GRIT Country Skills Series

BREED BETTER HERITAGE FLOCKS

Many of us who keep backyard flocks are aware that industrial chicken breeds from commercial hatcheries aren’t the best option if we’re hoping to raise self-reliant birds.

We prefer a heritage chicken breed that is capable of free-ranging and foraging much of their own feed. We want breeds that retain natural resistance to disease and climate stresses.

We “flocksters” often prefer to harvest meat and eggs from the same flock, so we’re more interested in dual-purpose breeds than in industrial hybrids with either astounding laying or growth rates.

To meet those goals, we choose to raise heritage chicken breeds, expecting they’ll offer the traits that made such breeds popular on homesteads for generations, including longevity, the inclination to forage, immune system integrity, and, of course, reliable production of high-quality meat and eggs.

But industrial breeds are responsible for such a large proportion of the commercial hatcheries’ business that the rearing of heritage breeds has fallen by the wayside. Many heritage breeds have lost the qualities they were originally valued for.

I propose that we homesteaders and small-scale farmers take heritage chicken breeding into our own hands, and that we support the improvement-breeding efforts of any and all farm-scale hatcheries.

Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be

The poultry industry has proved quite capable

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