As a member of the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association, we are part of a small number of breeders in the United States dedicated to preserving this rare breed of sheep. The breed was kept by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson but due to out crossing, it disappeared and in 1914 it appeared there was not a single purebred Leicester in the USA. Thanks to efforts by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a small flock of 15 Leicester Longwool sheep were imported to Williamsburg in 1990. Because of dedicated breeders, the Livestock Conservancy removed Leicesters from the critically endangered list, although they still remain threatened as a breed.
HSF Daisy, HSF Fern, and HSF Lily, along with our herdsire, MB Franz, make up our flock of Leicester Longwools; they are all descended from the 1990 imported flock. We are very proud to be a part of preserving this unique breed of shiny wooled sheep.
The name Tunis is a reflection on the North African origins of the North American Tunis sheep. Tunis are affectionately called “red heads” due to their coloring. They are an ancient fat tailed breed known for their heat tolerance and resistance to parasites. This made the breed a perfect fit for the climate of the southern USA. The breed was almost entirely lost during the Civil War but conservation efforts have helped this once endangered breed to rebound such that it was moved from the Livestock Conservancy’s rare list to the watch list.
We have 2 purebred Tunis ewes, Serafina & Georgina; Serafina’s 2016 crossbred lamb, Woolamina (1/4 Cotswold); and our herdsire, BF Giuseppe. Tunis are dual purpose sheep, producing a very usable fiber as well as meat. Our purpose, however, for keeping the Tunis flock focuses solely on fiber production.
WELSH HARLEQUIN DUCKS
Welsh Harlequin ducks are not an old breed, but something fairly new, having been developed in the mid-1900s. They came to the United States in 1968 and have become a very popular breed due to their multipurpose characteristics. Unusual for a dual purpose breed, Welshies are prolific layers, producing 240-330 eggs annually per bird. They are calm, inquisitive excellent foragers, and will go broody and set a nest of eggs. We have not had good luck letting our Welshies hatch eggs, as they don’t seem to take their mothering obligations very seriously. We prefer to let our chickens hatch and raise the ducklings. Our flock is currently without a drake, so we do not anticipate any ducklings in 2017.
In addition to the Welshies, we keep a flock of laying hens for egg production and entertainment. Some are heritage breeds, such as Coco, the Bourbon Red turkey hen, and the heritage Rhode Island Reds. The flock is diverse, though, with an assortment of bantams, Easter Eggers, Speckled Sussex, and Ameraucanas…there are even half a dozen guinea hens. All of the poultry is free range but returns to Little Biddy House in the evenings to roost. Poultry is an important part of farm health as they aerate soil, consume insects, and handle various composting duties. And you cannot beat the taste of a free range, farm fresh egg! We occasionally allow broody hens to raise babies and sometimes we raise chicks in the brooder. The birds are curious and entertaining.