest, some painted by L.A. Stahmer, are carefully packed away. They are safe and secure and locked up.

The complete collection has never been on display, although 18 were exhibited in 2011 at the Rockford Art Museum. Watt associate editor Andrea Gantz arranged that exhibit through connections she had made when she worked at the museum while she was in college. Her major in English and writing and her interest in chickens served her well as a copywriter for Farm & Fleet for four years before joining Watt in 2010. Current CEO Greg Watt, great-grandson of founder J.W. Watt, approached her to organize the exhibit, Hatching History.

“I chose the prettiest ones,” she said. “I picked my favorite breeds.” She chose:

Old English Game
A.O. Schilling (1946)

S.C. Brown Leghorn
F.L. Sewell (1947)

Buff Laced Polish
A.O. Schilling (1928)

White Leghorn
A.O. Schilling (1942)

Barred Plymouth Rock
A.O. Schilling (1930)

New Hampshire Barred Rock Cross
A.O. Schilling (1942)

Buff Orpington
A.O. Schilling (1931)

A.O. Schilling (1941)

Golden Sebright
L. Stahmer  (1929)

Light Sussex
L. Stahmer  (1931)

Silver Campine
L. Stahmer  (1930)

Golden Laced Wyandotte
L. Stahmer  (1929)

Golden Spangled Hamberg
L. Stahmer  (1926)

White Jersey Giant
L. Stahmer  (1931)

R.C. Rhode Island Red
L. Stahmer  (1928)

White Holland
A.O. Schilling (1950)

Dark Cornish
F.L. Sewell (1945)

S.C. Ancona
A.O. Schilling (1947)

The museum promoted the exhibit with a “Guess the Breed” contest, posting individual paintings with clues to invite people to guess. Backyard Poultry readers will easily know which breed is the official state bird of the 13th state! Exhibiting works by all three artists together allows the viewer to appreciate the differences among the artists as well as the beauty of the birds.

From a printing company to global media

The company got its start when 18-year-old J.W. Watt, a Scot from the Orkney Islands, came to America to seek his fortune. He arrived in Chicago in 1907 and learned the print trade. As he became more expert, he went to work for the Kable Brothers, becoming foreman of the composing room in their Mount Morris, Illinois printing plant, south of Chicago. The Poultry Tribune was printed at Kable Printing, which was how J.W. learned that it was struggling to survive. Convinced he could make a success of it, J.W. and a partner bought it. They hired editors who knew about poultry to handle the content and sales people who knew how to reach their audience.

The magazine prospered, even through the Great Depression of the 1930s, selling mainly on newsstands. It reached 100,000 in circulation, dominating the poultry sector. Watt’s employees became experts in the poultry business. The company operated its own research farm until the mid-1940s. Executives were required to work on the farm.

“They had to sex chicks and do all kinds of work,” said Greg. “They got their hands dirty.”

During those years, J.W. commissioned these oil paintings. He converted the paintings to breed pictures and used one each month in the pages of Poultry Tribune, the Chicken of Tomorrow.

“They were like pinups,” said Charles Olentine, former publisher for Watt Global Media’s poultry publications from 1987-2004. “J.W. had a commitment to the poultry industry.”

During the first half of the 20th century, poultry production was a small flock enterprise, with many breeds popular with farmers and consumers. Many poultry magazines competed for their interest. The Poultry Item, American Poultry Advocate, Commercial Poultry, were all filled with advertisements for breeding stock of a myriad of breeds.

“Back then, business meant going out to the farm level,” said Olentine.

As the poultry industry changed, Watt Global Media moved beyond the Poultry Tribune. Its publications now focus on business-to-business interests: Poultry USA, Poultry International, Egg Industry Technology, Watt Executive Guide to World Poultry, and Spanish and Chinese editions. The poultry and the publishing worlds have changed since J.W. learned the printing business.

“We have outlasted virtually all the publishers who have tried to make a go of it in the poultry industry,” said James Watt, grandson of J.W. and retired company executive. “We do have a worldwide footprint.”

2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the company, still owned by the Watt family members. Few family businesses succeed into the fourth generation. The artworks will be part of commemorating that achievement. CEO Greg Watt is putting plans together.

“We will have a big celebration,” he said. “We have a very rich history.”

The paintings reflect the history of both the poultry breeds and the art. Jim and Greg Watt are determined to keep the collection together, despite occasional offers to purchase one or more of the paintings. A few have been shown at poultry shows, such as the Ohio National in 1998. The portrait of the Single Comb Blue Andalusian will grace the cover of the Poultry Science Association’s Journal of Applied Poultry Research in 2014. For these paintings to be available to the public to enjoy, they need a museum or gallery to be on permanent display.

“They are all wrapped up in paper in an office at Watt,” said Ms. Gantz. “It’s a shame to keep them tucked away.”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Chickens bridge the generations

This story reminded me of Pat Foreman's therapy chickens in Virginia:

It's actually better, because it makes the point that younger people don't know about chickens and it becomes a subject they can share with the older people. A way for the elders to pass on their wisdom. Thanks, Teri, fo4r writing this story.
By Teri L. Hansen
Staff Writer
reporting for the McPherson, Kansas Sentinel
Posted Jun. 27, 2014 @ 9:42 am

Long-term care facilities are making strides in providing fun and innovative activities for the residents they cater to.
One such facility is Pine Village Continuing Care Retirement Community. Culture change is a nationwide movement to make long-term care facilities more like a home rather than a hospital, said Becki Yoder, the Pine Village director of wellness, aquatics and volunteerism. In the spirit of this movement, Yoder created what she calls the Backyard Chicken Project. The project is aimed at making Pine Village residents feel more at home.
Yoder lives on a farm with a multitude of animals and appreciates the rewards they provide.
“Historically, just a chicken has provided so much for a family, the eggs, meat and companionship,” Yoder said. “I wanted to bring some of those benefits to our residents.”
But before she could get her newfangled idea off the ground, she had to do a little convincing. With a little prodding, the Pine Village administrator, Jim Huxman, fell prey to Yoder’s enthusiasm and allowed her to begin the project.
The next step was to get fertilized eggs. The Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch, Lindsborg, donated 24 eggs to the cause. These eggs were incubated for 21 days, starting March 19, in the Walter Wellness and Goering Activity Center. The center is a multi-purpose addition to the Pine Village facility. Within the wellness center, the eggs matured while residents monitored their progress via an in-house blog. The chicks began to hatch around Easter.
Six baby chicks were then placed in a brooder, a heated enclosure for infant fowl. The brooder also was at the wellness center. The chicks were cared for in the brooder for five weeks, at which point they were moved into their more permanent home, a chicken tractor in the Pine Village courtyard. A tractor is a bottomless pen built to allow the birds to scratch and eat off of the ground.
The residents of Pine Village have enjoyed raising the chickens, and, for many, the experience has brought back memories of their lives on farms.
The residents do “chicken chores,” as they are called, at about 6:15 a.m., and the more independent residents complete the chores on the weekends. The chores involve giving feed and water to the chickens and moving the tractor every day to a fresh patch of grass.
While this has been an activity that allows residents to think of times gone by, it has also been a learning experience for the younger generations who staff the facility.
Many of the staff have not experienced life on a farm the way their patients have. This project has allowed them to not only get a taste of that lifestyle, but also connect with the residents on a new level.
“These chickens have been so educational for the younger staff here,” Yoder said. “They are getting to see how much the chickens have to offer.”
There are five chickens housed at the facility, two Barred Rock roosters and three Cornish rock females. The residents and staff are now waking up to the cock-a-doodle-doo of the roosters, and by August, the chickens should be producing eggs. Yoder said Pine Village likely will use the eggs the chickens yield in its cooking class.
This has been a beneficial project in so many ways, she said.
“Culture change isn’t just about changing one thing,” Yoder said. “It’s about changing everything, our vocabulary, the physical aspects of the facility and how we operate. This project has been fun for everybody involved, and I’m happy that it affected so many people in so many ways.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Jeannette Beranger, research and technical programs manager for The Livestock Conservancy in North Carolina, has started a project to help restore the Crevecoeur. It's an old French crested breed that has lost ground in modern life.

As Jeannette started looking for flocks, she found nearly all had white ear lobes, an unacceptable trait that indicates that Polish stock has been introduced into the breeding.  Crevecoeurs should have large, well-developed crests that do not interfere with their sight.

The crested Polish improves that distinctive crest, but reduces size in this large breed. Roosters should be eight pounds, compared to the Polish six pounds. Lewis Wright, in his 1890 Illustrated Poultry Book, notes that Crevecoeurs are bulkier than two other old French breeds, the Houdan and the La Fleche: “Indeed, we have often thought that it must have had a cross with the Cochin, which is to some extent borne out by its enormous appetite.” 

Jeannette located one flock in Missouri from which to start hatching eggs. The flock owner shipped 38 eggs to her -- but only one hatched. This little pullet is growing up on a farm with guinea keets for sisters.
 Here she is, the only one growing a crest.
Here she is as of last week, an attractive young pullet.

The Crevecoeur has a crest and a V comb, although earlier in history they also had leaf combs. Leaf combs result from crossing V or horn combs with single combs. Currently recognized only in black plumage, white and blue were raised in the past.  

All three crested French breeds are now the same in weight standard for large fowl: 8 lbs. for cocks and 6 ½ lbs. for hens. Among bantams, Houdans are slightly larger, at 34 ounces for cocks and 30 ounces for hens, compared to 30 ounces for La Fleche cocks and 26 ounces for hens, and 30 ounces for Crevecoeur cocks and 27 ounces for hens.

I'll keep in touch with Jeannette as to her progress with raising this fine old breed. Two devoted admirers have stepped up to volunteer to raise this breed. An impressive bird like this deserves a large following.