Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Poultry census

The Livestock Conservancy conducted a poultry Census for North America last year.

Phil Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, advises The Livestock Conservancy on breeds. Based on the data collected in the census, he drew some conclusions:

Chicken breeds present the most challenges in organization and classification, not least because there are so many of them! Chickens as a whole have become increasingly popular for both production and as pets, and this has led to heightened demand for a number of breeds.

Two breeds have managed to graduate off of the list altogether: Orpingtons with nearly 16,000 breeding birds, and Wyandottes with over 21,000 breeding birds. These dual purpose breeds benefit from the popularity of small flocks. Their easy-going nature, particularly for Orpingtons, make them favorites. While not a full graduation, both the Brahma and Cochin managed to join the ranks of Recovering breeds due to greater numbers.

Don Monke's lovely White Wyandottes
To offset the graduations are a few breeds that have been added to the list. Some of these reflect a recent trend of importation of new breeds into the USA from a host of countries. In most cases, these are not yet recognized by the APA. Listing them may seem at variance with the strategy outlined for turkeys, but when non APA breeds are old established breeds in their home countries, the Livestock Conservancy has opted to incorporate them into our priority list. As a result, the Icelandic chicken joins the list as Threatened. The Spitzhauben joins the list at the Threatened level.

Other, more established breeds have moved around in various ways. The positive moves include several breeds that moved from Threatened to Watch: Andalusian, Buckeye, Buttercup, Delaware, Dorking, Java, Langshan, and Phoenix. The Buckeye, especially, has benefitted from a targeted program of breed recovery, management, and bird selection that is now being used across other breeds that hope to achieve similar success in recapturing historically productive types.

A Java from Garfield Farm
Jumping all the way from Critical to Watch include the Chantecler and Sumatra. The less dramatic jump from Critical to Threatened includes the Russian Orloff.

Gina Bisco's Chantecler male
Losing ground by moving from Recovering to Watch is the Rhode Island Red. This move acknowledges the complexity of chicken breeds, because this breed includes many birds that are not bred to the standard. Equally, many birds promoted as of this breed are likely not purebred. Sorting through these issues is important for this useful breed, and will serve as a model for other similar breeds in the future. Moving from Watch to Threatened are the Aseel, Houdan, Old English Game, Rhode Island White, and Sebright. More troubling are those that move to Critical, including La Fleche (from Watch), and Malay (from Threatened). 

Robert Gibson's flock of White Houdans
The CPL changes year to year, and this year has seen more than a few changes. Most of these have been within poultry breeds. This reflects the recent census that has shed light on the plight of many of these breeds. The short life-span and changing demand for these birds makes census a challenge, and that in turn makes the setting of priorities a difficult exercise. In the coming year we hope that additional breeders will weigh in and provide their own census figures to make sure the breeds are accurately placed.

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