All posts by hsotr

Cochin

CochinIf the American poultry keepers of today were to see the Cochin of the mid-1800s, they would hardly recognize the breed! The old Cochin was a tall, rangy bird with relatively sparse feathering on its gangling shanks. However, it had a beautiful ginger color that, combined with its impressive size and considerable laying ability, attracted considerable attention when it arrived in the United States and Great Britain in the 1840s.

There is a notion that the Cochin hails from Vietnam, where a French colony named Cochin-China boasted a breed of feather-footed fowl. Actually, the ancestor of the modern Cochin came from China proper, where it was known as the Shanghai (as was the fledgling Brahma, just to keep it confusing). Queen Victoria is credited with calling the chickens Cochin-China, evidently misguided by the fact that the breed was large, Asian, and feather-footed to some degree.

In any case, the royal approval combined with the striking looks of the Cochin guaranteed it a loyal following among the poultry-show crowd. Chickens were bought and sold for hundreds of dollars, while poultrymen devoted their careers to selecting and crossbreeding for more and more feathers. The Cochin slowly lost its usefulness as a layer, and its meat quality gradually declined, but it unquestionably became a lovable, fluffy fowl.

Today, the Cochin breed as a whole is extremely popular in America, although some of its many color varieties are rather rare, most notably blue and silver-laced.

The bantam Cochin is worth a separate mention, as it has a distinct geographical origin from the standard-sized type. The bantam hails from Peking rather than Shanghai, and is indeed still called the Pekin Bantam in England today. This little chicken is one of the most popular feather-footed bantam breeds.

CochinUses

The Cochin is considered an ornamental chicken and is largely kept for show or as a pet.

In small backyard flocks, however, the Cochin can play an extremely valuable role as a broody hen. Few other breeds even approach the considerable persistence of the Cochin when it comes to brooding. This hen will even sit on the eggs of other species of poultry!

Finally, the Cochin has some potential as a meat breed due to its large size.

Temperament

Few chickens are as calm and unruffled as the Cochin. It is amiable enough to put up with any amount of handling and attention, even from small children. It is submissive enough to tolerate the most domineering of flockmates. Even the roosters are mellow. In fact, if the Cochin has a vice, it is likely either laziness or gluttony. (All that said, note that the broody hen does have a well-developed protective instinct.)

The bantam variety has a little more spunk, although still being gentle on the whole. It loves people and if tame will often demand attention. The bantam rooster can be somewhat aggressive and territorial.

CochinHealth

There are several potential problems to watch out for in the Cochin breed. The first set of problems relates to its dense feathering. While being a decided advantage in cold weather (although you should keep an eye out for frostbitten combs in roosters), the thick insulation that the Cochin sports will be very detrimental in the summer, making this breed a less-than-ideal choice in warm climates. Also watch out for external parasites—lice and mites love to hide under all those feathers.

Next, be aware of the potential shortcomings of feathered feet. Cochins do best on well-drained soils with short grass. Coarse ground covers will damage the feathers on the legs, while mud balls can cause toe injuries and snow buildup can cause frostbite. When necessary, use warm water to loosen up mud for removal (always let the feathers dry completely before turning the chicken back out).

Also watch out for obesity. As previously mentioned, the vices of the Cochin are laziness and gluttony, which can cause heart ailments and metabolic problems, besides making the bird slow of movement and thus more vulnerable to predators. When possible, ration out the feed to prevent excess weight gain (this may be hard to do if you keep other breeds in the same flock).

The size and weight of the Cochin can cause leg injuries when the chicken is trying to jump up to or down from a perch. Keep the perches low to avoid accidents.

And then there are a few things that may look like health problems but are actually normal in the Cochin. Be aware that Cochin chicks often take 22 days to hatch rather than 21—there is no cause for alarm with this breed, as they usually make it out without difficulty and start thriving in short order. Also note that delayed feathering is common in young Cochins, but should cause only cosmetic woes.

CochinPros

  • Excellent disposition.
  • Low space requirements of bantams.
  • Tendency not to fly over fences.
  • Suitability for confinement-based production systems.
  • Excellent cold tolerance.
  • Good winter egg-laying ability.
  • Large eggs.
  • Broodiness.
  • Exceptional mothering abilities.
  • Carcass size.

Cons

  • Considerable space requirements of standard-sized Cochins.
  • Vulnerability to predators.
  • Low heat tolerance.
  • Hefty appetite.
  • Poor foraging instincts.
  • Short lifespan.
  • Low egg production, especially in summer.
  • Slow growth.
  • Excessively dark meat.
  • Coarse meat texture.
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Chicken BreedsChicken Breeds

 

2020 Reading Challenge: Nature

2020 Reading Challenge: NatureLooking for something good to read this year, or maybe just through those cold winter months? How about a reading challenge?

The theme of this year’s reading challenge at Homestead on the Range is nature. One of the key tenets of sustainable agriculture is to work in sync with nature. Another, closely related rule of thumb is to mimic nature’s systems. A good way to start is to read up on the subject.

To complete the reading challenge, you must read 12 books by the end of the year, or an average of one book every month. Each book will be in a different category. This year’s categories are as follows:

  1. A book about plants.
  2. A book about animals.
  3. A nature-themed photo book.
  4. A book about a specific ecosystem.
  5. A book about weather or the atmosphere.
  6. A book about water.
  7. A book about habitat restoration or conservation.
  8. A book about how to observe nature.
  9. A book about agricultural practices that benefit nature.
  10. A book about outdoor recreation or skills.
  11. A book about an endangered species.
  12. A book about an extinct species.

A few rules:

  • Books in electronic formats count.
  • Both fiction and nonfiction books count.
  • You can work through the categories in any order.
  • Books cannot be counted twice, even if they fit into more than one category.

Need some help finding the books? Check out The Homestead Bookshelf to browse our favorite titles. Then sign up for On the Range, your free weekly country living update (learn more here). At the end of every month, we’ll suggest a book for one of the categories.

Let us know what you decide to read! We’d love to hear from you!

Food Cravings and What They Mean

Food Cravings and What They MeanFor a long time, many scientists denied that food cravings had any relevance. There was some logic to their claim. After all, Americans frequently crave chips, candy, and soda—foods that are detrimental to the body rather than helpful.

However, a close observation of many animals shows that they have an innate ability to select foods that contain nutrients that they are lacking. Could it be that mankind can do the same?

Newer research says yes! While we may attempt to satisfy our cravings in ways that are not beneficial (e.g., chips, candy, and soda), it does not negate the fact that a craving is our body’s plea for some inputs. Many cravings are associated with real mineral deficiencies or imbalances. Others are cravings are associated with various parts of the brain and may therefore suggest lifestyle changes that need to be made.

Let’s take a look at some common food cravings and what they mean.

Food Categories

  • Refined carbohydrates. Foods in this group include bread and pasta. This type of craving is associated with many different things, including nitrogen deficiency, yeast overgrowth, and low estrogen or progesterone levels. Another possibility is that you have been restricting your carb intake too tightly. A super-low-carb diet may cause your body to rebel and seek out more carbohydrates. A carb craving may also suggest that your mood is too low and that you could use the serotonin boost that comes from eating carbs. Note, however, that caving to the craving in this case may be counterproductive, as the boost will be short-lived and will eventually leave you wanting more.
  • Sugars. Sugary foods are a rather broad category. Not surprisingly, a craving for sweets may therefore indicate a need for one of several nutrients. Common deficiencies associated with sugar cravings are chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur, and tryptophan. Sugar is also frequently associated with pleasant memories and happy feelings, making it a go-to for many who could use some positivity. Factors that can contribute to a sugar craving include stress, lack of food, or lack of sleep. But watch out—because sugar stimulates dopamine release, it is addictive!
  • Meat. Craving meat may mean more than just a need for more protein—it may be this craving could be signaling a vitamin or mineral deficiency, such as B12 or iron. Meat cravings are also observed in those who are eating a diet disproportionately skewed toward carbohydrates.
  • Dairy. Craving dairy products of all types often suggests a calcium or magnesium deficiency. However, it may also signal emotional stress, because these nutrients can be depleted under such circumstances. Full-fat dairy products are particularly appealing at such times because they contain tryptophan, which in turn stimulates serotonin release.
  • Fatty or oily foods. Surprisingly, fat cravings can be associated with calcium deficiency. But even more intriguing may be the effects of such foods on the brain. Fatty foods remain in the stomach for a while, taking a long time to digest relative to other foods. At the same time, many people who crave fat are extremely busy, perhaps even hectic. Some nutritionists speculate that the constant fullness that fat provides may offer a sensation of stability. Finally, eating a diet too low in fat may cause fat craving, so make sure you include some healthy saturated fats in your diet.
  • Crunchy foods. For many, chewing on something crunchy is a way to relieve stress. Those who regularly go to crunchy foods may be dealing with a great deal of frustration in their lives.
  • Caffeinated beverages. The primary cravings associated with this category are for tea or coffee, but may include soda. Caffeine cravings can signal several different deficiencies, including iron, phosphorus, sulfur, and sodium chloride (salt). Caffeine is also a go-to for many who are dealing with stress, mental exhaustion, lack of sleep, or adrenal fatigue, as it tends to keep the mind feeling sharp. Keep in mind, too, that caffeinated beverages are habit-forming—you may simply be craving coffee today because you had it yesterday.
  • Carbonated drinks. Craving carbonated drinks suggests a calcium deficiency.

Flavors

  • Salty. Salty food cravings may indicate either dehydration or a deficiency in silicon, chloride, or both nutrients. Some women may experience salt cravings prior to menstruation. An ongoing need for salt can be associated with anemia, adrenal fatigue or insufficiency, or a renal problem. Note that many people who regularly go for salty foods may actually be seeking the crunch, rather than truly craving salt or salty flavors.
  • Acidic. People who crave acidic foods may need more magnesium in their diet, or they simply might need more acid. Your stomach acid is designed to be super-acidic, and an incorrect pH can lead to a great deal of digestive discomfort.
  • Spicy. A craving for spicy foods like salsa and chili may suggest that the body could use some assistance in regulating its temperature. The hot peppers that give food its heat contain capsaicin, which speeds up the metabolism and prompts the body to produce more heat. Still crave spicy foods when it’s hot outside? The heat-producing effects of capsaicin can, paradoxically, help the body cool off by prompting a sweat.

Food Cravings and What They MeanSpecific Foods

  • Celery. Craving celery is most common among people who are anemic due to iron deficiency.
  • Onions. Onions may be related to a sulfur deficiency. Sulfur is necessary for liver function.
  • Pickles. Pickles and pickle brine are highly acidic. Believe it or not, acid is actually good for your stomach (after all, your stomach is made to be filled with extremely potent acid), helping ease indigestion. The sodium in pickles may have the added benefit of helping you stay hydrated.
  • Nuts and cashews. If you are craving salted nuts only, then you might actually be experiencing a salt craving. If, however, you can’t get enough nuts in any form, you might need more magnesium.
  • Beef. If the food you want most is a steak, you may simply need a little more protein in your diet. But another possibility is that you need more vitamins and minerals. The most common deficiency associated with craving red meats such as beef is iron deficiency. Other deficiencies to watch for include folic acid, vitamin B12, and magnesium. If you are still craving beef after your meal, it is possible that your digestive system is not working efficiently, perhaps due to a slow metabolism.
  • Fish. Craving all types of fish may mean that you need more protein in your diet. Craving oily or salty fish (e.g., sardines) specifically may mean that your body could use some calcium or sodium.
  • Cheese. Cheese may signal a need for more protein, fat, calcium, vitamin D, or tryptophan.
  • Cinnamon. Cinnamon craving may actually be a sign of a sugar craving if the treats you are craving are ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls and the like. If this is not the case and you are truly craving cinnamon, then it is possible that you need more manganese, about the only nutrient cinnamon is known for.
  • Chips. Chips typically fall into the crunchiness category, although a craving for chips could alternatively be a salt or fat craving.
  • Candy. This is a manifestation of a sugar craving.
  • Chocolate. Chocolate cravings are most commonly reported in people who are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium keeps the nerves on an even keel, producing a sensation of relaxation. Other nutrient deficiencies associated with chocolate craving include copper, chromium, B vitamins, and various fatty acids. Chocolate is also a mood-boosting food that activates the pleasure centers of the brain, prompts serotonin production, and encourages the body to relax despite stress. Premenstrual hormone shifts may cause a chocolate craving, although oddly enough these cravings do not typically abate after menopause.

A Little More Unusual…

  • Burnt food. While this craving may seem a little bizarre to the uninitiated, it is actually quite simple when you get to the bottom of it. People who can’t seem to get enough burnt food need more carbon in their diet.
  • Vinegar. Not surprisingly, craving vinegar may suggest a pH imbalance in the body. But there are other possibilities, too—a desire to actually drink vinegar may signal an overgrowth of fungus in the system or perhaps a potassium deficiency.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG tends to create its own cravings. Besides being delicious when added to savory foods, it stimulates appetite, keeping you coming back for more over and over again.
  • Ice. People who find chewing on ice cubes to be irresistible may benefit from more iron in their diet. This urge may be more common in children or pregnant women. Here’s a hint—you will probably satisfy your craving much faster by going for some spinach, beans, or red meat rather than ice cubes.
  • A liquid diet. Preferring to take in your meals in the form of a beverage to the exclusion of solid foods may suggest that you are dehydrated.
  • More! Some people just crave food and lots of it, often continuing to eat even after they feel full. These people might benefit from more silicone, tryptophan, or tyrosine. In some cases, continuing to want food despite feeling full can suggest a condition that is impairing proper nutrient absorption, such as a food intolerance or insulin resistance.
  • Less. Finally, those who crave nothing more than the absence of food could probably use some additional chloride, manganese, vitamin B1, or vitamin B3 in their diet.

How to Use This Information

While hyper-analyzing your dietary preferences is not usually productive, being aware of your body’s needs can be very helpful. If you find that you repeatedly crave something, there could be a reason. Likewise, if you find that you have several cravings that point in the same direction, you may want to take note.

Needless to say, going to junk food to satisfy your cravings is generally not a good idea. Besides the long-term ramifications of a poor-quality diet, many sugars and processed foods tend to be habit-forming, leaving you wanting more without ever really satisfying the need. It is best to supply your body with whole foods, and a wide variety of them. So if you are craving vegetables or real meats, dig in! But if your preferences tend toward potato chips, candy, or ice cubes, you may want to find a high-quality source of the nutrients you are most likely needing.

Also pay attention to cravings that may suggest a lifestyle change is needed. Do all the signs point to excess stress? Consider the likely causes of your stress and seek to remedy them. Are you frequently in need of a mood boost? Try incorporating moderate exercise and some pleasurable activities into your daily routine.

As long as your body is not addicted to processed foods and the like, it can tell you a great deal about what it needs. Listen up!

Brahma

BrahmaThe Brahma is often considered to be an ancient breed, hailing from the Brahmaputra River of India. It is true that its ancestors did come from that vicinity, and also probably from China via the clipper ships of yore. However, the Brahma as we know it today is an American creation, developed by crossing several of the old Asian chicken breeds, probably in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

While it was the Americans who developed the Brahma, it was the British who made it wildly popular. In 1852, a Mr. Burnham presented Queen Victoria with a small flock of Brahmas, which by all accounts she promptly fell in love with. And when Queen Victoria approved of an animal of any sort, the people on both sides of the Atlantic promptly followed suit. Brahma chickens quickly boomed in both popularity and price, a good breeding pair fetching as much as $150.

It is hard to imagine, but both the original Light Brahma of the United States and the Dark Brahma created in those early days by British fanciers were even larger and taller then than they are today. While the breed was exceedingly popular for exhibition, it also had a steady following among those bringing meat birds to market, and indeed was considered the finest breed for the table for decades. This changed, however, with the industrial chicken-breeding revolution of the 1930s, when hefty, fast-growing broilers became popular.

But these days the Brahma has little to fear, as it is quickly regaining its popularity. Its beauty and dignity won it favor among many hobby farmers and backyard chicken keepers looking for something a little different. The Internet has fostered this trend—a video of a particularly large Brahma rooster recently went viral and prompted many to add the breed to their flocks.

BrahmaUses

The primary purpose of the Brahma is still exhibition, although it does have modest potential as a dual-purpose breed for homestead-scale meat and egg production. Probably its greatest strengths in the world of homesteading are the capabilities of the female as a superb broody hen and the male as a guardian of the flock.

Another interesting contribution the Brahma has made to the poultry realm is a genetic one. The Brahma has been used to develop many new chicken breeds, and with judicious crossbreeding it can be used to establish new color varieties within existing breeds.

Temperament

Few breeds are as docile as the Brahma. They are extremely easy to handle and tame, and they quickly warm up to human interaction. In fact, they may demand attention from their people friends (particularly if treats are involved).

The large size of the Brahma seems to encourage respect from the other chickens in a mixed flock. However, they never abuse their position by bullying the other chickens. Brahma hens do sometimes receive excessive attention from roosters, so care may be needed to prevent injuries.

The Brahma hen, while not usually considered overly broody, has strong instincts to hatch eggs. She also makes an excellent mother to the chicks.

The Brahma rooster is a strong favorite among all who have known him. He is too dignified to be as outgoing as the hens, but he is nevertheless extremely docile and remarkably calm. Bad actors can be found among roosters of any breed, but the typical Brahma male is well-mannered. While he does have strong protective instincts, he is highly unlikely to attack without provocation.

BrahmaHealth

Overall, the Brahma is a hardy, healthy breed that should present no difficulties to the attentive chicken-keeper. It tends to thrive from day one and typically hatches quickly with few problems.

This said, the Brahma does have a few special requirements, although they are relatively modest. First, be aware that it is a large breed that needs a lot of feed when it is growing. Hungry chickens may resort to picking and cannibalism if their nutritional needs are not being met, so make sure young Brahmas have access to all the feed they want. They are not at all prone to obesity at this early stage, so rationing out the feed will likely do more harm than good.

Second, the Brahma does not particularly enjoy hot weather. However, it can easily make it through the summer without too much discomfort if provided with access to shade and fresh, cool water all day. (Note that chickens of all breeds really should be provided with this level of care.)

Finally, several health problems can arise from the feathered feet of this breed:

  • Toe injuries caused by mud balls.
  • Frostbite caused by a buildup of snow.
  • Scaly leg mites and other external parasites.
  • Profuse bleeding from broken feather quills.

Keeping the chickens in clean, dry quarters with access to a place to dust bathe will prevent most foot problems. During wet weather, periodic foot examinations can be beneficial. Balls of snow and mud should be removed as necessary. If a mud ball is particularly firmly fixed, try softening it in warm water before removal. Mites can be treated with diatomaceous earth. Bleeding quills can be stopped up with a pinch of corn starch and the application of pressure.

Brahma

Pros

  • Excellent disposition.
  • Adaptability to both cold and hot climates with proper care.
  • Adaptability to both confinement and free-range systems.
  • Tendency not to fly over fences.
  • Good winter egg production.
  • Large eggs.
  • Excellent brooding and mothering instincts.
  • Large carcass.

Cons

  • Unsuitability for poorly drained soils.
  • Large space requirements in both coops and runs.
  • Need for sturdy perches and large nesting boxes.
  • Hearty appetite.
  • Slow maturity.
  • Below-average egg production.
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Chicken BreedsChicken Breeds

 

Black Star

Black StarThe Black Star goes by a number of names, including Black Sex Link and Black Beauty, depending on the hatchery. It is not a pure breed, but rather a crossbred chicken produced by mating a Barred Plymouth Rock hen to a Rhode Island Red (or occasionally New Hampshire Red) rooster. The name “Sex Link” refers to the fact the gender of the resulting chicks can be identified with complete accuracy at hatching, the females being black and the males being black with a white spot on the head. (Note that, if Black Star chickens are bred, the subsequent generations will not share this trait because the genes involved will re-pair into new combinations.)

While it is likely that a Barred Plymouth Rock/Rhode Island Red cross has been made frequently since the two breeds originated, the Black Star rose to fame shortly after World War II. Food rations, returning troops, the arrival of refugees, and a flourishing U.S. population led to some concerns about the nation’s food supply. Poultry scientists in quest of a truly exceptional laying hen experimented with many different breed combinations and hit upon the Black Star as a top solution.

Throughout the 1950s, the Black Star was among the most popular types of chicken used for commercial egg production. These days, other hybrids have largely taken its place in the brown egg market. But the Black Star still has a loyal following—it has earned its place as a good all-around homestead bird.

Black StarUses

The Black Star is a superb choice for a dual-purpose chicken for homesteads of all sizes and aspirations. The hens are good producers (good enough to support a small business direct marketing eggs!) and the roosters are hefty enough to make satisfactory fryers for home use. The Black Star can also fit into the family as a very amiable pet.

Temperament

This breed is calm and docile, making it very easy to handle and get along with. However, it also has a good dose of personality. It will probably tend toward the top of the pecking order.

Black StarHealth

The Black Star has an excellent immune system and appears to be less prone to external parasites than other chicken breeds. The only difficulty likely to be found in this breed is an occasional reproductive malfunction.

Pros

  • Certainty of getting hens or roosters exactly as ordered due to sex-linked color trait.
  • Excellent disposition.
  • Suitability for nearly all climates and weather conditions (particularly cold winters).
  • Adaptability to nearly any type of production system.
  • Excellent foraging instincts.
  • Feed efficiency.
  • Hardiness.
  • Longevity.
  • Excellent egg production, particularly for the first two years.

Cons

  • Loss of sex-linked color trait in future generations.
  • Lack of brooding instinct.

Black Star

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Chicken BreedsChicken Breeds

 

Australorp

AustralorpIn the early 1900s, the Orpington breed was being refined in England for appearance and show qualities. But this was not the case in Australia. At roughly the same time, the Australians were hard at work shaping their Black Orpington populations into a dual-purpose chicken par excellence.

To start with, the Australian poultrymen emphasized egg production and meat quality, and selected their Black Orpington breeding stock accordingly. To further realize the dual-purpose ideal, they added some Rhode Island Red blood. A few individuals also introduced a little bit of Minorca, Langshan, and White Leghorn to the mix to aid in laying ability. The resulting bird was a little coarse by English show standards, but the breeders’ efforts paid off when the hens began to achieve outstanding egg production records throughout the 1920s, one hen even laying 364 eggs in 365 days!

When the new breed was introduced to North America about this time, it was given the name Australorp to distinguish it from the British Orpington. It quickly became a popular dual-purpose chicken in flocks around the country. The Americans added their own touch by creating a white variety with additional White Leghorn crossbreeding throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

While dual-purpose chickens have not enjoyed success in commercial settings for quite some time, the Australorp nevertheless has earned itself a place as a popular heritage breed in the United States. It is well on its way to reaching a stable population size thanks to interest among backyard chicken keepers. The black variety is by far the most common, while the white and blue variations remain rare.

Uses

The primary purpose of the Australorp is to provide eggs and broilers for home use. However, its sweet disposition can also make it a fine pet or exhibition bird, especially if children are involved.

Some Australorps will go broody, an instinct they inherited from their Orpington progenitors, but on the whole the breed is not entirely reliable when it comes to setting (brooding and hatching) eggs. Each hen must be evaluated individually for setting instincts. Fortunately, those that do prove their setting abilities are almost invariably good mothers.

AustralorpTemperament

Australorps are extremely easy to get along with. Like many chickens, they can be shy unless tamed and accustomed to human contact, but they generally take to people quite quickly. They are friendly and quiet, but still active.

Most hens will tend toward the middle of the pecking order. They typically get along well with the rest of the flock.

The Australorp hen, if sufficiently broody to hatch her own eggs, is hard to beat as a mother. She is very affectionate and will make sure the needs of her charges are met.

The average Australorp rooster has the right personality to be a useful protector of the flock without being dangerous or a nuisance. While all roosters should be watched until proven to be safe, the Australorp rooster is usually alert but good-natured.

Health

The Australorp is an extremely healthy breed with a long productive lifespan. It should present few, if any, difficulties.

The only two problems worth watching out for are frostbitten combs in roosters (usually not a problem with the hens) and a tendency toward obesity, which can affect egg production. The former can be prevented with adequate shelter, particularly protection from cold winds, while the latter is addressed by giving the chickens access to fresh pasture and letting them stretch their legs on a daily basis.

AustralorpPros

  • Very safe, family-friendly disposition.
  • Willingness to stay fenced without flying out.
  • Suitability for backyards and urban settings.
  • Adaptability to free-range settings.
  • Excellent cold tolerance.
  • Fair heat tolerance when provided with adequate shade.
  • Excellent health.
  • Early maturity.
  • Large numbers of eggs.
  • Persistent egg production regardless of weather or season.
  • Good mothering instincts.
  • Significant meat production.

Cons

  • Scarcity of white and blue varieties.
  • Somewhat unreliable performance as a broody hen.
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Chicken BreedsChicken Breeds

 

Araucana

AraucanaThe history of the Araucana is very hazy, although it is certain that the breed comes from the Araucanía region of Chile, where it was bred by the native peoples. No one seems to know for certain if the breed predates exploration by the Spanish or not, and new research often directly contradicts old research.

What we do know is that the Araucana was common in South America by the early 1900s, and it was during this time that the breed was introduced to the United States. It appears that the modern breed that Americans call the Araucana was developed on our shores by crossing two similar landraces—the rumpless, tuftless Collonca and the tailed, tufted Quetro. A bantam type also exists.

The recent popularity of the Araucana, owing to its unique appearance and beautiful blue eggs, has unfortunately encouraged some deception in the world of hatcheries. Be aware that not all chicks sold as Araucanas are really pure Araucanas, but may be any mix of breeds that will produce colorful eggs. While these hybrids, known as “Easter Eggers,” are delightful chickens in their own right, prospective buyers may want to check out the integrity of the hatchery to be sure they will actually receive what they have purchased. At the present time, the only reliable sources of true Araucanas are individual breeders.

Uses

The Araucana is primarily kept for the production of distinctive blue-shelled eggs. It is also an interesting ornamental breed and a delicious, if small, meat bird.

Temperament

This breed seems to have some wild instincts that may render it a challenge to tame. It is remarkably alert, even flighty. Some poultry keepers believe that the Araucana may be somewhat more intelligent than the average chicken.

For those who have the patience to tame the Araucana, it can settle down into a gentle, friendly bird.

AraucanaHealth

Contrary to popular belief, the rumpless gene found in Araucanas is not necessarily lethal, although it does come at a cost. Rumpless birds lack the tailbone, tail feathers, and the oil gland typically found at the base of a chicken’s tail. The altered body structure can reduce the success rate of breeding chickens. The lack of the oil gland results in chickens that do not shed water well. Rumplessness may even be associated with higher mortality rates during the last few days of hatching. In an attempt to remedy some of these difficulties, some breeders mate rumpless chickens to normal chickens. Unfortunately, this does not accomplish the desired purpose because quite a few of the chicks will likely end up with strange-looking partial tails. While the fertility rates of these intermediate birds are higher than those of rumpless birds, the intermediates often have the same high mortality rates as the rumpless birds and may only have a partially developed oil gland.

The tufted gene truly is lethal, and it is different from the genes that causes the muffs (sometimes also called “ear tufts”) of other chicken breeds. The tufts, also known as peduncles in this breed, are actually unique organs protruding from the bird’s faces and opening up into a blossom of feathers. Unfortunately, peduncles may arise internally and cause serious complications. Chicks with two copies of the tuft gene typically die before hatching; those that do hatch fail to thrive and are usually dead within a week. Chicks with one gene for tufts still have high mortality rates.

In short, the true-to-type Araucana as it is recognized in America today is virtually incompatible with nature. Araucana chicks invariably have high mortality rates due to the fact that the traits considered to be of paramount importance within the breed are harmful to the chicken.

Pros

  • Suitability for all climates.
  • Ability to adapt well to confinement.

AraucanaCons

  • Scarcity.
  • Deceptive marketing among some hatcheries.
  • Ability as an escape artist.
  • Fertility problems.
  • Low egg production.
  • Dislike of using nesting boxes to deposit eggs.
  • Low hatchability.
  • Difficulty of successfully breeding birds that are true to type.
Complete Series

Chicken BreedsChicken Breeds

 

A Stone Arch Bridge for Greenwood County

A Bridge for Greenwood County
Gleason Ford Bridge

Kansas has always been a premier candidate for stone arch bridges. Stone is plentiful in most of the state. The post rock of the Smoky Hills region is a very well-known example of this, and it is not surprising that counties such as Lincoln and Russell have numerous stone arch bridges in them.

In eastern Kansas, timber was much more common (at least along streams) than in the western parts of the state, so, even in regions with plenty of stone, timber bridges were often built—at first. Timber rots and, due to its buoyant properties, tends to make a bridge vulnerable to floods. This was not a popular trait in bridges, to put it mildly, so counties quickly shifted to iron truss bridges on iron and/or stone abutments.

As the years progressed, iron truss bridges began to diminish in favor. Irritatingly, the wooden decks of these bridges still rotted out, and iron trusses still could be toppled in floods. To top this off, iron truss bridge companies effectively had something of a monopoly in this region of Kansas.

Plans for a Bridge

In Greenwood County, the commissioners decided to try out a stone arch bridge for something different and more permanent. Butler County, at the time, had already begun to build stone arch bridges with success (Butler County had in turn been inspired by Marion County, which had been building stone arch bridges from an early date). Greenwood commissioners “decided to put in a stone arch bridge of the pattern used in Butler county…” (Democratic Messenger, May 4, 1899—the newspaper was located in Eureka, Greenwood County).

Cowley County, at a later date, followed suit as well, eventually exploiting the Flint Hills limestone to build some massive bridges over Grouse Creek. However, unlike Cowley, which started first with a relatively small bridge over Timber Creek before tackling the big streams, Greenwood County decided that their first stone arch bridge was going to be something quite large. This bridge was to be built over the Fall River a few miles from Eureka.

Despite their jokes that the new bridge would be the biggest stone arch bridge west of the Mississippi, apparently the steel bridge companies were rather concerned about their future business potential in Greenwood County with this new development in the county’s bridge tastes. According to Walter Sharp’s account written in 1920 in a newspaper series that appeared in the Wichita Daily Eagle titled “A Story About Good Roads,” Sharp was offered a bribe by the steel bridge companies if he “would quietly slip away and go back home and stay there.” Be that as it may, Walter Sharp did not “slip away,” but won the contract and began building the first stone arch bridge Greenwood County ordered. This bridge, known as the Gleason Ford Bridge, was to be a quadruple-arch structure, with each arch being a well-rounded 36-foot span. Walter Sharp’s bid was $2,200.

The Success of the Bridge

In honor of the success of this great undertaking, a simply enormous celebration was held. According to Walter Sharp:

All business was suspended in Eureka, everybody shut up shop and went to the picnic and they came from everywhere.

W. Hoch of Marion, Kansas made the address; 5000 people were there; the Eureka band furnished the music; the merry-go-round went round; the three stands did an immense business; one of the main features was the picture man who made and sold pictures of the crowd on the bridge.

—From the first installment of “A Story About Good Roads” by Walter Sharp, which appeared in the Wichita Daily Eagle on October 24, 1920

Bridges were not taken for granted in those days as they are now, and the spanning of a large stream—especially with such a monumental and permanent structure—was cause for celebration. People would gather around for the celebration, and new friends and acquaintances would be made. There were many “bridge picnics” in those years, but the Gleason Ford Bridge celebration was one of the largest.

That the Gleason Ford Bridge (which Walter Sharp in his “Story About Good Roads” called simply “the Fall river bridge”) was a success there can be but little doubt. Walter Sharp stated that he built no fewer than 10 stone arch bridges for Greenwood County in 1901, and it is obvious from this that the Greenwood County commissioners were pleased with the performance and durability of stone arch bridges in adverse circumstances, as demonstrated by the Gleason Ford Bridge. As Sharp observed, “This bridge was hit with a full fledged cyclone about three years after it was built. The floods, the wind and time have made no change in the Fall river bridge.”

The Gleason Ford Bridge, whose four arches appeared in newspapers and postcards of the time is now no longer in existence. The Gleason Ford Bridge was, nevertheless, a milestone structure, and Greenwood County still has several stone arch bridges that were built following the success of the county’s first stone arch bridge: the Burnt Creek Bridge near Reece, the Homer Creek Bridge near Tonovay, the well-known North Branch Otter Creek Bridge, and a double-arch bridge over the Fall River, a sort of a smaller version of the Gleason Ford Bridge.

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