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 their flock including Cuckoo Maran, Silver Laced Wyandotte, New Hampshire Red, Silver Leghorn, and Barred Rock. Scoll 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.
New chick, June 2015.
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 temperment, 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.