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October 8th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 39
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Polish chickens definitely look like Diller
I was going over some old columns of mine and came across this dilly from 1995. My goodness I have been at this now for nineteen years and when I first started there wasn’t any interesting story I wouldn’t go to great lengths to develop. So here is a chicken story for you from back then! Man how I wish I had had a digital camera in the 90’s. I had no idea how many beautiful varieties of Gallus gallus domesticus there were!
“He was standing quietly in the yard next to a large pile of old fruit with his eyes closed and his head hung down like a donkeys. To all outwards appearances he was sleeping but in fact he was awake and merely suffering in silence on a hot late summer’s day. "He" was in fact a large domestic turkey with a particularly wicked animal equivalent of a hangover, the result of an over indulgence in a lot of highly fermented grapes that were part of that pile of waste fruit picked up at a local grocery store.
I had occasion recently to meet that gobbler along with a large collection of chickens, doves, pea fowl, pheasants, guinea fowl, quail, pot bellied pigs, pygmy goats, miniature rabbits, parakeets, budgies, canaries, a pony named Sapphire and a three month old border collie named Bingo. The whole kit and caboodle belongs to or should I say resides with a man by the name of Frank Soles, a bird lover if I ever met one. Frank, his wife Cheryl and four children are living in the old Wycliffe general store out near the St. Mary's River in the Kimberley, B.C. area. Frank, a certified chicken judge, is nuts about birds, particularly chickens and a guided tour of his backyard revealed the most amazing collection of domestic fowl I have ever seen.
The first interesting fowl I ran into there was "Moonshine" a Polish chicken. Polish chickens are the Phyllis Diller’s of the poultry world as they have been endowed with a large feathered mop, like Phyllis' comedic wigs, that hangs over their eyes. They are also called Polands and are primarily a show bird. Moonshine was not the finest example of a Polish chicken one will ever see, as he had a very badly crossed bill and nature had affixed his mop top on crooked so that he had a lopsided look to him. I guess that’s how he got his name as he looked like he might be the drinking partner of that hung over turkey. Frank wanted to "do in" Moonshine because his severely crossed bill makes it impossible for him to ground feed but the rest of the family has become quite attached to him and are fiercely protective of him.
continued below...


The next specimen that wandered into my sight looked like a cross between a chicken and a turkey in that he was rather large and had no feathering on his neck and sparse feathering in other areas. Frank informed me that he was a "Transylvanian Naked Neck" or Turken, a special breed developed in Europe for its ease of plucking and its size (6 to 8 lbs). While we in the Western World have for the most part divorced ourselves from dealing with chickens except at the meat counter, other countries still deal with chickens in a more "hands on " way, hence the attractiveness of the naked neck.
Next to wander onto the scene, out from under an abandoned truck, was a little brown Pekin bantam Cochin. The Cochin is a spectacularly feathered chicken whose origins are in China. The trademark of Cochins is the reverse of naked necks as they have abundant plumage including on their legs and feet. It kinda makes them look like they are wearing big floppy slippers. Cochins, Frank informs me are terrific setters and come in 11 different colors. They are often used to set on other chicken’s eggs.
One of the breeds the Cochin babysat for at Frank’s place was the silver spangled Hamburg, chickens of German origin who are great layers but seem disinterested in the follow up work, i.e. setting. The silver Hamburg is one of the snappiest, most alert on the poultry list and a really elegant and beautiful bird.
As we stood there talking about poultry and agricultural shows a bantam Golden Sebright rooster and his mate wandered close to us and that tiny little rooster began strutting his stuff, scratching and crowing and generally indicating he was the boss of the yard despite his miniature size. The Sebright, it seems, was developed in England as a hobby chicken and its eggs are so small as to not be worth eating. This particular Sebright rooster was as fierce and protective as they come and Frank indicated that he would unhesitatingly take on a rooster five times his size and not back down.
What a refreshing treat it was to wander amongst these 300 or so free ranging chickens, a veritable catalogue of who’s who in chickendom. You just know that the eggs these critters produce will be so much healthier and richer in color than those pathetically pale, massed produced ovum most of us are condemned to buy at the supermarket. So some time when you are in a "fowl "mood and feeling a little "cooped" up, drop by Frank and Cheryl's place out Wycliffe way. Those two really keep "abreast" of the times when it comes to chickens."
(Good grief, I can’t believe I would write anything that corny)!
Note: I called Frank a couple days after that 1995 visit to verify some facts and he informed me that his prize turkey didn’t recover from that accidental binge and that he went to that big roost in the sky.
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October 8th ~ Vol. 84 No. 39
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