Category Archives: chickens

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 5 – 4 Calling Birds


My “12 days of Christmas Sale” has started in my ETSY SHOP

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013) – I have added a few photos and modified the text slightly!

 12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Four Calling Birds


In the Carol ” The Twelve Days of Christmas”,  Day Four, the “calling” birds were originally “collie” or “colley” birds, meaning black-as-coal blackbirds. My poultry mind wants to stretch and consider that they could have been black domestic fowls, such as the old French breeds, all of which were often black, or black Spanish chickens.

Black turkeys also were popular in the 18th century in Europe. ( see photo at end of post)



A very black Blackbird! Not sure why they should have been a gift to a ‘true love’, but they were thought to have magical powers, and are well known for their beautiful ‘song’, so maybe they are in fact “calling birds’ – smile

Black fowl lost favor because the dark feathers show up in the skin of the bird prepared for the table, unlike white feathers. In the 19th century, white birds lost popularity because they were thought to be constitutionally weak. Fashions in food are as variable as fashions in dress.


jersey giant cockerel

Many breeds have modern black color varieties. American breeds such as Javas, Jersey Giants, sometimes called Black Giants, and the English Orpington have black heritage. Asian breeds such as Cochins and Langshans have a strong history of black plumage. Sumatras are always black.

Black varieties of Orientals are relatively recent, such as Malays and Cubalayas. Among Mediterranean breeds, the White-Faced Black Spanish is an old breed. Minorcas were originally an entirely black breed called Red-Faced Black Spanish.


cayuga duck

Black East Indies ducks are an old breed, although whether they date back to the 17th century is a matter of discussion. Some authorities trace their history back only as far as the 19th century. Cayuga ducks are always black. The recognition of the breed dates back to the 19th century, but it originated from wild American Black ducks crossing with domestic ducks. A black variety of Runner ducks is recent, 20th century. Black ducks could fit the description of “colley” birds.

Black turkeys were popular in Europe, and after Columbus introduced the wild turkey, American colonists crossing the Atlantic brought domesticated black varieties with them. Turkeys were often known by their origin as well, such as the Norfolk Black and the Black Spanish.

In domestic poultry, black plumage has an iridescent quality that gives it a greenish sheen, sometimes complemented with violet. The feathers are truly beautiful and eye-catching, suitable for a gift that would honor the season.

black turkey

A ‘spanish style’ Black Turkey

Three French Hens – at last Part 4 – 12 Days of Christmas Carol


My “12 days of Christmas Sale” has started in my ETSY SHOP

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013)

12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Three French Hens

(I have kept hens for many years, which is why this piece caught my eye!)

Three French hens could be selected from the three old French breeds recognized by the APA for exhibition. Houdan, LaFleche and Crevecoeur were all in the original APA Standard published in 1874. They have long histories, as far as the 15th century in the case of the La Fleche, the 17th century for the others. All are large birds, topping out at 8 pounds for roosters and 7 pounds for hens. All are white egg layers.

Houdans have been known as Normandy fowl. They are a crested breed, recognized in mottled-black and solid-white varieties. Solid black, blue mottled and red mottled varieties have existed in the past and may be raised by fanciers yet.

In the U.S., Houdans were a popular dual-purpose production breed in the 19th and early 20th century. They have five toes like the Dorkings.

The La Fleche, which may be the oldest of the three, was selected and managed for egg production in Britain and North America. They take their name from the town of La Fleche, around which production was centered in the early 19th century. They probably resulted from crossing Polish, Crevecoeur and Spanish birds, which gave them their white earlobes.

Their unusual horned V-shaped comb is remarkable, in the past causing these birds to be called the Horned Fowl. Although now clean-headed, some breeders report occasional offspring with small crests or tassels. The French standard requires a crest.

Although recognized now only in black, they were bred in other colors in the past. In 1580, Prudens Choiselat wrote that blacks, reds, and fawns were the best. Blue and white strains have existed in the more recent past.

The Crevecoeur is sometimes compared to the Dorking, which has history on both English and French sides of the Channel. They also have V combs, although earlier in history they also had leaf combs. Currently recognized only in black plumage, white and blue ones were raised in the past.

The Crevecoeur was also used as a production fowl in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Wyandottes & Houdan Chickens

A Post for Christmas – The 12 day Carol!


It is now too late to guarantee that any orders not already received, can be posted in time for Christmas, but my Etsy Shop will remain open and any orders will be posted as soon as the postal services resume over the holiday period.

So I thought I’d indulge in a Christmas subject – a post I found on Countryside Magazine

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century, and the meaning behind the birds in the Carol.



By Christine Henrichs

Understanding the 12 Days of Christmas meaning adds something special to this favorite traditional carol. Its repeating verses make it fun to learn the list of traditional gifts: A partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese a-laying, seven swans a-swimming, eight maids a-milking, nine ladies dancing, 10 lords a-leaping, 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming, all reflect things that were familiar to life in 18th century England and France.

In a nutshell, here’s the 12 Days of Christmas meaning: In the Christian religion, the 12 Days following Christmas are the time it took for the three wise men to make their journey to the stable where the Jesus was born. January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany. Religious meanings have been imputed to each day’s gift, but there isn’t any historical documentation for that. To me, it’s interesting because it tells us about what life was like back then.

The 12 Days of Christmas meaning is interesting to explore through a historic lens. The song lists many wild and domestic birds that brightened life in those days of political upheaval and revolution. It was first printed in the 1780 children’s book, Mirth Without Mischief, but it was already old then. It may have originated in France, as three French variations exist. The First Day’s signature partridge was introduced into England from France in the late 1770s, shortly before the carol was formalized in print and published.

12 Days of Christmas

The Partridge in a Pear Tree

The partridge is a colorful choice for the first gift. Partridges include lots of different species with bright plumage on their rotund bodies. The gray or English partridge, a Eurasian native, was known in England then. It came to North America around the turn of the 20th century, directly from Eurasia. It has adapted well and is now fairly common in North America. They are hardy birds, able to survive cold winter conditions in the Midwest and Canada. They aren’t much for flying, with a stocky body and short, round wings. Most flights are low, at eye level and shorter than 100 yards. They are 12 to 13 inches long with a wingspan of 21 to 22 inches and weigh about one pound.

The hens may lay as many as 22 eggs in a clutch and hatches of 16 to 18 are common. They are not usually raised as domestic birds.

Among modern chickens, the name Partridge survives today as a recognized color variety in both large fowl and bantam Cochin, Plymouth Rock, Wyandotte, Chantecler, and Silkie breeds. It is similar to the Black Red pattern, the name more appropriately applied to game birds, according to Dr. J. Batty in his Poultry Colour Guide of 1977. Males and females differ, with males have rich red plumage on their heads, backs and wings, glinting with lustrous greenish black. Females are more subdued, mostly reddish bay with distinct penciling. The Standard of Perfection details the requirements of the Partridge color pattern description.


Do you like my new Call Ducks?




As I mentioned in Hallo Again! I have a big garden here in rural West Wales, and one of the plans I’ve had for my new home is to keep poultry again, and I have made a start!

Just thought I’d show you my new call ducks – both drakes and for some reason I’ve named them George & Edward, although at the moment I can’t tell them apart.

They’ve only just been let outside in the last couple of days and its a joy to watch them wander around, getting excited about eating some of the grass for me, and even better, have been searching the ‘patio area’ for nice juicy slugs – and devouring them!


Here’s proof – I caught this photo just as George (or Edward) had one in his beak – it disappeared down his throat just moments afterwards!

Call ducks are small, about the size of a mallard, and easy to keep in the back garden – they are usually kept as pets, and you can pick them up quite easily.

I bought them an old baby bath so they could go for a swim – I will hopefully have a pond soon – but oddly, it seems that they haven’t quite worked out what the bath is for yet – even tho’ I tossed some bits of bread in it.  I’m really looking forward to seeing them swim!


I’ve just remembered I wrote a more informative piece about call ducks for an A-Z blogging challenge I did in 2015 – If you’re interested please click HERE!

I also got a pair of very pretty bantams at the same time, but haven’t yet managed to get a decent photo of them.  Will have to give them a blog of their own when I do.


                   I’ll let you know what and where to find

          the listings when I put them up!




SSilkies are a particularly attractive pure breed of chickens – please go the ‘the spare’ to see my pictures of them!

S is for Silkies

P is for Peacocks


P Today I have contributions from both China and Romania!

I have a friend in China, who blogs as Spaceship China  and recently visited Xishuangbanna, a region far south in the southern province of Yunnan, home to the Dai people, and took some stupendous photos.

One of my customers, Florance, lives in Romania, and happens to breed peacocks.  She sent me some pictures of her peacock chicks, after seeing ‘my Easter chicks’.  They have both given me permission to use their photographs.

peacock+feather+image+graphicsfairy3bThese stunning iridescent peacock feathers, which almost everyone, at some time, has admired, come from the male of the species and are used in as glorious mating displays to attract the far duller brown female of the species!

They have inspired countless artists and writers, and have at various times, been fashionable additions to hats and fans, and home decorations.

male in full display

male in full display

Just to blind you with science – this bit comes from Wikipedia – smile – it explains how the colours in this display are produced by ‘reflection and refraction’.

As with many birds, vibrant iridescent plumage colours are not primarily pigments, but structural coloration. Optical interference Bragg reflections based on regular, periodic nanostructures of the barbules (fiber-like components) of the feathers produce the peacock’s colours. Slight changes to the spacing of these barbules result in different colours. Brown feathers are a mixture of red and blue: one colour is created by the periodic structure and the other is created by a Fabry–Pérot interference peak from reflections from the outer and inner boundaries. Such structural coloration causes the iridescence of the peacock’s hues since interference effects depend on light angle rather than actual pigments.[2]

But going back to the whimsical – this is a myth about ‘The Peacock Princess’ as recounted in!

peacocks in Xishuangbanna, China

peacocks in Xishuangbanna, China

The Dai people have a legend about their ancestors. One day, the Prince of the Dai was visiting a lake, and he saw seven peacocks fly down. At the lakeside, the peacocks turned into young women. Fascinated, the prince waited for them to return. As they took of their mantle – feathers on their head – they turned into the women and went bathing.

The prince stole the youngest swan’s mantle, and when the others turned back into birds, she stayed human. The prince married her, and she became known as Princess Peacock.

img_0114 Nearby kingdoms were jealous of the Dai’s riches and wars broke out. The prince was far away fighting. Some people blamed the Princess Peacock and called for her death.

The peacock woman asked the king to perform a dance to ensure the safe return of the prince. Taking her feather mantle, she started dancing and transformed back into a peacock and flew away.

The Dai people worship peacocks as being messengers of peace, kindness, love and beauty.

The story of the seven heavenly peacocks is reminiscent of other myths regarding the constellation Cygnus.

White Peacock, Xishuangbanna

White Peacock, Xishuangbanna

Peacocks have other Royal Connections – During the Medieval period, various types of fowl were consumed as food, the more wealthy gentry were privileged to less usual foods, such as swan, and even peafowl were consumed. On a king’s table, a peacock would be for ostentatious display as much as for culinary consumption.[30] 

And there are many other myths associated with these beautiful birds see Wikipedia again!

Before Florance sent me the pictures below, I had never seen peacock chicks, they look like any other chicks until they are about 2 months old, when you can start to see the differentiations.  This is a selection of the pictures she sent me from Romania.

She doesn’t currently have a website or blog, but if you want to ask her any questions about rearing peacocks, I will be happy to pass them on to her, or if you leave a comment below, perhaps she will answer them herself!  Her English is very good.

To see the titles, hover over the pictures, or click on them and you will get them enlarged in a slide show format.