I’ve always been a collector… from buttons when I was a child to vintage table linens, Mexican folk art and Italian art glass as an adult. So when we began raising chickens a year or so ago, I collected sets…two of each breed. Because we purchased full-grown birds I could select them based on distinctive feather patterns, unique combs, leg color and other recognizable markings. This allowed me to identify and name each hen, which was fun and would later be helpful in sorting them all out.
This year we decided to raise baby chicks…25 of them. Now we have more birds of each breed with little variance in their appearance, so figuring out who-is-who is a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, some of them have already acquired names.
The first batch of chicks we brought home were six Black Copper Marans, a French breed that is prized for dark, terra cotta colored eggs. At 4 months old we knew two of them were roosters – which we do not keep – so they were named Fried and Fricaseed. Fortunately, another poultry fancier of our acquaintance wanted them for breeding, so they were given a reprieve from their monikers.
The hens – Guillemette, Juliette, Colette and Yvette – are each unique in that two of them have feathered legs and two do not. Guillemette and Juliette, of the feathered legs, have distinct mantles and are easy to tell apart. The same is true of Colette and Yvette, the bare legged girls.
Two other easily recognizable hens in our flock are Antoinette and Bernadette. They are Dominiques, which resemble the Barred Plymouth Rock. Dominiques are considered the oldest breed in the US, the first breed recognized by the American Poultry Association. Sadly, they are on the “watch list” of endangered domestic chickens (fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the United States, with ten or fewer primary breeding flocks, and globally endangered).
These threatened breeds are often no longer actively bred due to modern commercialization or industrial applications of the animal. Endangered breeds of chickens are often pushed aside in favor of poultry that matures faster, gains more weight in specific areas (plump, juicy breast and thighs, meatier wings, etc.) or has a higher egg production rate.
Because we do not keep roosters or breed chicks, we are not directly contributing to the preservation of a diverse chicken population. However, by purchasing chicks of these endangered species we support those who keep the breeding flocks of birds that are threatened with extinction.