Backyard Revival: American Heritage Poultry

Since they were first domesticated, nearly 10,000 years ago, in South and Southeast Asia, chickens have accompanied human beings everywhere on the planet. When the early European settlers arrived in the Americas, they unloaded crates of chickens - no doubt squawking in protest - from their crowded, stinking ships. For the next several hundred years, chickens chased bugs and scratched in the dust in farmyards and backyards all over the country.

Technological advances and shifting demographics in first half of the 20th century changed that - the production of chickens for meat and eggs was industrialized, and the backyard chicken in the United States all but disappeared.

Recently, growing concern about food safety, animal welfare, and the environmental impact of factory farming has brought about a resurgence of interest in small-scale poultry-keeping. Groups such as Mad City Chickens, in Madison, Wisconsin, have successfully lobbied for the repeal of ordinances prohibiting chickens in urban areas. Organizations including The Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, and the American Livestock Breed Conservancy are working to locate and preserve the last remaining flocks of critically endangered heritage breeds. At farmers’ markets and online forums, people are talking about chickens.

Welcome to the Backyard Revival!