Heritage Cattle and Chicken Breeds

Heritage chicken and cattle breeds are generally better suited to small-scale homesteads than many modern livestock breeds. Their tendency to be dual- or even triple-purpose breeds is a noted plus for a family working with less room and fewer resources than a large-scale operation. Heritage cattle breeds are often both decent meat and milk producers, thriving on a grass-fed diet with less of a need for supplemental feed in comparison to modern cattle breeds. Similarly, heritage chicken breeds can be both notable egg layers and solid meat birds, generally only requiring a longer time to maturity than today’s chicken breeds selected for rapid growth. 

Additionally, by choosing to raise heritage livestock on your homestead or farm, you are often protecting an endangered livestock breed. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), a nonprofit membership organization, works to protect over 180 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Many of the cattle and chicken breeds they work with are listed below. Look through the listing below of heritage livestock breeds to find out if one would be well-suited for your homestead, and to learn more about the history of these unique animals.  

Our thanks to Yale University Press for their kind permission to post the following profiles from The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds (Copyright 2001 by Yale University), by Janet Vorwald Dohner. This 500-page book is a definitive reference about heritage livestock, describing the history and characteristics of almost 200 breeds of poultry, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and horses.   

barred rock chickensHeritage Chicken Breeds 

Barred Plymouth Rock Chickens  

The Barred Plymouth Rock chicken is a year-round egg layer as well as a good meat bird.

Black Australorp Chickens