UNDERSTANINDG STANDARD WEIGHTS OF POULTRY
How to get the most out of the poultry that you grow!
By Jim Adkins
Many farmers and breeders of poultry have asked, “Why does the Standard of Perfection have weights for each breed? Aren’t the biggest birds the best birds? And what about the weights for pullets and cockerels? What age is the standard referring to for these weights?” Let me clarify a few of these questions.
WHY EVERYONE SHOULD CONSIDER EATING
SLOW GROWING, STANDARD-BRED CHICKENS!
By Jim Adkins
Are you aware of what kind of chicken you buy at the local grocery store? Whole Foods? Or even at your local farmers market? Do you know where it came from and the environment was is grown in? These are all questions that many people are asking. Let me help you.
HERITAGE TURKEYS DEFINED
How to Identify a True Heritage Turkey
By Jim Adkins
It is amazing how many turkeys are being sold in North America and being labeled as “Heritage Turkeys” — I often receive emails and calls from people all over the country and they tell me that they have heritage turkeys. But the reality is, a true heritage, standard-bred turkey is very hard to find. Unfortunately, most heritage turkeys in North America are not true to breed and should not be used for breeding.
COMB TYPES AND THEIR PURPOSE
The Amazing, Important Part of the Chicken
By Jim Adkins
The comb on a chicken is the fleshy protuberance on top of the head of a chicken and is larger on the male birds than on the hen chickens. There are eight combs that
are identified by the Standard of Perfection: the single, rose, pea, strawberry, cushion, buttercup, V- shaped
and a walnut.
PREPARING FOR THE AVIAN FLU
...and doing all you can to avoid it!
By Jim Adkins
As most of you know, we have lost millions of poultry (primarily chickens and turkeys) due to the Avian Flu that has spread all across the United States, primarily in the Midwest! For many of our SPN certified flocks, it has not hit the southeast, the state of Ohio and it has been very limited in California. I am thankful that it has not hit any of our flocks!
The poultry that we are committed to breeding, growing and marketing are those that can naturally reproduce and be genetically maintained, they are capable of enjoying outdoor pasture and grow at a normal slow growth rate! Slow growth means strong skeletal structure, normal organ development, more muscle and texture to the meat, more nutrient and genetic strength with strong immunities.
SPN-USA believes that the very best poultry for the kitchen tables of American families are the slow growing, traditional, standard breeds that are bred for production and profitability. To preserve the heritage breeds of chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, we must get them back to their production qualities. These are the kinds of birds our grandmothers raised for many generations!
In 2007 – 27,000 farms produced over 8.9 billion broilers
In 1950 – 1.6 million farms produced 581 million broilers
SUSTAINABLE POULTRY NETWORK—USA CORE VALUES
NATURAL, OUTDOOR ACCESS
USING POULTRY STANDARDS
Provide birds access to natural, outdoor pasture and allow birds the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health
All breeding flocks of poultry are identified by the Poultry Standards noting where the breed originated. Genetic lines must trace back multiple generations; and exhibit traits that meet the standard guidelines for breed.
Develop local networks of farmers who are committed to sustainable poultry production models that promote and encourage sustainability through raising and selling poultry products locally.
TOOLS FOR SUCCESS
CARE OF THE BIRDS
Humane and conscientious attitude toward the birds in their care, housing and husbandry as laid out welfare standards of the SPN–USA™. The standards premise is that animals are allowed to behave naturally, ensure social interaction, comfort, with physical and psychological well-being.
Commitment to working and cooperating with local farmers for ongoing education: training for understanding, coaching for implementation and mentoring for multiplication. Our goal is to reproduce other local self-supporting, sustainable-poultry farmers.
Intentionally connect with those who prepare birds for eating; inform chefs and consumers of the nutritional differences between genetically engineered poultry and historical, heritage breeds. Equip them with marketing tools to be successful and profitable in their business.
THE SPN-USA STORY
“We Must Eat These Birds to Keep Them Alive!”
By Jim Adkins, Founder of SPN-USA
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and have loved birds as long as I can remember! I was always putting out bird feeders, waterers, bird houses and bird baths, trying to get all the wild birds to come to my house. I love birds!
In the late seventies, my parents got tired of the Midwest snow and decided we were moving west. They flew to Denver Colorado and then onto Salt Lake City, I am not sure what they were thinking as these are heavy snow accumulation places! Then they flew onto Portland, Oregon (they happen to hit it on a sunny day) traveled across the river into southwest Washington State and fell in love with it! That December, we moved to Vancouver, Washington.
That spring, my father got all excited about living on a few acres and decided we were going to raise a few chickens of our own. He went to a local feed store and purchased some Rhode Island Reds and Cornish Cross meat birds. We grew out the meat birds and processed them. As a side note, dad did not enjoy the butchering part of our poultry enterprise that was the last time we did that! As for the Rhode Island Reds, I ended up naming my first rooster, “King Tut” – I still have a few scars on the back of my legs from him attacking me.
Through all of this, I thought, “Who needs wild birds when you can have your own?” This was my introduction to poultry. Shortly after that I got involved in a 4-H poultry club. Our leader loved poultry more than all of us put together! We traveled all over the Pacific Northwest attending poultry shows and participating in our county and state fairs. Oregon State Fair was one of my favorites. While attending all these poultry exhibits, I would see all these poultry judges traveling from all over the country. It was during my teen years that I decided I would pursue becoming a judge someday. In 1994, I received my license from American Poultry Association. Since then, I have judged thousands and thousands of poultry in more than thirty five states, Canada and I have judged in Australia several times!
For the last thirty five years I have bred over fifty different varieties of chickens, ducks and turkeys. In many ways I was just like the backyard poultry enthusiast, breeding and rearing a few different breeds here and there.
Along the way, I ended up making a career change! I found a position as a field supervisor for a large turkey producer in California. We raised about one million birds annually. That seems like a lot but the largest turkey producer in California at that time grew 14-16 million birds! I was excited because they were raising turkeys organically and naturally, just like I thought turkeys should be raised – at least I thought! I applied and got the job! My job included overseeing five different ranches that grew about 450 thousand turkeys annually. My assignment was to make sure that our ranch managers and all his employees raised the turkeys the way our company wanted them raised.
The longer I worked for the company, the more disturbed I became! The more I learned about the turkeys you eat and even the chickens you eat. Everything you have heard in the media is pretty accurate. The poultry industry had definitely gone commercial! It has become industrialized.
While I was working in the commercial poultry industry, I especially noticed that over the last thirty plus years, all my favorite breeds of the old historical, heritage, standard breeds of poultry were going away! They are less and less of them! Everywhere. Less and less in poultry shows, county fairs and all the backyards of American families. Because of the industrialization of hybridized poultry, the old breeds of poultry were no longer needed. Think about this, the Barred Plymouth Rock was the number one meat bird in the early nineteen hundreds. In 1950, the Delaware and New Hampshire chicken were the number one meat birds in the United States. Soon after that, the fast growing, fast developing Cornish cross chicken quickly took over these slow growing, historical breeds of poultry. The old breeds that fed the mouths of all our forefathers were all disappearing! We didn’t need them anymore. The chickens that our grandmothers and great grandmothers loved to cook, were disappearing.
During these days of frustration, I remember a conversation with one of my mentors, Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Poultry made a statement that changed my life forever – he said, “Jim, we must eat these birds to keep them alive!” I am forever indebted to Frank! I have learn so much from him. He has been a breeder of standard-bred poultry for many, many years! To this day, I am honored to breed His strain of outstanding standard bred, Bronze Turkeys. It was back in 1998 that Frank organized an outstanding turkey show and hired me to judge. It was a memorable weekend in Kansas! I had the honors of learning from Frank and one of his mentors, the late, Norman Kardosh. Its because of Frank and his influence in my life that helped to shaped my thinking today. Thanks Frank!
Eventually, I was so frustrated with all that I was seeing (and learning) that I quit working for the turkey company. I was fired up and wanted to take the poultry gospel everywhere! Whoever would listen, I preached to. I was determined to take the truth about the poultry industry to the world! So off I went to colleges, universities, farming associations, ACRES USA, Mother Earth News and anyone else who would listen.
In 2010, I was speaking at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) Annual Farm Conference in Winston Salem, NC. It was a day long workshop on breeding and growing standard-bred heritage poultry. There were forty plus people who attended the event! It was out of that day that we birthed the Carolina Heritage Poultry Coalition. Within six months, the movement went national – the name Sustainable Poultry Network birth in a conversation with a handful of our farmers in Missoula, Montana.
Since then, over the last five years, we trained hundreds of interested small farmers in sustainable poultry production. Our greatest passion has been mentoring new breeders. Challenging men and women to join in the movement of “putting the historical breeds of poultry back to work!” – Selective breeding them to do what they were intended to do.
OUR MESSAGE IS THIS
So, what makes a flock of poultry sustainable? What is Standard-bred Poultry? If you purchase chicks from a hatchery are they true to the breed? Why does every hatchery sell Rhode Island Reds and they all look different? Why do the Cornish Cross meat chickens have so many problems? Raising standard poultry is the only true way to improve the sustainability of quality local food while preserving the strength of Heritage poultry. Farmers are looking for sustainable sources of poultry to start a flock. What does it take? Let me suggest to you that there is a lot of misunderstanding about this.
Let me share with you a personal experience. For several years I work in the commercial turkey industry and 100% of all the turkeys we raised were unable to reproduce naturally! We raised breeder flocks that needed us human beings to assist in the process of reproduction. We trained hired men to collect semen from the toms and then spend the next day inseminating the hens to fertilize the eggs. These turkeys cannot reproduce without the “assistance of man.” This is true of the entire commercial, factory like turkey industry. Poultry that cannot reproduce naturally are not sustainable. This is also true in the commercial chicken industry; using sophisticated, proprietary crosses of specific industrial stocks which can only produce predictable results when managed on a commercial scale. All hybrids of meat chickens and egg layers that are crossed for production reasons, cannot reproduce and hatch the same species of birds. They are genetically controlled by the companies that own them. This is also true of the “Freedom Ranger” and the “Label Rouge” — you cannot reproduce these birds on your own local farm. So, think about this, if you are dependent upon a “company” to send you baby chicks every year (or every 8 weeks) because you cannot reproduce your own flock, is your flock of poultry sustainable? Absolutely not! If these genetic companies of turkeys and chickens would ever just go away, you will no longer have a flock of birds.
This is an urgent matter that we are up against! We need to do something about it right away. All the "old historical, heritage" breeds of poultry are disappearing. Why, because we are no longer dependent on them to produce meat and eggs for us. True Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, New Hampshires, Dorkings, Orpingtons, Australorps, Chanteclers and even true leghorns are very hard to find! It is even harder to find a breeder who is interested in breeding them to standard.
The Sustainable Poultry Network–USA is working diligently to bring these birds back to the kitchen tables of American families. This means that we must breed the production qualities back into all the dual purpose breeds of these historical, heritage poultry. Not just “eye candy backyard chickens” but actual egg and meat producing poultry that can naturally reproduce, enjoy the natural life of the pasture and have a normal, slow growth rate!
Remember the APA Standard of Perfection (taken from the 1938 edition of the APA Standard of Perfection; page 32)
Standard-bred poultry is practical poultry because most of the different breeds produce eggs, or meat, or both, to greater economic advantages than non-standard stock. The purpose of the STANDARD OF PERFECTION is to establish those ideal types that are not alone the most beautiful and symmetrical but also most useful and productive.
It should be understood that every standard breed and variety produces eggs and meat. Some breeds excel in egg production and some in the production of meat. The most rapid and economical producers of meat are often economic producers of eggs, while on the other hand, the meat of the highest egg producers is ultimately consumed as food.
The breeder cannot afford to sacrifice the economic qualities of his breed. It is important that he should maintain the size, type, and color that are characteristic to the breed and variety, and it is vitally that he maintains the soundness of constitution which is necessary if vigor, size, type, color and production are to be developed to their highest perfection.
These words echo our passion and commitment to putting standard-bred poultry back to work, doing what they were created to do!
So, where should you source these heritage, standard breeds of poultry? Let me warn you, don’t respond to this urgent need by running out to your local farm store and buy some baby chicks! And definitely don't call one of the large hatcheries! I have been judging poultry for over thirty years and I have very seldom selected a bird for champion from a hatchery.
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND HATCHERIES FOR THREE REASONS
Quantity verses quality
Most hatcheries in North America hatch millions of chicks and poults. Large numbers equal large amounts of dollars. When you look at the history of Standard-Bred poultry in America, the very best poultry are not coming from large hatcheries.
No selective breeding
To maintain high quality breeding stock one must selectively breed every generation of progeny. This is critical! Each generation must be selected for vigor, APA Standard qualities and production qualities. Most of the time, large hatcheries are so consumed with numbers that the proper time is not invested into selective breeding.
No culling for undesirable traits
Most backyard folks associate a "bad experience" with a fowl (like being attacked by a rooster or a goose) automatically assume it is the breed. For example, if you were attacked by a Rhode Island Red rooster when you were a young child, you automatically assume that all Rhode Island Red males are aggressive and mean! This is simply not true! Aggressive fathers will produce aggressive sons. Every generation of birds must be carefully selected even for undesirable traits including cannibalism and temperament.
So where should you source the very best birds? Your very best option is to locate breeders who are committed to breeding, selecting and culling ruthlessly. That is the key. The Sustainable Poultry Network – USA is committed to these core values. Research your sources; do your homework and then invest into the very best!
WHY WE CERTIFY FLOCKS
SPN–USA is very intentional to recognize these breeding flocks. Our national flock certification is to give the creditability, assurance and authenticity that a flock of poultry is true to breed and is being bred to the highest excellence for vigor, standard qualities and production qualities. It should be noted that, many breeds of chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are being marketed around the world that are not true to breed and are being compromised of their original intent when they were developed. Many are deceived to think otherwise.
Consumers and buyers can be assured that the birds they receive from our certified flocks will be true to breed and will be bred with the following core values:
Protecting Genetic Diversity
With all of our certified flocks, our commitment is to protect the genetic diversity of the flock; making sure that they are standard bred according to the Standard where the birds came from. We believe this is best accomplished through careful inbreeding and line breeding; and not by carelessly adding "outside bloodlines" without careful evaluation of the current breeding program.
Culling rigorously and selecting of ALL progeny is critical in our breeding programs. This will assure uniformity in the quality of the birds. This must be of utmost importance with the breeders of our certified flocks.
With all of our certified flocks, we expect all of our breeders to breed with the highest quality production as one of its primary goals. We must put standard-bred poultry back to work for us!
Preservation of Standard-Bred Poultry
Unless we intentionally work hard to breed, grow and eat these heritage breeds of poultry, we will lose them.
Equipping farmers, chefs and peoples
to breed, grow and market sustainable
flocks of StandardBred Poultry.
We are committed to training farmers for understanding, coaching them for implementation, and mentoring them for the sake of multiplying sustainable flocks of standard-bred poultry throughout the USA and all of North America. This is a very exciting movement. I invite you to get involved.
If you are interested in more, join SPN-USA below or contact us.
May 4, 2015 – 7:51PM
BECOME A PART OF THE SPN–USA NETWORK
We need you to be a part of SPN-USA. Only together we can help thrive the breeds of heritage birds so that the next generations can raise and eat the birds of our grandparents. Choose a way below to start:
Become “SPN-USA Certified.” Enhance your creditability, and enjoy network advantages.
SPN-USA continues to thrive and grow with the financial help
of generous donors.
Personal coach who will mentor how to breed, grow and market sustainable flocks.
Exciting subscription packages filled with SPN-USA swag and information. Coming soon!
FULL FARM MENTORSHP
WHAT THE FARMERS SAY...
It was a great pleasure to host the SLOW POULTRY Seminar here in central Oregon. Passionate people make the best educators — and Jim Adkins is no exception. You really should attend a seminar as soon as possible! There is nothing like this anywhere!
—Taryn Kennedy, Two Circles Farm, Eugene, Oregon
The Heritage Poultry workshop hands-on with the birds was exceptional, and the information presented was very helpful. Jim’s training showed me how to recognize and select birds appropriate for breeding. His expertise has been invaluable.
—Mark Leski, Heritage Creek Farm
SPN-USA does for pasture based, small farm producers what SPPA does for backyard poultry enthusiast and fanciers. Both organizations emphasize the highest quality of standard bred, traditional breeds and the necessity to keep the population of birds for the traditional ways.
—Craig Russell, President SPPA