Last Saturday, thanks to the ALBC breed finder, we headed out to the home of GRIT and MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader Margaret Kramar to pick up a replacement hen for the wonderful layer we lost in the 113-degree heat this past summer.
Margaret and her family were a pleasure to talk to, and in this business you often don’t get the opportunity to interface directly with readers; it’s such a nice alternative to emailing and phone conversations.
Here’s our new little Hamburg hen (speckled, pretty, smaller bird on the left). She was just hatched this past spring, so I'm glad to get her in her first year. There was a little scuffling and establishing pecking order in the first few minutes, but when I went out later that first night with a flashlight, our two hens were roosted right next to one another in the coop on the same roosting bar. I think now it's safe to call them buds.
We’ve never named our hens, not for any other reason than we have two different breeds, so they are simply: the Hamburg and the Dorking. I really don’t buy into the if-you-name-it-you-won’t-want-to-eat-it philosophy, so maybe these girls end up with a name at some point.
Our chickens are laying hens, definitely, but a few years from now we will end up stewing them as well. I’ll probably have to take them away from the house and wife for the processing, since it’s not the most pleasant thing for anyone to process the animal they raise, but it’s completely necessary in my opinion.
By the time I got to our former Hamburg, rigor mortis had set in, so she was buried in the backyard instead of reaching the proverbial stew pot. Really, she should have been burned to prevent any chance of disease, I know, but we currently live in town and that’s just not possible.
Anyways, I strongly endorse the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s online directory and rare breed locator on their website. Type in the species or even specific breed you are looking for, your city or zip code, and proximity parameters, and you can locate a member of the ALBC closest to you. It’s a breeze.
One phone call to Margaret, and we had ourselves a replacement Hamburg that will be just as appreciated as her predecessor, and hopefully we can see her through to an older age. It certainly was an added bonus that the Kramars are dedicated to country living and rare-breed conservation – values that I think are probably widespread among the ALBC members by definition – not to mention good GRITty folks!
Now, just to convince Gwendolyn to add a couple of meat rabbits to the space we have, and between poultry, venison and rabbits, we’ll be doing about all of the home-meat processing that we can until we make our way out where the pavement ends.