What exactly does "heritage" mean?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by LTygress, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. LTygress

    LTygress Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 12, 2012
    I see this term used a lot. And lately I've noticed someone on craigslist using it to describe his large-fowl birds. He gets his birds from Meyer Hatchery, and then labels them "bantams" or "heritage" when he sells them.

    But I didn't think heritage meant large fowl birds.... or does it?
  2. Hanna8

    Hanna8 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 26, 2012
    I'm not positive, but I think the term refers to older breeds, many of which are large birds because they were kept for eggs and meat.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    This could easily lead to an argument. Why? Heritage means different things to different people. And some can be very passionate about that. I’ll give my opinion anyway.

    To some people, the word heritage brings up visions of the breeds small farmers or housewives in town would have running around their farm or backyard. Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, White Rocks, and such would fall into this category.

    Some people may feel that only large fowl fall into the category but others include all breeds that were recognized at some arbitrarily chosen date.

    Others might feel the chickens have to meet the Standard of Perfection (SOP). Each country has its own version of the SOP. For example, in France a Marans has to have feathers on its legs, not so here in the US. I have a fairly unpopular opinion on SOP’s by the way. I feel that they were written to define a breed so people could compete in chicken shows. Some features in the SOP have a direct link to the function of the breed, skin color and conformation for meat birds, for example. But things like comb and eye color are more related to what makes them pretty with that confirmation than an actual function. Still, for some peopl0e, if they met the visual requirements of the SOP, they can be considered heritage.

    Others feel that they need to not only meet the requirements of the SOP that a judge would see; they also need the production qualities and behaviors of the original breed. A judge won’t see the egg a chicken lays, especially a rooster, though a breed should lay a certain color and size egg. You’ll see a lot of comments on here about how mean and aggressive a Rhode Island Red rooster is. That behavior can be bred into or out of a flock. The original RIR’s were a backyard flock with kids running around and often taking care of the chickens. An aggressive RIR rooster would wind up in a stew pot. So heritage RIR roosters should not be aggressive. A certified APA judge on this forum has commented that the original heritage birds had to have a certain feed to egg or meat conversion ratio. Super huge birds use a lot of what they eat to maintain that big body. He feels that judges are rewarding people at shows for huge birds when the original heritage birds of that breed were not that big. So, yeah, there can be some disagreement among the pros. These are often quite passionate about their birds too.

    Occasionally you will see comments about heritage breeds being endangered. Some of these are surprising because lot of us have this breed. When you see this comment, they are talking about that last kind, where behavior and production qualities count. There may be only two or three flocks in the entire country that meet that definition in spite of a lot of flocks meeting the SOP show bird requirements.
  4. Really? There is controversy over the term? I thought it was somewhat self-evident - meaning that the term applies to breeds that have been recognized for a considerable period of time. The link I posted I thought (in my naivete) was a pretty well accepted one. Shows what little I know.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    There have been some wild threads on this topic.

    I’ve seen that definition before and in my opinion it’s pretty good, pretty much what I was trying to say with my last one. But it’s a group of people that feel a certain way defining something. Not everyone recognizes their authority to set the definition outside their own group.

    If you check the resumes of some of the people listed at the bottom, you’ll see it is people defending a certain “lifestyle” that defines it that way. It’s sort of like an environmentalist group defining a term or maybe an organic group. There definition may not be the exact same as how it is used by the general population that are not as passionate about the topic or people with a different point of view.

    It’s pretty obvious from the OP’s post that that someone is selling a heritage breed, which they are. But the representatives of that heritage breed they are selling aren’t going to be good representatives of that breed. The breed may be heritage but the individual chickens aren’t by your definition or the way I think.

    Maybe another example of a different term. When some people use the word “cull” they mean kill. The technical definition is to select. It doesn’t necessarily mean kill, though that’s how a lot of us manage the process. The common usage of the term cull and how it is technically defined can be different to different people. That’s why I try to say “remove from your flock” instead of using cull. It means different things to different people so it can be confusing or upsetting.
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