The art of poultry
A FEW YEARS AGO, poultry expert Sue Clarke and I wrote two books on how to keep poultry (see page 74).
She’s raised hundreds of thousands of chooks, maybe over a million. I lived with tens of thousands from the day I was born until I left home. But even for poultry people like Sue and I, the people who breed and show the ‘fancies’ or heritage poultry are something else. A breed unto themselves.
What’s always delightful is the people who don’t know they are ‘chook people’ until they get a couple of hens ‘just for the eggs’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that, and then the follow-up is how they now have so many birds they have lost count. Note: chicken people don’t lose count. Instead, many seem to get PA (poultry amnesia) where they insist they have no idea how many birds they have. However, their other half has noticed the number of coops has gone from three to 17 in two years (true story). That particular fancier finally confessed she would bring home birds, then sneak them in around the back of the barn. If her husband didn’t see them arrive, were they ever not there? It’s good poultry logic.
You also won’t hear the word ‘chicken’ come out of a fancier’s mouth. They’ll use ‘poultry’ and sometimes ‘chook’, but not chicken. For them, ‘chicken’ is a meat you eat, not a live bird. NZ Lifestyle Block does use the term chicken. For me, language changes over time and most people use the word ‘chicken’ to refer to a live, feathered creature that clucks and lays eggs or crows as well as the carcass they throw in the oven to roast. The fancy people continue to politely disagree with me.
One thing we can agree on. There is a small pool of people who breed the rainbow of heritage birds in NZ and we need more of them. If you’re thinking of adding to your flock, why not head to a local show (see page 66 for the ones on this month) and take home something truly exquisite.
This one is a Sebright. You may think she’s hand-painted, but that’s all natural chicken.