My mom is always saying "when we move to the country, I want to raise a Heritage Breed." And I am always going What?! Can someone define what a Heritage breed 'is', exactly, and what breeds are included in the term?
Heritage Chicken must adhere to all the following:
1. APA Standard Breed. Heritage Chicken must be from parent and grandparent stock of breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) prior to the mid-20th century; whose genetic line can be traced back multiple generations; and with traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed. Heritage Chicken must be produced and sired by an APA Standard breed. Heritage eggs must be laid by an APA Standard breed.
2. Naturally mating. Heritage Chicken must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating. Chickens marketed as Heritage must be the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.
3. Long, productive outdoor lifespan. Heritage Chicken must have the genetic ability to live a long, vigorous life and thrive in the rigors of pasture-based, outdoor production systems. Breeding hens should be productive for 5-7 years and roosters for 3-5 years.
4. Slow growth rate. Heritage Chicken must have a moderate to slow rate of growth, reaching appropriate market weight for the breed in no less than 16 weeks. This gives the chicken time to develop strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.
Chickens marketed as Heritage must include the variety and breed name on the label.
Terms like “heirloom,” “antique,” “old-fashioned,” and “old timey” imply Heritage and are understood to be synonymous with the definition provided here.
Abbreviated Definition: A Heritage Egg can only be produced by an American Poultry Association Standard breed. A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a heritage egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard breed established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive outdoor life.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has over 30 years of experience, knowledge, and understanding of endangered breeds, genetic conservation, and breeder networks.
Don't forget the wonderful Sussex Fowl! One of the finest dual purpose true Heritage breeds around. Fine for meat or eggs. Docile and good mothers.Cold Hardy, robust chicks, excellent foragers. Lots of colors to choose from. APA approved long ago both in bantam and large fowl. There are several Sussex threads here on BYC and a parent Club named American Sussex Association. As with any Heritage breed, buy from a breeder, the best you can get for your foundation flock. It will save you years of work and you'll have more fun at the shows.
Karen in western PA, USA