Now that you’ve answered the questions and discovered your purpose for chickens, let’s talk about how chickens are classified.
Chicken breed classification is not really difficult.
We won’t get into the ins and outs of the specific breeds in this post. We are working on a specific detailed layout for you to follow when getting into breed specifics. But for now, as you look at different chicken breeds you’ll find most of them fall into yet another set of categories. These categories help you to determine how pure you want to keep your flock’s gene pool.
As chickens breed there will be mixing of breeds and pure breeds that naturally occur. Historically speaking, many people chose only certain breeds because they wanted to contribute to continuing the lineage of a particular breed. Other chicken owners didn’t care one way or the other which breeds they kept, and just wanted to see what bird might be made if they bred a Rhode Island Red with a Plymouth Barred Rock. Yet others keep chickens strictly for breeding and hatching. They meticulously record the parentage of each bird assigning it a number and keeping birds in crates so they know which chickens have been bred together. You could read more on breeding regulations at the American Poultry Association who sets the standards for show birds.
While it sounds complicated, it’s really not.
We’re speaking mainly of whether you want to house heritage birds or non-heritage birds. Believe it or not, chickens have a lineage. There are many breeds specific to certain regions of the world. Because our culture is so technologically advanced it has allowed us to house birds from different regions. For instance, did you know the White Leghorn comes from Italy? Marans come from France? And the Rhode Island Red comes from the state of Rhode Island!
Heritage birds are simply chickens that have a lineage.
They are part of our world’s heritage. A lot of the traditional breeds you may be accustomed to are heritage breeds. On our homestead, we raise heritage birds. We choose to contribute to the livelihood of certain breeds. After answering the questions from our previous post, we discovered we wanted dual purpose birds and heavy egg layers. Combine those two categories with heritage breeds, we knew exactly which birds to look at for our farm! We currently own White Leghorns, Black Copper Marans, Rhode Island Reds, and Plymouth Barred Rock.
A non-heritage bird is going to be a mixed bird.
These chickens are often referred to as sex-link. This chicken breed classification is not really a classification at all. It’s a polite way to say mutt. If you breed a Rhode Island Red Rooster with a Plymouth Barred Rock Hen you will get a Black Sex-Link. They are beautiful birds and great egg layers, but they are not a heritage bird.
Are you following? When chicken breed classification comes into the picture it’s more about whether or not your family chooses to preserve the breeds. Now if you’re like us and choose heritage birds and keep them all together, you will also have some non-heritage birds in the mix. As they mate, there’s no way around that without keeping separate breeds in different coops. We actually are thinking of moving this direction, but that takes time and money!
Another type of chicken breed classification describes the purpose of the bird.
There are four categories for this type of classification. Meat birds, egg layers, dual-purpose birds and ornamental birds make up this set of categories. Almost all chickens fall into these categories. We will talk more specifically about which breeds fall into these categories in our next article series.
Please don’t get bogged down by this. We just want you to understand the difference in the chicken breed classification so you know what you are getting when you either purchase or barter for your flock. Whether you go to a flea market, sale barn or hatchery to purchase your flock we just want you to ask the right questions. And if you hear the term sex-link you are purchasing a non-heritage bird. Hopefully, that clears up the main differences in chicken breed classification. And I pray we didn’t confuse you!
~Until Next Time,
Question: Do you plan to raise heritage or non-heritage birds?