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The Revival

The past decade has brought a resurgence of interest in small-scale poultry-keeping.

Concerns about food safety, as well as environmental and ethical issues, have led consumers to look for alternatives to industrially-produced meat and eggs. In response, a growing number of farmers, as well as ordinary citizens, are raising small flocks of chickens outdoors. They need birds with qualities that have no value to an industrial producer; birds that can thrive in variable weather, forage some of their own food, and produce both eggs and meat. In other words, birds like the American breeds of a century ago.

Groups such as the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the New England Heritage Breeds Conservancy, and the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities have raised public awareness of the precarious status of many heritage poultry breeds, and of the immense value of their genetic diversity. Women, conspicuously absent from the commercial poultry industry, have been instrumental in the revival of small-scale poultry-keeping.

The issues behind the backyard poultry revival are deadly serious, but the chickens themselves are an awful lot of fun. Many of the new books about small-scale poultry-keeping share the whimsical, affectionate tone that makes their counterparts from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century so charming.

Living With Chickens
Backyard Poultry
The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds
Backyard Eggs