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Gold penciled maiden rock rooster of ideal type.


Maiden Rock Bantams

 

The Maiden Rock Bantam is a spry beautiful little bantam that appeared on paper many years before it appeared in flesh and feather. Long before I began collecting those rare birds that would become its progenitors, it existed as a text file on my computer - a list of genes, a roughed-out breed standard, and a simple line drawing. For years my hard drive served as its brooder and the rafters of my mind as its only roost. But today it is a free spirit, an ephemeral, living work of art that watches the skies for raptors and steals away its nests in the hedgerow. It looks to me - its sculptor - for nothing but a handful of grain, a spade of fresh turned earth, and from time to time a shoulder from which to see the world as I do.  

No other breed possesses the genotype P/P R/R Dv Dv which gives rise to the maiden rock’s distinctive head and comb. Neither sex should show any crest, beard or dewlap. In both sexes the wattles and earlobes should be very small or nonexistent. In the hen the comb is but a smooth patch of skin covered with short hairs. As it extends out onto her beak the short hairs give way to a thickening and raising of the skin, which when combined with her cavernous nostrils, give her a bit of a Roman nose. The rooster’s comb is small and arranged in two distinct parts. The first is a very small, low cushion type comb covered in short hairs centered on top of his head. The second part is bilaterally lobed and sits in front of the first, well out above cavernous nostrils like a small chunky bowtie or a tiny wad of bubblegum – giving him a bit of ‘swan’s knob’. My selection is for continually smaller and fuzzier combs and for a head-shape that is browy and a bit crow-like. The overall expression should be intelligent and haughty. When peering into the brooder one afternoon my sister knit her brow and commented, “You can just tell that the Maiden Rocks are smarter than the others.”

Silver laced maiden rock cockerel showing comb structure. Silver laced maiden rock pullet showing comb structure.

Regardless of the unusual head, the maiden rock is first and foremost a breed of intricate feather patterns. Only three feather patterns are permissible – penciled (aka autosomal barred), spangled (as in hamburgs), and laced. In all varieties hens and roosters are marked exactly the same and must be tail-marked and henny feathered. Beyond this basic set of rules governing their coloration, pretty much anything goes. The inclusion of silver (S), dominant white (I), cream (ig), lavender (lav), mahogany (Mh), blue (Bl), chocolate (choc) and any such gene that would broaden the range of color combinations without detracting from the three accepted patterns is encouraged. Indeed many of these genes have already been introduced, but at this early stage my emphasis is on further refining the gold laced, gold spangled, and gold penciled varieties.


“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar." - Helen Keller


Young citron spangled maiden rock pullet - RRPpDvdv.

The maiden rock bantam lays a relatively large blue egg. I believe my selection for broad backs and long deep bodies has had a serendipitous effect on egg size. A local farmer looking at my flock of maiden rocks suggested that they must only lay an egg about the size of a pigeon egg, but when he peered into the nest box he was astounded that such a small bird could produce an egg that was as large or larger than a ‘pullet egg’. It is early January as I write this and my maiden rock bantams are producing most of the eggs we use in the kitchen. I offer no artificial light or heat, and these small birds sleep amongst my llamas in a barn that is open unless the temperatures dip below zero on this windy hill on which we live. So, this is a hardy little egg laying breed, and it is no wonder with polish, hamburgs, campines, and araucanas – all once famous egg layers – in their background.

Citron laced maiden rock hen with tail too high and too spread.

The maiden rock bantam’s tail is set low and is held tight like a pheasant, arching neatly just 30 degrees above the horizon. Their feathers are dense and tight and of medium hardness. Their head is held high with their neck well arched. Their breast is broad and proudly pressed forward as if they own the farm. Their bodies are long and broad and solid in hand. Their long legs are either willow or slate with willow being preferred. Every part of the maiden rock flows smoothly into the next without an abrupt transition. The maiden rock bantam is a bird of both the Art Deco and the Art Nouveau era. These are the flappers of the chicken yard, forever shining in their neatly outlandish dress, and forever refusing anything but center stage.


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