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So you think chickens are boring? Extraordinary Chickens, by Stephen Green-Armytage, will cure you of that delusion.

On the front cover is a white chicken whose thin feathers are sticking up all over its head in great bunches. You can see its red wattles and its open beak, but its eyes are completely hidden by the plumage. It looks like Beethoven gone punk and turned into a chicken.

The book is a celebration of exotic chickens, all photographed with loving care and artistry. The red head of the white Cochin Frizzle nestles in its thistledown ruff, each feather in perfect focus. The black Sumatra rooster almost fades into his dark background, while the silver-laced Wyandotte looks at the camera with an almost intelligent expression on its face. Green-Armytage lets his sense of humor show: the nearly bald wheaten Modern Game bantam pullet is paired with the aptly named Polish Frizzle bantam, while the black and white Cornish bantams face each other like gunfighters in a spaghetti Western.

There are special sections on striking heads, single combs and split combs (the Sicilian Buttercup looking like an elk, the spangled buff Owlbeard White more like Satan) crests that would make a punk rocker green with envy, frizzled birds that look like they evolved in wind tunnels, feet, feathers, and tails. If you can tear your eyes away from the pictures, there is lovely, informative text on the history of chickens and chicken breeding. There's even a short summary of the types of chicken breed out there.

Green-Armytage, Stephen. Extraordinary Chickens, Harry N. Abrams, 2000, 112 pages. ISBN 0-8109-3343-8

A surprise gift from my mother, in honor of my nick. Thanks, Mom.

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