Spurred inside by the wet March-like weather of Saturday, April 11, Island Grown Initiative (IGI) drew an excellent turnout of animated poultry people, from late middle age to toddler, for its second All Things Poultry Day event at the Agricultural Hall. Instead of a beautiful day to build a henhouse, the weather provided a welcome excuse to come inside to share all aspects of chicken keeping.
A seven-part program, supported in part by a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NESARE) grant, featured breakfast, welcoming address, heritage breeds presentation, introduction to humane poultry processing, "Getting More out of Your Chicken" demonstration, lunch, and a panel discussion with local growers.
Breakfast presented by the Scottish Bakehouse (beverages, muffins, scones, and egg sandwiches cooked to order) initiated the day's program. Doug Brush's welcome followed, with his informative back story on the Cornish X Rock (Cornish cross), and its radical effect on the poultry industry.
These are the birds that put chicken on America's daily menu, which Flat Point Poultry raises for its Community Supported Chickens (CSC, as in CSA, community supported agriculture) plan. Mr. Brush is happy to sell the poultry that he and his partner, Jeff Munroe, raise at Flat Point Poultry, but he is just as eager to convince novice chicken growers to produce their own meat with some minimal daily effort and the help of IGI's humane poultry processing unit.
Rebecca Gilbert of Native Earth Teaching Farm and Katherine Long of Up Island Eggs teamed to convince the assembly to consider heritage breeds of poultry when choosing chickens to raise, emphasizing the real work, arduous selection, and re-selection over generations, which heritage breeds represent. Ms. Long's PowerPoint program highlighted her Cochins, Dorkings, Silkies, Brahmas, and Crested Polish, as good backyard poultry choices.
Flightiness and poor temperament have entered many breed lines as unintended consequences of other genetic objectives, she observes. It is sensible to stick with poultry breeds that have a long history of domestication. Such a lengthy pedigree belongs to the five-toed Dorking, brought to Britain by invading Romans prior to the Christian era.
Lively questions and good answers peppered each of the day's presentations. Standing close to where baby Cornish cross chicks were boxed under a heat lamp, Emily Fischer, Doug Brush's wife, shared her reaction to the day: "I'm so pleased by how many Island participants there are this year compared to last year. There is so much knowledge here we can benefit from."
That was demonstrated throughout the day.