What is a Heritage Breed Chicken and why should I raise them?

There are many reasons to own chickens. Some people pick chickens that are great layers. Some pick based on egg shell color. Some choose based on personality. Some people pick the chickens they raise based on the fact that they are endangered. There are many breeds of chickens that are in danger of becoming extinct, breeds that need the help of flock owners everywhere to secure a spot in future backyards.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), is an organization that puts the preservation of animals, including poultry, as a priority. Their goals are to conserve the genes of these breeds and species and make sure they do not go extinct.

One such example of their work is with the Buckeye chicken breed. They developed a breeding program for Buckeyes in 2005 and ALBC staff members used selective breeding to improve the breed, thus expanding their numbers. In 2011, the Buckeye was moved from “critical” status to “threatened.”

The poultry world is growing due to the popularity of backyard farming. Agricultural growth in the next ten years will be phenomenal if the rise in popularity continues at its current rate. Many breeders are raising heritage breeds of poultry and selectively breeding based on their genetics to improve them. This is helping endangered breeds from becoming extinct. The ALBC has put together a Conservation List of Breeds and categorized them based on number of breeding flocks.

In order to understand the true meaning of value in these endangered birds, we must understand the meaning of heritage. According to the ALBC, the definition of heritage includes: recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) prior to the mid-twentieth century, reproduces naturally, lives longer, and grows slower.

Heritage breed poultry are perfect breeds for the homestead and those that want to be self sufficient. They do well in pasture based settings and they have the genetic make-up to live a long, healthy and productive life.

Heritage breeds typically taste better too! Many taste-tests have been done concluding that heritage breeds have better flavor than many of the favorite commercial poultry from your local grocery stores.

Breeders, hobbyists, and the backyard flocks are doing their part in conserving these rare treasures. Choose your breed, research it, and help keep it from becoming extinct! There are so many breeds on the ALBC list and if everyone worked together, we can surely reduce this list.