What are heritage breeds?

What are heritage breeds?

Heritage breeds are animals developed over thousands of years adapting to local environments, farming methods, and purposes. This means that over time these breeds have developed all the right traits we need for either meat, production or pleasure.  What is so cool is the history of these breeds go back to the early farmers where they first domesticated the popular and familiar species we know today. They tested, molded and perfected these breeds. The early farmers had very limited resources so the owners would only keep the animals that thrived and provided a good return.

Production + adaptation to local area = heritage breed.

Industrial Breeds
Heritage Turkeys pictured – Narragansett and Black Spanish.

When we think of industrial fowl, broad breasted turkeys come to mind – the ones on Thanksgiving tables. On our farm we have 1 Broad Breasted White – she is named Lady Turkey. She weighs around 50 pounds. Because this bird is created for mass production and slaughtered at 8-10 weeks, the survival rate after that time frame is slim. She has difficulty walking because of her rapid weight gain, but she is sweet and  almost 2 years old. She will never be able to naturally reproduce because these turkeys are artificially inseminated.

Industrial breeds are scientifically selected for maximum potential and production in a controlled environment. There are terms like “free range” “natural” but what do these really mean? We still think industrial breeds are valuable and useful but want others to consider the heritage fowl as well. Heritage breeds have been on the sidelines for years since most farming practices have become industrialized. Now these breeds need our help more than ever.

Get back to our traditions and roots

Heritage animals are molded for your geographical area and conditions. These breeds over time, have developed better immunity and disease resistance. Heritage breeds naturally forage for their food and generally have agreeable personalities. Foraging is good for your pocketbook, your soil, and the ecological system! Let’s go back to our roots. We want to get away from big operations and support things that remind us of our traditions from the past and legacy of our ancestors. We all can be a part of this! So exciting! You don’t need any fancy equipment and small scale is great for these breeds. Why not give these animals a try, you will be pleasantly surprised and fall in love with them like we have. We are very passionate about this here on our farm and are members of the Livestock Conservancy, committed to protect and sustain these endangered fowl.

This is the Crevecoeur Chicken, critically endangered. Adapts to most temperatures.


fowl guru

Nicolle, aka The Fowl Guru, has been raising animals for over 20 years, and a self-trained fowl expert. She is one of the founders and owners of Sugar Feather Farm LLC, mother of 5 children and consultant for Civil Engineering firms. Nicolle is a Certified Vermont Master Composter and volunteer for several charity organizations. Nicolle offers consultations and mentorships to fowl enthusiasts who have concerns or questions.

Sugar Feather Farms LLC are producers of this article, and all pictures and information are copyrighted information and not to be used without permission from Sugar Feather Farm.

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