In Their Own Words: Jim Czack of Élevage de Volailles

Jim Czack began Élevage de Volailles, an organic livestock farm, about 14 years ago in the unlikely town of Rye. He and his life and business partner, Annette Young, raise all sorts of poultry, some pigs and sheep, but are especially known for their historically important, endangered and exceedingly succulent Chocolate breed of turkeys.

  • We continue the work begun by 16th century French Jesuits so a French farm name seemed a natural fit. Élevage de Volailles simply means poultry breeding farm.
  • We quickly turned away from the unsustainable model of the supermarket “Butterball” to heritage breeds.
  • Our birds are not inoculated … no growth hormones or antibiotics. They hunt for insects, preen, fly and live as intended. They seek the comfort of each other and their barn roosts at night.
  • Our other livestock is managed with the same philosophy.
  • The hours don’t matter. It’s a way of life. A return to an agrarian society could be the cure to many societal ills we witness.
  • We collect feathers for annual donation to the Portsmouth Fairy House Tour and compost the rest to enrich the soil.
  • People are accustomed to subsidized factory farm prices. Our customers understand they are not buying a bird someone treated unkindly and forced-raised to weight as quickly as possible.
  • Each animal is an individual. Once in a while a special one comes along and you just have to deal with it.

The Chocolate breed of turkeys (so named for the color of their feet and feathers) were just about wiped out by the Civil War, when many of the Southern farmers who raised them never made it back to tend their stock. At one point, only 12 of them existed, according to the Livestock Conservancy, but thanks to heritage breed farmers like Jim and his partner Annette Young (pictured here) they are making a delicious comeback. (

Categories: Q&A