These hardy cattle were introduced into the Pineywoods of the Deep South by the Spaniards more than five centuries ago and have adapted to the harsh conditions of the region. Ranging from small to medium sized cattle, they literally made their own living from the grasses, sedges, and shrubs that were found growing in the vast Longstraw pine forests of the Coastal Plains South.
I maintain a small flock of Spanish or more commonly called Brush goats. These goats were once the only goat to be found here but have recently become virtually extinct due to crossbreeding with other newly introduced breeds of goat. They are small to medium in size and come in a variety of colours and are extremely hardy and disease resistant and are very prolific.
Also of Spanish origin, these hardy sheep have adapted to the heat of the Deep South by having wool only on their backs as their faces, legs, and underbelly are void of wool leading to nicknames such as “saddleback” or “slick-bellies”.
As the name implies, these small hardy geese were used to eat the grass out of the cotton fields or “patches” of the small Southern farms in addition to providing meat, eggs, and feathers. I have slept many nights on a goose down pillow. No one is quite certain as to the origin of these geese as at one time Europe had many types of geese similar to these and they are probably a combination of English, French, and Scottish bloodlines.
These chickens are as old as antiquity as they have been used for sport (cockfighting) as well as meat and eggs. I have loved games all my life and admire their loyalty to their chicks and mates. I have seen hens meet hawks midair to fight them off their chicks and have witnessed the same behaviour in the roosters. They are excellent layers of small to medium sized eggs and are excellent mothers of their own chicks or “setting” hens to serve as foster mothers for other breeds or species of fowl. I use them to raise guineas, ducks, geese, turkeys, and other breeds of chickens. I have five separate strains of game chickens that have a history of nearly 100 years for each strain. Once a common site on Southern farms, they are becoming increasingly rare due to the ignorance of state and federal officers destroying them when they are found being used for illegal purposes.
These are an old type Bantam that isn’t as small as the Old English and Dutch Bantams and are locally referred to as “banties.” They were once very common throughout the South but are extremely rare today. Most of the hens are some form of black and white spangled though solid colours are to be found. The roosters are usually black and white spangled breasted with red or yellow necks and backs. They are prolific layers and excellent setters and mothers.
In addition to the above mentioned chickens many other breeds are kept for egg production such as Rhode Island Reds, Ameracaunas, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Cochin Chinas, Naked Necks, and many other heritage breeds. Each year new pullets (female chicks) are ordered and a different variety is ordered. This way I know how old each set is as they are kept for two years then sold off as stewing hens. For instance, this year I will order Ameracaunas, Barred Rocks, and California Grey Leghorns so in 2013 these will go out after their laying cycle is complete and be replaced by maybe Naked Necks, Brown Leghorns, and Rhode Island Reds.
These birds are a composite of strains of natural mating turkeys that would have been on backwoods farms a century ago leading me to name them “Backcountry” turkeys. They come in every colour imaginable with poults coming from the same two parents varied as can be. They are hardy and live very well and the hens set and raise their own poults. While not possessing the vast amount of white meat of the modern commercial turkey they have an excellent flavour all their own.
I maintain a good sized flock of common Muscovy ducks as they are a prolific natural producer of their own ducklings and are virtually maintenance free. Muscovy ducks are the only New World duck as they are native to South America and were kept by the indigenous peoples there prior to the arrival of the Europeans and are the only domestic duck that does not descend from the wild Mallard. They are so genetically different from the other domestic ducks that when crossed their offspring are sterile and are therefore called “mule” ducks. These ducks are relatively fast growers and have a good flavour. I intend to add Rouens this year as well.
These, like the turkeys, are a composite of many different strains and colours and are something that I have had for many, many years. Guineas are a type of pheasant from Africa and are very hardy once out of the keet (baby) stage. They are prolific layers from March until October with a few laying as late as November. Guineas are excellent watchdogs and nothing goes on without their noisy investigation of it. In addition to being excellent watch dogs guineas are also great for pest control as they will consume huge amounts of insects daily and keep the garden free of pests. Young guineas make an excellent meal and the eggs are delicious.
Man’s Best Friend
I raise two breeds of dogs and both are used as working and hunting dogs here on the farm. Blackmouth Yellow Currs are an old breed of dog developed here in the South that were used as guard, hunting, and herding dogs. They are exceptionally loyal and devoted dogs that are protective of their homes and masters. They are used to drive cattle and hogs and are good at bringing unruly animals to bay. The other breed is Feist and these little dogs are great companions and make outstanding squirrel dogs. Pepper, my female, is also a first rate sheep dog and without her penning and handling sheep would be impossible