Thursday, March 1, 2012

How do we Become Sustainable?

I was just reading an article in the February 2012 Acres U.S.A. magazine by Jim Adkins, where he says this:

"...think about this, if you are dependent upon a company to send you baby chicks every year because you cannot reproduce your own flock, is your flock of poultry sustainable? Absolutely not! If these genetic companies producing turkeys and chickens would ever go away, you will no longer have a flock of birds."

Now, he is talking here about commercial breeds and hybrids, turkeys so large breasted they can't even mate anymore and chickens so scientifically inbred then crossbred a certain way that its impossible to get the exact same results yourself. It's pretty easy to see his point with these birds, but what about what we're doing?

This year, we were content to buy our chicks from hatcheries as long as they weren't commercial hybrids, figuring we could take our time and hopefully one day we'd have enough birds to do it ourselves. We were being pretty casual about it I think. Then, out of nowhere Rochester hatchery destroyed their entire flock of heritage Bronze turkeys due to a biosecurity issue! Then they replaced them with the same hybrid bronze that almost every other hatchery in the country sells. As hard as I tried, I could not find any way to replace them from another hatchery. We did end up settling for an in-between, a bronze that grows a bit too fast for our liking but at least isn't a hybrid. These will be our Thanksgiving turkeys this year.

For Christmas this year, we decided to shoot for the stars. We are going to try to hatch every single egg that our lone Narragansett hen lays this spring, we're going to buy hatching eggs from small breeders all over the country and if we're still short, we're going to buy every heritage turkey poult (as long as it's a meat breed) that we can find from local breeders in May. If we do it right, we might be able to reach our goal this year, while keeping enough breeding birds around to do it 100% ourselves next year. We're going to do the same thing with our chickens and ducks. We were already prepared to do all our own ducks this year, and we are bringing in lots of chicks this year form hatcheries and breeders, and this fall we'll pick our breeders.

Are we sustainable now? No, but I think we can be sustainable next year.

One thing this has done, it's reinvigorated my urge to grow all my own vegetable and herb seed too...maybe 2014?


  1. Last night we watched the documentary Food Inc for the 2nd time. It got us talking about where organic producers were going to get chicks or even breeding stock. Once you have achieved your goals perhaps you could include a resource list on your site? Meanwhile we are moving so that we can have enough land to grow our own vegetables.

  2. Hope you are able to achieve your goals as well. A recourse list would be a good idea too.