Mail Call: May/June 2014

Readers write in with everything from rare chicken breeds to information related to how to clean a cast iron skillet.

| May/June 2014

  • The November/December 2014 issue of GRIT Magazine featured a beautiful rooster on the cover.
    Illustration by Matt Stallbaumer
  • Vinson Watts, perhaps a Beefmaster, and Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes made up the Kurles' bounty.
    Photo by Chuck and Vicki Kurle
  • Petey the English Shepherd is a wonderful companion and chore-mate.
    Photo by Jan Bishop
  • Juan the donkey takes good care to support Sassafras the pygmy goat.
    Photo by Brielle Coleman

Rare Chicken Breeds

The November/December 2013 issue featured a beautiful rooster on the cover, prompting several readers to write in asking about the breed. We tasked poultry expert and author Don Schrider with getting to the bottom of it. Editors

When appraising a chicken to assess its likely breed ancestry, we look at the characteristics of the bird, as these will help us unravel the mystery. In the case of this beautiful rooster, we can tell he is a “he” because of the curved and pointed sickle feathers in his tail. The next two things that stand out are his color and his shape. This rooster has the classic “Golden Duckwing” color pattern and is pretty well-defined, meaning the different color sections are clearly separated. His shape, also called “type,” is classic of the fighting, or “Game,” breeds: He has lots of muscle in the front and less mass in the rear; his tail is up, and his look is commanding. We can also see that he has a very broad skull, pale eye color, white legs, a short and stout beak, that his beak appears yellow, and that his comb appears to either be rose, cushion or walnut in shape; we cannot see how the comb terminates in this photograph, though. We can also notice that his body sits a little low on his legs and that he appears a little chubby compared to most Game breeds.

So, what do we have here? When we sum up all the characteristics, we cannot find any one breed that this rooster would likely represent. He comes close to matching with Old English Game and with American Game breeds. But some of his traits rule purity out – in particular, the comb and type combination does not match with any known breed. The comb, stout beak, and light eye color hint at a dose of an oriental Game breed in his ancestry. The slightly chubby appearance and the fact that he’s sitting lower on his legs may both be due to age — and we can tell he is a few years old because of the length of his spurs and the condition of the scales on his legs. The best conclusion we can make is that he is largely composed of a Game breed — if pure Game, then he is of an old fighting line, not recognized as a breed; otherwise, he is the result of a cross among two or more breeds, including at least one Game ancestor. But we do know he is a beautiful rooster and a good representative of the beautiful Golden Duckwing color pattern.

Don Schrider
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Don Schrider is a nationally recognized poultry breeder and expert. He has written for publications such as Backyard Poultry, Mother Earth News, Chickens, and Poultry Press, and the newsletter and poultry resources of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. He is also the author of a revised edition of Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys.

Cast-Iron Cookware

I read the article about cast-iron pans (All About Cast Iron Cookware) and enjoyed it greatly. Some of my skillets date back to the late 1800s. I only use them and my enamel and granite ware pans. I am constantly looking for more cast-iron pieces and only buy them if they are made in the USA. I love to rehab old cast iron. My favorite piece is a 12-inch skillet that is only used for cornbread. Thanks for educating people about renewing cast-iron pans.

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