A chicken breed known for its ability to withstand cold winters is now the official state poultry of New Hampshire. But it still could run afoul of another new law despite its special status.
With birds named "Peachy" and "Rusty" looking on, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday signed a bill bestowing top honors on the New Hampshire Red, touted by supporters for its hardiness, intelligence and other qualities they said match the state's residents. Students from Canaan Elementary School who proposed the legislation joined Sununu for the signing.
"It was really fun to be able to know that this can actually happen, and it's possible for kids to do this," said Lidia Josephson, daughter of the bill's sponsor.
The breed gradually emerged from the Rhode Island Red in the 1930s through intensive selection for rapid growth, fast feathering, early maturity and vigor, according to the Livestock Conservancy, which protects endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction.
"They're very well suited to New Hampshire and the cold, and they're smart," said Rep. Timothy Josephson, D-Canaan.
Sununu said he believed it was the first time a chicken had visited the governor's office, though a turkey made an appearance near Thanksgiving. He joked that the new law was in keeping with his tradition of protecting animals, citing he efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws after a dog abuse case in Wolfeboro and to prevent the state Fish and Game department from euthanizing several bears causing trouble in Hanover.
"We did pardon a turkey this year ... We saved the Great Danes, we saved the bears, now we've honored the chickens. What's next?" he said.
But even the official state poultry could end up in trouble under another chicken-related bill Sununu signed last month. Under a bill criminalizing trespassing fowl, anyone who lets their chickens onto someone else's property can be convicted of a violation if the birds damage crops or property.
—Holly Ramer, Associated Press