New, heritage chickens?

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by Farmer Fry, Dec 8, 2014.

  1. Farmer Fry

    Farmer Fry New Egg

    Dec 2, 2014
    I wasn't sure which forum thread this should be posted to so if I'm in the wrong place, feel free to move me.

    My wife and I just moved out from the small city and into the farm world. One of my goals from day one was to get a couple of chickens once we were settled. Well, since it's taken us over two years to settle (and still settling) I've had a lot of time to do a lot of reading.

    A lot of the books/articles I've read always had a section which talked about heritage chickens and how endangered they are/were depending on the breed and one should look into raising them. I of course being the conservationist that I think I am, I decided I'd do my part and buy heritage breeds, at least that's what I thought.

    Upon reading a lot of threads and searching online, (please correct me if I'm wrong) but it appears as though heritage breeds are raised as prize winners/money makers and aren't so much about preserving the bird for extinction.

    I was a bit disappointed after seeing this and may have to change from heritage breeds to hatchery breeds.

    What's everyone' else's view on this?
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    The heritage term itself contains the idea that what one is seeking to "preserve" is a bird bred to the Standard established for it by the American Poultry Association the sanctioning body for these large fowl breeds.

    Whether one wishes to primarily focus on exhibition or take a bit more of an agricultural approach, the processes are strikingly similar. In both cases, true bred birds are employed and breeding those birds to the Standard is required. It isn't simply an either/or proposition, ie, exhibition or homesteading. Rather, those who love these breeds share much more than what may be different in their goals.

    In no case do people seek merely to make money. That is extremely unlikely for anyone. Getting into standard bred fowl is simply unlikely to net anyone a "profit". Exhibition folks rarely, if ever, even come close. The golden era for making money on poultry of this kind was the early 1900's.

    Also, it is important to note again and again is this simple reality. These breeds are composite birds, made up of differing birds in their original creation. Keeping these "parts" in proper balance so that the bird is truly a correct expression of the Standard is the life long work of a true breeder. Mere propagation will not "preserve" these breeds. One must diligently continue to breed these birds carefully, skillfully and with great care. It doesn't just happen. These birds are not species so this isn't like running a lion preserve in Africa or an Elk preserve in North America. The birds genetically drift very quickly and without diligent care and skillful breeding, the birds in just a few generations no longer represent the breed well, if just left to flock breed willy nilly.

    So you saw that at the Knoxville National last weekend, both exhibitors of large fowl and those deeply committed to heritage preservation were working side by side and many cases? There was cross pollination to a very large degree.

    Hope that helps some.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2014
    2 people like this.
  3. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    New Mexico, USA
    My Coop
    Hello there and welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    So glad you could join our community! I have never raised a heritage breed however I would imagine not everyone raises them for profit or show and that some people honestly do raise them to protect the breed. I wouldn't let what others do discourage you from raising a heritage breed. Just because the rest of the world does it another way, doesn't mean you can't do it your way. Hatchery breeds are going to have the potential to be skittish, less hardy and can have genetic issues. These traits are less likely with a heritage breed. Follow your own path and try one of these endangered breeds!!!

    Good luck and we do welcome you to our flock!
  4. Farmer Fry

    Farmer Fry New Egg

    Dec 2, 2014
    Thanks for the quick reply Fred. As I'm sure you know, most of the articles/books don't mention the fact you have to keep a balance when breeding heritage chickens. I've made the mistake of assuming that one heritage breed would just need breeding.
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    The next question that naturally arises and thus must be addressed is this. What's with showing anyhow?

    For some it is a hobby such as hunting, skiing or weekend motorcycle racing, etc. Sure. It's what humans do.
    But exhibiting poultry is the only way one can accomplish certain things. It really cannot be avoided. One's "work" or one's artistic endeavors must be submitted for peer review. Without that, how does really know if one is making faithful progress in breeding the birds faithfully to Standard?

    Without putting your birds right next to the birds of several other breeders of those same birds to compare and contrast? How would one know? There is no other way. At an exhibition, you also have an extraordinary opportunity to share and brainstorm with others doing the same work, with the same birds you are. Priceless. Cannot do this just by talking or posting photos on the internet. This is virtual. An exhibition is real. Of course, you cannot even judge birds merely by looking at them. You've got to take them up in your hands, open their wings, feel their keels and examine the spine and vent area. Until you've actually picked up a bird for what is called handling, you won't ever really know what the bird truly is.

    Now, let's be honest here. Do some folks get caught up competitively in anything and everything, whether it is backyard horseshoes or playing a board game, Again, this can be human nature, but doesn't have to be one's purpose. Exhibiting, like any other social endeavor, is all in what YOU make it.

    I personally go to meet and greet, brainstorm, learn and for peer review.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    As one who breeds, I cannot tell you how challenging and difficult this is. Rewarding however.
    I'm completely agricultural minded, if that adds anything to the conversation. This isn't a competitive sport for me.

    The failure of the "heritage preservation" movement to stress these is somewhat disturbing to me. So, I do what I can through various channels.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2014
  7. familyfarm1

    familyfarm1 Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 9, 2013
    Northern Virginia
  8. Mountain Peeps

    Mountain Peeps Change is inevitable, like the seasons Premium Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    At our lodge
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC! Please make yourself at home and we are here to help.
  9. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    I'll disagree with your interpretation. Heritage birds are the pure bred birds. They breed true. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. You can show them because they have an established standard of perfection. You can measure them against their ideal. Some of these breeds are rare and endangered. These breeds have fallen out of favor as major players in the egg and meat markets because they have a poorer feed conversion rate than the hybrid strands. For the rare birds to prosper, it's up to the small breeder that takes a fancy to them and keep them going. Some heritage breeds are quite common. Hatchery birds can be heritage birds. Commercial hatcheries birds typically are not as selectively bred as a private breeder so imperfections creep in. They are breeding for the average backyard chicken keeper who wants a variety of chickens that fit different climates and uses with a variety of feather patterns and colors. If you want a high egg producing bird or one that gets to market weight the fastest, than you are looking at specialty hybrids. They cross heritage birds to make birds that are the best in usually only one area. The resulting birds are superior to the parent stock in that one area. They typically have characteristics bred out of them that would hinder their job. (broodiness is bred out of production layers).

    Most of us have heritage birds. Most of us do not breed or promote/show our birds. We have them because they are good mothers, are cold or heat tolerant, are good foragers (bugs), are long lived, produce longer than hybrids, are decent layers with a decent carcass weight when done, provide a beautiful egg basket...

    Pick a few heritage chickens are are eye candy for you. Maybe you'll choose to do some selective breeding down the road.
  10. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Fred forgot to mention one thing that you can get from a show . . . . Disease . . . .

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