Country Life and the Chicken Catalog

Country Life and the Chicken Catalog

Have I been in the country too long, or is it normal to be mesmerized by the newly arrived McMurray Hatchery catalog? “The World’s Rare Breed Poultry Headquarters,” it says. It’s fabulous. For new readers, I am a small town Southern girl who lived in Atlanta during the ’90s and […]

Have I been in the country too long, or is it normal to be mesmerized by the newly arrived McMurray Hatchery catalog? “The World’s Rare Breed Poultry Headquarters,” it says. It’s fabulous.

Golden Polish chickens
These Golden Polish beauties put me in the mind of a hat that might be worn by the dowager countess on Downton Abbey.

For new readers, I am a small town Southern girl who lived in Atlanta during the ’90s and in New York City since then. Though still based in Manhattan, two-and-some years ago I began spending time with my sweetheart out here on a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. A more beautiful place on the planet there is not. A better lifestyle? Ditto. Greater people? You guessed it. Weather? Bring it. But.

Blue chickens
These are called Blues and remind me of poodles.

We are 8 miles from the nearest post office, 40 miles from Santa Barbara, and 4,000 miles from Bergdorf’s, if you see what I mean. I followed my Cowboy out here to see how I liked it–and him–and they’re both working out pretty good. But it’s different. Coyotes wake me up at night sometimes with their hollerin’, oy. On the other hand, you might catch a glimpse of a bobcat, or even a mountain lion, which is pretty exciting. Hawks swoop and dive through the clouds all day long, and I get a thrill from a huge red tail I’ve named Henry, which doesn’t sound very hawkish, but it suits him. There are horses, vineyards, an olive grove, a pond, wildflowers, Stella our black lab, and I don’t know how many coveys of quail, which pleases Stella and Henry no end. And everywhere you look is a postcard-esque view.

And yet. My stylish book club girlfriends in New York are dressing up and having a big night at 21. I’m cleaning my cowboy boots and going to taco night at Mattei’s. They walk out the door and see their waiting black SUVs and drivers. I walk out the door and see a black cow drinking from our water trough.

Really. She wandered over from her pasture and was kinda lost. Laughing out loud, I knew how she felt. The trough, not more than 20 steps from the front door, is not meant for livestock but as a feng shui water element to bring the chi and good fortune and what all. Who imagined it would bring a cow? Has to be a wonderful omen. And where, I ask, do you get that in New York City ? (The cow, I mean; good omens are everywhere of course.)

It’s all good. And by the way, taco night rocks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be getting back to that chicken catalog before I leave for New York in the morning.

Sultan chickens
Sultans, the catalog says, were favored by the rulers of Turkey and came from Istanbul to England in the 1850s. Extremely rare, they have a crest, muff, beard, feathered shanks, and a fifth toe. You couldn't make that up.
Silverlaced Cochin chicken
The Silverlaced Cochin. Magnificent.
Buff Cochin chicken
The Buff Cochin reminds me a little of the late great Etta James, sittin' in her chair and belting out ''At Last.''
White Crested Black Polish chickens
The White Crested Black Polish are ''useful as well as attractive.'' Obviously.
McMurray Hatchery Catalog
A great read: the Murray McMurray Hatchery catalog.

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