Compost It
White Orpington Hen
White Orpington  Hen

Now that 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
Heirloom 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.
Available Breeds
(Click on the photo for more detailed information on each breed.)
Sicilian Buttercup Hen (2 roosters 2-3 hens)
Sicilian Buttercup Hen
Delaware (Indian River)
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
(1 nice rooster, 15-20 hens)
White Delaware Chicken

White-Faced Black Spanish (Mediterranean)
White-Faced Black Spanish Rooster (maybe a trio)
White-Faced Black Spanish Rooster

Blue Jersey
Blue Jersey (Trio)
Blue Jersey
6 Natural colors of the Americauna chicken egg shells
(15 hens, no rooster)
Americauna eggs

Rhode Island Whites (rose comb)
(6-8 hens no rooster)

Barred Holland
Barred Holland
Barred Holland
Barred Rock     
Barred Rock
Barred Rock
Blue Orpington
Blue Orpington Hen
(4 hens all girls)
Blue Orpington Hen

Black Orpington
Black Orpington
(1 girl)
Black Orpington

White Orpingtons

(6-7 hens
2 roosters)

White  Langshans
Black Langshans
(White 3-6 hens
Black 3-4 hens 1 rooster)
click on chicken for historical information
Buckeye Rooster
(1 young rooster, maybe 30 hens)
Buckeye Rooster

American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Preserving Our American Agricultural Inheritance
A Hands On Opportunity

American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
The ALBC is currently 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
Foundational Breeds
Support Biodiversity

The Productive Ancona: an Italian Treasure
The Productive Ancona: an Italian Treasure
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
The Ancient Dorking

For the would-be steward, these two gaffes must be avoided:
  1. 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.
  2. The stylish Houdan: the Glory of the Norman Kitchen
    The Stylish Houdan: the Glory of the Norman Kitchen
    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 entropy.
The Importance of Heritage Layers
Your Choice in Breed Makes A Difference

Farm Fresh Eggs!
Yellow House Farm
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. 

           In 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. 

           Moreover, 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.

P.S.  Lab 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?
(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.)

Linda milking cow at Heritage Farm
Dear people,

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.


Maureen Marinkovich
Compost It
378.BOAT (shop)

Events coming up:
  1. 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.
  2. The next feed order should also be toward the end of the month.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. Thanks for all the compliments on the new location.  Be sure to tell your off-island friends about our online store.
  6. Linda Degnan Cobos just made a BEAUTIFUL and IMPORTANT poster about corn.  You can check it out and order one here.