My love of poultry began in a rather unconventional way. I was a young boy in McMinnville, Tennessee on a trip to town with my grandmother when I spied a brown Leghorn hen running loose on Main Street. On this particular day I was fixated on getting back at my sister for her recent goat acquisition so this chicken seemed like an answered prayer. I asked around about the owner of the bird and was told that she was mine to have if I could catch her. With some fancy foot work and a lot of flying feathers I managed to corral her. Half way home I had named her Henny Penny and forgotten all about my sister’s goat. There would be many feathered friends after Henny, but I credit her with sparking an enthusiasm for poultry that persists today.
My interest has grown to include the preservation of heritage birds, many of which are experiencing alarming declines in breeding flocks throughout the country. Heritage breeds are officially described as original breeds and strains of domestic fowl that were developed and/or recognized in the late 19th or 20th centuries, and they are defined by a specific set of criteria as determined by the American Poultry Association.
1. APA Standard Breed
2. Long Productive Outdoor Life Span
3. Naturally Mating
4. Slow Growth Rate
At the farm we focus on maintaining the genetics of a handful of heritage breeds.
While you might not have room for a flock of chickens in your backyard there are ways you can help with the preservation of heritage breeds. The first thing I suggest is learning more about the subject. Here are some websites to check out:
• Heritage Poultry Conservancy
• American Bantam Association
• American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
• American Poultry Association
• International Waterfowl Breeders Association
Fall is the season for poultry and livestock shows. Get your toes wet by visiting a few. They are great places to learn about breeds, buy birds and meet other poultry enthusiasts. Check with your local state fair, I’d be willing to bet they have one going on. This year America’s National Crossroads of America Poultry Club show is October 28th – 30th in Indianapolis.
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