PRESERVING HERITAGE CHICKENS
Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center houses about 20 chickens. Chickens are excellent examples of small-scale, sustainable agriculture. They are relatively hardy and easy to grow and they provide meat, eggs, and feathers. We use them to teach visitors about sustainability, animal care, egg production and heritage breeds.
Heritage breeds are those that have genetic material of old, established breeds and are not hybrids like most “industrial” chickens. Heritage breeds are usually calmer and more adaptable than industrial, hybrid ones, and they produce eggs longer. They also mate naturally, and the hens sit on their eggs to hatch them, which generally leads to stronger and healthier chicks. They have a slower growth rate which allows them to build a strong skeletal structure and healthy internal organs. Overall, heritage chickens tend to live longer, tolerate weather extremes better, naturally avoid predators, and maintain their ability to forage. Since more than half of the 70 breeds of U.S. chickens are in danger of extinction, according to an American Livestock Conservancy census, we want to educate visitors on the importance of raising heritage chickens.
We have seven different heritage breeds. Each breed exhibits different feather color, egg quantity, size, personality and hardiness. Plus, each breed lays different colored eggs, which means you can often see blue, speckled and several shades of brown eggs at Beaver Ponds, in addition to the white- and brown-colored eggs most people see packaged in grocery stores.
In June 2015, Beaver Ponds added some new breeds of chickens to our flock including Cuckoo Maran, Silver Laced Wyandotte, New Hampshire Red, Silver Leghorn, and Barred Rock. Scroll down for descriptions of all breeds at Beaver Ponds. The newer breeds are shown in hand painted pictures. We will add actual photos of the new chickens when they become adults.
Cuckoo Marans originated in France in the 1800s in the town of Marans. They are best known for their “chocolate” brown eggs which are naturally a deep, rich brown color on the outside. The yolks and whites or albumin look that same as any other egg. The word “cuckoo” in their name does not imply a crazy temperament, but instead refers to their peculiar type of black and white coloring. These birds are very hardy and disease resistant.
New Hampshire Reds
These beauties originated from their more famous Rhode Island Red cousins but possess slightly lighter feather colors. The breed was nurtured by the very practical folks in New Hampshire who did not prize it for its show qualities (unlike Rhode Island Red breeders) and focused more on egg and meat producing qualities. These birds, also known as New Hampshire Chickens, tend to grow and feather quickly and become quite large (5.5 to 6.5 pounds). They also produce beautiful, slightly dark brown, large eggs. They are on the Livestock Conserancy’s watch list for recovery.
Silver Laced Wyandotte
These birds originated in New York state in the 1870s and are the original Wyandotte breed from which all other types of Wyandotts stem. They lay light brown eggs and have a docile temperment. Because of their beautiful colors, they are often kept as show birds in addition to egg layers. Their short, comb makes them adaptable to colder climates. Large combs of other breeds could make the comb susceptible to frost bite.
While Leghorn chickens are one of the most common breeds in the USA, Silver Leghorns are quite rare. They are much more colorful than their plain white Leghorn cousins. The hens are greyish colored with rose colored breast feathers. The American Livestock Breed Conservancy lists them as a “recovering” breed, meaning the breed was nearly lost. We are happy to help conseve these beautiful birds.
This breed originated in New England in the early 1800’s and part of a larger breed known as Plymouth Rocks and the more formal Plymouth Country Fowl. They are cold-hardy and prolific egg layers, laying large, brown eggs. The birds are docile and can be easilty tamed. They can become large; up to seven pounds.
Our Ameraucana hens come from a breed that originated in Chile called the Araucana. The Araucanas lay eggs with bluish shells, and are great mothers but often carry a lethal gene mutation that caused a certain percentage of chicks to die. Ameraucanas were developed to include the unique blue tint of their eggs without the lethal allele found in the Araucanas.
Visit Beaver Ponds Environmental Center to see our variety of chickens, as well as the various colored eggs they produce.
Events & Programs
There's always something fun to do at Beaver Ponds this summer.
Here are some upcoming programs and events.
KSS Wilderness Campers
July 17 - July 19, 12pm - 8am
For more information visit https://keystonescienceschool.org/
Alma Festival in the Clouds - booth
July 20, 3pm - 7pm / July 21 & 22, 10am - 4pm
Contact Amity Vargas for more information at (719) 209-5813
Mountain Top Children's Museum
July 24, 12pm - 3pm
Contact Tiernan Spencer for more information at (970) 453-7878
KSS Overnight Wilderness Camp
July 25 - July 26, 12pm - 12pm
For more information visit https://keystonescienceschool.org/
Beaver Ponds is located at the headwaters of one of Colorado’s major rivers, so we take watershed protection very seriously. Our Sacramento Creek Protection Plan uses both science and community collaboration to promote stewardship, education and conservation.read more
Here’s a great summer recipe for sunshine carrots, sure to become a family favorite. They’re delicious and easy to make!read more
Listening to the radio a week ago I heard a physicist having a conversation about beauty and nature. He asked the question. Does nature inspire beautiful ideas? A beautiful idea can come in many forms: a math equation, a poem, a sculpture, an educational approach, crafts, a song, a design, literature, social solutions, environmental solutions, a different perspective on reality, the possibilities are limitless. Different ideas may come from sitting by a stream or strolling through the woods than in other situations. Nature does inspire beautiful ideas.read more
Book of the Month A Kid's Summer EcoJournal: With Nature Activities for Exploring the Season A Kid's Summer EcoJournal invites kids to write about nature on pages exquisitely illustrated by Margaret Brandt. The author has included short entries from her nature...read more
- PO Box 995
2234 Busch Run Road
Fairplay, CO 80440
Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center (BPEEC) helps people of all ages experientially learn about domestic livestock, horticulture, green energy generation and environmental conservation in a high-alpine, natural setting at Sacramento Creek Ranch near Fairplay, Colorado.
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