Henny Penny, My First Feathered Love

My love of poultry began in a rather unconventional way. I was a young boy in McMinnville, Tennessee on a trip to town with my grandmother when I spied a brown Leghorn hen running loose on Main Street. On this particular day I was fixated on getting back at my sister for her recent goat acquisition so this chicken seemed like an answered prayer. I asked around about the owner of the bird and was told that she was mine to have if I could catch her. With some fancy foot work and a lot of flying feathers I managed to corral her. Half way home I had named her Henny Penny and forgotten all about my sister’s goat. There would be many feathered friends after Henny, but I credit her with sparking an enthusiasm for poultry that persists today.

My interest has grown to include the preservation of heritage birds, many of which are experiencing alarming declines in breeding flocks throughout the country. Heritage breeds are officially described as original breeds and strains of domestic fowl that were developed and/or recognized in the late 19th or 20th centuries, and they are defined by a specific set of criteria as determined by the American Poultry Association.

1. APA Standard Breed
2. Long Productive Outdoor Life Span
3. Naturally Mating
4. Slow Growth Rate

At the farm we focus on maintaining the genetics of a handful of heritage breeds.

Slate Turkeys as pictured here as well as Black Turkeys

Sebastopol Geese

Buff Orpingtons

Barred Pylmouth Rocks

While you might not have room for a flock of chickens in your backyard there are ways you can help with the preservation of heritage breeds. The first thing I suggest is learning more about the subject. Here are some websites to check out:
Heritage Poultry Conservancy
American Bantam Association
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
American Poultry Association
International Waterfowl Breeders Association

Fall is the season for poultry and livestock shows. Get your toes wet by visiting a few. They are great places to learn about breeds, buy birds and meet other poultry enthusiasts. Check with your local state fair, I’d be willing to bet they have one going on. This year America’s National Crossroads of America Poultry Club show is October 28th – 30th in Indianapolis.

Know someone who has or wants chickens but doesn’t “like” Chicken Chat on Facebook? By liking Purina Poultry and Chicken Chat on Facebook, you qualify to enter the Purina® Rule the Roost Sweepstakes and for the chance to win a new coop from Horizon Structures, free Layena® Plus Omega-3 for a year from Purina and 10 hens and 2 roosters from the Garden Home Retreat! Enter today! No purchase necessary. Sweepstakes ends Sept. 18. Click on the sweepstakes tab for complete rules.

36 Responses to Henny Penny, My First Feathered Love

  1. Mary Trout says:

    Because of our visit to Moss Mountain this past spring for the Tale of Two Farms, we finally got “off the fence” and bought 17 acres. It hasn’t been used for farmland in 50 years so there is a lot of clearing to do. Can’t wait for early spring to start our first little brood of feathered friends!

    To say your are incredibly inspirational is too mundane. Here is a quote that we feel describes you. You are very humble but we hope you like it too. “Nothing great in science has ever been done by men, whatever their powers, in whom the divine afflatus of the truth-seeker was wanting.” ~~Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–95), British biologist and educator~~

  2. Betty Bee says:

    Just love your chicken stories! After growing up on my grandparents farm and loving all the animals, this spring we acquired 5 heritage pullets that have just begun laying fresh lovely eggs. There’s nothing more beautiful than waking to the sweet music of their ‘egg songs’ and yummy nutritious eggs for breakfast! Several weeks ago we returned from church and to our surprise we followed a trail of feathers and ‘such’ into our bathroom where our five chickens had gathered! You just never tire of their comical personalities.

  3. Ann says:

    Ever since I was a child I loved my grandfathers little Bantam chickens. In the 70′s after moving from Canton, NC to Decatur, AL grandaddy presented my little daughters with two little Bantams, a hen and a rooster. That little rooster crowed almost all the 7 hr trip to Alabama. Rooster looked like a game and the little hen, we named Golddust was gold, fat and fluffy and had the feathers down around her feet. She was a cutie. Eventually we moved and sold the chickens and offspring. Had no trouble selling them. I enjoy your shows when you are showing off your “girls”. Keep up the wonderful programs.

  4. B.J. says:

    Love the chicken stories. retired to the country 6 years ago. Too many projects! Now the barn yard fence is getting fixed, hopefully a chicken house, poultry shelters and pens will be next. We have an irrigation creek, so bugs and misquitoes are abundant. heritage chickens ducks and geese are the plan, for enjoyment, eggs and bug control! Hope to be able to let them roam the pasture and yards during the day. Thanks to all for the info.!

  5. Mary Lynn Metras says:

    Henny Penny is so cute. Thanks goodness you have a desire to rescue and Henny led you to that. I rescue outdoor and indoor birds. They live in my home if they are unable to fly again. My friend found a downed carrier pidgeon named Pidge now and she stays with me in the house. I also have a 7 year old rescued sparrow named George. The 2 of them get along with my own Cockatiel, rescued Budgie and Finch. Love your stories. Keep up the good work.

  6. Robbie Pratt says:

    Hi Allen,
    I live in No. California and watch your PBS show ‘My Garden Home’ Daily. . . .My in-laws live in No. Little Rock and I can’t wait to come back to visit and hopefully get a chance to stop in at your ‘Garden Home’. . . Just wondering if you have any guineas amongst your poultry flock??? My grandmother lived in a village in NE AR and I recall all sorts of fowl on the farm. . .I am Vegan and love all sorts of animals. . . My passion, aside from acting, is gardening. . . .I absolutely love all things green. . .well, except the ivy that is growing on my back fence. . .How do I eradicate it???

  7. Sharon E. Patterson says:

    Allen, do you know the story, “Henny Penny”? My Mother used to read a story to me when I was little and she is getting ready to pass away, and I would like that story if you have it. I know it has to do with chickens, and it’s very important to me. Could you email me that story. I love your story also, but when I saw this blog I thought you must know the original story also. Thank you, and I love your show, and gardening ideas, absolutely marvelous!
    Sincerely, Sharon E. Patterson

  8. Anne Nawawi says:

    Love the fluffy Sebastopol Geese. Used to hatch different eggs every spring in my Chidren’s Room at the Library!

  9. David Simpson says:

    Allen:
    Great story. Here is mine.
    My wife and I were both raised on a farm which had chickens, as a matter of fact when I was in 4-H as a youngster I raised chickens as a stock show project one year.
    When we got our place here in the Hill Country of Texas our first thing to do was build a coop and get 10 Buff Orpington chicks. Then I saw a trio if partridge cochin bantam chickens and just had to have them for there beauty. Well the chicks grew into 5 roosters and 4 hens and the cochins got noisy. Well needless to say one of the neighbors didn’t like being woke up at before daylight so instead of having problems with the neighbor I got rid of the chickens.
    I had forgotten that I had put one egg from the Cochin’s into the incubator with some of my quail eggs. It hatched on Valentines day (named it Val) two years ago but the chick had spraddle legs.
    Well my wife, being the tinder hearted person she is got on the Internet and found advice from people on Backyard chicken magazine and took string and hobbled the chicks legs together and gave her kids vitamins placed it in a coffee cup with food and water in another two cups so the chick could eat and drink.
    To try and shorten this it turned out to be a female and she is in perfect health and has the run of the back yard and is a wonderful pet.
    SAVE THE CHICKENS !!!!

  10. I dont know if you will read this message but I wanted to send you a copy of our Club Newsletter.

    If I had your email address I could send you a copy.

    I think your Barred Rocks are from the Frank Reese Line. We hava about 10 new familys with this great old line going back to the 1900s. Bob Blosl Sec. Rock Club

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