Thorny Croft Poultry Project
For 30 years our family has been actively involved in breeding heritage chickens. We were lucky enough to have begun this project whilst there were several old time “chicken men” still around in Northland where we lived then.
These guys were the judges at poultry shows and were all absolute fountains of information about chickens and other poultry. Every time I visited one of them I came away acutely aware of how little I knew and how little I could absorb of their knowledge, and actually the awareness that what we already know, determines what we can absorb at any given time, and also how much of the old knowledge we have lost.
In just the same way that we have ‘run’ our potatoes down, through a lack of understanding of how to maintain them in a high health state, and we now have to recover their health for them to be useful in future sustainable biological systems, we have to do the same thing with all breeds of our poultry.
What we have left in New Zealand now after 60-80 years of industrial egg and chicken meat farming is low quality produce, grown in unsustainable degenerative systems! We also have people breeding heritage chickens with hugely variable breeding skills and almost invariably breeding for ‘show’ standards but missing out the ‘production’ aspect ( eg how many eggs they lay) entirely. All of them to my knowledge are breeding and selecting chickens within the paradigm of industrial chicken food. They are inevitably selecting for the chickens that do best on industrial food.
I would like to acknowledge and thank both Viv Purdon, one of the old guys who taught us lots and who was the breeder we brought our Golden Wyndottes from. he showed us that that line breeding works best and that industrial chicken feed is not as good as whole grain and high
quality pasture. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Ken and Ruth Vincent who are still going strong with their chickens after all these years. Ken continues to be a fountain of information and support and he has always milked a house cow to provide his chickens with the best quality food, along with high quality pasture.
We need chickens and ducks that produce high quality eggs, fat, and meat in regenerative systems in an economic way.
So… with as much support and information as we have been able to absorb from our older mentors, along with the chicken breeds we have from them, together with our newer mentors around the world in the field of regenerative agriculture and non industrial chicken farming we are now developing a small chicken operation whose aims are to provide high quality eggs and meat to our community ( Kotare Village) in an economic way, whilst breeding lines of poultry that are strong, healthy and true to type in regenerative systems.
This will mean that we will be developing high quality pasture, food forest systems that drop high protein and fat seeds for the chickens etc as well as providing a forest floor composting system to grow live insects etc. We will be milking cows to provide curds for the chickens and comfrey will play a major role in providing chicken protein. We will also have worm and maggot farms.
It also means we will be using the traditional ‘trap nest’ system for recording how many eggs each hen lays so we can breed from the best birds. We will also be integrating chicken systems with cow systems in some cases, and in others we will be researching how we can produce high quality eggs in sustainable ways for urban situations ad ¼ acre situations.
We will be doing this within the Thorny Croft wider small farm vision as described in an earlier article and also within the Koanga Institute internship program. If you are interested please contact u