Monday, October 21, 2013

Clean as a chicken

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be a chicken for a day? Yeah, we haven't either. But here at the farm we do care a lot about making sure our chickens enjoy being a chicken every day... whatever that may be like.

About a week ago, Historic Wagner Farm hosted its final quarterly volunteer event in 2013. For this event, we had our very own chicken whisperer, Carlin Horbal, give an informational presentation about the life and habits of our chickens. As the group of volunteers huddled out by the coop, studying the birds by the light of a lantern, Carlin discussed the handling and care of chickens and eggs on a 1920s farm.

Our flock here at the farm are known as Partridge Rocks chickens, an old American breed known for their docile temperament, and fair representation of the type of chickens the Wagners would have had in the 1920s. Chickens are very clean animals and happily spend much of their day preening their feathers. To do this, chickens peck at the preen gland (or urophygial gland) at the base of their tails. This gland produces an oily secretion rich in waxes and fatty acids. The chickens collect this oily stuff in their beaks and spread it all over their feathers. The oil keeps them clean, improves their natural insulation and helps water-proof their feathers.

Although chickens can preen on their own, they prefer to turn it into a social activity. The entire flock will gather together to preen one another. Stop by the farm and see if you can catch a glimpse of our flock while they're preening!