Appleworm™ Orchard’s most adventuresome project is the repurposing of traditional American gamecocks as — don’t laugh — guard chickens. As every poultry-keeping Yankee knows, our region’s predators eat more chicken during our long summer days than the backyard farmer eats all year. Enter the American gamecock. Not only are these roosters magnificently beautiful, they are also alert and feisty protectors of their flocks: Hens left in a gamecock’s daytime care have, we believe, better odds of survival on New England’s free range. Moreover, the breeds we work with — Pumpkin and Duke Hulseys, and Flarry Eye Greys — direct their aggression at competitors and predators; to humans they maintain surprisingly equable dispositions. As Appleworm™ cares for these gamefowl, we will seek to maintain these breeds’ fortunate combination of striking beauty, ferocity toward predators, and docility toward humans.
This experiment began in October 2012, when Appleworm™ stumbled upon the opportunity to buy, via close-out auction, a small flock of unrelated Pumpkin Hulseys from Greenfire Farms. Greenfire had acquired these birds — mostly from Larry Carter’s line — in late 2011 and used them to replace the broodfowl they had acquired in 2008, when they started breeding Hulseys. Our rooster, ”Linus,” is magnificent, with brilliant dark orange feathering, long white legs, high station, and a very game disposition. One thing led to another and we now maintain three American gamefowl flocks. The other Hulsey flock is composed of a “Duke Hulsey” rooster (“Charlie Brown”) and several “Duke Hulsey” hens. Finally, we are working to develop a flock of white-legged Flarry Eye Greys.