How much poultry lives in America? The Livestock Conservancy wanted to know — and not just the total count, but also the number of each breed. To find out, they conducted the North American Poultry Census, a comprehensive survey of the chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys within the United States.
Long ago, poultry breeds in America were as diverse as the regions they lived in, as landraces evolved to thrive within their specific environments. In the past few decades, modern agriculture has pushed for conformity in commercial poultry breeds to maximize profitable factors. Traits such as fast weight gain and consistent egg production have been encouraged at the expense of regional adaptations, disease resistance, and mothering instincts.
To conduct its census, The Livestock Conservancy petitioned the help of over 4 million poultry enthusiasts, including farmers, hobbyists, hatcheries, and universities, to gather data. According to the results, more than 50 endangered chicken breeds live in America, and approximately 3 dozen resident duck, geese, and turkey breeds are in a similar predicament. Even so, the survey revealed plenty of good news. Two chicken breeds, the Orpington and the Wyandotte, are no longer endangered, and 26 percent of poultry breeds are more numerous today than during previous censuses. Heritage turkey and duck breeds are faring particularly well — evidence that hobby farmers continue to seek animals of historical importance.
Complete data from the 2015 census can be found on The Livestock Conservancy’s website at North American Poultry Census.