Farm Horizons, November 2010
Polish chickens rule the roost at the Gallus farm in Howard Lake
By Linda Scherer
It’s not hard to recognize which one of the six Polish chickens at the Joe and Jennifer Gallus farm in Howard Lake is the rooster, Bad-Bad Leroy Brown. Leroy’s crest resembles a Tina Turner wig, and the golden highlights to his plumage make him a definite eye-catcher.
“He is the favorite. Everybody who comes over comments about him and says he’s the coolest,” Jennifer said.
The Polish chickens are the family’s latest addition to the other seven varieties of chickens already being raised at the farm. The Polish are definitely a family favorite.
“When I look out the kitchen window, I will see the Polishes running back and forth,” Jennifer said. “They are just more active and more fun to watch than the other chickens. They have big feathers bobbing, and you have to laugh at them.”
While the other chickens tend to scurry out of the way of visitors, the Polish seem to enjoy watching others as much as they are being watched. Their curiosity brings them up close, and they are not afraid of a camera or its flash.
The Polish chickens caught Jennifer’s eye in a rare breed poultry catalog about four years ago, even before she got her laying hens. But her husband, Joe, didn’t like the way the Polish looked, so each year she would put off ordering them.
This year, when the couple’s two sons, Joe, Jr. and Jacob decided to raise chickens as part of a 4-H project, she knew there would be baby chicks on the farm and decided it was the perfect time to order her Polish baby chicks, as well.
“I said to myself, ‘You know what? I am an adult and I can have the kind of chicken I want. And I started asking around,” Jennifer said.
That was when she learned that Cattail Corner in Howard Lake had some funky chickens, which included Polish.
“It took us until late May to get our Polish. She only had three golden Polish and I knew it was the one I liked that had been pictured in the catalog, so I told her I would take all of her goldens, and I also took a silver, a buff, and the black and white Polish. We lucked out because Leroy is a golden and he is the only male, and only males get the crazy head of feathers we were hoping for.”
Since the Polish have moved in, Joe has changed his mind about the rare breed. He has been seen showing Leroy off to friends and family and is as interested in the Polish as the rest of the family.
Jennifer is mainly responsible for the chickens, but everybody pitches in.
“I think everybody, including Joe, loves them. They are kind of like family pets and everybody has an interest in them and takes care of them,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer has become quite an expert on chickens. She is also an expert on ducks, which she also raises.
“But chickens are way easier,” Jennifer said. Raising chickens is considered a fun project at the Galluses.
“Parents will come over and say chickens are too much work,” Jennifer said. “Ducks are way more work because they are messier with their water. Chickens don’t play with their water, and you feed them just once a day.”
Even coming up with feed to give the chickens is not difficult during the summer especially if there is a garden close by. Chickens consider zucchini a treat, as well as every fruit and vegetable item that the Galluses don’t eat.
“We grew way too much zucchini this year, so they almost lived on it. They just loved it,” Jennifer said. “Watermelon, the rind they will pick it down to the very skin, and cantaloupe, too.”
She began raising laying hens about three years ago.
“We had gotten the brooder house and thought we would give chickens a try,” Jennifer said. “I really wasn’t that interested in chickens at all.” She started with four varieties, a total of 12 laying hens, which are Brown Leghorns, Americana, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and buff Cochins.
The 12 hens produce about a dozen eggs a day during the summer. During the spring and fall, they will average about six to 10 eggs a day, and the Gallus chickens do not lay eggs in the winter. Jennifer uses a heater during the colder months, not a heat lamp.
“If you keep a light on, they will lay eggs throughout the winter, but if you let them have natural daylight, their body responds to that and they will stop laying eggs in the winter. Of course, we want to have eggs, but I want them to have a break (during the winter).”
She added a new variety to her laying hens this year with four Wheaten Marans, which lay a chocolate-colored egg. Because the Marans were new this spring, they are being kept separate from the older laying hens, on the side with the other spring chicks.
“When they are new, they are like a family and they all like to stay together,” Jennifer said.
In addition to the Marans and the Polish, the Galluses also added two kinds of bantams this spring. Jacob, 9, chose a bantam black-tailed buff Japanese for his 4-H project, which added six more chicks; and Joe, Jr., 11, chose a Mille Fleur, which included another six chicks. Both boys received blue ribbons for their chickens at the Wright County Fair.
One thing the family noticed when Joe, Jr.’s rooster, Buster, was at the fairgrounds in August, is that it was much quieter at home.
At the fairgrounds, he could be heard from quite a distance, according to Jennifer.
“He has a different crow,” Jennifer said. “It’s not quite a cock-a-doodle-doo. It’s like a note short. It’s just weird-sounding at a distance. You know when it’s him crowing and sometimes he will crow every 20 seconds all day, not as much at night.”
Besides the boys each getting blue ribbons for their chickens at the fair, the Gallus family also received blue ribbons for their white and green eggs.
Chicken coops for sale
When Joe and Jennifer decided they were going to raise chickens, they began looking for an old, quality built chicken coop they could use for a brooder house. After spending a lot of time looking, and not finding what they wanted, Joe, who is in commercial construction, designed and drafted the plans for the shed, and then built it himself.
He added outside-accessible nesting boxes, which are really handy for collecting the eggs, a deck on the front, and (Jennifer’s favorite part of the chicken coop) a glass block window set in a rounded dormer.
Because, in Joe’s opinion, no truss company makes round trusses at a reasonable price for the smaller size needed to build the shed, Joe made them himself.
“Making the smaller trusses was the most time-consuming part of the project, and the rounded dormers were an added challenge,” Joe said.
In addition to housing chickens, the barn can be used as a garden shed, playhouse, or a house for other small animals such as goats, sheep, and ducks. The multiple-purpose structure adds a distinct look and characteristic to the yard, Joe said.
The shed comes with a standard treated floor and skids. Custom designed sheds can be built in two weeks. Sizes vary; the Galluses is 12-by-12 feet. Anyone interested in a quote can call Joe at (612) 839-5253.
Jennifer has decorated the interior of the shed, making it into a fun place for visitors to see. She has all of the ribbons that the family has received for their award-winning chickens and eggs in a glass-enclosed frame hanging in the entrance. She even has a picture of Bad-Bad Leroy Brown set up on a beam on the wall. Her next project for the chicken coop is wallpaper, although the cedar walls look just fine.