This year more than 44 billion chickens will be raised worldwide, and virtually every single one will be a copy of the next. Each is part of the global poultry monoculture that supports industrial agriculture. And yet, if you look hard enough for long enough you can find chickens that rescue us from this vast crushing sameness; birds extraordinary, rare and dazzlingly unique. At Greenfire Farms, our mission is to find and save these obscure breeds for an uncertain future when their genetic gifts are once again called into service. This is nothing less than a revolution, and all revolutions start with a small group of people. This is your revolution, too.
Greenfire Farms has scoured the globe, looking in isolated hamlets and small farmsteads, to find and bring you some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful chickens. In the past decade, Americans have rallied to conserve our threatened breeds and, through the efforts of excellent organizations like the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, are bringing back rare varieties of livestock from the brink of extinction. But we can do more.
In the last century more than half of Europe’s domestic breeds have become extinct. With two world wars, rapid urbanization, and heightened government regulation, maintaining viable populations of livestock breeds has become a daunting challenge. America can serve as a safe haven for some of these breeds. No domestic breed has become extinct in America in more than a quarter century. While this record is laudable, now is not the time for complacency. We need your help. You can play a critical role on a global stage by raising rare breeds of chickens from other countries.
Among the breeds we will be bringing to the United States are:
This large heritage breed chicken from Austria is a dual purpose bird that lays an abundance of cream colored eggs. Greenfire Farms imported the lemon cuckoo variety. This variety is not auto-sexing, although some of the other color varieties of the Niederrheiner do have this capability. “Niederrhein” means “Lower Rhine” and it was in this region where the breed was developed by two local poultry hobbyists in the 1920s using a number of breeds including the Flemish Cuckoo, Malines, Plymouth Rock, Faverolle, and Belgian gamefowl. The Niederrheiner was admitted to the German breed standard in 1943.
Gold Duckwing Kraienkoppe
In 2013, we imported gold duckwing Kraienkoppes from Europe. We were prepared to be find them interesting, but what we weren’t prepared for was an encounter with one of the most beautiful chicken varieties we’ve ever seen. They instantly became a farm favorite. The roosters and very large, powerful, and have a gorgeous color pattern that consists of shades of orange and gold set off against deep black. With their tidy walnut combs they are as sleek and elegant as any breed imaginable. Our birds have shown no human aggression, but we pity the hawk that tries to take a hen from a Kraienkoppe rooster. These are the first gold duckwing Kraienkoppes to make it to our shores, and we will be releasing this variety in limited numbers in the fall of 2014.
Fifty Five Flowery Hens
Fifty Five Flowery Hens were created –spoiler alert!—in 1955 in Sweden by Father Martin Silverudd, also the creator of the Isbar. Fifty Fives were the first breed invented by Silverudd and over a half-century have proven to be his most successful creation. While the half-dozen or so of the Silverudd chicken breeds have largely slid into obscurity, Fifty Fives remain in a few commercial flocks in their native country. Fifty Fives deliver on the goals initially established by Silverudd: Create an auto-sexing chicken that produces eggs for the table in commercial quantities. Using different varieties of leghorns Silverudd created a breed where the rooster looks very different than the hen throughout its life. As a day-old chick the males are easy to distinguish by the blonde down on the backs of their heads, and as adults the males are largely white while the females are decorated with a beautiful spotted pattern; the ‘flowers’ that contribute to the breed name. Greenfire Farms was the first to import this breed into the United States and will be releasing them in the spring of 2014.
The Yamato Gunkei is an ancient ornamental fowl from Japan that was bred to extraordinary effect by exaggerating a number of physical traits. It is the largest of the small Shamo breeds, and it has the muscular dinosaur-like legs and feet of the Shamo family. Its breast muscles are so large that they part the feathers to reveal deep red skin underneath. But, its most striking feature is its wrinkled face; wrinkles that begin at a few months of age and that quickly multiply as the bird grows older. Yamato Gunkei are among the easiest chickens to tame, and with little effort they will be eating out of your hand. Their weirdly beautiful appearance and extremely extroverted personalities coupled with their quiet nature makes them an excellent choice for the backyard hobbyist who wants something akin to a small pet dinosaur but doesn’t want to bother the neighbors.