Chicken Breeds at Graystem Farm

CREAM LEGBAR


Anyone who has ever studied Mendelian genetics in high school has probably used the Punnett square.  It was developed by Reginald C. Punnett, the first Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics at Oxford University.   Professor Punnett is also the man who, in the 1920s and with the contributions of Clarence Elliott and Michael Pease, developed the Cream Legbar chicken.   The breed was introduced to the world at the 1947 London Dairy Show and to American shores in 2011.


The Cream Legbar is the only genetically stable, auto-sexing breed that lays blue eggs.


We first acquired a trio of day old chicks from Greenfire Farms in March 2012.  If you study the picture above, you will note the little fellow on the right has white on his head and muted coloring while the two females have darker brown "chipmunk" coloring.    At maturity, the females are similar in plumage to the Brown Leghorn, with several distinct differences: a modest crest of cream feathers and cream hackles, subtle barring on a grayed brown base and a heavier body than its cousin.  The male is more like a Barred Rock – if they had a moderate swept back crest and flashes of chestnut on the shoulders and coverts.    Unfortunately, our cock carried genes for wry tail, too much autosomal red, and no crest.  Of those two hens one is cream, the other gold and neither are crested.  The cream hen has remained in our breeding program and two crested pullets were added late in 2012 from Jordan Farms.    In July 2013 we purchased a pure cream, crested male from Greenfire.   Heathcliff is proving to be a valuable addition to our stock.   


Due to the efforts of a group of dedicated fans, including Graystem Farm, a U.S. Club was founded in 2012 with the goal of standardizing U.S. Cream Legbar chickens in line with the British standard without sacrificing egg production or auto-sexing traits, then obtaining APA recognition. 


Cream Legbar Highlights:

  • Auto-sexing at hatch
  • prolific layers of sky blue eggs
  • medium weight
  • yellow skin and legs
  • white ear lobes
  • docile yet active
  • get along well with other breeds
  • easy keepers – free range or confined

DOMINIQUE


The Dominque chicken has the distinction of being the oldest American breed of chicken though its origins are cloaked in mystery.   It is worth noting that Santo Domingo (renamed St. Dominique by the French) on what is now the northeast coast of the island nation of Haiti, was a popular staging area for 15th and 16th century explorers to take on supplies, including livestock, as they colonized the New World.  Even the Lost Colony expedition stopped there to acquire livestock in preparation for their ill-fated attempt to settle the Cheseapeake Bay (1).   Whatever fowl were available to the settlers would have been tough to survive the journey from the old world to the far reaches of the new.   And Dominiques are definitely tough!  As early as 1750, these barred chickens were providing meat, eggs and chicks while foraging for food in farm yards.  In 1871 it was decided that only the rose comb variety would be considered Dominiques and the single straight combed birds were soon combined with the Barred Rock stocks.  This did not work well for the Dominique as the single comb variety was the more popular.  Numbers plummeted and by the 1970s the breed was almost extinct.

 

Today the Dominique is making a comeback thanks to a group of dedicated breeders including Graystem Farm. 

 

Dominique Highlights:

  • Rose comb
  • Yellow skin and legs
  • Medium dual purpose utility fowl
  • Active and friendly
  • Prolific layer of brown eggs

 

 

(1) “Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony,” Lee Miller

 

WHITE DORKING


As a breed, the Dorking has been around at least since the time of Columella, a Roman agricultural historian of the first century A.D. who wrote of five toed fowl perfectly matching the Dorking.  The Romans are believed to have brought the birds to Britain but no one can say for certain.  No matter how they arrived, the Dorking flourished in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey.  The town of Dorking, Surrey, from whence the breed received its name, proudly displays this fowl on its coat of arms.


Though the Dorking is considered a dual purpose chicken, and is in fact a good winter layer, it truly excels at the table.  In 1853, the Rev. Dixon, in "A Treatise on the History and Management of Ornamental and Domestic Poultry," wrote:


"A correspondent, writing from Boston says, 'You ask me what kind of Fowls I prefer?  I wish to be understood that, when I speak of Fowls, I recommend or condemn from my own experience--not from the representation of others.  I prefer the white Dorking before any other breed known in this part of the country.  They have all the good qualities in full, which other breeds possess only in part; they are hardy, handsome, prolific, easily raised, and, when they are brought upon the table, 'they are food for Emperors and Kings (Dixon 184).'"


Dorking colors recognized by the A.P.A. include White, thought to be the most ancient variety, Coloured and the Silver Gray from which they were derived, and Red.  They may also be found in Black, Speckled and Barred.  We selected the White Dorking for three reasons:  1) they are the only variety with a rose comb which is both unique and attractive with white plumage as well as resistant to frost bite, 2) the white feathers on white skin is neater to dress, and 3) the breeder from whom we purchased our foundation stock, J. Marquette of Yellow House Farm, has made significant progress toward reclaiming the original excellence of the White Dorking.


Dorking Highlights:
  • Rose Comb
  • Dual purpose
  • White skin
  • Good layer of white eggs
  • Tolerant of cold



MOTTLED HOUDAN


The Houdan chicken is a very old French breed that takes its name from a small commune in Yvelines in the Ile-de-France provence near Normandy.  There is no consensus on the origins of this breed but it became known as both a fancy fowl (for its crisp black & white plumage and a bouffant crest, muff and beard) as well as a utility fowl for its white eggs and excellent table qualities.  Today the French Houdan is raised under the stringent and prestigious Label Rouge protoccols.


In the U.S. this breed has seriously declined from the height of its popularity in the late 19th century.    At Graystem Farm we are dedicated to saving this breed.   Though the Mottled Houdan of today has shrunk in both body size and population, it still has much to recommend it:  stylish plumage, pretty pied legs, a docile temperament and white egg production.  None of our hens have been broody.


Houdan Highlights:

  • Good layer of white eggs
  • Dual purpose utility fowl
  • crested
  • Active and friendly
  • Five toes
  • White skin and legs


BLACK LANGSHAN


Langshan are a chicken with PRESENCE.  There is no ignoring the large stately carriage and glistening beetle green sheen to their full black plumage.  The Langshan’s large size coupled with light bone, full breast, white skin and particularly light meat have made it a table  favorite, while the hens' prolific egg laying place it firmly in the dual purpose category.  Langshan are fast growing for an old time breed though exhibition males can take some extra time to come into their full feathered glory.  Hens are very hardy and begin laying dark rose brown eggs around six months old.  Langshan has two distinctive characteristics – long legs and a 'U' shape in profile.


This feather footed breed reached U.S. shores around 1880 via England where it is known as the “Croad Langshan” in honor of its importer, Major A.C. Croad.  The Langshan takes its name from Langshanije in the Hunan Province of China which has a climate and soils very similar to those located here in Central Virginia where this breed has done so well on our farm.   The foundation of our ‘A’ Line is a trio from Wilbur Hanley of North Carolina, and our ‘B’ line began with the cross of a Duane Urch hen with the Hanley cockerel pictured to the left. 


Langshan Highlights:

  • Good layers of rose brown eggs
  • Docile and calm
  • Setters
  • Large, table bird
  • Feather footed
  • Tolerant of cold and humidity though comb points

can be damaged by frostbite

RHODE ISLAND RED (ROSE COMB)

Our first experience with "Rhode Island reds" was not a pleasant one.  The hatchery bred hen we purchased in our second year of chicken keeping was a good layer but mean as a snake - to us, our dogs, and every other chicken that invaded her space, which was most of the yard.  We quickly wrote this breed off as not for us.  It wasn't until we attended our first chicken show years later and got a look at those stunning rose comb Reds that I just had to give them another try...and boy, was I glad we did.    True Rhode Island Red chickens are not mean; they are confident, inquisitive and easy to handle.  They are also solid meaty birds and still good layers too if you get the right lines.

An American breed developed from a complex combination of breed genetics in Little Compton, Rhode Island and the neighboring Newport County of Massachusetts, Rhode Island Reds are surprisingly difficult to breed well, but when you succeed, wow, what a bird.  Insist on the REAL Rhode Island Red!

Our foundation stock of rose comb large fowl was purchased from Gary Underwood in 2013.  The chicks arrived in January 2014 and will be ready for the autumn VPBA show.  Watch for them in  November!


Red Highlights:
  • Confident and friendly
  • Dual purpose solid brick shape
  • Good layer of brown eggs
  • yellow skin and legs
  • glossy Bing Cherry red plumage


SILKIES & SIZZLES


UNDER CONSTRUCTION


We hope you find one of our favorite breeds perfect for your needs; however, if you need more information, check out this helpful breed comparison chart from the Livestock Conservancy.


Our chickens are tested annually and are currently Pullorum-Typhoid and Avian Influenza CLEAN. 

NPIP #52-265


   We are not a hatchery, but sometimes have hatching eggs, day old chicks and breeding pairs available at local chicken swaps or through on-line auctions.   If you are not located in Central Virginia and wish to purchase eggs or day old chicks from us, please provide your state's import requirements and the necessary forms before you place your order.  Shipping is at cost.   The minimum order for chicks under 8 weeks of age to be picked up locally is six (Code of Virginia Sec. 3.2-6510); the minimum shipped order for day old chicks is 25 during the cold season (through mid-April) and 12 during warmer weather (end of April through mid-June.)  We are not currently shipping adult birds.

   If we are sold out of the breed you are interested in, please request a spot on our waiting list by EMAIL
 
Chicken Sales Policy:

We can guarantee that chicks are NPIP-AI clean, healthy and parasite free up until the moment they leave our farm.   We cannot make any guarantees once they are handled by others, including the shipper, or following exposure to any other livestock or their carriers, bedding, etc.  It is STRONGLY recommended that all animals are held in a quiet quarantine area for at least four weeks to adjust to their new environment and handlers.

Eggs are guaranteed to come from fertile pens, from healthy birds and be shipped within 3-4 days of collection.  We will pack the eggs with plenty of soft packaging but we cannot guarantee handling by the post office or commercial carriers.   We may ship replacements for eggs damaged in transit solely at our discretion.    

For purchases over $35.00 we can accept payment by credit card.  All other purchases are cash only.

Price list for Summer 2014:

Black Langshan, Mottled Houdan,  Silkies/Sizzles

 

Price each, straight run:

Day old to 1 week - $7.00

One to 3 weeks - $7.50

3 – 6 weeks - $9.00

6 – 10 weeks - $12.00

10 weeks to point of lay - $15.00

< 1 year layers - $20.00

 

Eggs - $40.00 per dozen plus shipping

Show potential birds priced individually

 

Cream Legbar

 

Prices each:

Cockerels:

Day old to 1 week - $7.00

One to 3 weeks - $7.50

3 – 8 weeks - $9.00

8 - 10 weeks - $15.00

Over 10 weeks, priced individually by show & breeding qualities

 

Pullets:

Day old to 1 week - $15.00

One to 3 weeks - $18.00

3 – 9 weeks - $22.00

9 weeks and up – priced individually by show & breeding qualities

 

Eggs - $65.00 per dozen plus shipping

 

 

Barnyard Mixes, including Easter and Olive Eggers:

 

Day old to 1 week - $5.00

One to 3 weeks - $5.50

3 – 6 weeks - $7.00

6 – 10 weeks - $10.00

10 weeks to point of lay - $12.00

< 1 year layers - $20.00

 

Eggs - $20.00 per dozen pick up only