At Greenfire Farms, we’re on a mission to save some of the world’s rarest chickens. This means that when we import a new breed of chicken it is the first step in an ongoing process of improving bloodlines, creating genetic diversity, and ensuring that the breed can potentially survive for centuries on American soil. So, for example, we may import a small group of chickens only to follow a year later by importing a second unrelated group of the same breed. In the interim, we carefully evaluate and select offspring for inclusion in our breeding programs. This is an expensive and time-consuming series of steps aimed at establishing and then improving these very rare breeds. Essentially, the process of breeding better livestock never ends. This is the only way we can ensure that the gene pools of these ultra-rare breeds remain pure and that the livestock you buy is authentic.
How rare is ultra-rare? Many of our breeds are so rare that they don’t appear on conventional livestock conservation lists. For example, we have chicken breeds at Greenfire Farms that were thought to be extinct until by happenstance a remnant pair is unexpectedly found in a remote farmstead. Every day we peer deeper into the world of ancient livestock –often amazed at what we find– looking for the faint clues that lead us to these almost mythical breeds.
Once we find these breeds and bring them to the farm, we house them in large, well built pens or let them free range. We also supplement their foraging diets with high-quality feeds. Our chicken pens are large, airy enclosures with no solid walls or boxes. This keeps our chickens healthy, hardy, and acclimated to natural temperatures. To reduce the potential for our livestock being exposed to disease, visitors must schedule farm tours in advance and disinfect shoes and hands before entering the farm.
Only the best offspring are kept for breeding or sold as breeding stock to others. We rigorously cull inferior animals or simply ones that no longer promote genetic diversity. “Cull” means to remove the animal from the breeding pool and does not necessarily involve killing the animal. But, the effect is that the culled animal’s genetics will no longer directly be passed on to another generation of Greenfire Farms’ livestock. What can I say? The ghost of Charles Darwin is a frequent visitor on Greenfire Farms. We cull hundreds of chickens a year to reduce our flocks to the few specimens that best reflect the positive attributes of their particular breeds.
This process results in better animals and improvements to these breeds. It also costs a lot of money. Land isn’t cheap, and large pens require a lot of land. Fencing large areas isn’t cheap, nor is high-quality feed or the skilled labor required to intensively manage these animals. We also spend a lot of money innovating; creating new techniques and fabricating custom equipment to make a better process for raising animals. While not every animal we produce is perfect, over time these elements improve not only the livestock we sell but ultimately improve your experience in owning them.