Commercial production hatcheries from which we order are far removed from a working homestead. They are supporting a broad area with people who want a few chickens for eggs or meat and do not want to be lost in the details. They supply commercial operations. Your local nursery sells plants that meet a wide five state area because that is who their suppliers source to. Neither the hatchery or the nursery sell you necessarily something that works best in your garden. It’s why my head has started to shake back and forth with confusion at why we are not doing our own breeding. That includes me.
As I zero in on what I need to create a permaculture homestead to a measure, I realize commercial operations can’t meet our needs. They produce chickens that meet commercial operations and require heavy input of commercial feeds, and medication. You can add the need to order more chicks unless you incubate eggs from your flock since many breeds have broodiness bred out of them in favor of higher production rates. Foraging genes ceased to be needed by most except those of us with true free range birds.
In a short number of years Kirk and will enter a season of our lives where our income will be fixed. Our country and most others have a debt driven economy that history tells us can’t be sustained for long. The realization that we too aren’t in a good position to sustain ourselves has left me thinking deeply how to change.
So I have begun to ask myself:
- What are our barest essential needs?
We raised Nubians for 10 years before switching back to Saanens. It was like we came home. Saanens just suite us and Saanens bred and raised by one particular family specifically. Good conformation; sweet, calm personalities; winter hardy; and produce lots of milk is what we are after. 2 does and a buck is all we need. Without going into detail, we’ve learned in our situation bottle feeding for two months is best. Two excellent does with a buck and selling the offspring, unless we get an exceptional doeling born, is our need with rotating through of bucks. To create a breeding program of the quality I’d desire would require artificial insemination or a larger herd with multiple does and bucks. Plus more knowledge than I presently possess. Distance to this friend who does such a good job is too far to take the does to her to be bred. So this is the best solution I can come up with.
Chickens are a different story. We need large chickens that have a calm sweet personality, gain weight quickly and are large in stature, don’t wander far, lay early and long, forage well, good conformation, broody and good mothers, and are winter hardy. No one commercial breed we’ve found fits all our requirements so we’ve decided to create our own chicken breed, for our very own permaculture. Wouldn’t that be awesome if all around the country there were chickens bred to meet their specific local? We are slowly getting meeting our needs. Just like my grandfather did many years ago with his beans. He bred then selected the offspring that best fit his criteria and did so over and over until he had what he desired.
Your needs may not be mine for you may need a chicken that roosts in the trees at night. There are those that do. Here they’d freeze to death. Or maybe chickens aren’t for you and ducks would work better.
If someone is raising heritage breeds just to keep them going then they are doing a disservice in my opinion. There needs to be a need for their traits and someone who knows how to bring the best gene traits out and sustain them for the future. Soft hearts alone won’t do it.
Since heritage breeds are after all a conglomerate of other breeds created to meet the needs of an area and in particular a particular person, then should it not behoove us to follow suite?
We love Painted Mountain corn which has genetics that go back to 70 different corn species. How grateful I am that someone did not stick to the same oh same oh in order to just keep it going. Instead I have a hardy corn for corn meal that I can depend on in a climate that makes corn growing a huge challenge.
Even the same breed has variances. One gentleman got different results from three different sources of Jacob’s Cattle beans. Select what works best for you and perpetuate that, improve on it. Just as we have found in the knife business that one man will swear a larger knife makes a better skinner, another will swear a smaller size works best. We seek ideas from each other but as each of us is different and our resources and land we reside on is different, so should our solutions be.
As our debt driven society falters, where will you be? Can you sustain your lifestyle? If there is less medicine, less feed from commercial sources, and little to no chick sources what will you do? If seeds aren’t readily available, what will you do?
I’ve begun to question:
- How can we do more with what we have?
Time, energy, and money is short so how can I do things far better than I am now. This self-sufficiency is costing us too much money. Shouldn’t we too be producing and creating food that is more self-sustaining and better meets our own needs? Isn’t there more we can do with what we have? I’ve spent too much money in an attempt to become self-sustaining. It is time to face facts. We are spending money, not saving it. To get out of debt requires us to change direction a bit. I’ve given it a great deal of thought and study. My ideas might surprise you, I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.
What are your thoughts?