Checking things off the "to-do" list: bi-annual Avian Influenza flock test done - CHECK! Another layer of complexity that some local food only farms do not have to deal with!
Old Time Farm participates in the National Poultry Improvement Program or NPIP. Our rare Partridge Chantecler chicks and hatching eggs are shipped all over the country to homesteads, farmsteads and show homes - not just egg producers or meat birds for local markets. To ship chicks and hatching eggs across state lines legally, states require you to be a participant in this program which is one precautionary layer to the spread of transmissible poultry diseases.
The NPIP program is a state/federal partnership that is administered by the Department of Agriculture in our state. Our facility/hatchery is inspected annually by the PA Dept. of Ag for cleanliness and our entire flock is inspected for disease as well. Our birds are blood tested for Salmonella Pullorum annually and Avian Influenza twice a year. We are required to keep records of where birds are sold to, have plans for how to reduce our birds exposure to disease (biosecurity plan) and all birds coming onto our farm must first be blood tested or come from another NPIP participant flock.
Pennsylvania utilizes state trained and licensed Certified Poultry Technicians (CPT) to draw the blood for the tests. I obtained my CPT licensure so I could draw blood from our birds after they have roosted at night so there would be less stress on them (and me). I was trained on how to properly draw blood, secure & ship proper samples, biosecurity, identification of disease and more. The state monitors my procedures and processes to make sure I am using best practices.
I was told that it would be almost impossible for us to obtain the NPIP certification because our birds are on pasture or free range. The program is geared toward confined birds used for industrial agriculture so our pre-industrial methods created some challenges in understanding where we fit in. I am extremely thankful that our state has worked with me so I can meet the needs of our genetics customers as well as those at the farmers markets we attend as well as our own nutritional needs.
More coming on biosecurity soon - we need to protect the biomes of our local farms. Yes, farms have biomes too!
Old Time Farm reproduces all of our poultry and livestock on farm - just like an "Old Time Farm" used to do. We are a true Artisan venture, on a small scale, with attention to quality vs quantity and with an eye towards preserving biodiversity for future generations. Biodiversity in poultry is critical as the commercial genetics are in the hands of a few companies worldwide and are proprietary (cannot be reproduced on farm). Biodiversity allows for strong immune systems, regional adaptation, vigor and hardiness, aesthetic beauty, natural reproduction and regional sustainability.
Before A&P supermarket's 1948 "Chicken of Tomorrow" contest, most poultry was regionally reproduced, grown on small regional farms and people experienced the enhanced flavor, texture and nutrition that pasture raised, truly slow growing poultry offered. Biodiversity was maintained by regional pockets of small farms and homesteads and very seldom were chicks shipped in from commercial hatcheries. The Chicken of Tomorrow contest was the beginning of the commercial chicken of today. If you watch the historical archive video, you will see the more proportional table chicken of yesteryear and the wax model that looks like the commercial chicken you now see in the supermarkets.
The work of the Vantress brothers (mentioned toward the end of the Chicken of Tomorrow Video) is now a subsidiary of Tyson and the commercial poultry genetics are now consolidated into very few companies who keep the parent stock as a proprietary secret so they cannot be reproduced on farms (including the "Freedom Ranger" chicken some mistakenly claim to be a "heritage" chicken but is actually a fast growing commercial type from Hubbard genetics). People often ask if commercial chickens are bloated and abnormally proportioned because of steroids or hormones, but the reality is that we, as consumers, ASKED for that type of chicken and the commercial chicken breeders selected parent birds over time to give us what we asked for - we have the power to reverse this tide before it is too late and bring regionally sustainable poultry production back to our food shed!
Old Time Farm thanks P. Allen Smith for presenting this dilemma to a wider audience in his TED talk titled End of Choice: Diversity Matters if Food Choice is Important to You. It highlights the importance of biodiversity of poultry and livestock genetics and some of the economic benefits they offer the local food shed. I think the point where local people and the general public can become engaged is missed a little bit in the video but we do need to work on getting product to you while remaining financially viable and re-build our local infrastructure. You all buying our products is the key to keeping the highest quality individuals for future generations! We Thank You for your support! PS ... We purchased an American Milking Devon cow from the Swiss Village P. Allen mentions ... Pansy's genetics have been preserved for future generations!
Chicken of Tomorrow Archive video: https://archive.org/details/Chickeno1948
P Allen Smith TED talk: https://youtu.be/yCsGFNHHIQw
Changes In Chicken Weight For Age From Selective Breeding Over Time
A chicken at 56 days of age was less than 2 pounds live weight in 1957, almost 4 pounds in 1978 and over 9 pounds in 2005. Our Chantecler chicks are close to the 2 pound range at 56 days. (approximately 454 grams in a pound.)
Old Time Farm