Some get excited over celebrity chef sightings; for us, it's books about chickens. The Magnificent Chicken, a follow-up to Brooklyn photographer Tamara Staples' out-of-print book The Fairest Fowl (2001), truly is magnificent.
Alongside the photos, Staples lists each breed's finer points (a good egg layer; relatively useless but beautiful and quite "pleasant") and the year it was accepted into The American Standard of Perfection (the chicken breeder's "Bible" of show hens and cocks on the competition circuit). The Introduction is an on-air interview Ira Glass did with Staples several years ago for This American Life (he accompanied Staples on one of her farm treks to photograph chickens).
Staples says some of the farmers aren't as enchanted as we are; these are professional breeders who see the bird's flaws -- a twisted comb, a wrinkled wattle, crooked toes (she profiles many of the breeders in Backyard Poultry, an industry magazine). But take a closer look at the photos that follow. Like that Silkie, an ornamental breed with fur-like plumage that Staples tells us are "low-key, gentle, and rather sedentary" (our kind of chicken) and the stunning "Blue Wheaton" Bantam cock look pretty perfect. The latter has not yet been accepted into The Standard of Perfection. But as Staples says, "with examples like this bird, it's only a matter of time."
5. Black Wyandotte Bantam Cock
4. White Showgirl Bantam Cockerel
3. Self Blue Belgian Bearded D'Anvers Cockerel
2. Silver Sebright Bantam Cockerel
1. Blue Wheaton Old English Bantam Cock
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All photos copyright Tamara Staples and Chronicle Books, 2013.
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