Tag Archives: Georgia Poultry

Jack Pilkenton Turkey Farm, Molena

When I think of poultry, I usually think of Northeast Georgia, but this building near the historic West Georgia town of Molena, branded “Jack Pilkenton Turkey Farm”, sent me down a research rabbit hole. I didn’t find any rabbits but instead found millions of turkeys! Mr. Pilkenton raised turkeys on this land, adjacent to the Whiskey Bonding Barn, which he bought and incorporated into the operation in 1951.

Though the town’s website doesn’t mention it today, Molena for a time considered itself the “Turkey Capital of Georgia”. There was even a turkey queen to help promote this fact. It may not have been officially designated by the powers that be, but it was source of local pride and it employed a lot of people.

Louis Lester McCrary, Sr., who began raising the birds on a small scale in 1932, was one of the first to see their business potential, and his family was one of the last to be involved in the business, which was gone from Molena by the 1980s. An article in the 23 July 1970 edition of the Atlanta Constitution noted that the McCrarys were raising as many as half a million birds per year. At least eight families were involved in the industry at some time or another between the 1930s and the 1980s.

Poultry Farm, Habersham County

I believe this farm now serves another purpose, but the old barns recall the earlier days of commercial poultry, Georgia’s dominant agricultural commodity. I believe Northeast Georgia is still the top region for production and was an early leader in innovation.

Heritage Chickens, Lax

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Welsummer Rooster

Best known as the Kellogg’s Cereal Rooster, the Welsummer originated in Welsum, Holland.

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Cuckoo Marans Rooster

Marans originate in France; the cuckoo or barred variety is but one of nine.

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White Cochin Bantam Pair

Cochins originate in China and are considered excellent setters.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in backyard poultry. Driven largely by the organic and whole foods movements, “free-range” poultry and eggs are in greater demand than ever. Since most individuals don’t have the vast acreage required for true free-range habitats, the next best thing is “limited range” or fenced habitat. This is far superior to chickens kept in factory-like “coops”. These photographs were made in Lax, Georgia, at the home of my friend Jerry Youghn. While Jerry’s brood is a bit larger than most, it’s well-maintained. He enjoys experimenting with many different varieties, and raises pheasants, peafowl, ducks and other poultry from time to time.

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Simple roost constructed with logs and recycled materials

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Red Ranger & Rhode Island Red Hens on Natural Roosting Pole

Rhode Island Reds are large chickens raised primarily for meat. They are the state bird of, you guessed it, Rhode Island. Non-industrial strains are now recovering after years of decline.

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Young Dark Brahma Roosters Eating Watermelon Rinds

Brahmas are often called the “King of All Chickens” for the large size. They are on the watch list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, but appear to be increasing in number in recent years. Brahmas originate in India and are a close relative to the progenitor of all chickens, the Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus), which are the wild chickens so well-known in Fitzgerald. Ranger Reds are a more recent variety, hybridized from Rhode Island Reds and kept for their meat and egg-laying qualities.

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Natural Nest of  Welsummers(Brown) & Red Rangers (Cream)

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Silver Pheasant, Standard Dark Cornish & Red Ranger Chicks in Pen

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White & Partridge Japanese Silkies

Silkies are a variety kept mostly for show and curiosity. They are actually believed to have originated in China and were first documented in the 13th century.

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Silver Pheasant (Lophura nycthemera)

This variety is native to Southeast Asia.