Friday, March 7, 2014

Let's All Do the Chicken Dance!

Araucana Chicken. Photo by Kat Thomas.
While I was on the Big Island I spent copious amounts of time with chickens (which is evident by the amount of fowl photography on my iPhone)!  During my time at the organic farm I was in charge of taking care of this fine feathered friends from watering and feeding them in the morning to opening their hutches for their afternoon walks to making sure they were secure and protected from mongooses at night.

Buff Orpingtons. Photo by Kat Thomas.
In the beginning I was scared I would get pecked by my co-workers, but in reality most of the chicken scattered as soon as they saw this new stranger approaching.  But once they got to know me a little more they were super affectionate and would allow me to give gentle stroking pets on their backs.

Rainbow Eggs. Photo by Kat Thomas.

Chickens are funny birds!  When I would ride the tractor in the fields they would follow me grabbing seeds and bugs that were scattered around in my wake (this is where I learned the true origin of the car racing game “chicken,” instead of running away the hens would stare me down until I was forced to veer away (at which time they would promptly move).  
Rhode Island Red.  Photo by Kat Thomas.

Another crazy thing about chickens: they take baths in dust!  They care for their feathers and skin by digging shallow ditches in the driest dustiest dirt and then toss it onto themselves.  The dirt coats their feathers and settles next to their skin, absorbing excess moisture and oil.  At the end of a dust bath, the dirt is shaken off and the chicken proceeds to preen and groom its feathers back into place.

Photo by Kat Thomas.
At my farm in Hawi there were three main types of chickens:  Araucanas, Rhode Island Reds, and Buff Orpingtons.  All heritage chicken breeds.  All which laid different colored eggs.  When I would collect the eggs the basket would contain what looked like lightly dyed Easter eggs!   Each chicken type had its ins and outs:
Plymouth Rock Chicken.  Photo by Kat Thomas.

Chilean in origin, where they are thought to have been bred by the Araucanian Indians. Super popular at Farmers Markets they are known for their blue/green eggs!  Plumage varies in combinations of black, silver, brown white, and gold. Some Araucanas have tufts or crests, or lack a tail.

Rhode Island Reds are held in such high esteem that they're the official Rhode Island state bird.  They were once hugely popular on small American farms, but fell out of favor as farms got larger.  Today they’re making quite a heritage fowl comeback.  Rhode Island Reds are known for being the do-everything bird: they lay exceptionally well (brown eggs), are very hardy, and they're valued for their meat (but not at this farm since their chickens were only used for egg production!).

One of the most popular American farm chickens during the late 1800's and early 1900's.  They are known for their bright gold plumage, excellent egg production (these were usually pinkish brown), and exceptionally tasty meat (but, once again, not at the farm).  These birds are known for their personality, along with their beauty (and their fluffy chicken bottoms!).

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