We raise only standard bred poultry on our farm. It is what some people are now calling heritage poultry. All our breeders are certified by the American Poultry Association that they meet the standards of the breeds we sell.
There are now a number of groups selling heritage poultry that are not truly heritage at all. Many people believe that if a bird has white feathers it a factory bird and if it has dark feathers it is a heritage bird. It is not the color of the feathers that makes a heritage bird.
To be a heritage bird it must be a breed that was accepted by the American Poultry Association prior to 1950. It must grow at a normal rate of growth, be able to reproduce and be able to live a normal life span of the bird. That means 10 to 15 years for chickens and 7 to 10 years for turkeys.
The modern industrial broiler grows to market weight in 42 to 70 days and the industrial turkeys grows to market weight in 12 weeks. This is not because of hormones, antibiotics or the feed. It is because they have been genetically engineered through multiple hybrid selection to grow at this rate.
Raising them organic or free ranged on pasture does not change this mutation. The reason this matters to me is because 90% of the suffering that industrial turkeys and chickens go through is because of the genetics people chose to raise. Because of their rapid growth this birds have very poor immune systems and that is why tons of antibiotics is often used to keep them alive.
Many people state that antibiotics are used as a growth stimulate and they are right. A healthy bird eats better than a sick bird. In my fifty years of raising poultry I have never had to use sub-therapeutic antibiotics on my farm. If you raise healthy non-hybrid birds you will not need sub-therapeutic antibiotics.
All our birds can breed naturally and we use no artificial insemination with any bird. We never sex our birds or kill that because they are a male or female. Every bird that hatches has a value and a good chance to live.
Not only are the birds raised for market free to run, jump and fly but also the parents of the birds. No birds on our farm are held in confinement. We use no tractor system where people place hundreds of birds in a cage and shove them across the ground calling that free range. We do not alter the bird in any way cutting of beaks, toenail or changing them.
I sell breeding stock to small home and hobby farms. I encourage the farmers to visit the farm and learn about the history, husbandry and needs of the poultry they choose to raise. I will not sell to people who would keep my birds in confinement.
I raise no genetically engineered hybrid poultry on my farm. I buy nothing from the factory hatchery system. None of my birds grow fast because of the mutation of the obese gene. All my birds grow at a normal rate and still have healthy immune system by nature.
All the parents and grandparents of my birds are kept here on the farm as well. We buy nothing through the trucking system, through the mail or from catalog hatchery systems. We use no sub-therapeutic antibiotics, no pesticides or herbicides for breeding, hatching or growing our birds for market.
As far as I know we are the only farming systems that can say that. Even if you buy antibiotics free poultry the parents of those birds were fed tons of antibiotics. We care about the total system of production of our birds from beginning to end.
We feed an all-vegetable diet and the birds are outside all year round. So they have access to grass, seed, insects and whatever else they may be able to catch. At night time they all go into a building for protection from varmints and the weather.
The reason I chose to do this is because many of the breeds of poultry I raise are in great danger of disappearing off the face of the earth. The standard Bronze turkeys I am raising is the last of this line that I know of.
There are many wonderful old breeds of chickens that are disappearing very fast because they just happen to lay white eggs and not brown eggs. Many people believe that brown eggs are good and white eggs are bad and that is crazy.
99% of the brown eggs being sold in stores come from hybrid brown egg layers and not from true old heritage breeds of chickens. The average hybrid egg layer, hybrid meat chicken and hybrid turkey breeder is luck to live more than one year before being killed and replaced.
Millions and millions of baby chicks are killed in hatcheries every year because they happen to be male birds and have no use because only the white or brown egg layer females are needed. That is such a huge waste in a world where we are supposed to be feeding the world and caring about animals.
Thank God that we have people who do care about what they eat and how it is raised. It has been very hard to remarket heritage poultry because the infrastructure that once was in place to support single family farms has been totally destroyed in the country.
The other thing, people as a whole no long know what is normal when it comes to a dressed chicken or turkey. Many think that those short legged, short broad breasted and fatty birds they buy are normal animals.
This is the hardest thing to teach the next generation of farmers is how to improve and develop their own flock of birds. It can take years of working with this birds to develop a good dual purpose flock of birds that you will be proud to sell. There are not many of us old guys left who still know how to breed and maintain a flock of quality heritage birds.
by Frank Reese