Our mission is to raise heritage poultry in a natural environment. This provides a full and natural life for the birds while raising the highest quality meat for the table. Our birds roam freely in pasture and woodlands, spend their days relaxing in the shade of pine trees, hunting insects, lolling in the sun and playing in water. They are confined at night for protection from predators. Our flocks include heritage breeds of ducks and chickens, and Embden geese. We raise heritage French Duclair and British Silver Appleyard ducks. We also maintain a small flock of Muscovy ducks.
We embarked on a very ambitious project to raise and compare fifteen different breeds of heritage chickens in 2016. The birds were assessed for temperament, taste, health and growth rate. Our chicken breeds for 2016 included Barbexieux, Barnvelder, Barred Rock, Bielefelder, Brahma, Bresse, Buckeye, Buff Orpington, Delaware, Dorking, Malines, Marans, Neiderrheiner, Rhode Island Red, Sulmtaler and Speckled Sussex. The project culminated in a series of blind tasting of our birds. These included “double-blind” tests, in which neither the chef nor the tasters knew the identity of the birds until after everyones impressions were recorded.
From these studies, we chose to focus on American Bresse and Belgium Malines chickens, and in 2017 we selected breeding stock for these rare breeds. The American Bresse are the progeny of Bresse chickens imported from France by Greenfire Farm of Florida, an important importer of rare breeds from all over the world. The Poulet de Bresse is one of the world’s most famous chickens, and is widely regarded as one of the great examples of Haute French cuisine. The Malines, from Belgium, are less well known outside of Europe, but this was our personal favorite. We purchased American Bresse and Malines chicks from Greenfire Farms in 2016 and 2017. In order to broaden our genetic pool, we purchased additional Bresse and Malines chicks from a handful of small farms across the USA that specialize in these rare breeds. There were four genetically distinct importations of Bresse chickens to the United States, our breeding stock includes 3 of these blood lines.
In the spring of 2016 we also raised and tasted several duck breeds, and selected French Duclair and British Silver Appleyard ducks to raise. Starting from Embden breeding stock, we first hatched and raised goslings in 2016. In early 2017 we added French Toulouse geese to our breeding stock, and now each spring we hatch Embden, Toulouse and Embden/Toulouse F1 hybrids. Geese will be available by pre-order for the 2019 Holiday season from September 2019 through November 15th. We ask that you consider a Thanksgiving goose instead of the traditional turkey. Because of the labor involved in caring for large birds in freezing weather, we will harvest all geese by Thanksgiving, keeping only our breeding stock and birds pre-ordered for Christmas or New Years. We have a limited supply of geese, reservations are strongly recommended.
Our birds are processed in local, family-run independent NYS-5A inspected plants. Waterfowl are processed at Pick of the Pasture in Hoosic Falls NY. Chickens are processed either at Pick of the Pasture, or at Old Hibernia Farm in Salt Point, NY. These facilities are very clean and professionally run, and the birds are handled humanely throughout. Humane treatment of our birds is of paramount importance to us.
We sell our whole birds to individuals and to local restaurants and retail stores. We sell our value added foods directly to the consumer at local farmers markets. We are vendors at the Troy Waterfront (Troy NY), Rosendale (Rosendale NY) and Dirty Girl Farm (Andes NY) Farmers Markets , and our products may be ordered on line and picked up at your local market. Because our birds are processed under NYS inspection, they may ONLY be sold in NYS, we do not ship birds at this time. We hope to offer NYC pick-up later in 2019.
Our birds are quite different in flavor and texture from commercial poultry, and call for different techniques in the kitchen. These are classic birds, and they pair well with classic cuisine. In the winter of 2017, we began working with a close friend, Russel Oliver of Kerhonkson NY, an artisan cheesemaker and extraordinary cook. Out of this exploration of recipes that best showcase our birds arose the initial methods we use to prepare smoked duck breasts. In the past year, we have worked with these techniques and others to create the products that we now sell. Our current offerings include duck and goose breasts and legs smoked with Apple, Cherry and Hickory woods, duck and goose leg confit, paleo bone broth and rendered fat.
Our Background Story
Introducing Polly Gregor and Brian Guillorn, owners of Bonticou Ducks
We first came to the Hudson Valley in 1993, the year our third child was born. We were weekenders for several decades, commuting most weekends from professional jobs in New York City to more relaxing weekends upstate in the Hudson Valley, gardening, hiking and watching our three children and our pet dogs run free. During those years, we made many friends among the local farmers. We especially enjoyed attending granges and county fairs in the summer.
When we relocated to High Falls full time in 2015, we bought a small number of Muscovy ducklings for our amusement, and with a thought to supplement our table. Of course, the ducklings needed a house to live in, so as they grew up (temporarily) in our study, we built a small shed for them. We had never built anything like a shed before, so the ducklings had to wait over three weeks for their house to be ready, but they settled in nicely. They were joined by a few chickens, then a few geese, until we found ourselves taking orders from local restaurants.
Polly’s background is in molecular and tumor immunology, Brian’s background is in civil litigation, and we endeavor to adopt our skills to animal husbandry and growing a small business. Polly concentrates on animal care, flock management and marketing, Brian handles the business side of the business, and our children assist in animal care and many useful suggestions, as well as acting as tasters and contributing to recipes.
We are second career farmers, we did not grow up on farms, nor were we born to farming families. This has advantages and disadvantages. One obvious disadvantage is that we have no generational knowledge on which to rely, no family elder that we can ask when we want to solve a problem, plan land use, or buy or fix equipment. However, that is also in some ways a strength, as there is no-one to tell us that we must do things in the customary or practical way. This allows us to make more mistakes, but also to attempt things that are more unusual, even foolishly ambitious. Instead of raising “meat” chickens and “egg layers” we raise heritage breeds, because we want to raise the best tasting chickens in the world. Instead of buying day old chicks and ducklings, we hatch out the vast majority of our birds in semi antique redwood cabinet incubators. Instead of housing our birds in efficient but crowded mobile coops, they are protected from predators by electrified poultry netting, but given freedom to live in nature. Instead of raising our goslings in feed lots, they are raised in groups of 20 or more under the watchful eye of their parents.
We try to learn from our experiences and improve our methods and our products each year. We hope you enjoy our birds and we welcome your feedback.