The Silkie (sometimes spelled Silky) is a breed of chicken named for its atypically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk and satin. The breed has several other unusual qualities, such as black skin and bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot, whereas most chickens only have four. They are often exhibited in poultry shows, and appear in various colors. In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics, Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. It is among the most docile of poultry. Hens are also exceptionally broody, and care for young well. Though they are fair layers themselves, laying only about three eggs a week, they are commonly used to hatch eggs from other breeds and bird species due to their broody nature. Silkie chickens are very easy to keep as pets. They are suitable for children, but like any pet, should be handled with care.
Silkies appear in two distinct varieties: bearded and non-bearded. Bearded Silkies have an extra muff of feathers under the beak area that covers the earlobes. They also are separated according to color. Colors of Silkie recognized for competitive showing include black, blue, buff, grey, partridge, and white. Alternative hues, such as cuckoo, lavender, red, and splash also exist. The standards of perfection call for all Silkies to have a small walnut-shaped comb, dark wattles, and turquoise-blue earlobes. In addition to these defining characteristics, Silkies have five toes on each foot.
Delawares, originally called “Indian Rivers,” were developed by George Ellis of Delaware in 1940 and were used for the production of broilers. The breed originated from crosses of Barred Plymouth Rock roosters and New Hampshire hens. A few off-colored sports were produced that were almost white with black barring on the hackles, primaries, secondaries, and tail. This coloration is very similar to the Colombian color pattern, but with the barring substituting for the black sections. For about twenty years the Delaware and the Delaware x New Hampshire cross were the most popular broiler chickens on the Delmarva Peninsula, because of the Delaware’s ability to produce offspring with predominately white feathering. This is an advantage for carcass appearance since white feathers don’t leave dark spots on the skin when feathers are growing in. Both the Delaware and the Delaware x New Hampshire were replaced in the late 1950's by the Cornish x Rock cross (solid white) that has come to dominate the industry.
Delaware males may be mated to New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red females and produce chicks of the Delaware color pattern. Delaware females mated to New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red males produced sex-linked offspring; the males having the Delaware color pattern and the females having the solid red color of the sires. Chicks from this second cross can even be sexed by their down color when hatched.
Though its economic dominance was short lived, the Delaware still makes an excellent dual-purpose bird. It has well-developed egg and meat qualities, and a calm and friendly disposition. The breed is noted for rapid growth and fast feathering of the chicks. Cocks grow to 8 pounds and hens to 6 pounds. They have moderately large combs and medium sized head and neck. Their body is moderately long, broad, and deep. The keel is also long, extending well to front at the breast and rear of the legs. The legs are well set apart and are large and muscular.
This breed is currently on the "watch" list for the Livestock Conservancy.
The Narragansett turkey is named for Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, where the variety was developed. It descends from turkeys and the domestic turkeys (probably Norfolk Blacks) brought to America by English and European colonists beginning in the 1600’s. Improved and standardized for production qualities, the Narragansett became the foundation of the turkey industry in New England. Though it was valued across the country, it was especially important in Rhode Island and Connecticut. The American Poultry Association recognized the Narragansett in 1874.
According to an 1872 account, it was not uncommon to find flocks of one to two hundred birds, the product of a breeder flock of a dozen hens. Little supplemental feed was given to the turkeys; instead they ranged for grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects. Farmers raising the turkeys were aware of the benefits of genetic selection and raised young toms that weighed between 22-28 pounds and hens that were 12-16 pounds.
While the Narragansett was never as popular as the Bronze variety, it was widely known in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic States as well as in New England. Interest in the Narragansett began to decline in the early 1900s as popularity of the Standard Bronze grew. The Narragansett was not used for commercial production for decades until the early 21st century, when renewed interest in the biological fitness, survivability, and superior flavor captured consumer interest and created a growing market niche.
The Narragansett color pattern contains black, gray, tan, and white. Its pattern is similar to that of the Bronze, with steel gray or dull black replacing the coppery bronze. White wing bars are the result of a genetic mutation which removes the bronze coloration and is not known outside the United States. The Narragansett’s beak is horn colored, its head is red to bluish white and its beard is black. The shanks and feet are salmon colored. The standard weight for young hens is 14 pounds and toms 23 pounds. Since, however, the Narragansett has not been selected for production attributes, including weight gain for years many birds may be smaller than the standard. Careful selection for good health, ability to mate naturally, and production attributes will return this variety to its former stature.
Narragansett turkeys have traditionally been known for their calm disposition, good maternal abilities, early maturation, egg production, and excellent meat quality. As recently as 50 years ago, they were well regarded for production qualities. This historic variety, unique to North America, merits evaluation for production in sustainable agriculture systems. The Narragansett turkey would make a useful and beautiful addition to the family farm.
Buff or Orphington
William Cook, the famous poultry breeder from Orpington, Kent, created a number of Orpington duck varieties including the Blue, Buff, and Black Orpington. There were also Whites but they never caught on in popularity. The Buff variety came about by blending Cayuga, Runner, Aylesbury, and Rouen ducks to create a the buff color that would allow him to cash in on the early 20th century English fad for buff-colored plumage. Cook introduced his Buff Orpington to the United States in 1908 at the Madison Square Garden Show in New York City. In 1914, this breed was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection under the name “Buff,” which is unusual since in no other instance is a color used as a breed name. (Holderread, 60)
The Buff is a medium-weight duck of 7 to 8 lbs. It is a long, broad bird with an oval head, medium length bill, and long, gracefully curved neck. The Buff duck’s body carriage is twenty degrees above horizontal, its wings are short and it has a small, well-curled tail. Both the duck and drake have buff plumage, orange-yellow shanks and feet, and brown eyes. The drake’s bill is yellow while the duck’s bill is brown-orange. (Malone et. al., 313) A Blue variety of Orpington duck existed in the Americas, but it appears these were absorbed into the Blue Swedish breed. (Holderread, 60)
The Buff has much to offer the breeder who is looking for an attractive, dual-purpose bird. It is a good layer, typically laying about 150-220 eggs per year, and it gains weight relatively rapidly, making it ready for market within 8-10 weeks. (Batty, 108) Many consider the Buff a good meat bird that dresses out well because its light pin feathers do not show on the plucked carcass. Despite this, Buff numbers languished when industry growers followed consumer interest in cheap meat and focused attention on the faster growing Pekin even though many believe it to be less tasty. (Holderread, 60)
When choosing breeders, select robust, active, strong-legged birds with a good laying history. Avoid birds that are significantly under Standard weight and have bills with excessively concave top lines. Full-sized birds with straight bills attached high on the head make valuable breeders. Select against any non-buff plumage for show-birds. Select for white pin feathers for production birds.
The Livestock Conservancy’s 2000 census of domestic waterfowl in North America found 793 breeding Buff ducks and the 2015 census found 1,088. Eleven people reported breeding Buff, and there are five primary breeding flocks with 50 or more breeding birds currently in existence. (Bender, 4) Consider this rare, beautiful bird for a lovely and useful addition to your flock.
Source: Livestock Conservancy
Black Jersey Giants. The basis for our flock are two distinct lines (one from Ohio and one from southern Indiana), both of which have their origins with Golda Miller's flock.
History: The Jersey Giant chicken was developed between 1870 and 1890 by John and Thomas Black in Burlington County, near the town of Jobstown, New Jersey. As its name implies, these typically mellow chickens are impressive in size with mature roosters weighing 13 pounds and the mature hens weighing 10 pounds, making them the largest purebred chicken breed.
The original intention of the Black brothers was to create a chicken that could potentially replace the turkey as a premium table bird. During the breed’s development, Black Javas, Black Langshans, and Dark Brahmas were used to try and reach this objective. Around 1895 the term “Giant” was used in reference to the breed, and they became known as “Black Giants” in honor of their creators (not because of their color.) The name was later changed to “Jersey Giant” by Dexter P. Upham of Belmar, New Jersey, in honor of the state of origin. Mr. Upham was an early breeder interested in improving Black Giants. In 1921, the American Association of Jersey Black Giant Breeders Clubs was created and the name “Jersey Giant” was officially adopted for the breed by the group. The standard developed for the birds included a gigantic frame, single comb, yellow skin color, relatively rapid maturity, good vigor, and fine foraging ability. The Jersey Giant was recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) in 1922. Today Jersey Giants are accepted in the APA Standard of Perfection in three color varieties – black, white, or blue.
Jersey Giants are dual purpose chickens, but they excel as a meat bird with their great body size. They are well-suited to producing very fine and large capons. The young birds grow relatively quickly but take time to fill out their hefty frame to produce a marketable bird – most take up to 8–9 months to reach a harvestable size with good body proportions. They are an excellent roasting bird when fully mature.
Concerning egg production, the hens of this breed tend to lay more eggs than those of other heavy breeds. Their eggs are extra-large in size with color varying from dark brown to light cream. When incubating eggs, the Jersey Giant breed sometimes takes 1–2 days longer to hatch than most chicken breeds. This breed is currently on the "watch" list for the Livestock Conservancy.