by Joshua Heston
I was reading a blog about a rural Arkansas road trip and discovered my chickens.
They weren’t actually my chickens. They would not, for example, recognize me if we were to meet. But they looked just like my chickens. It was a little surprising.
You see, I have some heritage Ozark chickens and didn’t even know it. To me, they were just Spot, Minnie, Pretty Boy, Bertha, the Golden Triplets… and others.
Yeah, we name chickens.
Anything that lays omelets deserves to be named.
Back several years before I started StateoftheOzarks, we (my folks and I) visited the May Festival out at Baker Creek Seeds near Mansfield.
And right there in the seed shop, peeping their little baby heads off, were boxes of chickens. After minimal deliberation, my mom bought a box of them and we headed back to Illinois (but not before a stop at the Shoney’s in Lebanon, where we secured a couple of corn muffins).
Heritage chickens like Shoney’s corn muffins, in case you wondered.
The box had said “heirloom Ozark chickens,” and that’s exactly what they turned out to be. Who knew?
“What’s the criteria for an “heritage chicken?” you ask. This is what I’ve found thus far:
- Are they pretty? Yes.
- Do they grow slowly? Yes. Some commercial breeds mature so fast it’s scary, often becoming top heavy enough to simply fall over when they are walking around.
- Can they forage for themselves? Yes. This is another trait sadly lacking in commercial breeds.
- Do they have pleasant personalities? Yes… and yes, chickens can have personalities.
- Do they have sense enough to hide from owls and hawks? Yeppers. If these chickens had any greater sense of survival, they’d probably be setting up tents and campfires in the backyard.
- Can they reproduce on their own? Uh, yep on that one too. Our flock numbers have steadily increased every season.
Chicken heritage. It seems the Ozarks have a way of exerting an influence on my life… even when I’m not expecting it. And with that, I’d better head out to the barn. And throw some corn to an heirloom chicken named Spot…
Originally published JANUARY 16, 2011