Currently, we raise three breeds of European origins derived from Greenfire Farms imports. They’re raised in a group setting unless it’s breeding time, in which case they’re isolated for at least a month, then are matched up into breeding groups and their eggs collected and incubated. Sometimes our breeding groups may be as few as a pair, in which case it will take some time for their offspring to be established in our flock. Largely used for egg production and adaptation to our New England climate, we also will occasionally process extra cockerels for meat.
Relatively newer to the scene, circa the 1970’s, the Bielefelder was developed in Germany from several heavy breeds and a vision. They are solid dual-purpose birds, roosters topping 10-12 lbs and hens a bit less. They have presence, even though it’s usually looming. In addition to their size, Bielefelders, named for the town of Bielefeld, are always auto-sexing. From hatching, you can tell by down colors which chicks are male and which are female. They’re good producers of big brown eggs and fine birds for the table due to their size. They do take some time to mature, however, and pullets may not be at point of lay for 7-9 months.
Straight out of northern Europe are the Hedemora, a small (but not bantam) landrace perfectly suited for Swedish winters — and have been for centuries. They not only come in a painter’s palette of colors, but some exhibit fur-like feathers as seen on silkies, and are called “woollies”. They may also have a few feathers on their shanks, but nothing extravagant. Hedemora lay a paler cream-colored egg and have been known to be faithfully broody. Occasionally some also exhibit darker skin pigmentation said to help absorb heat in the cold season. Because they have no standard, their physical traits swing widely, but they are a smaller, square type chicken that is about as long as it is tall.
DOUBLE LACED SILVER BARNEVELDER BANTAMS
Barnevelders, coming in large and bantam types, originate from Holland, now part of the Netherlands. Their breed composition started off as a medley of local and imported stock and they are designated as dual purpose: perfect for both meat and eggs. They’re somewhat stocky, sturdy birds, who ideally lay a dark egg similar to Marans. They come in a wide array of colors, most popular is their double lacing on each feather, with single combs and yellow skin and legs. This particular variety lays a lighter colored egg. For bantams, it’s our experience they take a while to mature, perhaps due to their dual purpose origins.
These breeds are living relics of an age when birds did not subsist on antibiotics, commercial ration, temperature controlled environments, and could breed naturally. They also act as a “genetic archive”, offering diversity in a world focusing on singular traits and limited gene pools. For our birds to have a naturally solid constitution we do not vaccinate, but are not above seeking veterinary care if the situation should arise.