What is a heritage breed?
Historically these are pre-industrial breeds that were raised to thrive under specific local conditions. That is, they were selected for traits that make them self-sufficient such as good foraging ability, predator awareness, parenting skills, longevity, and disease resistance, to name a few. These genetic traits have largely been lost in modern industrial agriculture where rapid growth and production under controlled conditions (i.e. artificial light and temperature) are the rule. Conservation of these historic breeds is essential to the protection of both the genetic diversity of our food supply and the site specific traits that allow these animals to thrive under local conditions.
Our flock consisted of 21 hens (1 Speckled Sussex, 2 Chantecler, 5 Barred Plymouth Rock, 4 Buff Orpington, 5 Silver Laced Wyandotte and 5 Buckeye) and a Speckled Sussex rooster named, of course, Herman. All of these breeds are listed by The Livestock Conservancy as “Heritage” breeds. These breeds have been selected for for general characteristics which include cold hardiness, amiability, foraging ability, broodiness (desire and ability to raise chicks), predator awareness and egg production in our variable climate. All are slow to mature, heavy weight, dual purpose breeds. Slow to mature means more time before production begins but ensures strong, healthy, more resilient birds. Heavy weight birds, though not flightless, tend to spend more time on the ground making them naturally easier to contain (a fact that keeps our neighbors happy and our local predator population at bay). Dual purpose breeds can be raised for both meat and egg production making them more versatile.
Our farm participated in the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture’s Poultry Program. Our chicks came from a hatchery which participates in the National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP).