by Laura M. Miller
photo by John Russell
Aracauna. Welsummer. Black Polish. Cochin. White sultan. Salmon faverolle. Cuckoo marans. Modern BB red game. Belgian d’Uccle.
Most of us are acquainted only with the generic white leghorn chicken, from which most supermarket eggs are laid. But for Carolyn Truscott, the diverse world of exotic chickens is familiar territory.
“Most people have no idea how fascinating chickens are,” said Truscott, a senior executive assistant in the vice chancellor for health affairs’ office, who raises endangered breeds of chicken as well as pheasants, peafowl and guinea hens on her 10-acre farm in Franklin, Tenn.
A conversation with Truscott reveals her passion for these docile birds, which come adorned with fancy plumes, feathery pantaloons, and boast a lineage that goes back to the dinosaurs. Truscott’s chickens lay their eggs in a “gypsy wagon” and roam freely, eating herbs, worms, nuts and berries.
“I like to let a chicken be a chicken. However, they do occasionally wear a rhinestone choker,” she said with a smile of her penchant for sometimes dressing the birds in costume jewelry.
The eggs produced on Truscott’s farm are not only delicious and vitamin-rich, but a feast for the eyes – turquoise shells with vivid sunset-orange yolks in the case of the Aracaunas, which originate in the Chilean jungle.
One of Truscott’s favorite things to do after work is pour a glass of wine and observe her chickens’ complex social world of courtship behavior and pecking order.
“I raise them because they are beautiful. I come home knowing that I am going to see Chinese ringneck pheasants in my trees. It’s about making your world beautiful,” she said.