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Spring Pilgrimage not all about hoop skirts for some houses

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Samuel Freiberger adds a fresh coat of paint to a chicken coup beside antebellum house Airlie on Thursday afternoon.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Samuel Freiberger adds a fresh coat of paint to a chicken coup beside antebellum house Airlie on Thursday afternoon.

NATCHEZ — Katie Freiberger’s Spring Pilgrimage preparation checklist this week includes shine the silver, groom the garden and paint the chicken coop.

Chickens and quail are not typically associated with the hoop skirts and top hats that bring thousands of visitors flooding to Natchez to drink in the city’s history. But Freiberger said feathered fowl have a history at her house, antebellum Airlie.

Freiberger said she has a promotional pamphlet from the early 1900s that shows that squab, or domesticated pigeons, were kept in a coop and sold at Airlie.

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Chickens spring from their coup at Airlie on Thursday afternoon as Natchez resident Katie Freiberger cleans out the structure before adding a fresh coat of paint.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Chickens spring from their coup at Airlie on Thursday afternoon as Natchez resident Katie Freiberger cleans out the structure before adding a fresh coat of paint.

“And I think the Heritage chickens, the little black and white chickens we have, they’re probably what they had here in the 1700s and 1800s,” she said.

The Freibergers did not get the birds late last summer because of Pilgrimage, though.

Freiberger said she wanted to get some chickens and finally convinced her husband, Terry, to adopt a few bantam chickens from the tenants of the Freibergers’ country house, Traveler’s Rest.

Freiberger’s friend and fellow poultry homesteader, Susie Sharp, had more chickens on her hands than she could handle, so Freiberger adopted six young chickens.

Freiberger adopted seven baby chickens and bought 12 quail eggs after her son Samuel wanted to hatch eggs for his science project.

“I still have four quail in my master bathroom,” she said, laughing.

Freiberger said the family enjoy the eggs from their chickens, and the birds give Airlie a down-home, quaint charm.

“It also gives the kids something to do while touring, and I think it gives the house a homey, old-timey feel,” Freiberger said. “I think the tourists are really going to enjoy that.”

Airlie, built in 1790, is one of the earliest houses in the Natchez area. The house is on the purple tour, which will kick off at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

Spring Pilgrimage officially begins on Saturday with 24 houses on tour through April 9.

Tickets are available at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours in the Natchez Visitor Reception Center or by visiting natchezpilgrimage.com.