Jefferson’s Monticello Chickens


A Pyncheon bantam hen was probably the breed kept by the Jefferson as a family pet. The Pyncheon breed is in grave danger of extinction.

In the 1800s, many gardens, homesteads and all farms raised livestock. Animals were integrated into the fabric of everyday life and community commerce — livestock provided local daily sustenance.

Monticello’s gardens and orchards are world famous for the fruit and vegetable production. The volumes of garden notes and sketches by Mr. Jefferson give deep insights into production gardens of his time.

Interestingly, among all his writings, there is very little included by Mr. Jefferson about keeping poultry. Among the few references I could find was a record from his granddaughter Anne Cary Randolph about foodstuffs purchased from the Monticello slaves for the Jefferson household’s fine dining and entertaining.

“On September 29, 1805 the Jefferson kitchen purchased…(among other produce), 47 dozen eggs and 117 chickens." 1 To put that single purchase in context, Anne bought 564 eggs and about 527 pounds of chicken. That’s over a quarter ton of chicken (at an average weight of 4.5 pounds per bird). Chickens were a major source of food and income for the enslaved community.

5/24/2016 8:19:54 AM

Virginia is not the only state that where chickens reside at the governor's mansion. Louisiana's Governor John Bel Edwards recently had a chicken coop built at the Louisiana mansion.

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