One of the biggest problems that our country is facing right now is the limited diversity present in our food supply. This means, at least as far as chickens go, that as a nation we are limiting the varieties of chickens being raised to only a handful. For egg layers, we raise leghorns and Rhode Island Reds. For meat it is the Cornish Cross.
There are some pretty good reasons why this has happened. The Leghorns and the Reds produce the most egg for the buck (technically speaking they have an excellent feed to egg ratio). The Cornish Cross can be brought to market very quickly without spending a fortune on feed. That is very important in a country that expects cheap food. Also our population has soared over the last hundred or so years- and we needed to increase our food production in order to feed all these extra people.
Here’s the problem though: The fewer breeds there are, the greater the chance that disease will eliminate our flocks. In nature, some of the breeds will be more susceptible to certain organisms and some will not. So to ensure long term survival, the more types of chickens there are the less likely that some avian disease will come along and kill them all off.
We do our part by raising not only the above mentioned birds (in an effort to make a profit or at least break even) but also some rare chickens. Our favorite (and the chickens we choose to breed) are the Silver Laced Wyandotte’s. This rapidly declining breed was once a favorite among homesteaders. They have a sweet temperament, lay a moderate amount of delicious eggs and are good mothers. They are also very good eating chickens if you can afford to feed one for 6 months until it is large enough for the table.
Part of our chicken rearing philosophy includes raising our chickens as naturally as possible. We believe that roosters are part of the natural environment for hens. Our roosters provide comfort for the chickens as they feel protected (even from me!) and form better flocks as a result. I also like to think (although this is not currently backed up by science) that fertilized eggs must some how be more nutritious. Well, they certainly are tasty, but you be the judge!