When my husband Jae and I began our poultry farm two decades ago, we didn’t just buy a few (okay … three dozen) starter chicks. We also invested in the best feeders, waterers, toys, hoppers, supplements—you name it—that we could buy. The “best” we determined via online reviews and recommendations from flock-owning friends.
Our new-owner enthusiasm didn’t stop there, however. We joined the American Poultry Association, the American Bantam Association, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, our state’s grassroots poultry association, about a half-dozen Facebook poultry groups, and several online poultry-chat sites. We also joined the national breed club for every breed of chicken we were raising. I even co-founded my town’s chicken-owners association.
Fast-forward 20-odd years to find us active in just two groups, not two dozen: the renamed Livestock Conservancy and our local chicken-owners association. Over the years, as we revised the breeds we raise and our chicken-rearing goals redefined themselves, what we needed from poultry organizations also changed. We found ourselves wishing to support efforts to conserve and promote vanishing breeds … and as the founder of our local grassroots group, I couldn’t just quit.
What’s right for us as flock owners, however, isn’t necessarily right for you. You may not even wish to join a poultry community, and that’s perfectly acceptable. My grandmother never belonged to one, and she raised her hens just fine.
For those curious about what poultry associations there are and whether one or more match your fowl-raising philosophy, here’s a rundown of the six most popular types.
Founded in 1873, the APA encourages the breeding and exhibiting of purebred poultry. It publishes the American Standards of Perfection, the metrics by which all purebred birds are judged. The APA supports sanctioned poultry exhibitions throughout North America, licenses judges who officiate at these poultry shows, and presents educational programs to help develop youth into tomorrow’s purebred flock keepers.
Similarly, the ABA sets the standards for all bantam poultry in North America, sponsoring meets across the continent to increase awareness of purebred bantams and to create a more cohesive, cooperative community of bantam breeders. Both associations are strictly administered by directors and district representatives who serve specific terms in office. Membership fees cover the cost of the annual yearbook and quarterly newsletter and support the revision and publication of the Standards (APA) and Bantam Standards (ABA).
Like the APA and the ABA, the Livestock Conservancy focuses on purebreds. However, instead of encouraging their rearing and exhibition, the Livestock Conservancy’s emphasis is on heritage breeds that are on the brink of extinction in North America.
Every year, the organization publishes its Conservation Priority List, which details the breeds that are critically endangered, threatened, or bear watching and studying. Membership fees help fund the organization’s many conservation, research and educational programs, including microgrants for heritage breeders working to restore biodiversity in their communities and regions.
In the 21st-century technological society, there seems to be little interest in fostering future agriculturalists. Fortunately, two organizations ensure that today’s youths become tomorrow’s farmers and agricultural scientists. The Future Farmers of America and 4-H both strive to empower children and provide them with the skills, education and training to succeed in the agrarian fields.
While these groups focus on young people, adults are very much welcome and needed to serve as volunteers, advisors and mentors.
Most heritage poultry breeds have a national organization that promotes the breeding and rearing of their bird of choice. Each organization functions differently, its purpose determined by the group’s founders and directors.
Some are more of a club where people who raise the same breed can share experiences, offer advice, and enjoy friendship and community. Others strictly focus on the betterment of their breed and adhering to the Standards of Perfection. Still others focus on the promotion of their breed, with regional or state representatives hosting mini-meets at local poultry exhibitions to spread the word about their group and their chicken breed.
There are even associations whose mission is to have more varieties of their breed recognized by the APA. Locate your breed’s national organization by conducting an Internet search for your poultry breed’s name and “national club” or “national organization.” Then spend some time exploring their web site to determine if the association matches what you’re looking for in a breeders’ group.
Internet poultry groups number in the thousands, each slightly different from the other, including:
- Bulletin-board web-page groups, where members post a question and other members chime in with advice
- Buy-sell-trade groups, where members post photos of birds they want to sell or purchase
- “Chicken train” groups, whose members help transport purchased birds from one geographical location to another
- Mutual-admiration societies, where members share photos of their adorable chicks and beautiful chickens
- Chat groups, where members freely discuss any aspect of flock keeping they so wish
One positive about online chicken groups is that they are free to join. You simply click join and are either approved on the spot or after a moderator reviews your request. Another positive about online chicken groups is that you can leave whenever you wish.
Many communities have their own poultry-owners association, a place where backyard and hobby-farm flock owners can chat, support each other, and promote chicken ownership.
Some municipalities require permitted flock owners to join the local poultry group as part of their requirements for flock ownership. Others are completely organized and operated by the poultry owners themselves.
A huge bonus to a local poultry community is that any hatching eggs, chicks or birds offered for sale are just minutes away versus in another state. Local clubs can also guide members towards the best deals in town for feed and equipment … and inform them of what stores to avoid. Another positive is that, because membership is within the community, real-life friendships can develop between flock owners and local events, like a tour de coop or a poultry swap, can be organized and offered.