Heritage Breeds Can Be the Best Egg Laying Chickens
Rare domesticated animals need engaged stewards to survive. Raise heritage chickens and you’ll find some of the best egg laying chickens around.
Another reliable heritage layer, the Delaware breed does well on free-range forage.
For fun, profit, principle or superior nutrition, raising layer hens is a rewarding experience. Keeping a few of the chickens described in this article will provide hours of pleasure, a valuable education for the entire family, a renewed connection with your food and some of the animals who provide it, and a sense of satisfaction that you are participating in the important work of saving these interesting and valuable breeds for future generations. Many of these breeds need quality stewards to ensure their survival. If one of these breeds doesn’t strike your fancy, check out Heritage Chickens to learn about many other endangered chicken breeds that might fit the needs of your farm or homestead.
You might think Australia’s claim to fame is the kangaroo, but in the land Down Under, Australorps reign supreme. In fact, the breed is recognized as the unofficial breed of Australia, its country of origin.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Black Orpingtons were imported from England to Australia. The Australians valued the Black Orpington for its egg-production traits and began selecting and outcrossing to improve laying abilities. Meanwhile, the English continued selecting their Black Orpingtons for meat qualities. By the 1920s, the “Australian Laying Orpington” was divergent enough to be labeled as its own breed, the Australorp. The breed then was imported to England and the United States. In 1929, Australorps were officially recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed.
Today, Australorps are still known for their great egg-laying abilities, often laying more than 200 eggs a year. The Australorp’s eggs are tinted tan, and average 26 to 27 ounces per dozen. Although the breed is reputed for its laying abilities, the birds have relatively meaty carcasses that can serve the needs of the small farm or homestead. The Australorp is a black chicken with a moderately large single comb. Females average 6 1/2 pounds and males average 8 1/2 pounds. The Australorp is gaining popularity among poultry fanciers.
The Campine is an attractive chicken often raised for ornamental purposes, but don’t let this Belgian beauty fool you. Underneath all those feathers is a productive layer that makes a great addition to the backyard flock.
The Campine is thought to be a cousin to the Braekel breed, first documented in Belgium in 1416. The Braekel is native to the rich clay soil of the Flanders district, whereas the Campine survived in the less fertile Kempen region — hence the Campine name. In 1893, this historic breed was first imported to the United States, but its popularity never grew. Poultrymen tried importing the breed again in 1907, this time from English stock, but many farmers felt the birds weren’t rugged enough for their needs. Eventually The Homestead Campine Farm began selecting for hardiness, but other breeds had already won the hearts of America’s homesteaders. The Campine was officially recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1914.
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