Selecting Heritage Breed Chickens

I’ve been pouring over my new Sand Hill Preservation Center catalog since it arrived. You wouldn’t think that a black and white text only book could demand that much attention but it has.

My goal for the poultry sector of the farm is to expand the laying flock and add some broilers this year. We started in the spring with 25 conventional straight-run chicks from the farm store and through a disastrous attack from the dog, housing issues, culling some roosters, and losing one “outsider” last week, we now have 6 hens and a rooster left. The flock consists of: 1 leghorn rooster, 1 leghorn hen, 1 barred rock hen, and 3 rhode island red hens. The Rhodies are by far my favorite. They are friendly and seem to be doing well in the cold winter weather. The barred rock rooster we had was very mean and I don’t think the hen is the friendly bird either. The leghorns are flighty and the hen doesn’t lay incredibly well.

After researching heritage poultry I have found 3 breeds that I would like to try out in the laying flock. I like the idea of helping to expand some of these old breeds that have very low populations currently. Plus, they seem to have some features that would be beneficial in our environment.

Buckeye: This breed was developed in a neighboring state, Ohio, and seems to be well suited to cold temperatures. They are a dark rich red color and, according to the Sand Hill catalog, have a gentle temperament despite being very active. The Buckeye is also on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste.

: Sand Hill offers the Barred variety of this breed. They are supposed to be smaller than Barred Rocks, quite hardy, and lay nice white eggs. Multiple sources name them as one of the rarest living breeds of American chicken.

Buff Chantecler
: This is a Canadian breed developed in 1918. The other varieties, White & Partridge, have been admitted to the APA standard and seem to be in a bit more demand. I think the buff color is gorgeous and I don’t have any intention of showing them anyway. The hens lay pale brown eggs, are supposed to stand harsh cold well, and be calm and gentle.

These three breeds would give us a good supply of brown eggs with some white as well. They are all listed as “Critical” in the ALBC. I have been doing more research before placing my order but hope to send it out soon. The plan is to purchase 25 chicks: 10 Buff Chantecler, 10 Barred Holland, and 5 Buckeyes. I am most excited about the buffs and really hope there are some left, it seems like the hatchery sells out quickly.

The goal would be to have them in an eggmobile during the warmer months with access to pasture during the day, then keep them inside during the colder months.

If you would like more information or are looking for the best breeds for your operation, check out the following sources:

Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Chicken Breed Chart


3 thoughts on “Selecting Heritage Breed Chickens

  1. Farmer's Daughter

    Thanks for the info! We’ll be building a hen house soon, probably with a movable pen, and picking out a breed soon!

  2. Jena

    Good luck with your future flock, I can’t wait to see what you pick out. There are so many breeds out there it was really hard to narrow it down. The feed store was a good place to start because the chicks were inexpensive and they had a good selection but I am excited to work with the heritage breeds this time.

  3. fresh food nancy

    I was researching heritage breeds for an article I'm writing and happened on your blog. I love blogs. I have one myself-Fresh Food Nancy–
    Anyway, I really enjoy both the premise and the content of your blog.
    I was a 1980s back-to-lander, and can definitely relate.
    I loved raising heritage chickens years ago-count it as one of the most fun and "fulfilling" experiences of my life.


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