Standard Bred or Hatchery Stock?

Standard bred Barred Rocks on the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch
Standard bred Barred Rocks on the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch

When choosing birds you not only need to choose what breed, but from what source.  When selecting new chickens for your small lot take a moment to consider their source.  Do you want birds primarily for egg production?  Some prefer to keep heritage birds that adhere to strict guidelines to ensure that they don’t become lost breeds.

Typically hatchery bred poultry is mass bred from birds that are decent layers.  They may not be overly selected for laying but generally should lay well.  What they lack is the Standard of Perfection points outlined in the guidelines.  One of the most noticeable differences is color.

Frank Reese owns and runs the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.  Frank specializes in heritage breed poultry.  “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.”

“Some of the very old breed of chickens that lay white eggs have already disappeared. When we sell eggs we not only thank the people for buying our pasture heritage eggs but also to help save some very endanger old egg laying breeds”, and Frank suggests considering keeping some of those breeds if you are interested in preserving breeds.

“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.”  Frank takes his mission of breeding and raising Heritage Breed poultry seriously.

“It can take years of working with these 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.”  Frank Reese has been breeding poultry for more than 50 years.

Ken Duvall is from Graham Washington and keeps Rhode Island Reds.  “”My male won best large fowl at two shows this past fall,” he tells of his prize winning rooster.  Competitions are held to compare chickens to other contestants.  They are judged using the Standard of Perfection rules set by the American Poultry Association.

Rhode Island Reds are good layers and all around good birds.
Rhode Island Reds are good layers and all around good birds.

“The true Rhode Island Reds will not lay as well as the feed store lighter ones -but they do lay nice eggs,” Ken says.  What they may lack in eggs they more than make up for in their colorful plumage and striking stature that meets the breeds set of Standards.

Rhode Island Reds  are a very popular breed of dual purpose chickens.  They are offered at most larger hatcheries.  If you were to compare a hatchery bird and a heritage bred bird side by side you would likely notice a difference.  Hatchery birds often lay quiite well and the hatchery concentrates on egg laying ability.

A hatchery Rhode Island Red may lack the deep mahogany plumage and strong body type outlined in the Standard of Perfection book, a breed trait outline.  On the other hand, birds that are bred strictly to adhere to the SOP, as the Standard of Perfection is also calle,  likely will not lay as many eggs as a hatchery bird.

Most large hatcheries are up front with their show winning capabilities.  On breed description pages some offer information about their hatchery stock being true to breed but may not be show quality birds.

Today more and more people are keeping chickens as pets just as much as for egg producers.  In this case it makes sense to get birds from a private breeder if you value a better looking bird running around your home’s front yard.

“I like a good looking bird, but I like eggs better,” and getting an egg  a day makes Hollis French happy with his selection of hatchery birds he ordered as day old chicks.  The hatchery shipped them to his doorstep last spring.  “I really like my chickens.  They were delivered and I got a good deal on them.”

“The number one tip would be to buy the best birds you can afford to buy.”  Frank Reese recommends.  When buying birds from a private breeder be sure to ask to see the parent stock.  Ask them how well their parent stock lays, and what size and quality egg they are.  A few questions to find the right breed and breeder will serve you well.

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