Why Raise Chickens?
Awesome Family Farms is committed to preserving food security and safety. Knowing where our food comes from and what we are putting into our children’s bodies is so important to us. Backyard chicken keeping and small flocks have become mainstream again in the last few decades and more cities around the globe are allowing residents to raise a few hens of their own. We support and encourage this movement. Chickens are relatively easy to raise, make good pets, provide your family with healthful food and will also benefit your garden!
Why Choose Heritage Chickens?
Heritage animals are the equivalent of heirloom plants. They are the breeds that were developed pre-WWII and sustained families generation after generation. These chickens can breed and raise their own young providing you with your own sustainable flock. They can forage for much of their own food saving you money and increasing their nutritional value. They can adapt to a wide range of environmental and weather conditions from free range to confinement. Heritage chickens can lay almost as well as industrial hybrids but will do so over a much longer period and breeds raised for meat will take twice as long to reach market weight but their slow growth yields superior flavour. Heritage breeds can be found in all sizes, temperaments, colours and production rates. With hundreds of breeds to choose from you can easily find one that suits both your climate and your needs.
Industrial chickens on the other hand are scientifically developed hybrids designed for high production on less food in environmentally controlled factory settings for maximum profit. The egg laying hens are too scrawny for meat, pump out an egg a day for a year or 2 and have very short life spans. The meat birds grow so fast they can be butchered only 4 weeks after hatching but this unnatural growth comes with a high mortality rate. Hybrids do not forage and will sit by the feeder even when provided with ample pasture. They are also highly vulnerable to predators, weather conditions and have skittish temperaments making them a poor choice around children and newbies. Hybrid chickens cannot breed true and have had their natural broodiness bred out of them so the only way to sustain your flock is to continually purchase hatching eggs or day old chicks from a handful of commercial suppliers.
Protecting the Food Supply?
Chickens are at risk of becoming extinct! It sounds ridiculous but the global chicken industry is supplied with hybrid chicks sourced from a tiny number of breeding chickens. Due to the limited genetic material available there is a real risk that a new strain of disease could decimate the world’s supply. Further, due to their inability to thrive in natural conditions, a simple power outage can wipe out an entire flock of 10,000+. By choosing heritage breeds that maintain the natural instincts and adaptability of the species we are protecting both our own food source as well as preserving the genetic diversity of the species for future generations.
Sourcing Your Own Heritage Flock
Heritage chicken breed populations range from critical to recovering. Once you have settled on a breed that suits your needs the next step is to find a good heritage breeder and purchase hatching eggs, day old chicks or POL (point of lay) pullets. We urge you to avoid hatchery chicks, the chicken equivalent to puppy mills, which do nothing to preserve the integrity of the breed. Restoring heritage breeds to their former glory requires patient and careful breeding but the results are well worth the effort. Most heritage breeds have a ‘standard of perfection’ for showing purposes and this is a good place to start when selecting for your flock. Our breeding plan emphasizes utility and temperament in conforming specimens. Our beautiful Buff Orpingtons flock was sourced from Greendale Heritage Farm, breeders of rare heritage chickens.