Rare breeds

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rigagirl, Apr 24, 2009.

  1. rigagirl

    rigagirl Songster

    Dec 28, 2008
    churchville ny
    hope i am putting this in the right. Just thought someone might be interested in this.

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - At about the time Foghorn Leghorn appeared on the Looney Toons drawing board in 1946, he began disappearing from America's dinner tables.

    Now the bird on which the rooster cartoon character was modeled is among 66 types of old-fashioned chickens the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is trying to save from extinction as factory-raised cross varieties command 90 percent of the market.

    "When we can identify something in danger, we need to protect it," says Barbara Bowman of Sonoma County, an original board member of Slow Food USA who has a dozen of the last 510 Delaware breeding stock chickens in existence. "The old breeds provide really sturdy genetics that we have to guard."

    Since the arrival of industrialized agriculture, more than 95 percent of vegetables that had been grown in the world have disappeared, according to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture.

    America's purebred chickens began a similar decline after World War II, when poultry producers, seeking to hold onto the market gained during wartime beef shortages, participated in the national "Chicken of Tomorrow" contest. The goal: a broad-breasted variety that could be mass produced quickly on minimal feed. A Cornish-Plymouth Rock cross dominates today.

    Now the North Carolina-based Conservancy hopes to do with chickens what seed banks have done for heirloom vegetables.

    "All of the other breeds lost their jobs because they couldn't grow as fast," said Marjorie Bender, the Conservancy's technical program director. "The marketplace only cared about how fast it grew and how big it got."

    Unlike chicken bought by the bucketful, certified heritage chickens like the Leghorn must breed naturally, be able to live and forage outdoors, meet certain breed standards and not be genetically modified to grow with abnormally large breasts. If a human baby grew as quickly as a five-week factory fryer, he would weigh 349 pounds by age 2, a University of Arkansas study found.

    The group hopes that its "heritage" seal of approval will alert consumers that the chicken or eggs come from birds with unique flavors and characteristics, the way organic labels indicate an absence of pesticides.

    "To save them, we have to eat them," says Bender. "We are losing genetic diversity in our country's livestock."

    At least 19 heritage breeds, such as the white Delaware with the mottled neck, the white-egg laying Holland and black mottled Houdan, have been designated as critically threatened, which means there are fewer than 500 left. Dozens of others are in danger of disappearing without a market to sustain them.

    Maintaining genetic diversity in the food supply is the goal. Members already have a record of protecting asses, turkeys and some threatened breeds of cattle and horses, such as South Carolina's sturdy Marsh Tacky.

    "The factory chickens we have now are all closely related," Bender said. "If we had millions of chicken houses decimated (by disease), we'd have to figure out how to resist that disease. Part of the answer is genetically based."

    The move to preserve old-fashioned breeds of chickens might not have the backyard appeal of the Brandywine tomato or the Kentucky Wonder bean. But to gourmets, the idea is growing.

    On his 42-acre Azalea Springs Farm in Napa County, Douglas Hayes doesn't have a single grape vine but he does have 40 endangered Buckeyes that have free range to pick grubs amid his heirloom fruit trees and vegetables - and another 80 fertilized eggs on the way.

    "Good quality, high-flavor food has always been a part of my life," Hayes said.

  2. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    The only rare breed I wish I had a couple of is the White Faced Black Spanish.
  3. I took part in the preservation of a nearly extinct heritage breed several years ago. The Garfield Farm Museum in IL has been active in preserving many of our heritage animals over the years. I read about their efforts to bring back the Java breed in Mother Earth News and contacted them for some hatching eggs. Seems they obtained some specimens and had them dna tested at the U. of IL and found them to be purebred Black Java. In their breeding efforts, white sports appeared, so they bred to that side also and had both White and Black Javas. Javas were used as a foundation in developing the Jersey Giant. I bred them for several years and finally sold my last ones after the breed got a good foothold again. There are now several colors available. It`s good to see others interrested in very rare breeds. Those that would like more info should contact the SPPA (The Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities) for eggs, chicks, or breeding stock of rare and nearly extinct breeds. It`s a small way to make a big difference in a hobby that gives so much back. See the link below.........Pop

  4. CrazyFowlFreak

    CrazyFowlFreak Pine Hill Farm

    Apr 24, 2009
    I'm new to chickens, in fact, my eggs to incubate are on the way!
    I have coming:
    silver-laced cochins, dominiques, buff orpingtons, peafowl- cameo and india blue, and silkies. The Cochins are rare, yes?

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