Tomorrow is the day! We will be taking a road-trip to Kansas to pick up some amazing Barred Rock hatching eggs from Frank Reese at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch. I have been looking at (and drooling over) his birds since shortly after I got my first hatchery Barred Rock chicks. But at that time he was not selling chicks or eggs, so the only way to get any was to find another breeder/chicken keeper who had purchased some of his birds previously. The scary part of that is that I’ve been scammed by “breeders” before, claiming to sell me pure bred chicks that turned out to be mutts. I had actually been talking to a few different people about getting some birds that were supposedly from his strain, but was moving cautiously, when I heard that Good Shepherd was again offering it’s beautiful birds to the public.
The history of Great Shepherd Poultry’s strain of Barred Rocks. (Photos from GSPR’s website and Facebook page with Frank’s permission)
Frank Reese got his stock from Ralph Sturgeon who got his stock from E.B. Thompson. E.B. Thompson is widely recognized as one of the greatest breeders of Barred Rocks in history. He won the Madison Square Garden poultry shows for 26 years straight in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s. His Barred Rocks were known as Imperial Ringlets because of their perfect ring of barring that resembles a necklace.
Both Mr. Sturgeon and Mr. Reese have practiced closed flock breeding to preserve Mr. Thompson’s beautiful strain. Mr. Reese has worked for decades to educate the public about the benefits of pure bred heritage strains of poultry. He feels that an important part of preserving these flocks is reintroducing them to the public as meat birds.
Modern grocery store chickens are an industry created cross-bred bird that has no quality of life and no ability to reproduce itself. They grow amazingly fast, reaching butcher weight in weeks. They are fat and practically immobile, often suffering leg breaks because their thin brittle bones cannot support their weight. Heritage birds are full of flavor. They barely resemble the spongy, bland chicken we have all become accustomed to.
In addition to their superiority as meat birds, these Barred Rocks are gorgeous with clean barring and almost perfect type according to the Standard of Perfection (the authority for chicken shows across America). Well-bred birds of this strain win shows across the nation every year.
I am so excited to get started with these beautiful birds. I can’t wait to fill you in on our trip to Kansas to meet Mr. Reese and to share with you the journey as we incubate and then raise some beautiful Barred Rock chicks.