4/12/2014 7:00 AM
By Shannon Sollinger Virginia Correspondent
LEESBURG, Va. — Loudoun County’s 4-H Poultry Club’s first poultry swap, March 29 at the Loudoun County Fairgrounds, was “a great learning experience for kids and a great fundraiser,” said Lynne Lott, who came up with the idea a year ago. Interest and activity were high even as skies darkened, the temperature dropped and the winds got stronger.
Poultry club membership has grown to more than 63 children, Lott said, but all of the existing swap events are far away.
“We have great space here and Southern States is a wonderful sponsor,” Lott said. “They really support us in this, help promote the event, all to raise funds for the 4-H club.”
Parker Gondella, who came from Bluemont, Va., with two Ameraucana chickens and two Andalusians, described the event as “like a yard sale. Anyone who wants to can sell stuff.”
He had cartons of blue-tinted Ameraucana eggs for sale and was ready to take $15 each for the chickens, or $10 each to a buyer who scooped up all four.
Sian Pugh, a poultry club adviser, set up a booth for her rare Blue Andalusian chickens with hatching eggs and chicks for sale. She encouraged shoppers and onlookers to sign up for her newsletter and to learn more at www.blueandalusian.com. She also offered baby goat coats and guinea hens. The Blue Andalusians are listed as “threatened” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, with fewer than 1,000 registrations each year in the U.S. and a global population of less than 5,000.
Just in front of Pugh’s booth, in the center of the 4-H exhibit hall — which will be home to the poultry club during the county fair in July — was Affordable Sheds and Garden Products LLC, with displays of modular barns and run-in sheds.
Lott, the swap organizer, said that as the club grows its membership and more Loudoun residents establish backyard flocks for homegrown, free-range eggs, “we want to encourage the kids to get more purebred chickens and encourage them to show their birds.”
“This is the first year we’ve done this,” said Mackenzie Shore, 11. She’s been showing Rhode Island Reds, Bantams and Barred Rocks for three years, and said the swap raised money for the poultry club.
“You can swap with other members,” Mackenzie said.
Her mother, Becky Shore, who later took center stage as director of animal ambassadors with a rescued opossum, said club members and parents were “pretty excited. It’s a good turnout for the first time and in not very nice weather.”
A few booths away, past the Southern States display of Amish barns and sheds — and chicken coops — was Jeff Ertman, with a display of his French Marans and Bragg’s Mountain Buff chickens.
Both lay brown eggs, the only color raised on his Loudounberry Farm and Garden near Lucketts, with the exception of his 150 egg-laying quail.
Ertman grew up on a Michigan farm with 20,000 egg layers and raised game birds and peacocks. With three young daughters at home, he’s getting back into raising chickens and hopes they will as well.
But it’s the brown eggs that got him into it. The Bragg’s Mountain Buff was selectively bred for years for extra large eggs, “the largest brown eggs of any chicken breed.”
The Marans, as his display described, originated in western France, descended from fighting game chickens, but today are “a favorite at poultry shows” and “it is a dual-purpose fowl known both for its extremely dark eggs and fine meat qualities.”
Ertman’s incubator box full of Marans and Bragg’s Mountain 4-day-old chicks sold right away at $2.50 per chick, and several interested shoppers took down his address for a visit to his farm and flock.
“It’s great to see something local here,” Ertman said. “Usually we have to go out farther in Maryland or Virginia.”
Lott said she sees the event growing in the future.
“This is the first year and Jeff is offering to help us promote it next year. People want to see how it goes this first year and I think we’re doing well. I think we’d see a different attendance if it were sunny and 75 degrees,” Lott said.
Scott Perlick, who keeps a backyard flock at his Lorton home — he calls them “pets with benefits” — was still looking through the sale booths by mid-day.
His T-shirt announced, “I dream of a society where a chicken can cross the road without its motives questioned.