POMEROY — Did you know that behind Meigs High School there is a small chicken coop occupied with not just ordinary chickens but a few birds of the rare Java breed?
The Java type chickens were reportedly in America as early as 1835 but are said to have practically disappeared from here in the 1950s.
While the population of Javas has increased, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy continues to list Javas as “critical” on its watch list, meaning fewer than 500 breeding birds from five or fewer primary breeding flocks are known.
The Javas at Meigs High School were given to the Vocational Agriculture (VoAg)/FFA department by Rodney Butcher of the Harrisonville community, the uncle of an FFA member, with the thought that it would give the students an opportunity to raise and show the rare birds which reside in Meigs County.
Last summer Tiffany Will purchased two of the Javas from Butcher to enter in the Meigs County Fair competition. She received a reserve champion award on her chickens.
The Javas are much larger and have a completely different look than the regular breed of chickens we see down on the farm. The black Javas usually have a green sheen to their feathers while the mottled Javas have red eyes and black feathers with streaks of color.
Javas are heavy chickens, with roosters weighing around 9.5 pounds and hens anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5 pounds. They are slow-growing compared to other chickens but produce a good carcass and the hens lay large brown eggs.
The Javas were known to be in existence in America as early as 1835 but were not recognized officially by acceptance into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection until 1883. The white, black and mottled Javas were all originally described in the Association’s Standard of Perfection, but then the White was removed in 1910 because it was thought to be too similar to the White Plymouth Rock. The white Java is said to have practically disappeared in the 1950s.
By the end of the 20th century, Javas had nearly vanished having been pushed to fringes of the poultry world by the intense focus on two breeds by commercial growers. Beginning in the 1990s breeders and conservation organizations began to make a more concerted effort to save the Javas.
The Meigs VoAg students look forward to increasing the population in the chicken coop. The first baby chicks from Java eggs emerged several weeks ago.