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story.lead_photo.caption Looking for something to peck or perhaps just surveying their surroundings are the exotic birds owned by the Allen Family Homestead of New Boston, Texas.

Poultry pets were little princes and princesses at the recent "A Walk in the Garden" seminar sponsored by Cass County Master Gardeners.

Julia Allen of New Boston, Texas, brought her cages of exotic chickens to the daylong seminar and garden tour.

Turns out the birds seemed to enjoy being looked at.

They stared right back and were calm when picked up and petted, even if they became flustered when one got too close.

"Raising chickens, especially the exotic ones, is very addictive," Allen said. "Anyone who starts owning birds will tell you."

This mixed-breed bantam is small and calm while being held by Julia Allen. Helping her mother is Texas A&M University-Texarkana student Gloria Allen.

The seminar was held at Aaron Harding's Whippoorwill Gardens in Atlanta.

The Allen family owns the Allen Family Homestead, and Julia Allen started with birds about four years ago.

She has about a third of an acre for chickens, goats and a few other animals. Her idea is to raise the exotic birds for pets, mostly.

"We like to breed the rare birds. You'd be surprised how many people are interested in them and will want to own several."

One of Allen's favorites things to do is go to the East Texas Poultry Trades Day, held several times a year in Gilmer.

The next one is June 8. There, one sees many kinds of birds and animals for sale to the public.

"People come from all over the state."

The most important piece of advice she gives about poultry rearing is that when buying a bird, be certain to buy from reputable sources.

"Make certain you buy clean birds from reputable owners with clean and well-cared-for flocks," Allen said.

The white crested black Polish chicken is quite an exotic-appearing bird even if tiny. Its feathers on top of its head are considered a crest, according to Julia Allen.

Her own birds are tested annually and certified, she said.

One also has to be registered with the Texas Animal Health Commission to sell birds outside of one's property.

Allen likes to talk about her pet birds, the rare ones especially.

"A lot of our birds which we keep and do not sell have names and will eat out of our hands. Bantam breeds love to be cuddled.

"One of my favorite is the Buff Orpington. They are like the golden retrievers of the dog world. A big breed with fluffy feathers that love to be held."

Allen is hoping for her homestead to be registered with the National Poultry Improvement Program, which has standards for testing, disease control and even traffic control on property.

The Allen Homestead also sells fresh eggs, vegetables and hatching eggs.

"This is a hobby for me, but my goal is to breed the exotics and bring interest to the flocks of birds people have in this area. We want to help raise the endangered birds."

She has two breeds that are considered endangered: The Coronation Sussex and the Swedish Flower Hens.

"Our white crested black Polish birds are rare but not endangered."

Allen is a former resident of New York state and Colorado who relocated to Texas 10 years ago.

If interested in birds, the best way to contact her is by messaging her on Facebook at Allen Family Homestead.

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