Sunday, March 29, 2015

Traditional commercial breeds

In doing some research about Delawares, I consulted Modern Poultry Farming by L.M. Hurd, one of the books in the Rural Science Series, published in 1950. I've got an original copy, but apparently it's available as a modern reprint. That wasn't all that long ago, although it's light years in terms of the changes in the poultry industry. Back in those mid-century days, many breeds we now call Heritage were part of commercial poultry raising on America's farms.

Hurd was a professor at Cornell University, and he thanks his colleagues there for their help in various sections. G.O. Hall is the breed expert. I'll have to follow up with him. The series was published by Macmillan, a major publisher.

I write that to establish that this was no fringe publication. This was information that was the best current knowledge about poultry.

Choosing a Breed is Chapter 3, right after The Business of Poultry-Keeping and Starting a Poultry Business. Hurd clearly felt that the choice of breed was primary in running a successful poultry operation. He advises poultry keepers to "select the one in which the breeder takes the most interest." At this point, poultry keepers enjoyed their birds.

Among Egg Breeds, he lists Leghorns, of course, but not limited to them. He includes Anconas, Hamburgs, Campines and Minorcas as their equals. He mentions three varieties of Minorca (He's probably referring to black, white and buff, not differentiating between single and rose comb) and says they are second only to Leghorns in popularity.
Schilling's portrait of White Leghorns
Black Minorcas

My own favorite Ancona
 Among Meat Breeds,  He says birds often grow to 12 to 14 pounds: Brahma, Black Jersey Giant, Cornish, Dorking and Sussex. He recommends raising them to larger weights, as roasters, rather than as smaller broilers. That distinction is nearly gone today.
These Brahmas are substantial.

Brahmas, he notes, are good layers as well as the leading meat breed. Jersey Giants are the biggest, with capons often reaching 15 pounds. The capon is hardly ever sold in American markets any more, although it used to be a popular feast and Sunday dinner bird.

Hurd isn't done with the two single-purpose breeds. He elaborates on the General Purpose Breeds, in which he includes Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Wyandottes, New Hampshires and Orpingtons. In that category, he finally addresses the Delaware, although not by name. The final group in his chapter is the Cross-Bred Chickens, where he mentions crossing Barred Rock males with New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red females. That crossing was the origin of Delawares, which would be recognized for exhibition in the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection two years later.
Barred Rocks
Delaware, with its distinctive color pattern
A current flock of Delawares

 The variety of breeds that were still in use, and recommended by the best agricultural advice, in 1950 startled me. As the industry has grown and vertically integrated in the past half century, most of those breeds have become rare and in need of attention to avoid losing them altogether, while nearly all America's chicken meat and eggs come from three breeds (Cornish/Rock crosses, Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds). Even those have been so aggressively inbred that they scarcely resemble birds of similar name from those quaint years ago.


Full Gospel Bible Institute said...

I recently moved to a property that has approx. 1 acre of land. I want to invest in a few goats and a few chickens to raise. I remember as a child, my father loved to garden and raise chickens for their eggs. I have been looking t some chicken coops and hen houses and looking forward to getting some chickens in the summer months.

Thanks for posting!

Full Gospel Bible Institute said...

Great post and some nice pictures of some fat little chickens!

Christine Heinrichs said...

There's lots of chicken coop plans online. I hope this blog encourages you to raise traditional breeds.