People who breed and show poultry are in the fancy. Most of these folks have one or two breeds that they’ve fallen in love with. They start out by buying a trio (one rooster and two hens) and start raising their own birds. They try to breed the most beautiful and true-to-type chickens that they can. Then they take them to shows. Their flocks get bigger. They find their weekends taken up by traveling to poultry shows. It’s fun and a good community to be part of.
I’m not in the fancy. I can’t keep roosters here, so I’m not a breeder. I just like having my few hens to provide eggs and humor to my day. But those poultry shows are more important to all of us all than just as a hobby for some folks. Without backyard breeder flocks, the chickens that we love – the silkies and cochins and houdans – wouldn’t be around today. Industrial poultry producers rely on a very, very limited genetic pool for their birds. They are uninterested in broodiness, personality, color and feather type. All they care about is feed conversion, growth rate and egg production. Snowball (that little hen pictured at the top of this page) wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the fancy.
These days, sustainability, diversity, buying local, and small-scale agriculture are all buzz words. Well, if you’re talking about local eggs and pastured chickens, it starts with the smaller hatcheries, 4-H, and the poultry fancy. There are organizations who work to keep the old breeds around. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is one.