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The Need for Heritage Poultry

Sometimes situations put your mind into gear and make you realize change can just sneak up on you and you you don't even realize how much time has passed and how things have changed. In 1989 a few months after I started this venture to save rare and endangered vegetables seeds and poultry the poultry situation in the US was rapidly declining with varieties and breeds disappearing almost monthly. My good friend from Ohio Tom Knoche told me he wanted me to find Buckeye chickens as he was from the Buckeye state . He joked that a buckeye is a worthless nut and wondered if the chicken breed was the same. I searched and searched and found long time SPPA breeder Duane Urch in Minnesota had some but ran into dead ends everywhere else. There was no hatchery in the US selling them at the time and the SPPA breeders directory was void of listings except for Duane's. I ventured up to Duane's and brought home a few of his older breeders. They were pretty but everyone said wow look at the Rhode Island Reds with the bad comb. I immediately noticed the behavior differences, mannerisms etc. and realized they were different. I increased them and worked with them and started trying to sell them with no luck. I found another source a year later when OSU sold their last birds and got some vigor and visited with long time chicken breeder Thane Earle who had had them at one time and he gave me some tips and I set out to attempt to keep them going. No one wanted them so for years they went out in assortments. I remember one lady who got about 25 in her 50 assorted heavies and she was peaved. Why was I sending out a ugly version of Rhode Island Red. Well 30 years later and low and behold last Sunday after church I went to the local farm store to get some supplies and there was a whole tub of young Buckeye chicks and not just straight run but they were only selling pullets. What a blessing to see they made it and are now a member of the popular crowd. You can now find them in many hatcheries. Hard to believe 30 years ago there probably wasn't more than 30 birds left.


Why we must save heritage poultry came home to our dinner table this week. With Linda being in the hospital for 7 months last year I could not get everything done and butchering poultry was low on the get done list. Anyhow, we were out of our own chicken in the freezer and now that Linda is feeling better and doing more cooking she wanted to make chicken fettucini and she does it well. With no chicken in the freezer she bought some bone in chicken breasts and cooked them down to make her recipe. I noticed the ugly mess of globby fat in the pot and wondered what went wrong and then the texture of the meat, yuk it was awful, mushy and gummy like bad low grade tuna with absolutely no flavor. The broth was tasteless and she used all her normal seasonings. The fettucini was less than stellar. I chocked it up to my spoiled taste buds until today when someone stopped while I was doing chores and begged me to sell him a couple of leghorn roosters for his 90 year old grandma. She has a birthday this Saturday and desperately wants to have real chicken one more time . I had noticed for years when I take lunch count at school almost no student eats when it is unbreaded chicken patty but they all eat when it is breaded. Basically the coating adds the flavor.


I took the time yesterday to butcher 5 chickens and begged Linda to not buy any more modern broiler chickens. Life is too short to deal with that mess, real heritage breeds may be "tough" to some but I would rather chew a bit and have some flavor.

Buckeye cockerel

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Sam Radowick
Sam Radowick
Nov 13, 2019

A thought about breed selection: many poultry keepers use the same criteria that the mega factories use in selecting a breed. Namely highest rate of lay, fast maturity, quick growth, large size. Is this wise? The egg size production charts may do a disservice to breeds and households alike. Consider: a super fast layer etc. is done for in about a year. Cost to replace and associated chick costs and mortality. No time to acclimate to your particular environment , weather, feeds and forages and ailments. No ability to pass it along to chicks. No chance to learn where the best forage is and highest dangers. No time to selective breed. No time to learn them/you. The "McD drive thru"…


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bethschmidt
bethschmidt
Apr 18, 2019

I got my heritage breeds today and am THRILLED with my batch of mixed white egg layers! I had cancelled my order a week or so ago, thinking if only the white leghorns were laying I wouldn't get any of the multicolored breeds I was wanting. Boy was I wrong! I was surprised to hear my chicks had been sent, but am ALWAYS happy to received peeps! Best day of my year. These are a gorgeous mix, I am so glad to have them!!!

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malban
malban
Apr 14, 2019

I am quite happy to see your blog posts. The birds I have received from Sand Hill have always given me great pleasure, and I look forward to seeing the news from your farm. Doesn't it make you wonder how many breeds of chickens - as well as plants and other animals - have been lost due to no one recognizing the value of their potential?

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Great article. I live just south of you and have been breeding Buckeyes for 9 years. I have tried other breeds but always found myself going back to the Buckeyes. I raise Larger Fowl and Bantam Buckeyes.


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My wife and I recently attended symposium called Farming and Ranching for the Bottom Line - Healing the Land & Ourselves with Livestock. Many fine presenters, but the one who had the most impact on me was Mark Schatzker, author of the Dorito Effect, The Surprising New Truth About Food & Flavor. What you discussed above is effecting all foods. Chicken, milk, butter (look at the ingredients on SAMS Club butter - They have to add flavor to make it taste like butter). Everything is produced to grow bigger faster with no thought for the flavor. This sypmposium was sponsored by Menoken Farms Research Center and will be posted on line for those interested - a majority deals with g…

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