Chasworth Farm is home to ten Angora goats, Thomas the Sheep, some laying hens, a couple roosters, and two dogs, including Maggie, our farm manager and studio greeter. This property has been farmed since the early 1800s and along the way has been home to dairy cows, sheep, chickens, and show horses. We are proud to be the current stewards, and work hard to honor the many farmers who tended this place before us.
Our barns and henhouse wear the signs of reinvention as they have been configured and reconfigured to accommodate different types of animals. Our henhouse has been around at least since 1890. We know this because when I was installing a small window to improve ventilation, I found a layer of newspaper stapled in between layers of clapboards, and I could read the date. (Interestingly, the front page story on the newspaper was about a man who bled to death after his rooster’s spur sliced his wrist!) We primarily raise Americauna chickens, but have a few rare-breed Dominiques and Hollands. With our cold Vermont winters, these breeds are well suited to our climate. Americaunas, also called the Easter Egg Chicken, lay beautiful, tinted eggs generally in shades of blue and green, but many colors are possible. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have a couple hens who’ve laid olive green eggs, and one who laid spectacular pale pink eggs! Before we started keeping chickens, I had not realized how unique one egg really is from another in terms of its shape, size, shell texture, and color. With the Americaunas, this is particularly true since there is so much shell color variation between the hens.
Our goats are naturally colored Angora goats. We have several animals that are “blue” with fleeces in shades of blacks and grays, and several that are “red” with fleeces ranging from copper to light beige. Goats are intelligent creatures, full of personality—and caring for them is a real hoot. Angora goats have long been companion animals and can, in fact, profess to be one of the oldest domesticated animals known to mankind. The magnificent, curly fleece of the Angora goat has been prized since ancient times, just as it is today, for its strength, luster, and versatility.
Thomas is our sweet, naturally colored Leicester Longwool sheep. Leicester Longwools were popular during the colonial time period for their large frame, hardy and efficient disposition, and excellent wool and meat. Their genetics played a vital role in the development of many of our modern sheep breeds. By the 1930s, however, the breed had become virtually extinct in the United States. In the 1990s, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation began conservation efforts to reestablish the breed. Today it is classified as a rare breed with "critical" status by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The breed is enjoying a revival of interest due to the wonderful lustrous fleece and other desirable traits.