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Most of my life has been spent with keeping poultry of one type or another but in the last several years we've become decidedly dual purpose. We now only raise American Bresse for chickens and a couple of types of Heritage Turkeys.

I now have the space in a dedicated barn to really do the hobby justice in building a sustainable flock and managing all of the breeding, hatching and growing to keep us well supplied with meat, eggs and the next season's breeder birds. Occasionally, we have some extras to share.


The barn is always a work in progress! It's from 1908 and has seen better days. It now has 7 breeding pens, 3 grow pens, feed storage, hatch room and a processing corner. Elsewhere there is a brooder shed with 6 wall mounted brooders plus the floor space and exterior run for teenagers, "Rooster Coop" for growing table birds and 3 pasture tractors as seasonal use flex space. The most valuable thing for growing a flock is the grow space to put them in, until they come of age for selection.

I know have several years wrapped up into breeding the American Bresse, chasing growth rate, fleshing, structure, SOP traits and table presentation. Without neglecting skin thickness (should be thin skinned) or fat content (influenced by finishing but the genetic predisposition to layer on fat still needs to be there) Our preferred harvest age is 16-18 weeks for a 4-4.5lb carcass.


Being dual purpose also means that egg laying is an important trait as well. It's a balancing act of selection to maintain both egg laying and table traits within a flock, without going too far to either aspect and losing one over another. The selection of breeding hens is every bit as important as the male selection, if not more so since the female will pass on body structure, size and growth rate... as well as her laying ability. Using a male who's mother was a great layer is also helpful.

It's important that each bird within a flock has the time to grow and prove itself for breeding merit, in order to gain improvements or maintain flock function. From there how the birds are matched up will influence the next generation as well, by using compensation mating and ensuring that the parent birds do not share any of the same flaws.

It took several years to reach the point of producing pullets that look like this on a semi consistent basis (@ 18 weeks old)...


... With plenty of more breeding work to be done still. This variety has sucked me in though and for as long as I have chickens, I will have Bresse.

I've begun documenting our Bresse journey on youtube, under our farm name Arcadian Orchard.

About author
My poultry hobby has turned into Arcadian Orchard, after leaving the city to live a more rural life. We've ventured further into gardening and growing food, since my husband's thumb is more green while mine is decidedly feathery.


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