Monday, March 25, 2013

Raising Heritage Poultry for Profit and Pleasure

Andrea and I recently attended the Raising Heritage Poultry for Profit and Pleasure workshop. The workshop is offered by the Sustainable Poultry Network, and led by Jim Adkins. The workshop is presented at different locations throughout the US. The one we attended was held at Fowl Play Pastured Poultry in Cadiz, KY.

John Utter, of Fowl Play, did a fantastic job of providing the facility and refreshments for the workshop. The hands on portion of the workshop was done at John's place, where we worked with his flock of mottled Java. The classroom portion was held next door, in a facility owned by his neighbors. The facility was perfect for a workshop of that size, including ample parking, which can sometimes be a problem.

Refreshments were provided throughout the day. In addition to water, soda, and fruit there were a couple of breakfast dishes which were made with farm-fresh eggs. For lunch they brought in Subway sandwiches and chips.

There were approximately twenty workshop attendees. Andrea and I were among the least experienced with chickens. I was the only one who had never handled a chicken, although I'm not sure that Andrea's experience with chickens at 4H camp 20 years ago gives her much of an advantage over me. Several of those attending the workshop were currently raising chickens or other livestock.

The workshop covered the following topics: "Necessity of Identifying Heritage Poultry", "Facilities, Feed & Forage", "Selecting Heritage Poultry for Production", "Introduction to Breeding Standard Bred Poultry", and "Budgeting, Marketing, and Your Small Farm Business Planning". Much of the information covered was included in a binder that we were each given. The binders also included much that wasn't specifically discussed in the workshop, including articles from various sources. I have yet to read through the entire binder, but it seems to be full of useful information.

The workshop was very interactive. Jim did a very good job of engaging everyone, including those like myself who tend to just sit back and listen in a group setting. There were a lot of good questions from the group as well as the sharing of experiences and suggestions. There were some great discussions about ways in which a group of poultry producers in a given area could work together to overcome the challenges facing them, especially regarding marketing and the educating of consumers as to the advantages of heritage poultry.

There was a lot of focus placed on breeding, which is understandable, since one of the things the organization is trying to do is increase the availability of heritage poultry, while also strengthening the breeds. Andrea and I weren't really interested in breeding when we decided to attend the workshop, but we've since started talking about the possibility. We certainly do not plan to start a breeding program right away, but after a couple of years, if we decide we enjoy working with poultry, it is something we may consider.

During the hands on portion of the workshop we were taught the proper way to hold a chicken, and I was able to hold my first bird. We were also shown several things to look for in order to determine the best birds for both meat and egg production, and therefore the best for breeding. We were able to compare the various traits in different birds, which was much better than simply being told what to look for.

Attendees came to the workshop from four different states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Indiana. Surprisingly, it seems that we traveled the farthest. John expressed his surprise that we had driven so far to attend. In my opinion, however, it was well worth the drive. I would, without hesitation, recommend the workshop to anyone interested in learning more about sustainable poultry breeding or heritage poultry in general. Check the SPF events calendar for a list of upcoming workshops.


  1. Jonathan,
    I'm so grateful that you and Andrea made the trip to Cadiz! I agree-it was a wonderful workshop. And, I'm glad that I stumbled upon your blog- highly enjoyable reading!

    1. We're very glad that we made the trip as well. If we're ever back out your way we might have to check in to see how your flock is progressing. Thanks for the kind words regarding the blog. I'm glad you enjoyed it.