Thursday, December 30, 2010

pumpkin hulseys and winter gosling

There's much going on with the feather set around here... Starting with the fancy new additions to the chicken coop. Five Pumpkin Hulseys are now in holding cages in the trapper's coop here at the farm. They were sent up from Greenfire Farms in Florida, a barter for ad space here, and I can not wait to add this heritage breed to my flock. Pumpkin Hulseys are exactly what they sound like: bright orange firecrackers of chickens. Oddly enough, scrappy birds have a history at CAF. Shortly after I moved in Sheriff Tucker from across the street informed me that the famous Jackson Cockfights were held in my barn, a raucous affair, with plenty of shady folks and flowing booze. The hillside to the stream is littered with old glass bottles from decades ago under the piles of leaves and compost. While I have no interest in watching (or hosting/condoning) rooster fights, having some birds who were once bred for that purpose is a nod to the weird and tangled history of one little farm. Here's what the Greenfire Site says about these guys:
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


Blogger Aranea said...

The birds are beautiful! Makes me remember why I need a house out of city limits when we move. No coops in the city here unfortunately.

December 30, 2010 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger KellyV (Kelly the Fifth) said...

I love to put old glass bottles in the sun and watch them turn blue, lavendar, brown. Jenna - these bottles sell. Collect them, sun them, take them with you to market. Old dumps next to streams can be a treasure trover's dream.

December 30, 2010 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

My friend Cathy said bottle collectors would go nuts here. Her boys found bottles that said LIKE! (as in the name of the drink?) old beer bottles, pop, the works.

December 30, 2010 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Thanks for the link Jenna! They're practically my neighbor and have the sheep I've wanted to get!

Awesome new birds, they look amazing.

December 30, 2010 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Really Crystal? That's great! Contact them and see if they'll let you meet them!

December 30, 2010 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

Heh... I wish my mutt geese were as gentle as yours. I know how nice they CAN be, since I've raised a very social goose from a gosling, but these guys are making me reconsider owning geese until I can afford to buy babies and raise them alongside people.
They're very flighty and hiss all the time. The grey (was told he's the gander) seems to like me, but then attacks if he thinks something's not right.
Unfortunately, I don't wear snow pants 100% of the time, and even when I do they don't give me much protection on my arms and wrists...

I wonder if anger makes the meat taste better? Been considering it you know.

December 30, 2010 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Duck! I laughed at that. Cryus hisses all the time, but if you walk up to him he turns around. He only bit me twice and it was when I was messing with Saro's eggs (can't really blame him) but they were only two geese that I raised by hand, holding them all the time...

December 30, 2010 at 6:54 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I hear that geese are great for keeping the peace when you have more than a couple of roosters who fight. They are evidently the local constabulary when it comes to poultry...

December 30, 2010 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

I got mine at a poultry show and swap meet type thing... They weren't very used to people, especially the white supposed female. The gray will hiss and let me pet him, so that's why it's such an odd situation (for me, I'm sure the goose has it all figured out).

I really should look into naming them... Maybe they're offended by me repeatedly saying Goosegoosegoose all the time?

December 30, 2010 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Paula! My geese do that all the time. I just thought they were Shakers or something.

December 30, 2010 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

What beautiful birds. Good luck with the geese. It's odd that your geese lay all the time as I thought they were seasonal breeders. Mine only laid for a couple-three months in spring and we never got any goslings. May be the breed - I have Sebastopols. She sat on a nest for weeks but the ducks laid there as well and the eggs all went bad, poor thing.

December 31, 2010 at 1:05 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

RW: she only lays in the early winter and spring, but I found that if she doesn't get a nest (meaning I steal the eggs) she'll keep laying till she does for a few weeks.

December 31, 2010 at 5:49 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The colors are magnificent and the story about them was great. Thanks.

December 31, 2010 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing the pictures and the very interesting history of the Pumpkin Hulseys. They are just beautiful. Orange has been a favorite color here at the farm... so cheerful.
We were also curious about your Toulouse Geese. We have sheep and have considered getting a few geese to help control terrestrial snails and slugs which are intermediate hosts to meningeal worms. One of our concerns is that the geese would foul the sheep's watering troughs. Do you have any problem with that?

December 31, 2010 at 11:51 PM  

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