This year I had a pair of beautiful white Silkies. They are beautiful long soft feathered birds that come in white, chestnut or black. They have black skin and bones. I didn’t get to see the bones, since they stayed inside the chicken. I will have to believe Wikipedia. They are soft, and good tempered. Dutch traders tried to pass them off as a cross between a chicken and a rabbit.
They aren’t the kind of chickens that the Miller would have had on the farm. They are showy and not very practical. They aren’t great egg layers, but they make great broody hens. They will sit on any other hen’s clutch of eggs and raise the babies. They are not very meaty, but Silkie soup is an odd but cherished dish. Black bones, remember?
The best thing about them as far as I can see it that the two I brought, a hen and a rooster, are docile and affectionate, or at least not aggressive. Being farm animals they came with no names, but the first kids who met them decided the hen was Lidia, so of course the rooster had to be Waldo, after Ralph Waldo Emerson and his wife Lidia (later changed to Lidian).
Waldo and Lidia spent the whole day, one at a time, being held tightly so every kid on the property and many of the adults could pat them and feel how soft the feathers were. The chickens patiently put up with my telling everyone that they would not be part of the barnyard here.
Lidia took the morning shift. It rained ‘til about eleven so she didn’t have much work. When the sun came out and the people began to visit us at the far end of the property, she did her fair share of entertaining and educating. By noon when I carried Lidia across the street so I could get some lunch, she had fallen asleep in my arms. A sure sign that she was stressed and exhausted. I had been a bit reluctant to trade her in for Waldo, but I didn’t want to stress her any more. Last year the hen I had lost all her feathers and went home bald.
Waldo had been noisy at the beginning of the day, kept tipping over the water dish and pushing Lidia away from the food. Maybe she would enjoy a vacation and a quiet afternoon. So Waldo took his turn at entertaining the kids. I was surprised how good he was, allowing the kids to stroke him gently and me to turn up his feathers to show his black skin.
By then end of the day I was in love with them and sad when I saw their real owner come up the driveway to take them home.
But all day I felt like a bit of a charlatan, trying to pass these beautiful birds as the real thing. Yes, historically, the farmer at Newlin could have had these chickens, but why would he? The cost of such fancy chickens far outweighed their value to the farmer.
What Lidia and Waldo did for us at the festival was to create good will, and give people an experience they would remember.