White Orpington Hen
more and more people are keeping a few chickens for food, compost, and
general chicken high jinks, I decided maybe we should promote heritage
breeds. As I searched around for heritage breeders, I found only one
woman west of the Cascades who runs
Heritage Farms in Spanaway,
Washington. As it happens, her farm is going out of business so she has
fowl that need good homes.
Ken Wood lives on Orcas and is a member of the Agricultural
Resources Committee (ARC) and says, "I am a major proponent of
heritage breeds of all species and raise Black Java chickens and Silver
Fox rabbits on my little farm. One of my long term goals is to help
promote the San Juans as a kind of genetic ark for a multitude of plant
and animal varieties (beneficial insects included), one more reason why a
GMO-Free SJC is so critical!"
I happen to agree with Ken and
think this is a great opportunity for all of us. This requires us to
extend ourselves a little for the sake of a greater good. Please read
the rest of this email and try to decide if you would like to
participate by taking on one of the breeds as a steward to genetic
diversity! If you have room for a small heritage breed then read on and
see what is available. If you can't keep roosters, you can still
participate. We are going to create the Broody Hen Project. Whenever your chicken gets broody,
we'll give her several fertilized eggs from one of the Heritage Stewards
and away we'll go! It'll be great, but only if you participate.
Please read on for more information about
heritage breeds. Send us a reply if you are interested. We can all
adopt a small piece of this program or maybe one of you out there is
really interested in something on a bigger scale. Let's not let these
rare breeds be sold for meat. Let's work together to help continue the
important work of saving and promoting heritage breeds.
(Click on the photo for more
detailed information on each breed.)
Sicilian Buttercup Hen (2 roosters 2-3 hens)
This undated photo
provided by American Livestock Breeds Conservancy shows a white Delaware
chicken. 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.
/ AP photo
nice rooster, 15-20 hens)
Black Spanish (Mediterranean)
White-Faced Black Spanish Rooster (maybe a trio)
Blue Jersey (Trio)
6 Natural colors of the Americauna chicken egg
(15 hens, no
Rhode Island Whites (rose
(6-8 hens no rooster)
Blue Orpington Hen
(4 hens all girls)
(White 3-6 hens
Black 3-4 hens 1 rooster)
click on chicken for
(1 young rooster, maybe 30 hens)
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Our American Agricultural Inheritance
working to conserve the genetics of 37 breeds of chickens considered genetically
endangered. Would you be stunned to learn that the global poultry industry is
90% dominated by
one breed - the Cornish/Plymouth Rock (Corn Rock) hybrid -
consequently decreasing the genetic diversity found in our food system?
Information from Yellow
House Farm in New Hampshire
The Productive Ancona: an Italian
Unlike the more modern
"composite breeds", such as the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Wyandotte and
Orpington, which are all the fruit of crossbreeding various foundational breeds,
the foundational breeds represent a unique genetic resource that can not be
reproduced. If they are lost, they are lost forever. Sadly, with the advent
of modern factory "farming" practices, these breeds have fallen into the
shadows. Both the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) and the SPPA (Society for the
Preservation of Poultry Antiquities) list the breeds as being in need of
serious conservation efforts.
The Ancient Dorking
For the would-be steward,
these two gaffes must be
- First and
foremost, factory chickens are verboten. They are largely hybridized, removed
from the land, and represent genetic dead-ends. Such fowl are: Cornish X;
anything referred to as a broiler (red, black, or otherwise); any fowl whose
name includes the term "sex-link"; any bird whose name sounds like a space
staion, i.e. Golden Comet; any bird whose name includes a number; and it's
generally good to avoid birds whose descirptions make them sound like an
egg-producing robot. As a hint, you will discover that the vast majority of
heritage fowl are named after a specific place. There is a distinct reason for
this, having directly to do with that fowls' particular heritage. Indeed, many
are so specific as to be named for the very town of origin, or which at least
made them famous: Dorking, Crevecoeur, La Fleche, Houdan, Ancona, Leghorn
(Livorno), Faverolles. Others represent regions or islands: Minorca,
Andalusian, Sussex, New Hampshire, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Catalana,
Sicilian Buttercup, Marans, Lakenvelder, Spitzhauben, Barnevelder, Paduan
(a.k.a. Polish), Hamburg (even if it's arbitrary), and the Delaware (a heritage
fowl by the skin of its teeth). A few enjoy a unique name that speaks to their
region, original breeder, traditional use, or some remarkable physical atribute:
White-faced Black Spanish, Orpington, Dominique, Russian Orloff, Old English
Game, Scots Dumpy.
The stylish Houdan: the Glory of the Norman
Choose one breed and do it
well. Buying a hodgepodge of this, that, and the other thing, might be fun, but
it does nothing for the good of the breeds selected. It's always disheartening
to hear someone announce that they raise heritage fowl only to find that they
have one of this, three of that, four of the other, and a Silkie rooster because
he's so cute. Such flocks might amuse the owner, but that is the end of the
benefit derived therefrom. In order to maintain your laying/breeding flock,
have the space for raising the young, and have the time to learn about your
selected breed, it is necessary to restrict the number of breeds. The
alternative is treading water and the further degradation of the fowl. Remember
that there is no stasis in nature; either there is evolution or there is
The Importance of Heritage Layers
Your Choice in Breed Makes A
Farm Fresh Eggs!
Perhaps nothing has been
so devastating to traditional heritage poultry breeds as the development of
hybrid specialty layers, raised in concentrated factory settings, by commercial
producers. They have created a marketing monopoly, built on a couple of
breeds, that is hard to break or even see through to the illusion that they feed
us. This lie, along with the odious deception that is commercial milk,
has deprived us of our American agricultural heritage and made us dependent on
ersatz products with compromised nutritional value.
Factory-style egg operations are based on sheer volume from concentrated space.
Though they gain only pennies per dozen sold, their low prices make
it challenging for customers to select more costly, yet far more wholesome,
options. The "benefits" to us are mass produced eggs so cheap that we have come
to view the egg, possibly Nature's most perfect food, as a throw-away
commodity. The real benefits are for the commercial egg industry,
which undermines any true local competition.
factory style egg-production, hens are viewed as egg-laying machines. They are
so tightly packed into their living quarters that they cannot turn, stretch, or
flap their wings. They are pushed for the highest possible production, at the
earliest age, with the lowest possible food intake, and at eighteen months, when
production might naturally begin to slacken off for a molt, they are destroyed.
hybridized factory layers, sex-links and the like, are genetic dead ends and
completely oil-dependent. Because they are unable to breed pure, egg factory
owners must repurchase stock on a yearly basis from far away hatcheries. This,
of course, increases the carbon footprint of every egg.
Unfortunately, believing that their customers will not pay for heritage
eggs, most "local" egg producers now use these factory birds for their own
market egg production, which just brings the factory to their backyard, making
them as dependent on commercial layers as the Big Boys.
For our ancient
heritage poultry, these precision-bred factory layers are a death knell. If we
do not begin to use heritage breeds for local egg production, the next decade
will see the demise of many traditional breeds of poultry, impoverishing us as
food-loving consumers, and leaving us with an ever dwindling roster of poultry
breeds capable of producing for us in a post-oil world.
results from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) found
that the eggs of pastured chickens contained 34% less cholesterol, 10% less fat,
40% more vitamin A, twice as much omega-6 fatty acid, and four times as much
omega-3 fatty acid as the USDA egg standard. Anybody shocked?
Tell us you read this far and I will give you 10% off your next purchase at Compost It!
Heritage Farm--Have You Joined A CSA?Dear people,
(p.s. click on the picture to check out Heritage Farm's website. Read about the rat who ate 200 pepper plants and rediscover the meaning of supporting your local farmers.)
In conclusion, I would just like to thank you for reading this email. I
made a simple telephone call looking to purchase some Jersey Giants and ended up
talking with Dawn about her farm. Then I called Candace at the W.S.U. extension
office and we start cookin' up ideas. I am a party person when it comes to work
or projects. I like to be part of a bigger picture so things aren't
overwhelming for one person. So I figure if we all work together we can get
something really great going on our island. Let's keep this island in
agricultural pursuits. Let's make it a tourist destination for food and
agriculture. It is noble to bring heritage breeds to this island and then to
become stewards to these creatures. I am hoping many of you will offer to take
on a breed even if it is temporary. I believe once we get going a few will take
more of an interest and perhaps make a business of breeding heritage chickens
and then you can sell, donate, or barter your chickens to someone else if it is
not your thing.
Events coming up:
- Matt is gone halibut fishing. He will be bring fish for your dish around the end of April. You can look for a fish email toward the end of the month.
- The next feed order should also be toward the end of the month.
- Land and Sea Film Festival--look for posters for films to be shown on Earth Day weekend. We have a guest speaker--ooh la la.
- We are also supporting Alexandra Morton and her work to save the Salmon of the Salish Sea. See Matt's webpage for more information and to watch another new video about yucky sea lice. Ms. Morton just received an honorary Ph.D, by the way. She is a champion for salmon. Matt's blog is required reading for all our fish customers!
- Thanks for all the compliments on the new location. Be sure to tell your off-island friends about our online store.
- Linda Degnan Cobos just made a BEAUTIFUL and IMPORTANT poster about corn. You can check it out and order one here.