Today, I contacted Sally, who is now 80 years old and who has raised chickens off and on her entire life and continuously for the past forty years. Forty years ago, Sally began with a flock of chickens, most of which she purchased from Murray McMurray Hatchery. It was a mixed flock, consisting of Buff Rocks, Ameraucanas, Black Jersey Giants, Brahmas, Dark Cornish, and Buff Cochins. Over the years, she added a few other chickens, such as Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, and a bantam rooster. She has intentionally allowed the breeds to cross, and all of her current chickens are descended from her original flock.
Initially, Sally put leg bands on the pullets that went broody and culled all the pullets that had never gone broody in order to select for broodiness. After doing that for many years, she felt that she had gotten her flock to be broody enough, so she no longer selects in this way. To increase the diversity of each brood, she places eggs gathered from several of her hens under each of her broody hens.
Sally keeps each of her hens for about three years, then butchers them for meat. Each year, she changes out the roosters, processing the old roosters for meat, and keeping only the new, one year old roosters to perpetuate her flock.
Sally feeds her flock an all purpose ration, pastures them, provides free access to oyster shells, gives them alfalfa and sunflower seed at times, and feeds them barley and wheat raised by her sons.
The result of Sally’s efforts is that she has a flock whose reproduction is sustainable. She no longer needs to bring in any outside breeding stock, and her self-perpetuating and self-reproducing flock supplies meat and eggs for her, her family, and others. She feels that her egg production is mediocre in comparison to current production strains, but she has different goals, and through persistence and diligence, she has achieved them.
Years ago, Sally became concerned that her family’s food supply was heavily dependent on things that she did not feel were entirely dependable, such as a well functioning electrical grid and a functioning communication system and food distribution system. She wanted a sustainable flock of chickens that she could keep in order to provide food for her family dependably, and that is what she has raised.
[The person I interviewed for this article asked to remain anonymous. So the name used in this article, Sally, is not her real name.]