Meet Dixie, the latest addition to our little menagerie! Her full name is "Dixie Chick", because she was a chick born in the heart of Dixie. Did you know that the term Dixie, while of uncertain origin, could possibly stem from a ten-dollar currency note issued by a Louisiana bank and labeled a "Dix", which is the French word for the number ten. The note became known as the Dixie. This word was generalized first to refer to the Louisiana area and later to an entire southern region, specifically the eleven states that seceded from the Union during the Civil War.
All of this obscure but fascinating history does have a French connection to our Dixie, as she is a breed known as a Marans, which originated in a French town of the same name. Her particular color variety is known as Dark Cuckoo Marans. While I am not very familiar with European birds, I am hazarding a guess that this color was named for the similarity to that of a Common (or European) Cuckoo chick:
|Photo at left from poultrykeeper.com; photo at right from The Guardian.|
Another interesting fact about the Marans chickens is that they lay dark brown eggs, sometimes so dark that they have been called chocolate-colored:
|From Pembridge Poultry|
Dixie has already presented us with some eggs, even though she has only been here for a week, and while I would not call them chocolate eggs, they are a nice medium-brown color:
Pretty as her eggs are, I did not really get a chicken for the eggs. I am more interested in the chicken's voracious appetite for arthropods, which we have in abundance in our little corner of the South, and especially their willingness to eat ticks, which are the bane of my existence here during our long warm periods. So far Dixie has shown great willingness to consume insects and other invertebrates, so I think she will work out just fine!
We got Dixie from one of my husband's colleagues, who had more chickens than their city ordinance allowed. I was hoping to get more than one chicken, but by the time I got my little coop assembled and put into place, Dixie was the only one left. I thought she might be lonely, but she seems to have settled into a comfortable relationship with our miniature donkey, Daisy. I wouldn't exactly call them friends, but they tolerate each other well and Dixie enjoys scratching and foraging around Daisy while the donkey eats her hay:
Fortunately Dixie is a cautious chicken and spends her resting time in the barn. We have a lot of chicken predators in our area, as I learned to my chagrin the first time I tried to keep chickens. I plan to build a large predator-resistant enclosure in the near future and then hope to get a couple more hens, but for now I think our Dixie Chick is safe and doing well on her own.
I thought I'd end this post with an interesting tidbit of information I read online recently. Apparently in Europe eggs are not refrigerated, while here in the United States they are. The reason for this is that in the United States, all commercially produced eggs are routinely washed before being shipped off to your local grocery store. Washing removes a natural protective coating which keeps eggs from spoiling at ambient temperatures. Once they are washed, eggs must be kept refrigerated to keep them from becoming contaminated. In Europe, eggs are not washed, and since the protective coating is intact the eggs do not require refrigeration. So if you are collecting your own fresh eggs and want to keep them at room temperature, do not wash them off until you are ready to eat them (and keep those store-bought eggs chilled). By the way, I have a feeling you may be seeing an egg recipe soon (not tomorrow, but some time in the near future). Aren't you egg-cited? (I just love bad puns!)