It is very rewarding to raise heritage chickens. For the small breeder, it is of little consequence if most of these heritage breeds are slow maturing and perhaps don’t lay every single day. Some are very decorative and brighten up a yard purely with their charm. It is of great benefit to keep these old breeds alive and thriving.
In the USA, to be classed as ‘heritage’, a breed must have been around since the mid 20th century and must have had a Standard of Perfection issued by the American Poultry Association (APA). These old-fashioned breeds generally have several attributes in common. They are mostly slow to mature. They are also able to breed naturally, unlike some of the modern breeds.
The heirloom Ancona began as a hybrid of Italian breeds and is named after the Italian province of Ancona. It is a hardy bird with tight feathering and a smooth appearance. The ‘spangled’ plumage is black but every feather is tipped with white. There is an iridescent green sheen to the plumage.
These are energetic, hardy birds that forage voraciously. Their lively nature makes them ideal for open-range conditions. Their dark plumage helps make them inconspicuous when free-ranging and reduces the risk of them falling prey to predators.
The cocks weigh around 6 pounds and the hens are several pounds lighter. There is also a bantam variety. The white or tinted eggs are of good size. The cockerels can be slow to grow and fatten. The only downside to this breed is the fact that they rarely go broody. This is only a concern if you are trying to replenish your flock by setting your own eggs and raising your own chickens.
The eggs of the Araucana may be tinted blue, red, green or even khaki so these are great
favorites with children. They are also known as the ‘rumpless chicken’ as most don’t have a tail. The egg color varies according to the color of the plumage. The Araucana is a blend of breeds from north Chile.
Araucanas may have ear tufts, beards, and muffs. The gene for ear tufts is dominant but each bird only has one of these genes. Tufted birds should not be mated to each other as a percentage of the chicks will die in the shell. There is a feathered crest. The comb is small. Breed societies differ in their requirements for show birds.
The Dominique is another old-fashioned breed, often cited as the first breed to appear in America. The early settlers took these birds west as they made their way across America. It is sometimes called the ‘pioneer’s chicken’. Although the Barred Plymouth Rock has similar plumage, it has a single comb whereas the Dominique has a rose comb.
It is a dual purpose chicken with a long tail and a broad body. They have yellow legs. Cocks weigh around 7 pounds and hens about 5 pounds. Hens lay around 3 or more brown eggs a week. They go broody and are good mothers. For heritage chickens they are early maturing. Hens generally begin laying at six months of age. By raising these breeds you will be helping preserve the history and culture of your country.
You can visit the website www.whynotfarm.net for more helpful information about Heritage Chickens Are A Joy To Own