The seed catalogs are coming in. Last night I enjoyed a cup of tea and a good look through the Seed Savers catalog, one of my favorite seed companies. Seed Savers isn’t just my favorite because of all of the amazing seeds that they offer, but also because their non-profit business plan is amazing! To summarize, Seed Savers has collected a community of heirloom gardeners from all over the world who are committed to providing high-quality heirloom seeds and making them available to the public. They are saving plant species that otherwise might be lost forever.
In the same batch of mail, the Murray McMurray catalog also arrived. I love to look at all the vintage illustrations of the chicken breeds and make lists of all the varieties that I’d like to someday breed. Unfortunately, we only have 4 breeding pens right now and it’s stressing me out more than it probably should have to pick out which 4 chicken breeds I want to have this year.
I’ll probably keep our Buff Orpingtons, our French Black Copper Marans, our Wheaten Ameraucana and the White Silkies. Which means I’ll be selling our Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds…and it’s killing me! If I had my druthers I’d build 4 more pens and keep the Leghorn and Reds and add White Crested Polish and Barred Rocks. But space and logistics being what they are…I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
It was in this figuring of space and pens that spurred an idea.
What if I could get together with a friend and co-own different types of chickens? Like my neighbor could raise the Polish and I could raise the Buffs and if she knew someone who wanted Polish, she’d send them my way and vice versa.
In other words…what if there was a breeding cooperative similar to the Seed Saver organization?
There is an organization that exists that is similar to what I’m getting at. The Livestock Conservancy offers breeder lists that interested people can contact and find heritage animals in their area. But this isn’t presented in a catalog/store type of format.
My idea is something of a hatchery type ordering system but with small breeders who raise rare, show quality birds. It would be a catalog/online store type platform. Where customers could place orders for chicks they want. For example say I would like to order 10 (heritage/show quality) Rhode Island Reds, 10 Buff Orpingtons, and 10 Brahmas. Then I would visit the website, select the chicks I’d like in a shopping cart type format. Then the orders would go to the small farm Rhode Island Red Breeder, the Orpington and the Brahma breeder where they would mail directly to the customer.
I feel like this sort of thing would work best with chickens, especially for the convenience of shipping hatching eggs or day-old chicks, but it could be incorporated into other livestock as well. Other poultry or Rabbits may also be a good choice.
An example Mission Statement would be something like the following:
To provide a variety of chicken breeds to customers that are interested in buying heritage breeds, raised by small breeders who are devoted to improving the breed according to the Standard of Perfection.
Breeders could join the co-op for a fee. A portion of the sales may also be collected. This money would be put toward the management of the group, advertising, brand recognition, and exposure through a network of breeders.
New members interested in joining would need to be evaluated along with their stock. Credentials would also play a part, the history in chicken breeding, health screening for the flocks etc.
Having high standards would give incentive to breeders to be allowed to join, and it would ensure customers of quality animals.
It would be built on small farming and breeders who specify in improving only one or two breeds. You wouldn’t be buying from a bulk producer, you’d be buying from someone who is obsessed with their specific chicken. Who spends years improving the lines.
I would love to hear your ideas on this. I’m half writing this post as inspiration for our readers, and half thinking about starting one myself. So any suggestions on how this could work I would invite with enthusiasm!
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below! Do you know of organizations like this? Would this be something you’d be interesting in starting, supporting or participating in?