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The Basics of Chicken Breeding

The Basics of Chicken Breeding will take place at the Oak Spring Bio- Cultural Conservation Farm in Upperville for a workshop on the basics of chicken breeding on Saturday March 18 and Sunday March 19.

The chicken has been providing humans with eggs, meat, and entertainment for the past 10,000 years. Cultures and civilizations all over the world have developed breeds of chickens for specific uses, resulting in over 1,600 breeds present today. The purpose of this course is to provide participants with a basic understanding of what it takes to breed heritage standard chickens, along with developing and maintaining new breeds and hybrids with personally selected traits. Participants will be able to interact with the BCCF's heritage and locally bred chicken flock to gain knowledge on the systems and processes involved with selecting, breeding, incubating, hatching, and raising chicken breeds. Topics of conversation will include breeding for productivity, historical preservation, cultural heritage, ecological adaptation, culinary properties, and aesthetics. Finally, participants will be able to propose and work through their own hypothetical or real chicken breeding program design involving anything from hatching procedures to disease control.

Please note: This event does not include a tour of Little Oak Spring including the Library, Formal Garden, or Landscape.

Workshop Schedule (subject to change):

Saturday, March 18

  • 9:00 AM | Arrival at Oak Spring

  • 9:00 - 12:00 PM | Lecture on Key Elements of Selection & Discussion

  • 12:00 - 1:00 PM | Lunch

  • 1:00 - 4:00 PM | Hands-on Chicken Evaluation

  • 4:00 PM | Adjourn

Sunday, March 19

  • 9:00 AM | Arrival at Oak Spring

  • 9:00 - 12:00 PM | Lecture on Facilities, Equipment, and Breeding Patterns

  • 12:00 - 1:00 PM | Lunch

  • 1:00 - 2:00 PM | Discussion on Individual, Industrial, Community Breeding

  • 2:30 - 4:00 PM | Breeding Project

  • 4:00 PM - Adjourn

Precautions Expected of All Attendees:

Because of the current environment surrounding Avian Influenza and other poultry-affecting diseases, we are asking participants of the Basics of Chicken Breeding Workshop to join us in taking the following extremely important precautions.

This list mainly pertains to anyone who works with poultry either at home, for their job or both. For those who do not interact with poultry on a regular basis, these precautions are still important to read, understand, and partake in.

  • No participant should travel to the workshop immediately after having contact with any other domesticated poultry. If morning poultry chores are necessary, participants should change all clothing and footwear prior to arriving at the workshop.

  • Come with 2 pairs of footwear, one for use while in chicken spaces and one for use outside of chicken spaces.

  • Make sure all outerwear clothing, i.e. jackets, boots, pants, hats, gloves, are cleaned or sanitized before showing up to the course on Saturday and Sunday and do not come in contact with any outside poultry for the duration of the course weekend.

  • Boots worn in the chicken coop can be left at OSGF overnight for the second day of the workshop.

  • Hands should be washed and sanitized, and nitrile gloves should be worn prior to handling any OSGF poultry.

  • Prior to stepping into the chicken coop and after stepping out of the chicken coop, a bleach bath will be provided for footwear.

  • Clothing worn in the presence of OSGF poultry should be changed or washed prior to visiting any other domesticated birds.

Questions or concerns regarding biosecurity can be directed to Nick Sette | nick@osgf.og

What to Bring:

  • A pair of boots and a secondary pair of shoes

  • Weather-appropriate clothing that can get dirty

  • Notebook or laptop to take notes on

  • Water bottle

Complimentary Items: A boxed lunch will be provided on Saturday and the group will have a catered lunch on Sunday. When purchasing ticket(s) for the Saturday lunch, you will select either: 1) A turkey sandwich or 2) A gluten-free, vegan option. Exact menus will be determined closer to the date of the event. All lunches will include a small side such as a fruit salad, or chips. Please note that unfortunately, we cannot accommodate specific dietary needs. If you have dietary restrictions and are unable to eat the provided lunch, please plan to pack a lunch.

What To Expect:

Please expect several hours of moderate walking across hilly fields and similar uneven terrain. Participants should arrive with proper footwear, and sufficient water, and dress appropriately for the weather, rain or shine. Binoculars and digital cameras are encouraged.


It is recommended that participants are individuals seriously interested in learning about the topic of chicken breeding. There will be minimal instruction on chicken care and only as it pertains to the breeding process.

About The Instructor:

Jason Myers-Benner is a farmer, plant breeder, and chicken breeder at his family’s Tangly Woods Farm in Keezletown, Virginia. Jason has been interested in chicken care and breeding since his parents started their own home flock when he was just eight years old. Since that time Jason's life has nearly always had a chicken component, caring for his own flock in his high school years, initiating independent research in undergrad, and, with the family’s home flocks in adulthood, experimenting with cross-breeding out of fascination and as a way to contribute to the sustainability of agriculture. Currently, Jason has developed 4 separate breeds of chicken specific to the Shenandoah Valley region and all serve their own separate purpose, from the backyard chicken keeper's Blacks Run Browns to the productive and well-adapted pasture chicken, the Shenandoah, Jason, and his family have developed chickens for several distinct purposes. With Jason's experiences breeding heritage-type varieties of chickens to better support ecologically-minded farmers in our region of the country, he is a unique resource for all things chicken breeding.

Thanks to our partnership with SARE-Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education there

are scholarships available to cover the cost of this workshop for select participants. If you are interested in this workshop and need financial assistance, please reach out to


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