The Blue Velvet actress ordered some chicks online, and was surprised to discover an eclectic mix of heritage breeds had arrived at her Long Island farm
My Chickens and I is a newly released study of the history, behaviour, appearance and distinctive traits of heritage breed chickens – told via illustrations, photographs, factual tidbits and anecdotes – by none other than Isabella Rossellini. The actress has long harboured an interest in animals (one need only refer to her series of short films and book, Green Porno, to corroborate that fact) and a particular penchant for chickens began when 38 chicks of exciting mixed heritage breeds arrived at her Long Island farm from a hatchery in Iowa – a far cry from the standard yellow farming chicks that Rossellini had expected.
From expounding the superior eyesight of chickens and the joys of petting them (“They are much softer than any cat or dog,” she writes) to a brief history of the evolution of chickens and details on the breeds she has (when it comes to the Hamburg chicken, for example, she is “enchanted by their unusual green ears”), Rossellini weaves a charming path through her experiences with fowl in My Chickens and I. Tracing her chickens’ journeys from chick to adult with her own drawings and the help of photographer Patrice Casanova, the star of Blue Velvet indulges her own fascination with the animals as well as offering an educational tour of her breeds, explaining why diversity is important (on her farm but, of course, in the wider world too) and the human effect on how animals have – or in some cases, have not – evolved to become domesticated creatures.
Rossellini’s favourite breeds include the Campine and the “very feathery” Cochin, she told Vanity Fair – though judging by Casanova’s photographs, she is adoring of every one. The eggs her brood produces are enjoyed by locals as well as Rossellini herself, as her farm is involved in a Community Supported Agriculture cooperative which sells produce. Communicating this sustainable, organic appreciation of animals and the natural world and an understanding of their history was an aim at the core of My Chickens and I – a task fulfilled in the most delightful of ways.
My Chickens and I by Isabella Rossellini is available now, published by Abrams Image.