Monday, April 30, 2007

Presenting the Turkey

Speaking of turkeys, Sabine Eiche's delightful book, "Presenting the Turkey: The Fabulous Story of a Flambouant and Flavourful Bird" is a must-have for anyone with an interest in turkeys. She is an art historian,, so she follows their progress around the globe through the artwork they inspired.

Turkeys are the only domesticated fowl indigenous to North America, a huge contribution to the human table. They were originally domesticated in Mexico, but wild birds were common when Europeans arrived. Columbus took some back to Europe on his first return trip.

They were greeted there with wonder, as a kind of peacock. They adapted well to living conditions, often being kept as exotic birds in the private zoos of wealthy noblemen. Soon they were being kept in flocks and prepared for the table for festive occasions.

Ms. Eiche's book reproduces artworks that would be impossible to find elsewhere, along with the history that places them in context. It's an exceptional book, filled with wonders that are unavailable anywhere else.

I'm honored to offer her book through this site, and it is also available through Antique Collectors Club,, which offers an extensive list of books relating to antiques and decorative arts.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Senora, Black Spanish Midget Turkey

Tom T. Walker of Texas sent this picture of his wonderful Spanish Black Turkey hen, Senora. She weighs only nine pounds but reigns supreme in his flock.

Senora came to Dr. Walker's farm as a full-grown bird in 1999, so although he isn't sure of exactly how old she is, she is a senior bird. She has always been an excellent mother and enjoys setting, hatching and raising poults.

"She owns the world," he said for a 2003 article. "Nobody questions her authority."

He originally acquired her from another breeder for his Regal Red breeding program. Her glossy black feathers and bright red legs suited her to that breed.

The birds were having difficulty mating because the toms, at 35 pounds, were more than twice the size of the hens, at about 16 pounds. She soon hatched out poults that grew into small toms with their mother's assertiveness.

This year she didn't lay any eggs, but that didn't discourage her. She found an egg and started to set on it, so Dr. Walker provided her with a full nest, where she happily sets in this picture.

Thanks, Tom.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Heritage Breeds Cross Stitch

This cross stitch of ten heritage breeds was for sale in the gift shop at Plimouth Plantation,, in Massachusetts.

The chicken breeds are Dark Brahma, Light Brahma and Dominique. American Bronze Turkeys are included.

Kerry and Milking Devon Cattle, Mammoth Jackstock, Merino and Leicester Longwool Sheep and a Gloucestershire Old Spots hog complete this farmyard of needlework livestock. They are designed for The Posy Collection by Barbara Bangser and Ceil Humphreys.

I look forward to stitching all of them!

Any additional heritage livestock needlework out there is welcome. I love needlework.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dominqiue Cross Stitch

I got this Dominique cross-stitch kit a while ago and it has been a delight, both to stitch and as a gift. I don’t remember where I got it, but I am sure someone reading this can supply some information on it.


Dominique is the other breed featured at Oliver H. Kelley Farm Museum in Elk River, Minnesota. Often fondly called Dominickers, they were common in barnyards in Colonial America and continued providing eggs and meat through the 20th century. Historically, they would have been known to Mr. Kelley and his family in the 1850s.

This photo of a Dominique hen and her chicks comes from Bryan K. Oliver of the Dominque Club of America. It is one of his favorites.

They were used in developing the Barred Plymouth Rock. A Dominique rooster was crossed either with Black Cochin or Black Java hens. The Dominique line that led to the Barred Rock was a single comb variety. Dominiques today are recognized only with rose combs.

Both breeds were in the American Poultry Association’s original American Standard of Excellence, published in 1874. They are soemtimes called America's Oldest Breed

Dominiques nearly disappeared by the 1950s, but dedicated advocates of this beautiful and hardy breed persevered and flocks are gradually increasing. More breeders are welcome.

The Dominique Club of America,, champions this breed. Whether you are ready to start breeding a flock or not, joining DCA will support continued progress.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rare Breeds Day

Garfield Farm Museum in La Fox, Illinois,, is having its 21st Annual Rare Breeds Livestock & Poultry Show and Sale on Sunday May 20 from 11am - 4pm. This is always a wonderful event that will make this a special weekend for your family.

Garfield Farm undertook to build a flock of Javas, a historically accurate breed for its 1840s site. With the help of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, it has been able to hatch enough eggs that the breed is recovering from nearly disappearing. The museum used the eggs in its Genetics exhibit.

Most Javas are black, but in the course of hatching all those eggs in the Genetics exhibit, a white strain emerged. Later, auburn chicks began to hatch out, a color not seen in more than 100 years. It's a color that is historically significant, because it was important in the development of the Rhode Island Red, still a very popular breed.

Visitors can also see heritage breed turkeys, oxen, horses and sheep at the farm. Besides my own book, I'll have the other books available through this site on display. Join us for an unusual and special event.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Historic Breeds are Living History

We are spending a few days in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul. A living history farm north of the urban center features two historic chicken breeds, Dominiques and Silver Gray Dorkings.

Oliver H. Kelley Farm in Elk River, Minnesota,, is open for general visitors May through October. During the other months, schools are welcome to plan field trips and private groups can hold conferences and meetings there. The farm, operated by the state Historic Society, also holds frequent events, listed on its calendar.

The Dominiques and Silver Gray Dorkings were chosen as historically accurate breeds with the assistance of Glenn Drowns of Sand Hill Preservation Center in Calamus, Iowa, Mr. Drowns served as secretary/treasurer of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities for many years.

The oldest variety of Dorkings is the Red. This shy but pretty Red Dorking hen lives at Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts, My husband took this picture when we visited the site last September.

The Silver Dorking variety was developed in America in the 19th century, making them an excellent choice for this farm, which was operated by Mr. Kelley and his family members at various times from 1850 to 1885.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dorking Book

Dorkings are a beautiful and ancient breed, the old Five-Toed Fowl on Britain. Jan Irving of Australia compiled new interviews and historic documentation into a book published in 2005. It is available from Cafe Press through her site at, $30.

The illustrations alone make it worth the price. It's difficult to find good pictures of these birds and she includes drawings from the mid-19th century and the early 20th century as well as photos of contemporary birds.

SPPA has some distinguished Dorking breeders among its members, including SPPA president Craig Russell, who is interviewed in Ms. Irving's book. Former Dorking Club president and poultry judge Phil Bartz was featured in a West Central Illinois Public Television program, "Illinois Lives," broadcast in January 2007. I joined him as a representative of SPPA on the program.

His explanations of several rare breeds are excellent. He holds each one up and shows you exactly what he is talking about. As a judge and breeder of many years standing, he knows every feather and characteristic.

The video is available from WSEC at for $24.95.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Commercial Hybrid Chickens

There are a lot of commercial hybrid chickens out there that make good small flock production birds. That is, they are not exhibition birds that you will want to show. However, the hybrid vigor, heterosis, they get from the cross-breeding is an advantage.

Silver Crosses are a commercial hybrid, usually made from crossing a male with the Columbian pattern, often a Columbian Rock on a white hen. The offspring have more or less Columbian pattern feathering, but with hybrid vigor. That makes them grow faster bigger. A recent publication of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign profiles a farmer who is using Barred Silver Crosses in his project to integrate pastured poultry with vegetable growing to restore soil health,

This photo of a Light Brahma shows the Columbian feather pattern. It is called Light among Asiatic breeds but is identical to the Columbian pattern among American breeds. The photo was taken by Corallina Breuer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chicken housing solutions

Chickens are easy to keep, but they don’t live in the house with you like a dog or cat. Housing them doesn’t have to be complex or difficult, though.

The crucial aspects are security, access to food and water and cleanliness. Chickens are prey animals and word will soon spread through the raccoon, opossum and coyote community that you are keeping chickens in your yard. They can be amazingly strong and persistent in their attempts to break into your coop.

Chickens love fresh green and insects, so access to the yard is good for them. A portable coop that can be moved around the yard, letting them peck and scratch in new territory without destroying the yard, is a way to meet their needs and fertilize the grass. Make it easy for the keeper, whether you or your children, to gain access to the food and water. Chickens can get sick from rotten grain and may refuse to drink dirty water.

Moving the pen around the yard can mean the difference between fertilizing the grass and creating a smelly nuisance. If you don’t want a movable pen, make it easy to clean. This chore doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Many chicken keepers enjoy the quiet time they spend with their birds. Have a plan for the manure that meets local regulations. Composting it makes great fertilizer.

The Eglu,, offers a complete one-step solution. You can even buy it complete with chickens, supplied by McMurray Hatchery,, an established rare breed hatchery and member of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities.

This month’s issue of Mother Earth News has plans for a portable backyard mini-coop you can build yourself, has a section of chicken coop plans. If none of these work for you, contact me and we’ll find a plan that meets your needs.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Surplus Chickens

Spring is here, and some chickens that wintered over need new homes.

Monte Bowen, SPPA vice president, has some good large fowl Buff Plymouth Rocks and Buff Wyandottes he would like to place in someone else's flock. He writes in the Spring issue of the SPPA Bulletin: "I have kept far too many over the winter, as I had hoped that some of the local 4-H youth could get them...All are good large birds, very good type and wonderful brood stock."

This picture is from

Monte's email is He doesn't much like to ship birds, so you may need to make other arrangements to get the birds. He's in Kansas but often travels to shows and delivers birds that way. More complicated arrangements have been made to deliver birds before, with one driver taking a bird part of the way, handing him off to another driver for the next leg, and so on until the bird arrived at the final destination.

If you aren't yet a member of SPPA, you are missing out on terrific news like Monte's birds (and the rest of his column, Ramblings from the Prairie) in the quarterly Bulletin. Don't miss another issue.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Marans Cookbook

The North American Marans Club put together a cookbook a couple of years ago. Recipes came from members, friends and other supporters -- including myself and other SPPA members. Cari Shafer of Mississippi was the moving force behind it.

In addition to wonderful recipes, the book has photos of these majestic birds and their dark, chocolate browsn eggs. This is the only book I've seen featuring this breed.

When the club disbanded last year, Cari donated the unsold cookbooks to SPPA. I have some left and am happy to send you one for a $10 donation to SPPA.

Contact me by email,, and I will get one in the mail to you right away.