Monday, February 25, 2013

SARE Pastured Poultry advice

SARE has a new brochure on raising poultry for profit. This is a such an important subject, because people need to earn a living and can only do it if there is money involved. The new brochure, Profitable Poultry: Raising Birds on Pasture, is available free. It includes sections on Determining the Right System, evaluates the Potential for Profit, the Environmental Benefits, discusses Quality of Life issues and Marketing options.

"Most producers find alternative poultry systems make economic sense because the cost of establishing them is low while the potential for significant and steady income is high. However, much of the growing interest is because these new systems also promote values such as family and community cohesion, environmental stewardship, working outdoors and independence for farmers," it introduces the Quality of Life section.

It's definitely an excellent brochure, and another example of how the USDA is more willing to work with alternatives to the industrial system.

My only concern with it is that it fails to make the case for standard breeds. It addresses the issue in a section on Breeds, but then confuses the subject: "Many producers are finding a compromise between
the accelerated growth of the Cornish Cross and the lower feed conversion and dress-out weights of the older heritage breeds. Several varieties of broilers with names like Freedom Rangers, Red Rangers and Rosambros have been selected for high growth rates and hardiness for living outdoors on range."

Freedom Rangers, Red Rangers and Roseambros are industrial hybrids that producers will have to purchase every year from the commercial hatcheries. They may do better on pasture than Cornish Rock crosses, but they are not standard breeds. The brochure quotes Harvey Ussery on the subject: "Ussery, writing in Grit!, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) newsletter, details the problems he encountered with the Cornish Cross. Cornish Cross chicks from nearly all hatcheries in the country come from the same stock. The variety, he argues, is ill-suited for raising outdoors because it has been bred for confinement. Properties that make for good and efficient foragers, he said, have been 'selected out' because they are not needed in confinement production models."

Ironically, the page is illustrated with a photo of Frank Reese, a tireless campaigner against raising Cornish Rock crosses on pasture, because of their genetic inability to manage outside. He campaigns for standard breeds for their many advantages, including the fact that they can reproduce naturally, something that commercial hybrids can't offer.

The other advice in the brochure is excellent, though. I'm encouraged by it. If you're thinking of adding a poultry operation to your farm, it's a good place to start.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

More hatchery catalogs

Purely Poultry  in Wisconsin is the enterprise of Tyler Danke, a young man enthusiastically leaping into the standard breed poultry business. Purely Poultry offers hybrids as well to serve his customers, but he’s committed to providing high quality birds that meet the APA Standard. He hatches his own and works with other breeders to offer over 300 kinds of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and other rare and unusual birds, such as ornamental pheasants. He offers wild and exotic adult ducks, as well as ducklings of 13 standard breeds. If you are searching for something unusual, check in with Tyler.

The rare oddity is always fascinating, but the main business is in the popular well-known breeds: Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Bronze turkeys. Purely Poultry makes a point of having knowledgeable people answering the phones who can discuss your questions with you. They are experienced in shipping and can connect with you around the country.

Tyler is young and getting his business off the ground. These Birchen Marans are among the new offerings he has, available in the Assorted Rare Marans, which also include Black Copper, Blue Copper and Blue Wheaten varieties.  At a time when young people are funneled into industrial production, he’s following a different path. Check out his online listings for birds.

At the other end of the timeline is Duane Urch in Minnesota. His Urch-Turnland Poultry doesn’t have a web site, but Duane is one of the country’s most experienced poultry men and a revered poultry judge.  He and his partner raise their own birds and his sharp eye, trained over his many years of experience looking at all kinds of birds, makes his breeding selections the best. Buyers boast about having Urch lines of poultry.

He has large fowl and bantam chickens some turkeys, some geese and Muscovy ducks. Duane has been a leader in the APA for many years, so his commitment and knowledge are unparalleled. He has excellent stock of birds that are difficult to find elsewhere, such as RC Mottled Anconas, Black Breasted Red Catalanas, Rhode Island Whites and Sultans.

You’ll have to contact him by phone (507-451-6782), no later than 7 pm Central time, or by mail (2142 NW 47th Ave., Owatonna, MN 55060-1071. There’s often a waiting list for his birds.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More hatchery catalogs

There's some snobbism associated with hatcheries. Getting birds from an individual breeder is the preferred way to acquire stock. Perhaps so, but poultry hatcheries provide an important resource for poultry enthusiasts.

Hatcheries are the only way to meet the increased demand backyard poultry has created. This is a good thing! Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms in Texas is the largest, shipping over five million birds last year. This is a tremendous number that couldn't be met by small flock breeders.

Hatcheries have the advantage of being experienced in shipping. A hatchery may be the only place able to supply that rare breed you have been longing for. Don't hesitate to contact a hatchery and ask questions. They are knowledgeable and want to hear from you.

If you have a particular concern, or your goal is to acquire show-quality birds immediately, discuss that with the hatchery. They know the details about their birds and can advise you. None of them wants to ship you birds that will disappoint you.

Ideal has regular specials. This week, it's assorted ducks. If you are ready for a flock of ducks, this is the time to buy! Their lovely illustrations show Black East Indies, Buff, Rouen, Khaki Campbell, Fawn and Black Runner and Black and White Magpie ducks. Sign up to get regular announcements of specials.

Meyer Hatchery in Ohio puts its catalog online. The format makes it easy to navigate, with an automatic Table of Contents and the ability to enlarge the photos to get a closer look.

Meyer will ship hatching eggs as well as chicks, ducklings, goslings and juvenile fowl. they have an extensive selection of large fowl and bantam chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pheasant, guineas, peafowl, swans and other game birds. They'll send you started pullets in Black Australorp, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock and White  Leghorn standard breeds.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hatchery catalogs

Spring is here, and along come the hatchery catalogs! They are a great way to start thinking about keeping a different standard breed this year.

Metzer Farms' catalog came tucked into my Poultry Press. This is sure a great way to reach poultry people. Metzer, in California, offers mostly waterfowl, ducks and geese, but also carries guineas, wild turkeys and ringneck pheasants. I enjoy holding a catalog in hand and browsing through it, like a duck looking for snails. The web site has lots of additional support information. John Metzer is keeping an informative blog.

Cackle Hatchery in Missouri offers an extensive cornucopia of chicken breeds, both large fowl and bantams, as well as ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, chukars, peafowl, pheasants and quail. they include plenty of old rare breeds, such as Lakenvelders, White Sultans, Spitzhaubens and Houdans, as well as old breeds that aren't so rare but benefit from having more advocates, such as four varieties of Wyandottes, Light Brahmas and Rhode Island Whites.

Cackle has assembled a wonderful collection of photos over the years. Getting hold of this catalog is a great way to be introduced to these breeds.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


In researching some points for a reader in Indiana, I came across this lovely woodcut of a Houdan rooster. It's included in the chapter on the breed in the Willis Grant Johnson and George O Brown edition of Harrison Weir's Poultry Book (1912). It's credited to "an old woodcut, by permission." Unfortunately , it doesn't say form whom.

The caption reads: Houdan male as it looked when first imported into this country, in the sixties. [That, of course, refers to the 1860s.] It continues: An unpardonable crest nowadays, but still seen.

Houdans became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. They were accepted into the original 1874 Standard of Excellence, with small V combs.

This illustration, from the 1924 Toutes les Poules, shows a variety of combs. The V comb is number 6, second from the top on the right.

These lovely old illustrations are invaluable documentation of what these birds looked like. The care that went into them constantly amazes me.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Midget White Turkeys

Kathy,m a reader in Missouri is looking for Midget White Turkey poults to raise. A few hatcheries offer them: Meyer Hatchery in Ohio, Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms in Texas and McMurray Hatchery in Iowa have them, although in limited numbers.

Kathy is a graduate of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She found some contacts there who have access to some Midget White Turkeys that they say are closely related to the turkeys developed by B.C. Wentworth. He was one of their developers, as recounted in the article, A History of the Midget White Turkey he wrote with J.R. Smyth on how both of them worked with the original birds in the 1970s, published in Mother Earth News in 2004.

J. R. Smyth Jr. holds a doctorate in poultry genetics and served on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass. B.C. Wentworth holds doctorates in poultry science and avian physiology and is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.

 In that 2004 article, Wentworth and Smyth say that Midget Whites now lay 60-80 eggs annually. They describes them as "a miniature of the large commercial white line, for it has a very broad breast." Kathy tells me that they nevertheless are naturally able to mate.

She promised to keep me posted as to what birds she gets and how they work out. Her experience could be helpful in getting this declining modern breed further distribution.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chickens and the law

Legal issues around chickens -- and small farms, and agriculture in general -- are often the turning point in how situations evolve. For those who feel strongly drawn to the legal aspects confronting integrated agriculture, consider becoming a professional in the field. The University of Arkansas has a great program:

The LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law offers the nation's only advanced LL.M. degree in the combined studies of agricultural and food law. We take pride in offering a curriculum covering the full spectrum of law and policy from the perspective of the farmer, the processor, the retailer, and the consumer.

Our nine month course of study attracts attorneys from throughout the United States and from abroad. While some of our LL.M. candidate are recent law school graduates, many others enter the program as experienced attorneys.

And, in each of our last three years, we have been pleased to welcome visiting scholars and professors from other law schools. There are a limited number of teaching assistantships that will be available for law professors and experienced attorneys.

The University of Arkansas School of Law is located in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the foot of the Ozark Mountains. Fayetteville was described in the New York Times as "flush with youth, culture and natural beauty."  For more information on the program visit our LL.M. Agfoodlaw blog.

Please help us spread that word that we are reviewing applications for the 2013-14 academic year. Those interested are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Visit our website, send me an e-mail, or call  479-575-3706 .

Susan A. Schneider
Professor of Law and Director
LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law
University of Arkansas School of Law
Fayetteville, Arkansas
 (479) 575-4334