Heritage vs. commercial vs. show birds

seedcorn

Songster
12 Years
Apr 25, 2007
1,455
17
191
NE. IN
As I read different threads, the question needs to be asked, what is the difference?

Show birds are all about the physical type vs. standard. F.E., egg production, carcass qualities have no bearing here.

Commercial birds are all about the production side, F.E., egg production, livability, carcass qualities, etc, depending upon the birds use.

Heritage birds were bred (as I understand it) to be of commercial value for those in that area. I'm sure beauty in the sight of the breeder was also an influence. So if it looks the part but doesn't perform, is it the intended "heritage" breed? If it performs as intended but doesn't look like the old pictures is it no longer a "heritage" breed?

So what do you think the initial breeders were after--production or looks?

Of what value are top knots, 5th toes, beards, feathered shanks, etc? Why ask? I read many threads about the "looks" of heritage breeds but nothing about the production side. Since the production side is not selected for by hobby breeders (assuming no one lives off their income from poultry breeding), are they truly the "old heritage breed" or just a carbon likeness? Kind of like my bantams are to the standard size chicken?
 

Illia

Crazy for Colors
10 Years
Oct 19, 2009
16,240
250
336
Forks, WA
I believe heritage fits right in with show, though. Most heritage breeders even back in the day boasted their birds fitting right to the standard. That's what the standard was there for - Showing the origin, purpose, and type in the breed. So yes, toes, topknots, shape, etc matter. Showing and show quality isn't just how "pretty" the bird is, it is about weight, shape, health, size, feather quality, etc. Which in turn is needed for a heritage bird too. I myself if I wanted a dual purpose bird, I'm not gonna go for a 4 lb hatchery hen and a 6 lb hatchery cock. . . I'm going to go to the shows where the OLD stock is, continued to this day to be bred to the original standard, where then hens can exceed 7 lbs, depending on the breed, and the cocks too, can exceed 8 lbs, depending on the breed. Plus I may want a trait like heavy leg feathering, or a rose comb vs single comb, and even color is of matter too. Perhaps I want a better blended bird in my area, so I choose silver laced (proper ones work better) or a good duckwing.

Now of course there are a lot of show birds that aren't heritage, but to me, most heritage birds should have a decent chance at showing well.
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HaikuHeritageFarm

Crowing
10 Years
Jul 7, 2010
1,611
699
291
Memphis, TN
Quote:
I agree, I feel a heritage bird is one that has no disqualifications for the breed, but may not be a top winning show specimen because there might be a focus, instead, on production factors first and cosmetic factors second.

I think this was hashed out rather ad nauseum on the Farming and Homesteading Heritage Fowl thread.

Ultimately, I think we all agree that the ideal Heritage breed representative has it all, looks and production qualities ideally suited to homesteader/dual purpose niche, but until we achieve that total package (which, in some breeds we have a ways to go,) each of us has slightly different priorities in getting there. Which is a good thing, because then we can trade stock and make headway faster!

I think your assessment of the other two categories are over all fair.
 

WallTenters

Songster
9 Years
Feb 16, 2010
894
19
143
Sweet Home, OR
Go to the Dominique breed thread. Look for NYRED's posting on his Dominique pullet, or just search here for "NYREDS dominique pullet". Look at her. She's beautiful, she's got TYPE. Now go to my page and look at the birds we have now. Look especially at my photos from last summer - two or three cullings ago. Compare the width of NYRED's pullet's tail to some of my hens.

I can tell you without asking him that his hens lay better than those hens that I had with pinched tails that got culled. I KNOW this. A narrow tail = narrow between the pubic bones = smaller eggs or less often.

His pullets have shown and won. Ours have not. Ours are five, ten, twenty years behind some of the other Dominique flocks out there. When breeding, you may end up losing some vigor or egg production - so guess what? You breed that back in.

There is not a single perfect chicken on this planet. However, I think that most show birds are a better definition of heritage than anything you'll find from a "production" line. For some reason folks think that a pretty bird can't produce.. how opposite this is from the truth!

I recently went to a show in Stockton, CA. It was great, even though there were no Dominiques there. I saw first thing in the morning several hens had laid eggs and I looked at these eggs. These were show birds, under a high stress situation, still giving their daily dues. And the eggs weren't tiny and frail little things - I believe that each hen there (that I saw) was laying eggs just as should be expected for her breed.

If you aren't breeding in the top knots, the five toes, etc.. you're just breeding your own strain of production reds, commercial battery leghorns, or whatnot. You're not breeding the heritage breed. I think the point of getting into a heritage breed is getting that breed and making it the best you can - to SOP AND production (within the limits of the breed - we don't need 10lb Dominiques). That's what a true SOP bird will be, and if any of us accomplish that goal, we will have the perfect representation of it's breed.
 

slc

Songster
11 Years
Sep 10, 2008
200
1
121
Upper Michigan
For me heritage means old style birds designed to live and be productive in a realworld setting with minimal intervention from us. Sadly not many breeders/keepers test the birds in these settings in order to pass on more than physical traits. Hobby breeders are less likely to select and cull for inferior traits.
 

Arielle

Crowing
8 Years
Feb 19, 2011
16,722
639
411
Massachusetts, USA
Love this topic. Speaks to the reason I'm getting into chickens. While I was limited to the selection at the hatchery, it seemed like a good way to start into chickens. THe breeds I picked were noted for egg production in cooler climes, easy going, bears c onfinement, able to hide from hawks (we have plenty). THis is my starting point.

WHile I understand showing, there is a point I would like to make. THere is a breed of sheep that when the organizers put together the official organization, they decided that NO SHOWING was an important policy. Pretty was not to outshine the production traits so carefully selected for. Important production traits are wide pelvis, correct legs, as well as egg production and mothering. One year I was looking for a new ram at a 2 day show and sale. The top rams, for the breed I wanted, were all big singles! I need twin lambs financially; I bid on the ram placed in the middle of his class. He was a twin and more likely to produce twins(in his ewe lambs) and this proved to be true.

I recently looked at a post where the lt brahma was incorrrectly splashed with black over the back (should be all white , I think); this bird has the coloring to hide from the hawks in my area; a properly colored light brahma I worry is too easy for a hawk to see. I hope I'm getting my idea across clearly . . .

For me, production traits first. Feathered to standard second. I must have my birds make me some egg money. I don't need another mouth to feed without payback.

I think the heritage breeds fit this description. Or they did originally.
 

Arielle

Crowing
8 Years
Feb 19, 2011
16,722
639
411
Massachusetts, USA
Love this topic. Speaks to the reason I'm getting into chickens. While I was limited to the selection at the hatchery, it seemed like a good way to start into chickens. THe breeds I picked were noted for egg production in cooler climes, easy going, bears c onfinement, able to hide from hawks (we have plenty). THis is my starting point.

WHile I understand showing, there is a point I would like to make. THere is a breed of sheep that when the organizers put together the official organization, they decided that NO SHOWING was an important policy. Pretty was not to outshine the production traits so carefully selected for. Important production traits are wide pelvis, correct legs, as well as egg production and mothering. One year I was looking for a new ram at a 2 day show and sale. The top rams, for the breed I wanted, were all big singles! I need twin lambs financially; I bid on the ram placed in the middle of his class. He was a twin and more likely to produce twins(in his ewe lambs) and this proved to be true.

I recently looked at a post where the lt brahma was incorrrectly splashed with black over the back (should be all white , I think); this bird has the coloring to hide from the hawks in my area; a properly colored light brahma I worry is too easy for a hawk to see. I hope I'm getting my idea across clearly . . .

For me, production traits first. Feathered to standard second. I must have my birds make me some egg money. I don't need another mouth to feed without payback.

I think the heritage breeds fit this description. Or they did originally.
 

cybercat

Songster
12 Years
May 22, 2007
2,353
45
226
Greeneville, Tn
The word Heritage is a new word in chickens. ALBC came up with it to try to help those duel purporse breeds excepted into the SOP before 1960 make a come back. Alot of it has to do with the Real Food movement and growing your own. ALBC is about perserving livestock old lines that are disapearing that had certain uses but which the new comerical breed have pushed to the side. In other livestock the heritage breeds do not have SOP so to speak. But keeping genetic diversity in lines is what it is all about. In chickens some take it to be show line birds and others do not but again it is about gentics and breeding lines. Some poultry breeds have very few breeding lines left out side of hatchery that are known by their parent clubs. Then again there can be alot more that are on farms than a show club knows about. ALBC has a list of breeders I do not think alot of them show thier chickens although some do. This is one resource many look over but then again one must be a member to get the list. Again even with the show birds it is easier to get stock if one is a member of the breed club. But that is not what this is about. The fact is there are breeders out there that are working on the so called heritage breeds to perseve them that are not into showing but have working farms.
 

MANNA-PRO

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