So my friend Nancy, up in the Bluff Country, got bit by the purebred poultry bug. Reading her post and the comments awoke old feelings of yearning and really got me thinking about one of my first loves, the world of purebred poultry.....otherwise known as "the fancy".
A defining moment of my youth, perhaps when I was about 10 years old, was when I was called into the house from playing. I could tell from my mother's tone that I wasn't in trouble for anything. I remember standing in the mud room, my dad lowering a cardboard box for me to see inside. I heard small squeaks. I saw four yellow/ brown mottled ducklings. A friend of the fancy was born.
The ducklings, pet quality rouens, soon bonded to me and my siblings. They followed us around the yard. We went swimming in the creek, and they followed us in and out. I lay in the yard and they hopped on my back. They ate bugs and were comfortable enough in my presence to sleep with their heads tucked. I hugged them, they hugged back. I loved my ducks. They were my friends when I was lonely.
Skipping lunch gave me some pocket change, and the ducks were followed by a pair of golden sebrights. On Saturdays, I would ride my bike across town to the library to check out every book I could on ducks and chickens.
I also had Dutch rabbits, but I liked the poultry better.
I dreamed of someday having my own small farm, where I could raise lots of different varieties of poultry, plus have a horse, donkeys, and of course sheep. Yes, I wanted sheep since I was a kid. I recall having my own imaginary flock.
When I was 28, my wish came true, I have a house on 10 acres. As soon as we moved in, the first thing I did was run out and buy a trio of runner ducks. Within a few years, I was running a small rare breed hatchery. My thing was fancy bantams, expecially the crested ones. I had over 70 breeding birds, and hatched out over 1000 chicks a year.
I had a hardcover "Standard of Perfection", and birds born with the wrong number of toes, or developed the wrong color ear lobes, or brassiness or mossiness to the feathers were culled.
I got into waterfowl both domestic and exotic, as well as exotic pheasants.
I had a cabinet incubator, and rows and rows of brooders to rear the chicks. Breeding quartets were kept in pens and cages. I had floor- to- floor cages for small pairs, larger 6 X 6 pens for some of the larger fowl I kept as well.
I shipped hatching eggs all over the country. Sometimes juvenile or adult birds. Although I had pretty decent birds that I felt met the standard, I never got into showing. I guess I felt intimidated by the real show people I talked to on the poultry message oboards, although I shouldn't have. Many of them were really nice. I knew my birds weren't good enough.
Once day in 2002, scrubbing brooders, my DH made me a proposition. Get rid of these chickens, and he'd let me get a few sheep.
As much as I was dying to get sheep, parting with most of my fancy chickens was difficult.
9-11 had made shipping birds very challenging. The already beleagured airlines were getting pressure from animal rights groups to stop shipping live animals. I would sell a trio, get the check, go to ship the birds, only to be turned away sometimes. Shipping was very hit-or-miss. When it was "miss", the check would have to be returned to the buyer.
I had no local market for my chickens. No one wanted to pay $50 for a pair or trio of exceptional birds. Not when they could buy chickens at the swap for $3 each.
The thought of walking away from this stress and getting sheep was too tempting an offer to pass up. Most of my breeding birds went to The Feather Barn hatchery up in Elwood, others went to auction.
Although I've kept a flock of 15-20 chickens back, mostly crossbreds, for meat and eggs, I put my thoughts of the fancy away for a long time.
But I'm thinking about getting back into it. First, Becky and her Shetland geese. And then Nancy. :)
Why can't I have sheep and a modest flock of purebred chickens along with my sheep? Really, really good ones....As long as I don't overdo it.
I've grown increasingly disillusioned with showing Shetlands, maybe I should look into dabbling in poultry shows?
That I will have to think about. Next week, after Jefferson. I have the Jefferson show to get ready for, I have NASSA Board responsibilities that need my attention.
Next week. :)
Now to start thinking about a chicken breed to specialize in...