Well, Spring has officially sprung…and around here it feels like Summer will start any day (we’ve been knocking on the 90’s already). So it seemed like a good time to share our “goings-on” and the plans we have for the upcoming seasons.
As some of you may have noticed, we had a little “contest” a few weeks back, a “name-that-breed” if you will. We ended up with a winner, our friend Pete M.. With great insight and a keen eye, Pete properly identified the chicks as Belgian Malines. According to our friends at Greenfire, we are the first to get this new release from them. They are now a few weeks old and growing wonderfully. Malines (or Mechels) originated several centuries ago in an area around Malines, Belgium. According to our sources, it was the zoo at Antwerp that introduced Asian foul to the this part of Belgium, where Cochins, Brahmas, and Langshans were bred into the local foul, resulting in the Malines. We are raising the Cuckoo Malines, famous for its table qualities, docile nature, and well-fleshed breast. Malines roosters can reach 5kg, and hens come in at about 4kg. Holding the juveniles in your hand, it is easy to tell that this is a “meat” bird. They are solidly built and well-proportioned even as chicks. We will be sharing a lot about them in the coming weeks. As a “prize,” our friend Pete will be first in line to receive Malines from us in the fall, along with our runner-up, Jerry O., who wisely followed Pete’s lead. As for the second breed in the photo, Pete correctly identified them as Sussex, Light Sussex to be exact. Congrat’s guys!
We’ve had a number of inquiries for our Marans and Cream Legbars, and are happy to report that we have started shipping hatching eggs from both breeds this week. We just delivered our first batch of chicks to our friends at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, CA. They are doing some great things at Apricot Lane, and if you live in the Los Angeles area, make sure to seek them out at your local farmer’s market. If you see some chocolate and sky-blue eggs in their cartons this fall, they just might be from the chicks we delivered! Check out their website and tell them Sunbird Farms sent you!
This spring we are making a number of changes here at Sunbird Farms, mostly in an effort to better focus on the breeds that are well-suited for our climate. We have experimented with a number of breeds over the years, and hope to use that information to develop some of the best examples of regionally-focused breeds anywhere. We are in the beginning stages of creating a local preservation and certification organization. The purpose will be to identify livestock and produce that has a track record of success in California’s Central Valley, with the ability to produce at historic levels over a consistent period of time. Right now we’re calling it the “Central California Sustainability Project,” and we are very excited about the future implications. We also have plans to work with our local K-8 school to provide classes and livestock, and to educate the children on the value of heritage, regionally-focused food. Our big dream is to go to Slow Food’s Terra Madre event in Italy this fall, where we’ve applied to be delegates. We’d love to share what we’re doing with food enthusiasts from around the world. Wish us luck.
So, with that in mind, what’s on the list for poultry? Well, for our local friends, don’t forget that we are now offering our pastured eggs in our Farm Store, and hope to have our pastured poultry available later this summer/fall. For our fellow chicken enthusiasts, here’s what we plan to raise this spring/summer:
- American Bresse- The gold standard for dual-purpose, great table bird, excellent layer, great forage, calm.
- Cream Legbar- We have three lines from Greenfire, providing some of the best genetic in the country; prolific layers of sky-blue eggs.
- Marans- Black Copper, Blue Copper, and Birchen. Our plan is to focus our efforts on the Birchen, but with the egg-color potential we have in our Copper Marans, we may be going wide on the Marans.
- Sussex- We have some fantastic Light Sussex lines, including Greenfire’s original Australian import, and their newest lines from Europe. Additionally, we’ve acquired some very old lines of Speckled Sussex and will be trailing them this spring. We might even bring back our Silvers. We’re crazy about this breed. Eggs for days and about as easy to keep and friendly as any breed we’ve had.
- Malines- The Belgian wonder. A beautiful, big chicken that is easy to keep and provides a premium table experience. We have high hopes for this breed.
- Dominique- We have a lovely little trio of these American classics that are just delightful. They are as thrifty as it gets with their food, and lay eggs like nobody’s business. We are suckers for the cuckoo coloring, and any bird that works as hard as these deserves a spot on our farm. An Ark of Taste original, we will be adding to this flock soon.
- Buckeye- We’ve been working with several American breeds over the years, but we always come back to the Buckeye. The roosters are never aggressive toward humans, the hens are inquisitive and great foragers, and we have had good luck with lay rate. Our lines include the genetics used by the Livestock Conservancy (Chris McCary, president of the American Buckeye Poultry Club) and those of the former president of the American Buckeye Club. Despite their common-place appearance, holding one of these genetic treasures in your hands quickly reminds you what a heritage meat bird feels like. No wonder they’re an Ark of Taste selection.
We have a few other possibilities in mind, including the elusive Lamona, but time and experience will tell whether the above will be our ultimate list. We are also hoping to partner with our friends at Valley Fog Farms, who are currently working with some great lines of Barred Hollands, Delawares, and White-Faced Black Spanish. These are some of the rarest breeds anywhere and we are excited to collaborate with VFF on our sustainability project. As you can see, we are really focusing on production. While we have delighted in our share of Orpingtons and other ornamental breeds, we are, after all, a farm.
Well, that about wraps it up for now. Stay tuned for more on the above breeds, and we hope to have out our “treatise” on the value of local food soon. If you’re not already a member, consider joining Slow Food USA, its a great organization. Thanks for all your questions and comments, and thanks to our faithful customers. We love hearing from you all, so drop us a line.
With Blessings and Gratitude,