"….that remarkable fowl - the biology and embryology of the chicken, the chicken as art, in song, in folklore and literature, in its history and economic and anthropological aspects, the history of the chicken, the keeping of ornamental birds, the history of cockfighting, the cooking and eating of the chicken and the egg." Introduction to The Chicken Book, Page Smith and Charles Daniel
Most of these ancient breeds continue to thrive due to a passionate group of breeders. Around this hobby there are organized poultry shows, known as the Fancy, supporting competitions for heritage and new variety breeds. The first American show was held in Boston in 1849, where breeders gathered to compete against one another for ribbons and trophies. Soon after the Boston Show, something akin to "chicken fever" broke out. By 1925, there were more than 300 major poultry shows all over the country, excluding country fairs or 4H clubs. Breeders spend years exacting a favored breed where genetics is the key. From the amount of toes on each foot to the width of the wingspan, from the color and shape of each feather to the consistency of the comb, the Judges carefully inspect every detail. The Standard of Perfection, the Bible of breeding standards was originally printed in 1874, and still breeders and judges alike refer to it as The source for perfection in breeding. "Breeding to the Standard" is a popular pronouncement at the Fancy.
At this time in history few outside of The Fancy even know of its existence due to the long ago lost interest in livestock. Thanks to the Farm to Table movement, however, and a relaxation of urban livestock laws, there has been a resurgence in the poultry hobby.
I came to know about the chickens through my uncle, a lifelong hobbyist. I was struck by the variety of shapes and colors of the birds, but I was moved by the individual personalities. My intent in photographing these birds was to create a portrait. I have great respect for their profound history, the utilitarian aspect of their physiology, and the care and passion that goes into the breeding of each variety.
For more, visit: www.prettychicken.com and www.tamarastaples.com