Breed Preservation and Breed Improvement Are Mutually Exclusive

It’s always sad when well-meaning people embark on a doomed effort. Current attempts at breed preservation are a good example.

Breed preservation is a very simple task. The goal is to take the surviving remnant of an old breed and maintain it so that it retains whatever fraction of its genetic diversity still remains. This is fairly easy to do with chickens, which are reasonably inexpensive to keep in the required numbers. Basically, the technique is to keep several hundred individuals and do random matings, with no culling and no attempt at selective breeding. This can maintain the breed, unchanged, indefinitely. That’s what preservation is all about. Read more...

Deep Litter for Healthier Chickens

The “deep litter method” was one of the most important poultry developments of the Twentieth Century. It resulted in a dramatic drop in disease and a reduction in the amount of labor it took to keep a flock of chickens. It also gave an early example of how biodiversity works to our advantage, even with confined livestock. Read more...

Why We Don’t Eat Eggs at Thanksgiving

Chickens have a natural laying cycle that peaks in the spring and troughs in the fall. The typical flock is at its worst in November, and actually lays better in the depths of winter.

By early spring, long before the weather is nice or the supply of natural food has increased much, the hens start laying like crazy. It’s not about temperature and it’s not about food: it’s about natural cycles. The hens lay their eggs before the food supply is very good because it’s the growing chicks who need easy pickings, not the broody hen, who hardly eats anything when she’s incubating her eggs, anyway. So the natural egg-laying season has to happen before the time of plenty. Read more...

Keep Your Chickens Healthy This Winter in a Fresh-Air Coop

Recently, I was shocked to learn that tightly closed, Nineteenth-century-style chicken coops are back in fashion, in spite of being unhealthy for your birds and foul-smelling, besides! I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, since there’s something about Nineteenth-century superstitions that makes them immortal, but this one is particularly bad for your chickens. Read more...

Why There Aren’t Any “Real” Free-Range Eggs in the City

I’m sure you’ve noticed that real, grass-fed free-range eggs aren’t available in city supermarkets, and that they’re pretty rare even in the country. Not only that, but the few farmers who produce them rarely expand their operations. At best, they keep the same number of chickens every year. Read more...