Here at Solutions from Science we’re all about heirlooms. Mostly we talk about heirloom seeds, but let’s take that up a notch today. What about heirloom poultry? For those of you trying to get off the grid and grow more independent, adding poultry to your list only makes sense. With chickens you have a source of eggs, meat, and birds that will snack on all those nasty insects you fight to keep out of your garden.
But not just any ol’ chicken will do. For example, commercial breeding programs focus on one of two things – meat or egg production. These animals are no longer breeds but registered trademarks, coming with warning labels, fine print and disclaimers. Their immune systems are compromised, their reproduction ability is sacrificed, or their physical bodies are unable to bear their own weight at nine weeks of age! For the basic homesteader wanting to raise a few chickens for eggs and meat, you need to focus on a bird that can do both – and reproduce!
As you read up on chickens, trying to decide which one will be the best for your particular needs, pay close attention to several things:
– Egg size – if you’re going to raise chickens for eggs, you don’t necessarily want the smallest ones!
– Production – some chickens are more prolific layers than others. If you’re going to raise a few chickens to put in the freezer, you want a chicken that has a good production rate.
– Broodiness – this feature means how well a hen sits on her eggs. Some hens will not sit at all, while others, like the Buff Orpington, are wonderful mothers.
– Hardiness – choose a chicken that is good for your climate
– For those of us in the South, we need birds that are heat tolerant. For our northern cousins, your birds will need to be cold hardy.
There’s an organization called the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. They have a member list of folks who breed the heirloom, first generation poultry that is the foundation base for all poultry around today. It’s only $15 a year to join (cheaper if you do it more than one year at a time) and for that you get a list of people that not only raise birds you can purchase for your homestead, but folks who are only more than happy to share their experience and knowledge with you. It’s worth every penny of the membership fee. For more information, go to their website at: https://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/SPPA/SPPA.html