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Ten Traditional Chicken Breeds

February 11, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we started looking at ideas for birds, any chicken will lay eggs. So why choose heritage breeds?

An interest in historical agriculture, for one, as well as the keeping of birds that not everyone gets a chance to see. Here’s a snip of ten birds we have, or seek to have this year, from a conservation standpoint as well as a practical production reason.

1. Dominiques – In 1902 they were one of the most popular of breeds on American farms. They could raise a decent sized meat bird for Sunday dinner, provide eggs for the family and forage for part of their feed. These are reasons they still excel today, but are too large for confinement systems.

2. Sussex – both the “light” and speckled. Personable, friendly birds that are unusual, particularly the speckled.

3. Cornish – These are an old breed, although they’re often accused of being GMO, freaks, funny looking short legged wide. They actually trace back well over a century! The modern meat bird is a Cornish cross, fast growing and heavier than they look.

4. Buckeye – I love our Buckeyes. Big, dark red, even tempered mellow birds. They’ll be a fixture here!

5. Rhode Island Red/White – Many people are familiar with the Rhode Island Red, but don’t realize there’s a white bird available too. We have two white hens, as well as a handful of Rhode Island Reds that are a few years old.

6. Ancona – small, flighty, white egg layers that have a pretty black with white spots look. That’s an Ancona in the first photo above, on the left.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA7. Delaware – If you go back 50some years, the Delaware X New Hampshire cross was the backbone of the broiler industry. They were so successful it led to the decline of pure Delawares.

8. Plymouth Rock – A rainbow of colors possible here including the familiar Barred Rock and white Rock. We have barred rocks, but would like to add some of the less common colors in time.

9. New Hampshire – A lighter red than the Rhode Island or Buckeye birds, these are in the works for here!

10. Australorp – We got these in a deal a few years ago and so much liked the hens they stayed instead of being sold. This is a large black breed, good foragers, good attitudes.

These are just a few of the breeds we have or will have. The nice thing about poultry, and rabbits, is they’re small enough to work for small places, as well as larger farms.

The heritage breeds were developed for small farms, for providing families with meat and eggs, as well as some to sell. While the modern white leghorn excels at volume of eggs on small amounts of feed, and the modern cornish cross excels at fast growth for meat, the heritage breeds are often a breed that can do both, but in a different environment. If the power goes out, they’ll be ok outside. If they eat and are still hungry, they go forage for bugs or other treats rather than wait at the feeders for a handout.

They’re different and functional. And they last. I think it’s safe to say other operations don’t have any 3 or 4 year old birds still working. There will be some new blood brought in this year, but our parent birds here have a home for life too.

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