Preserving Poultry for Posterity
Poultry keeping has gone hand-in-hand with agriculture for thousands of years. With the advent of commercial agriculture (now called ‘conventional ag’) poultry breeds, along with produce varietals, have begun to disappear from our farmsteads and our plates as the focus has turned towards producing quickly, and in high quantity. This has encouraged industrial livestock creation. Most poultry produced for food consumption in this country live tiny, cramped lives and are unable to even reproduce naturally. As the Livestock Conservancy so eloquently puts it, “Heritage breeds store a wealth of genetic resources that are important for our future and the future of our agricultural food system.”
Growanstede Smallhold seeks to nurture the natural lives of our poultry, allowing them to live long, vigorous lives that promote their own self-sufficiency. We have chosen several threatened breeds to help perpetuate based on the climate we reside in, the production levels that are compatible with our small acreage, and personal preference. Each of the breeds present on this farm are bred with care, raised organically with fresh air and pasture, and have only their ‘one bad day’ when it comes time to place them on our or a customer’s table.
Íslenska Landnámshænan : Icelandics
Icelandics, or Íslenka landnámshænan—are a rare heritage landrace chicken breed that has a unique, compelling history. They were brought to Iceland by Norse settlers (yep—Vikings!) somewhere between 800 and 900AD and had no outside genetic influence for thousands of years. There is no standard for this breed. They were able to evolve at their own pace on their island home and have nearly 80% unique DNA as compared to other chickens. If you ever come to visit Growanstede, you would be able to tell subtle differences between this crew and our other birds. Even the rooster crows sound noticeably different! These are a social, special breed that require very careful handling so their special traits and genetics never mix with other chickens. We’re fortunate to be able to be set up for such a situation and we can’t tell you how happy we are to be stewarding such an amazing breed.
Silver Grey Dorkings
Our Dorkings are one of the most beloved birds on the farm. They’ve got the unique trait of having five toes on each foot instead of the usual four. Though we raise the Silver Grey (or Silver Gray) variety, Dorkings can come in White, Coloured, Cuckoo, Black, Red, and Speckled. The origins of the Dorking is uncertain, but as far back as the Roman empire an author mentioned “five-toed fowls” leading many people to think they may have brought these birds with them when they occupied Britain (there’s a reason our rooster is named Julius ). We can certainly see why campaigning soldiers would want these guys along–they’re huge, tasty, and lay eggs quite well making them a perfect example of what is known as dual-purpose–a standard that is common for the most common of heritage breed livestock. Named after the town of Dorking in England, they slowly evolved into the birds we love today.
More Coming Soon