Find a Heritage Poultry Breeder

| 2/26/2010 4:56:35 PM

We don’t have to remind you of the benefits of raising your own poultry. But picking a breed with the characteristics you want can be tough, especially because of the differences within breeds.

The Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (SPPA) compiles an annual list of heritage poultry breeders. Selecting breeding stock from reputable breeders will help strengthen the quality characteristics of various breeds.

The SPPA had this to say about the importance of heritage breeds:

Finding traditional breed birds can be a challenge. The breeders are as rare as the breeds themselves. The Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities provides connections for breeders who care about these unique breeds. The Breeders Directory is the single most important tool to open and maintain communications among breeders. It lists members who are currently raising birds, what breeds they are raising and how to contact them.

"Recent converts to poultry conservation have found the directory to be their most useful tool," says SPPA president Craig Russell. "It not only provides a source of breeds but also puts breeders of the same fowl in touch with each other."

"There may be considerable variation among varieties, even within strains, of any given breed," Russell says. Historic breeds that have become rare may lose vigor due to inbreeding or acquire undesirable characteristics over time. Breeders may select birds for qualities other than those prescribed by the Standard of Perfection. They may select for a non-standard color pattern or develop separate strains for meat and egg production. Exhibition breeders may ignore production qualities or historic traits such as broodiness. In breeds with healthy numbers, these individual preferences are lively and delightful. For breeds with small numbers, such changes can exert disproportionate influence on the breed.

Nevertheless, flocks of historic breeds retain genetic strengths that can be cultivated by careful breeding. "No matter how run down a particular type may be, a judicious breeding program can return them to the desired type and utility," Russell says.

He’s personally facing such a breeding challenge. A devastating raccoon attack killed birds that were the result of years of his selective breeding. He’s retrieving birds he formerly considered culls that were placed in other flocks and adding birds from hatcheries. He plans to restore the Red Caps and Crevecoeurs that died in the predator attack.

"I’ll use the good sized females and the small males with good type and color as the base," he says. "I’ll get the size back in them, add vigor with outcrosses, and then work on color."

More detailed information on traditional breeds and breeding methods is available in Christine Heinrichs’ book, How to Raise Chickens. Heinrichs is SPPA Historian.

For more sources of chicks and hatching eggs, check out our free Directory of Hatcheries and Poultry Breeders.

Kelly Grainger_1
4/14/2010 3:37:09 PM

If you are in Canada, you can check out Rare Breeds Canada. They have an excellent list of poultry breeders and where to find other livestock - rare and endangered breeds.

3/10/2010 7:01:13 PM

The American Livestock Breed Conservancy is an excellent resource for information on all sort of heritage breeds and breeders. They're a great organization and I'm surprised you didn't mention them in your article!

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters