Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Crested chickens

Several chicken breeds are crested, with a fluffy fountain of feathers tumbling from a knob on top of their heads. That crest has attracted plenty of attention over the years, sometimes called a top-knot or a top hat. Recognized crested breeds include Polish, Crevecoeur, Houdan and Sultan. Most likely it’s the small Polish, the most popular. Crevecoeurs are larger, always all black and show a distinctive horned comb with two prongs. Houdans are usually mottled black and white. Observe their legs. Houdans have a fifth toe, a spur on the back of the leg. Unrecognized breeds include the hefty Sulmtaler. Sulmtaler roosters have a small tuft at the back of the serrated comb, but hens have a nice crest and their combs meander in an S shape on their heads, the front falling to one side and the back to the other.
Golden Laced Polish tooster
Brabanters and Appenzeller Spitzhaubens have pointy crests behind that V comb. 

Although their appearance invites humor, crested chickens have a long and distinguished history, and are honored for their productive usefulness as well. Ulisse Aldrovandi included woodcuts of crested chickens in the first book published on chickens in 1600.

Aldrovandi called these Paduan chickens

That knob isn’t just feathers up there. Crested breeds have a dome of bone on their skulls. The feathers grow out of that. Because of the placement of the crest, the bony skull structure affects the nostrils, so that crested chickens have flattened, cavernous nostrils,

Crests require extra care. Breeders may trim the crest back or hold it back with a rubber band during breeding season, so the birds can see what they are doing. Special waterers can help the bird avoid getting the crest and beard feathers soaked, which can ruin them for a show.

Drawings by J. Batty
The crested breeds have V combs, even if they are concealed beneath the crest feathers. The V or horn comb, required for exhibition in the U.S., is unusual. In England and France, the leaf comb, shaped like butterfly wings, is still recognized. Leaf combs are the result of the V comb crossed with a single comb.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sign your birds into the Poultry Census!

The Livestock Conservancy is conducting a Poultry Census. The more who participate, the better it will reflect how many and what kinds of birds are out there. The more we know, the better we can all communicate and improve our birds and poultry life in general. 

One of the issues with poultry is that there is no breed registry as there is for other livestock. That's a useful tool poultry breeders and their birds lack. This is a great way to support poultry into the future.
Buff OrpingtonDear Poultry Breeders & Friends,

Make your poultry efforts count!
The Livestock Conservancy (TLC) is conducting a North American poultry census. Funded by Murray McMurray Hatchery, this critically important project will enable us to understand how different poultry breeds are faring in the United States and Canada. The last poultry census was conducted by TLC more than a decade ago, and now with the Federal National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) no longer collecting breed-specific data, this will be the only effort of its kind in America. The census will be a vital source of information for TLC as well as other poultry focused organizations nationwide and internationally. The data gathered will help to aim and extend vital breed conservation work where it is needed the most and will guide efforts well into the 21st century.

The census will be focused on old landrace & large fowl standard bred poultry as recognized in the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection— more specifically, on the breeding stock being maintained. We are specifically asking for information on the number of breeding birds only in order to get an estimate on the size of the actively reproducing gene pool for each breed.

The information you provide for this census will be held in strict confidence unless you indicate that you would like us to share it with others interested in the breed you maintain. Please take a few minutes to complete this census form through the link below. Your participation is highly valued. The final results will be shared on the TLC website and with all of our project partners listed below, without whom this project would not be possible.

The Conservancy thanks you for your stewardship of poultry and your participation in this vital project. Please click on the following link to reach the census.
North American Poultry Census
If you know of others who breed old landrace & large fowl standard bred poultry, please forward this email to them and share the census with any poultry networks you are associated with.

The Livestock Conservancy Staff

Census Partners
MurrayMcMurray TSC APA RBCanada

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Frost on Chickens

Frost on Chickens is a National Agricultural Library Digital Exhibit, available online. Thank you NAL!
"I kept farm, so to speak for nearly ten years, but less as a farmer than as a fugitive from the world that seemed to me to 'disallow' me. It was all instinctive, but I can see now that I went away to save myself and fix myself before I measured myself against all creation."
Robert Frost

From a letter to the literary editor of the Boston Evening Transcript, March 22, 1915. Quoted in Sheehy, D. G., Richardson, M., & Faggen, R. (eds.) The Letters of Robert Frost: Volume 1, 1886 - 1921 (2014), page 12.

The poet Robert Frost lived and worked as a poultry farmer in Derry, New Hampshire from 1900 to 1909. During that period he published a dozen articles for two trade journals: The Eastern Poultryman and The Farm-Poultry. The National Agricultural Library (NAL) holds copies of these publications and other relevant materials on poultry farming which give context to Frost's articles.

Robert Frost, circa 1910-1920
Robert Frost, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front
circa 1910 - 1920
Library of Congress
Prints & Photographs Division

"Frost on Chickens" is made of nine smaller topical exhibits that relate directly to the subjects contained in Frost's pieces. Each exhibit presents relevant excerpts from Frost's articles, an overview of the topic, and links to full-text, digital NAL and USDA materials. The structure of the site follows the general subjects addressed by Frost's stories. There are nine focused exhibits: Hen Houses, Backyard Chickens, Chicken Feed, Fancy Chickens, Poultry Breeds, Poultry Farming, Egg Production, the Poultry Marketplace, and the Poultry Press. There is also an overview of Robert Frost's time in Derry, New Hampshire in the early 1900s and the Frost Farm.

NAL has created many digital materials relevant to all of these topics. Providing an alternate means of access to these full-text books, articles, and reports is one of the reasons "Frost on Chickens" was created.

"Frost on Chickens" contains records for over 200 selected full-text digital books, reports, and images from the late the 1800s and the 1900s on poultry farming, chicken breeding, and competitive chicken exhibitions, referred to commonly as "The Fancy."

The exhibit also includes records for over 100 selected full-text articles and reports documenting the current work of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service related to poultry including research into poultry health, nutrition, and housing, egg and meat safety and quality, and poultry production efficiency.

Many of the items featured here were published a century ago. Therefore, please do not assume that the content reflects current scientific knowledge, policies, or practices. All views expressed in these items are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the National Agricultural Library.

The Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire: Present Day