His Coop Runneth Over

Chicken

Meet Paul Bradshaw, who raises 19 breeds of rare chickens, ranging from “the American Bresse to the Tolbent Polish,” which are in such demand that they “often come with waiting lists.” He even has helped pull some types of chickens back from the edge of near extinction. Who buys the birds?

He caters to a finicky crowd: Eighty to ninety percent of Greenfire’s customers, Bradshaw says, are backyard hobbyists. Backyard hobbyists tend to get classed as dilettantes more concerned with the aesthetic appeal of the $1,500 chicken coop they’ve ordered from Williams-Sonoma. Not so, says Bradshaw. “They have very specific ideas of what they want in a chicken. They want the best. They’ll pay $1,000 for a chicken if they know they’re getting the best.

“They’re hardcore,” he says. “They weigh their eggs and count them, and they’ll butcher a chicken. They’re serious about retaining the food value of these birds, and that’s really kind of our market.”

The reasons for the uptick in their popularity:

Bradshaw credits the boom in business to three factors that converged over the past several years. “There’s been the broad environmental movement trend, which has been going on for the last 50 years. Then there was the recession, which gave rise to the self-sufficiency trend, where it was destabilized enough that people started to worry about their own food supply. And then there was the local food movement. Chickens,” Bradshaw says, “became the gateway livestock for people in America.”

(Photo by Katie Brady)