To be sustainable, a homestead or farm must be able to produce its poultry without acquiring birds outside of its local farm or region. Just as seed saving and selecting seeds each year create improvements in production, vitality, flavor, and disease resistance, selecting and saving poultry “seed stock” from year to year will increase the production, vigor, flavor and disease resistance of the now locally-adapted poultry flocks.
Many homesteads or small farms are interested in both meat and eggs—that is, a dual-purpose bird. While many breeds were developed initially for one or the other, most of the breeds we carry fit in the dual-purpose category. Our goal is to have cockerels that provide a good carcass for the table and productive egg-laying hens. This creates a tension in the breeding program. Once a hen starts laying, she stops growing, and so when bred for early lay, the strain tends to become smaller. Thus, in order to maintain the breed size—and the amount of meat that the cockerels and spent hens supply—we do not select for early lay.
So our birds may take an extra week or two to lay, when compared to those from suppliers with different breeding programs. We are also looking for birds that lay for multiple years, and so we are not trying to develop the 347 eggs per year Black Australorp; rather, we allow for a more natural rate of lay that varies with the season. We do not force molt because we feel that the molting period allows the hen to replenish her body as she prepares for the next season. By working with the seasons, we maintain the highest quality breeders, which in turn produce the highest quality chicks.