Saturday, July 27, 2013

Spangled Barnevelders

Daniel Maennle of Germany is looking for Spangled Barnevelders. "Does this color still exist in the USA?" he asks. He refers to William Powell-Owen's 1932 book, The Barnevelder, in which the double-laced variety is differentiated from the partridge.

This illustration is of the double-laced partridge variety that has become dominant and is recognized by the American Poultry Association. The illustration comes from the 1954 book, Zucht und Rassekundlicher Bilder Atlas des Geflugels.

The APA Standard comments, "At first, the birds were of mixed markings, some being double laced, others single laced, while the majority followed the stippled partridge pattern."

Lacing means a contrasting border around the entire web of the feather. Stippling is contrasting dots of color on the ground color of the feather. Spangling is a distinct contrasting color V at the extremity of the feather. Spangling is always black on silver or gold or white against a black bar on bay or brown. Mottling is white-tipped feathers, in varying amounts. The Standard makes the point that mottling differs from spangling  in that "markings are always white and found only on a variable percentage of the feathers, whereas in spangling the markings may be either black or white and are located on the tip of each feather.

Typical spangled breeds are Hamburgs, as illustrated by this painting of Mr. Henry Belden's pair of Silver Spangled Hamburgs from Dr. J. Batty's Lewis Wright's Poultry (1983). 

Daniel is looking for those with spangled markings. Please respond in the comments if you have any or know of any. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This Old Chicken Coop

This Old House takes on chicken coops:
"The surge in backyard chicken-keeping shows no signs of slowing down. Big personalities and the promise of fresh eggs make chickens attractive family pets, even in urban areas. To safeguard a flock of your own, make sure their housing is up to snuff. To start, you'll need a 4-by-8 foot screened-in run and a 4-by-4 foot critter-proof coop for up to three hens—although the more room, the better. Ready-made chicken housing is easy to find, but it's a lot more fun to make your own. Here's what experts recommend to keep your feathered friends in fine fettle."

This picture is of Mimi Kahn's in Southern California, Mimi's Garden Design. She took her kids play structure and remodeled it into a chicken coop.

This Old House magazine has lots of great photos and advice here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Medium Geese

This is an excerpt from the second part of a three-part series on geese published in Backyard Poultry magazine but not posted online. The five American Poultry Association recognized breeds, range from 13 to 17 pounds in weight. Many unrecognized breeds are raised by devotees of these birds, so deeply entwined in our history and hearts.

All geese are related to the wild geese that still migrate across the globe. Knobbed Chinese and African Geese are descended from the wild Asian Swan Goose. American Buff, Pomeranian, Sebastopol, Embden and Toulouse are descended from European Graylag Goose. All show some influence of the wild Bean Goose. Among medium geese, Pilgrim Geese are a modern composite developed from traditional Gray Geese and the old West of England Geese. The traditional American Gray Goose, a larger domesticated version of the Western Graylag, has never been formally recognized but was the dominant breed raised in America since Colonial days.

Many unrecognized goose breeds are attractive and useful. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has identified 96 breeds or genetic groups of geese worldwide.

Lyn Irvine says, in her 1961 book, Field with Geese, “No other creature so rapidly turns grass into flesh – the commonest weed into the most coveted food.” They can be turned out in fields after harvest to glean and clean. They are vegetarians and may look with disdain, as only a dignified goose can, on the relish with which ducks devour insects and snails. 

Medium geese are the most popular being kept today, according to waterfowl breeder and judge James Konecny, president of the International Waterfowl Breeders Association.

“The vigor is up, they are easier to manage, there are more sources to purchase them and the availability of day-olds makes them popular farm birds,” he said.

Medium geese grow and mature faster than heavy breeds. In one full year, goslings can hatch in the spring and grow to experience a complete breeding cycle by the following spring.

“You don’t need to be as patient as you need to be with heavy geese,” he said. “You can get there and see what you’ve got in the first year.”

Geese are sociable and usually enjoy going to shows. Judges enjoy them and they often do well, going to Champion Row. The best success is with geese kept on the farm for their whole lives, though. The stress of changing environmental conditions, the dangers of hot weather and exposure to disease increase the risks even for the hardiest birds.  

Goose Breeds

Recognized traditional medium goose breeds are Sebastopol, Pilgrim, American Buff, Pomeranian and Steinbacher. The Steinbacher is the most recent addition to the Standard of Perfection, being recognized in 2011. John Metzer of Metzer Farms in California finds geese very variable in personality. No single bred stands out as most calm and personable in his experience, because individuals vary so much from calm to aggressive.

“There’s no one breed that is always the best,” he said.

Sebastopol geese look as if someone curled their feathers. Their soft, flowing ruffles give them the appearance of fantastic dream birds. Their feathers are as much as four times as long as normal feathers, with flexible shafts that spiral, draping down to the ground. Traditionally white, their fanciers are experimenting with breeding them in buff, blue, gray, and saddleback color varieties. Konecny calls them “the Silkies of the goose world.” Dave Kozakiewicz keeps these beautiful birds in Michigan.

Despite their decorative appearance, they are an ancient utility breed, hardy and respectable egg layers of 25-35 eggs a year. The breed is associated with Eastern Europe, around the Danube River and the Black Sea.

Sebastopols’ unusual appearance attracts owners who are inclined to keep them as ornamental birds and as companion birds. Keep docile Sebastopols away from aggressive birds. They enjoy bathing those lovely feathers in clean water. They aren’t good flyers, with those long, soft feathers. Their loose feathers make them appreciate protection when it’s especially cold, wet and windy.

Those long feathers may interfere with successful breeding. Feathers around the vent can be clipped to improve nature’s chances.

Their popularity sometimes pressures breeders to misrepresent less desirable birds. Unscrupulous exhibitors may pull straight feathers, an exhibition defect, from their birds.

American Buff Geese have the colorful plumage that reflects their name. Their light feathers make them easy to dress out without dark pinfeathers. They were developed from the traditional Gray farm goose and buff geese from Germany. They are the largest of the medium geese, topping out at 18 pounds. A double paunch is required for showing.Kathy Hopkins attractive goose Harry shows those points.

The buff feathers are not as strong as white or gray feathers, prone to sunlight oxidation, according to English breeder Chris Ashton. “The buff feathers lose their sheen and fade badly,” she writes “They become brittle, lose their Velcro-like adhesion and become less weather-proof.”

Pomeranian Geese are a historic German breed, associated with the Pomorze region of eastern Germany between the rivers Oder and Vistula. Although only Gray Saddleback and Buff Saddleback varieties are recognized, they are also raised in Gray, White and Buff varieties. In Germany, the Buff Pomeranian is known as Cellar Goose.

True Pomeranians are distinguished by their pink bills and pink legs and feet, as seen on Terence Spencer's flock. They have a single lobe. Orange bills and feet or a double lobe disqualify a bird as a Pomeranian.

Steinbacher geese are a German breed of fighting goose. They have a long, graceful neck and a short head and bill, giving them what waterfowl breeder Lou Horton calls “a powerful appearance.” Its distinctive orange bill is edged with black ‘lipstick’ markings. They have no keel or dewlap. In the U.S., only the blue variety is currently raised and recognized, although gray, buff, and cream varieties are raised in Europe. Blue and gray colors breed true. Despite their reputation as fighting geese, only the males fight each other, and then only during the breeding season to establish the flock hierarchy. They are mild-mannered with people but protective of their nests.

Berndt and Mari Anne Krebs in Michigan have been leaders in bringing Steinbachers to the U.S. and getting them recognized by the APA. This hardy breed thrives on a lean diet of grass on pasture. They cannot tolerate a rich diet and can die from overfeeding.

Autosexing geese

Females and males of most breeds are so similar to each other that it’s difficult to tell them apart. More than one breeder has been disappointed in breeding pens, only to find out that the birds in them were of only one sex. Autosexing breeds solve that: the sexes have different plumage. Ganders are white and hens are solid color or saddlebacked. Saddleback means that the shoulders, back and flanks are colored, in contrast to the white body. Autosexing dates back 1,000 years or more in England and France, longer in Scandinavia. These breeds probably originated in Scandinavia and are indigenous to areas where Vikings set their anchors.

Pilgrim Geese were developed in the 1930s by Oscar Grow. They are a modern composite of American Gray and the autosexing Old English or West of England geese. Pilgrims have orange bills and legs, which distinguishes them from the Old English. They are the only autosexing breed recognized by the APA for exhibition. These are from Metzer Farms in California.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Chickens Legal

Changing the laws in places that currently prohibit backyard chickens often comes up. Backyard Poultry magazine has a good article on the practical politics of getting the votes to change the laws.

KT LaBadie researched local ordinances for a paper at the University of New Mexico. It's available on the Internet. She looked at 25 cities and found each one handled the issue in a slightly different way from the others.  This attractive flock of mostly Faverolles lives in California.
She concludes: "Many cities and towns are now looking at how they can be more sustainable, and allowing urban chickens is one step towards that goal of increased sustainability. Not only can backyard chickens provide residents with fresh and important food source, but they also bring about an increased awareness of our relationship to the food cycle. By forming a just and well thought out pro-chicken ordinance, cities can allow citizens the right to keep chickens while also addressing the concerns of other stakeholder groups. With that said, city councils should approach the issue of urban chicken keeping with a 'how'  rather than a 'yes' or 'no,' as a growing list of pro-chicken cities across the nation shows that it can be done successfully."

This is a helpful resource for moving communities into serving their residents, both those who want to keep chickens and those who have their doubts.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

APA 2013 Yearbook

The American Poultry Association's 2013 Yearbook gets better every year. The officers are committed to making it a useful document of poultry information,a s well as a history of the preceding year. As the keepers of the poultry flame for exhibition, they are the guiding light for standard breeds.

The volume contains all the official documents and history: The Constitution and By-Laws, lists of members, profiles of the poultry luminaries honored Hundreds of advertisers has stepped up. The ads alone are a fascinating resources for birds and supplies of every kind. Modern publishing techniques allow color printing, which adds a lot to the beauty and clarity of the printed page. It's a reminder that advertising can be a significant source of information.

Dave Anderson was the leading force in putting the volume together. He invited me to contribute an article, which is about the APA's Heritage Breeds Committee. The committee is working toward accreditation for inspectors to certify flocks with regard to meeting the Standard. With the increase interest in local foods, this could help consumers choose Standard breeds for the table. That kind of economic value will bring Standard breeds back to integrated farms and make Standard bred poultry a meaningful part of the market.

Thanks, Dave and all the APA officers for providing this exceptional resource for poultry owners.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Off topic: When I Found You book review

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde, published by Amazon Publishing

Ideally, the birth of a baby is a joyous event. Family members gather round to welcome the new addition to the group, support the young mother and renew family ties. Sometimes that’s what happens. In When I Found You, circumstances are far different. As other people find themselves involved with the lives this new baby touches, life unfolds in ways that are unexpected. Each finds ways to muddle through, some with more grace than others. For myself, it was a reminder that as John Lennon said, Life is What Happens When We Are Busy Making Other Plans.

The story jumps to life when Nathan McCann goes hunting one October morning in 1960 and his dog finds a baby instead. The crisis of being the one who saves this infant affects him profoundly. Although his concern isn’t welcomed initially, as the baby grows into a troubled adolescent, he becomes the family of last resort.

Willing to step into this life he didn’t seek but whose responsibility he accepts, he and the young man, who bears his name in recognition of their first day encounter, enter into a relationship. The fractured circumstances that led his mother to abandon him, and consign herself to a tragic death from infection after the lonely birth as she sat silent and uncomplaining in jail, plague his life. He grows up angry and resentful, unable to understand his family situation or rise above its limitations.

Nathan McCann’s patience and dedication to this unexpected family are beyond honorable. This whirlwind of energy and anger crashes into his life, a startling change from the chilly marriage that ended with his wife’s death some years before. Soon, Nat Bates crosses the legal line and is sent to juvenile detention, where the relationship develops as Nathan McCann makes regular, reliable visits over the years. When Nat Bates is released, he has a home to come to, with what passes for a relationship with an adult in his life.

Their lives play out, as Nat Bates finds inspiration in boxing and the two negotiate a path to his future. His childish judgment fails him when he volunteers for an unregulated fight. Without the rules he resists in his life, battling without protective gear, he’s permanently brain-injured.  Nathan McCann continues to find ways to care for his ward, until eventually their roles are reversed. Nat Bates returns the love he has received by caring for Nathan McCann during his final illness.

This is a wonderful tale of flawed people doing the best they can in the circumstances in which life leads them. The message that most impressed me was a story told by Nathan McCann to his second wife, who eventually leaves him over issues related to his relationship with Nat Bates.

“’My grandfather had two brothers,’ Nathan said… ‘My two great-uncles. Christopher and Daniel. They got along very well when they were younger. But then they tried to go into business together. And it didn’t go well. So they ended up feuding. And this was very hard for my grandfather, because he liked to have the whole family over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everybody thought it would be the hardest thing in the world to decide. But he had no trouble with it at all. He said, Christopher can come to Thanksgiving. Daniel will have to stay home. Just like that. Everyone was shocked. But I think I might have been the only one to ask why. He said it was because Christopher was willing to share the day with Daniel, but Daniel wasn’t willing to share the day with Christopher.’”

That’s the over-riding principle: Being willing to share goodwill with others. Finding a way to create enough goodwill and extend it to others, leaving aside whether they are deserving or not.  We all find ourselves in those positions, sometimes being blessed to extend love and sometimes being the one in need of love. I value this book for showing how we all have our moments, and how carefully and thoughtfully each of us deserves to be treated.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chickens are smarter than toddlers

So often it's a matter of looking for something in order to find it. Being willing to observe closely and trust what you see makes a difference. 

From  The Telegraph in the United Kingdom:

Chickens may be brighter than young children in numeracy and basic skills, according to a new study.

Chickens may be brighter than young children in numeracy and basic skills, according to a new study.
Chickens may be brighter than young children in numeracy and basic skills Photo: Martin Pope/Alamy
Hens are capable of mathematical reasoning and logic, including numeracy, self-control and even basic structural engineering, following research.

Traits such as these are normally only shown in children above the age of four, but the domesticated birds have an ability to empathise, a sophisticated theory of mind and plan ahead.

"The domesticated chicken is something of a phenomenon," Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, and the head of a study sponsored by the Happy Egg Company.

She told The Times: "Studies over the past 20 years have revealed their finely honed sensory capacities, their ability to think, draw inferences, apply logic and plan ahead."

In her study 'The Intelligent Hen', Ms Nicol explains the animal is capable of distinguishing numbers up to five and is familiar with transitive inference - the idea in logic that, if A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C.
For a chicken, this could be applied to fighting. If the first chicken beat the second, who had already beaten the third, the third chicken would assume that the first chicken would beat them too.

The birds also have an understanding of physics, which was shown in experiments where they showed more interest in realistic diagrams than those that defied the laws of physics.

Young chicks knew that an object that moves out of their sight still exists, unlike human babies who only develop those skills aged one.

Chickens also showed the ability to plan ahead and exhibit self-control, with 93% of hens understanding that if they waited longer to start eating food, they would be allowed access to it for longer.

Further evidence of hens’ intelligence comes from tests showing that at just two weeks’ old, they can navigate using the sun by taking into account its height and position during the day.
Siobhan Abeyesinghe, who this year published a seminal study Do Hens Have Friends?, told the newspaper: "Chickens certainly have more capabilities than people are aware of. I do think they are unjustly maligned.

“We have this psychological shielding to devalue animals we use for meat so we feel less concern about them.”