pumpkin hulseys and winter gosling
Pumpkin Hulseys emerged over a half-century ago when a famous ‘cocker’ from Texas named E.H Hulsey was losing cockfights because his birds lacked the size and hitting power necessary to win these brutal contests. But, from a friend in Memphis he heard the story of a single, pumpkin-colored rooster that was said to possess all the traits of a perfect gamecock, housed in a large and powerful body. (Memphis—the city that gave us barbecue, Elvis, and the blues— seems forever capable of supplying things that are beautiful and at least slightly dangerous.) Mr. Hulsey traveled from the dry plains of Texas to the humid streets of Memphis, and there he secured the seed stock that would make him one of the most successful cockfighters in America for the next two decades. The pedigree of that single bird remains a mystery, but its superior genetics were to spread through thousands of birds over the next half century. As Mr. Hulsey soon learned, the offspring of this mysterious rooster grew to be skilled and aggressive fighters, and pumpkin Hulseys gained the reputation as the favored breed to use when creating powerful hybrids that were smart and fearless in the pit.
While bred for the fighting pit, perhaps ironically pumpkin Hulseys also seem better suited than any breed for true free-range farm living. They have the flying capabilities of wild birds and are strong and fearless enough to fight predators, including hawks and owls. At night they roost in the tops of tall trees, and during the day they forage while the rooster maintains a protective vigil over his flock of hens. They are gentle to humans, and if integrated into a flock at an early age, will also tolerate other roosters.
Although there are many beautiful breeds of chickens, pumpkin Hulseys may stand at the pinnacle of aesthetics in the entire poultry hierarchy. They are simply stunning. The roosters may have hackles of a golden orange color that shimmers with light, and their taut, powerful bodies are tightly encased in feathers colored the many shades of the red and yellow spectrum. They possess an unblinking confidence, and in the aggressive caste of their eyes and erect posture you are reminded of a bird of prey rather than a chicken.
So there you have it. The roots of a breed, named after my favorite squash, from my favorite state, matching my favorite season, and oddly connected to the history of this scrappy farm. Let's hope they fair well. If they do I might even try hatching a few out in a small incubator.
I had a dream last night that there were four goslings in the snow by the well. They were peeping behind their mother, Saro as Cyrus kept watch from the small rise above the well's spout. I'm sure the dream came from the nest of eggs she is currently sitting on, which I discovered in the coop last night. I had been taking stray eggs from her to bake and sell since before Thanksgiving, but decided to let her keep the rest to sit on if she chooses. It was an act of pure independence.
The last time she had a brood was on rented land, and the landlord's caretaker told me that no animals were allowed to be bred or added to the property, so the goslings had to go. They were carted off to a friend's farm in Shaftsbury, then sold to other farms. If Saro does manage to hatch another set of goslings, then I will bring them in from the snow into warm brooder boxes, keep one or two, and sell the others to nearby farms. Toulouse Geese are regal beings, and I have learned since acquiring my original two how entertaining and useful they truly are. They keep watch and alert of you any strange goings on instantly, they create down and meat (though I could never eat these guys at this point), and they are great foragers, weeders, and slapstick comedians when they aren't acting like they're better than me. Fine animals all around. I highly recommend them if you want to laugh and feel judged at the same time.
photo from backyardchickens.com