Friday, April 26, 2013

Preparing For The Poultry Swap

We will be attending the Oregon Spring Poultry Swap in Canby, OR this weekend. I love going to these swaps. The first one I attended back in the spring of 2011 was held in a city park in Canby, OR. People spread their poultry cages, lawn chairs, pop up tents and other goodies out in the grass and everyone swapped and shopped and enjoyed a day in the park. Now these Oregon Poultry Swaps have grown so popular that they are held in different county fairgrounds and are very big and organized.  Lots of vendors and shoppers and poultry enthusiasts! I love to wander from table to table and see all of the different birds and critters people bring. Chickens are the main attraction, but it doesn't stop there. You can find many types of ducks, geese, guineas, peafowl, quail, turkeys and so many other birds. Not to mention the ocassional goat or other farmyard friend.  You can also shop for all sorts of other farm products, crafts and yummy treats. Over the last few swaps I have purchased fresh honey, homemade cupcakes, goats milk soap, lovely peacock feathers and all sorts of other treasures.  But I think the best part of the whole thing is all of the wonderful people I have met at these swaps.  It is nice to know that there are so many crazy chicken ladies (and gentlemen) in Oregon....makes me feel like I belong to a really cool club :) 

There is a lot of work involved in getting ready for these swaps. We have been busy all week cleaning transport cages, sorting through the birds, and bathing chickens and trimming spurs, nails and feathers to make them all as pretty as possible. We love living here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but we do have to endure a lot of rain. And this year we had an especially wet winter and spring, so there have been a lot of puddles and rain and mud. Of course the animals always find the muddiest places to go forage and play, and as a result they end up with chronically muddy feet and dirty faces.  We don't want to show up at the swap with chickens that look more like little piggies than poultry, so we have to have several chicken spa days the week before a swap.  A lot of work for us, but a lot of fun for the chickens. If you have never given a chicken a warm bath you would be surprised by just how much they enjoy it. Even our fiestiest roosters achieve a total zen state of relaxation shortly after sinking into the warm water. Pretty funny. And they love the warm blow dry after the bath.

But, despite the work involved, these poultry swaps are something I always look forward to with anticipation. I plan to attend as many Oregon Poultry Swaps as I can. As long as they keep organizing them I will keep showing up. So if you ever want to meet up with me or some of my birds, you can always come and find us at the next Oregon Poultry Swap!  You can learn more about the swaps and the dates and locations of upcoming swaps by going to their website here

However, I would share one word of warning. Poultry can be delicate animals and there are many pathogens that spread amongst poultry easily. So if you attend any kind of poultry swap, event or show be sure to follow a strict quarantine procedure. If you ever bring poultry from your place to an event with other birds be sure to quarantine your birds when you get home. And always quarantine any new birds that you bring home, whether they come from a swap, a poultry show, shipped to you or even just picked up at your local feed store.  I always quarantine new birds, or returning birds, for 30 days. The length of time you choose is up to you, but be sure it is long enough for viruses and other pathogens to have time to incubate and show symptoms. Watch for signs of illness such as listlessness, sneezing, runny eyes or nose, weird poops, lack of appetite, fluffed up feathers, difficulty standing or walking, and check birds closely for signs of mites or lice. Birds should be quarantined as far away from other poultry if possible, and be sure to take care of your existing flocks first each day before caring for birds in quarantine. Otherwise you risk transferring dust, dander, poop, saliva or feathers from the quarantine birds to your other flocks on your hands, in your hair, or on your clothes.  Being careful about bringing home new birds helps to ensure that you will get the most enjoyment out of your poultry. Better to lose the new birds than all of your birds.

Okay, one more word of warning, attending poultry swaps and shows comes with the risk of developing a severe case of chicken addiction! Each time you go you are sure to discover at least one more breed or color of chicken, duck, turkey, or whatnot that you absolutely MUST have!  I know this happens to me at every swap :) I wonder what I will discover at the spring swap this year?

Meet The Flock: Tolbunt Polish

Dancing Hen Farm: Meet The Flock!

Tolbunt Polish

We have a beautiful flock of Tolbunt Polish at Dancing Hen Farm. This is a rare color in polish, and we think it is the most extraordinary! We sourced our original flock from four different breeders in order to ensure good genetic diversity. We are also crossing some of our birds to nice gold laced polish and then breeding those split babies back to the tolbunts in order to further expand and improve their genetics and their quality.  This is important because only a small group of tolbunt polish were imported into the US over a decade ago and then that stock was repeatedly inbred for too long. The result was very detrimental to the breed. Tolbunt polish in the US became very weak and developed a lot of physical flaws, including such things as poor color, low fertility, crooked feet, and weak chicks.  Good breeders today are working hard to reverse these problems by widening the gene pools of their flocks as much as possible. We did our own research when we decided to work with this breed, and have decided that the best results are coming from breeders who are crossing to gold laced polish. The tolbunt pattern is a gold laced with white mottling, which is a unique pattern to the tolbunt polish, and so good quality gold laced polish can be used to improve the tolbunts. We cross our tolbunts to gold laced polish, and then cross those offspring back to tolbunt. This improves their genetics without losing their pattern.

We have both smooth and frizzled tolbunt polish. The frizzled tolbunts are some of the most eye catching chickens around! They look more like muppets than chickens!  Add a couple of those to your flock and people will be sure to stop and notice!  Our tolbunts are very docile, sweet birds and make very good pets. They would be great birds for children.  The hens lay nice sized white eggs. These are beautiful, striking, rare polish chickens.