When Amy Dragoo, one of our most reliable freelance photographers, sent in her selections for our Behind Barn Doors at Bruce Davidson’s Chesterland (see Aug. 8 Eventing Issue, p. 24), we weren’t surprised by most of what we saw.
There were the rolling, green hills of Chester County, Pa. There were the classic red-and-white Dutch doors on his barn, the old black-and-white photos of famous mounts from decades gone by hanging in his office. There were all the horses and dogs and chickens and peacocks and parrots we’d expected…
Wait, what? Bruce Davidson has… birds in his barn?
“Oh yes, I’ve always loved birds,” he said matter-of-factly when I called him to make sure that neither my eyes nor Amy’s Photoshopping skills were deceiving me. “I’ve always had them around the farm.”
In fact, chickens and roosters have been commonplace in Davidson’s life since childhood. He grew up in Westport, Mass., right down the road from Adamsville, R.I., where the Rhode Island Red chicken breed was established, so they’ve always had a place at his farm.
“I love brown eggs, and they’re pets,” he said. “The horses like them and like having them around. It’s amazing to see how many of the little roosters and bantams attach to a horse and really become that horse’s friend. They’ll even learn to rest on that horse’s back. JJ Babu [who carried Davidson to the 1983 Rolex Kentucky CCI*** title and a team gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games] had a little rooster forever that went everywhere with him, and he loved it.”
But chickens are far from being Chesterland’s only feathered residents. Davidson also has two peacocks that run free on the farm and a yellow nape Amazon parrot named Lolita who lives in his tack room. At one time he had 27 different varieties of fowl, including golden pheasants.
But bird ownership isn’t all fun and games. With Chester County’s fox population plenty healthy, bird snatching is a common problem. Davidson said the intruders are bold enough to come right into the stable and steal a snack if he’s not careful. And what of the winter months?
“We have chickens in Florida, so each year a couple of them come down with us, and each year a few come back with us,” said Davidson, who spends the coldest months in Ocala. “They just go in the horse trailer with the horses, and everyone’s happy.”