About Heritage Chickens

This Article Has Been Revised: Visit HERE for Updated Version

Definition: Standard breeds of chickens as defined by the American Poultry Association that are naturally mating, long-lived, and slow growing.

The Livestock Conservancy now lists over three-dozen breeds of chickens in danger of extinction. Extinction of a breed would mean the irrevocable loss of the genetic resources and options it embodies.

Where to Find Heritage Chickens

Note: The Livestock Conservancy encourages contacting the hatchery directly to determine the breeds of birds available and to determine whether these are in fact Heritage Chickens.

The Livestock Conservancy also maintains a list of Heritage Chicken breeders in its Breeders Directory.

This is a compilation of images taken of a variety of heritage breeds that were photographed by Conservancy staff at several poultry shows.

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Chickens are NOT House Pets

Chickens live in coops and barns, and people live in houses. A rule that should be followed for good reason… but isn’t always.

Keeping a chicken in the house is absolutely definitely not okay! Nevertheless, people do it all the time. While you enjoy the benefits of backyard chickens and other poultry, it is important to consider the risk of illness, especially for children, which can result from handling live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.

I’ve seen chick brooders in kitchens, family rooms, and even in bedrooms where children sleep. Worse yet, there are pics of mature chickens all over the internet roaming free in family households. Even a short visit from a curious chicken that wanders through an open back door tells me there are serious flaws in a chicken keeper’s set-up.

There should always be what I call a clean area between the coop and a family home. There shouldn’t be a trace of chicken poop in the clean area, not even from your footwear. It’s a good practice to leave your boots outside the clean area, this will help keep contaminants at bay. Poultry droppings should never be present where they can be tracked into the house or where children play.

As far as baby chicks go, they don’t need to be inside your home. Radiant heat or a heat lamp in a garage or barn that protects them from drafts is perfectly suitable.  If it isn’t, then chicks are being purchased at the wrong time of the year. Buy in the spring when it’s easier to manage temperatures.

You can never be sure chicks shipped from hatcheries are healthy. In a recent outbreak, more than 350 people were infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport, or Salmonella Hadar across 43 states, and 33% were hospitalized. The majority of these cases were from mail-order chicks shipped to backyard chicken keepers.

Whether chicks from a hatchery, the neighbor’s pampered flock, or your very own birds, be safe, and responsible, keep them in their own area, and out of the family home.


People get sick from Salmonella through hand-to-mouth contact. Usually, this happens when people handle birds or their droppings and then accidentally touch their mouths or forget to wash their hands before eating or drinking.
Even birds that do not look sick may be shedding Salmonella. And even though a bird looks clean, it may still have germs like Salmonella on its feathers or feet.

Safety Tips for Poultry Keepers

  • Don’t let children younger than 5 years of age, older adults, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Don’t let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios. In recent outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry, ill people reported bringing live poultry into their homes.

Disinfectants for Good Poultry Housekeeping

• Roccal®: Mix 1/2 fluid oz of Roccal per gallon of water.
• Nolvasan® (chlorhexidine diacetate 2 percent): Mix
• 3 fluid oz of Nolvasan per gallon of water.
• Household bleach (sodium hypochlorite 6 percent):
• Mix 3/4 cup of household bleach per gallon of water.
• Lysol® spray for footwear
• Purell® hand pump for hand disinfection

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Hatcheries and Supplies Index

Our Favorite Hatcheries and Retailers
( Updated Jan. 2023)

My Pet Chicken

Backyard chickens are rewarding and easy to keep! We offer everything you need to get started including baby chicks, fertile hatching eggs, chicken coops and supplies, plus free “how to” information.

Murray McMurray

At Murray McMurray Hatchery, we provide the highest quality poultry and auxiliary products to our customers and have been a trusted, knowledgeable industry resource for over 100 years. Whether you are an experienced or novice enthusiast, we are sure you will enjoy our wide selection of breeds and supplies to assist you with raising your flock.

Cackle Hatchery

We are a 3rd generation family-owned and operated hatchery offering over 202 varieties of poultry shipped directly from our facility here in Missouri. We specialize in hatching purebred poultry and shipping day-old chicks right to your local post office since 1936.

Meyer Hatchery

We Are America’s Premier Poultry Source! We pride ourselves on selection, quality, and customer service.

Arcada Pet Supplies

Arcata Pet is proud to provide a selection of poultry products that serve owners of backyard and exhibition chickens.
* Best place for leg I.D. Bands

Ideal Poultry

IDEAL POULTRY is a family-owned and operated business founded in 1937 and located in Cameron, Texas.
The largest supplier of backyard poultry in the U.S., shipping nearly 5 million chicks annually.


eFowl has been around the backyard chickens space for over ten years. Chickens for sale directly from chicken hatcheries near you. eFowl partners with popular chicken farms to offer you the best way to buy pet chickens or live chicks for sale.


From eggs to adults, incubators to nest boxes, Stromberg’s Chicks and Game Birds has been bringing our customers quality poultry and reliable equipment with our friendly customer service staff since 1921.

Fleming Outdoors

Fleming Outdoors is an online farm supply & outdoor store that has over 30 years of experience in the farming and outdoors industry.

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Help for Determining the Sex of Silkie Bantams

It’s difficult, but not totally impossible to determine the sex of a Silkie. There are signs that can help you long before the first egg or crow of a rooster. Behavior and size can be good indications of sex.

Roosters are often bold, have that sturdy or stronger look, and sometimes they are larger. These are noticeable traits, even when chicks are still in the brooder.  Look for the brighter, or sharper distinctions of color in birds when they reach 8 or 9 weeks. Roosters seem to stand out more, dazzling you with a little wow factor.

These Silkies are all just under 3 months old, 2 white, and 2 buffs. The white Silkie pictured below is probably a rooster. He is much larger and has been at the top of the pecking order since the second week of life. The size between pic 1 and 2 is obvious, recognizing behavior traits is something you’ll notice by watching your own birds.

Jo, Silkie 12-17-14
Probably a Rooster
Pat, Silkie 12-17-14
Probably A Pullet
Fanny 2 Silkie 12-17-14
Probably a Rooster

All we really can do is learn the behavior traits of roosters and recognize indications such as size. But I must admit, I’ve been absolutely positive about having a Silkie rooster… and been surprised 6 months later when it laid an egg.  Gotta love those Silkie Bantams!

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