Friday, September 25, 2009

Heirloom Poultry / Rare Traditional Breeds

Did you have a grandparent with chooks in their back yard?

Providing eggs for the family and meat for dinner?

Mine did.

My Nan had 8 white leghorn hens in her yard….I remember the joy of going with her to collect the “cackle-berries” from the girls, bringing warm white eggs back to the kitchen to either have boiled for me or to help make the cake they were to be used in.

I also remember the disappointment when (the family had all moved out of her large home) and she got older and the birds became too much for her to care for.

The chook shed stayed, like an old ghost town…empty and alone.

I promised myself when I had my family, if living arrangements would allow

…I would have hens for my kitchen.

When we moved to the Southern Highlands, the first thing we added to our farm was chickens….8 silkies….a breed we still keep.

We have since added:

*Sussex (considered on the decline lay 160 / 180 eggs / yr  light tinted egg)

*Black Orpington (endangered Lay 180 - 200 eggs / yr  light Brown egg)

*French Marans (almost non existent....Lay 200 eggs  / yr egg colour Russet brown to burgandy)

*Pekins (true bantam, small white egg aprox 100 / yr)

* Australian Langshans (Large bantam egg round and light tinted)

*Welsh Harlequin Ducks (critically endangered 250 - 300 eggs/ yr Green / blue egg)

* Sebastopol and Pilgrim Geese (endangered)

I have recently added

*white CSIRO Leghorn

*Araucana (blue egg layer)

I am currently on the hunt for the:

*Bronze turkey (King Island Strain)

Nearly all the breeds I have mentioned above are considered Traditional Heritage breeds

(Rare Breeds), Sussex / Orpington / French Marans / Australian Langshan are considered a Dual purpose bird…lay eggs for the kitchen and provide meat, and like the Heirloom seeds for fruit and vege, the Heirloom breeds of poultry are once again taking off in popularity.

To the point I cant supply enough birds, for the people wanting them for their back yard…..

For commercial purposes, the heritage breeds don’t cut it…according to the big commercial production teams, their feed to egg conversion rate is just not good enough…plus being pure they go broody…..and could not cope with intensive farming, so the scientists invented the BIG GUNS.....Isa Brown / Hy-line / Lohman Brown....huge egg laying for the first 18 months....then stop being commercially Viable.
AKA: “The bare Naked Ladies”

who have their own merit in a commercial situation (NOT CAGES THOUGH)...but how many people are running a commercial chicken enterprise in their back yard?

And meat birds that weigh in at 3kg @11 weeks and white turkeys that are so large they can not mate naturally and must be Artificially inseminated by humans.

Scientists only supplied what we were demanding.

We as humans are also to blame…we demand BIG BROWN EGGS all year round…want size 18 chooks ASAP…..My father tells me that growing up,

Having a roast chicken was a celebration, it was “Aussie Turkey” at Christmas….

Now we eat it every other day in preference to red meat.

Have you considered having a Traditional Heritage Breed of bird in your yard?

Put some colour variation into your egg basket.

  • Additional Breeds to consider: 

• Silver Grey Dorking

• Ancona

• Minorca

• Sebright

• Barnevelder

• Hamburgh

• New Hampshire

• Rhode Island

• Plymouth Rock

• Welsummer

• Indian Game

• Aylesbury Duck

• Campbell Duck

• Buff Orpington Duck

There are so many breeds I have not mentioned.

Geese (pilgrim gander at front)

Light Sussex

Welsh Harlequin Ducks

Black Orpingtons

Wheaten Pekin Bantam


  1. Hello there Heidi,

    I just came from the down to earth forum. Im donna from Wollongong. Nice to see someone so into chooks like i am. I have a few hens in the burbs... Your not to far from me.

    Great blog..

  2. I have just started my garden and my first ever bolg.
    I really want to have heirloom chooks, I think they and there eggs look interesting and I'm all for keeping them alive. I was just given 2 Isa browns, good chooks by all acounts, but I want something more unsusual. Thanks for the info!