Royal, January 20, 2024.
Mandelyn, American Bresse breeder since 2016, is spearheading the education and organization of the national American Bresse Breed Club. This is her bio.
Mandelyn was born and raised in southwestern Ohio, surrounded by the lush landscapes of the region. She discovered her lifelong passions for poultry and birds at an early age, quickly forming a deep connection with the avian world.
From the bustling activity of backyard chickens to the delicate art of wildlife rehabilitation for a variety of avian species, Mandelyn's childhood and adolescence were marked by an unwavering love for aviculture.
As the daughter of a family deeply rooted in the agrarian traditions of Appalachian homesteading, Mandelyn's interest in birds evolved into a comprehensive understanding of various poultry breeds. It helped that the extended family homestead in southeastern Tennessee was brimming with a diverse range of farm fowl. This became her playground during family visits.
Whether tending to productive layers, appreciating the distinct qualities of table birds, or marveling at the ornamental allure of certain fowl, Mandelyn's fascination with poultry was nurtured by the collective wisdom of her elders.
Her journey into the world of poultry officially began in 1989 when she got her first flock from chickens obtained from her Tennessee family. This foundational experience ignited her curiosity about the intricate world of trait expression in feather patterns and the overall aesthetics of chickens. She nurtured her diverse flock; every hatch became a canvas of genetic surprises, offering hands-on education in the fascinating realm of poultry genetics.
As adulthood beckoned, the demands of higher education and career development led to a dispersal of her initial flock. The hiatus that followed spanned a decade.
During that time, Mandelyn Royal immersed herself in the world of Cosmetology school, marriage, and a managerial role at a salon. Simultaneously, her husband's military service took them abroad, first to Germany and then to several U.S. duty stations.
In Germany, Mandelyn seized the opportunity to explore her passions beyond poultry. While her love for birds endured, she delved into the realms of German Shepherds and horses, frequenting the local Schutzhund Club and riding stables. The cultural contrast in pet ownership practices between Germany and the United States became evident, with dogs being a ubiquitous presence in public spaces, well-trained and obedient.
The culinary landscape in Germany also left a lasting impression on Mandelyn. Family-owned eateries, characterized by meticulous attention to detail, transformed dining into an immersive experience. This culinary appreciation became a personal challenge for Mandelyn upon returning home — an attempt to recreate the depth of experience in her own kitchen.
Upon resettling in Southwestern Ohio, Mandelyn eagerly revived her connection with poultry.
Acquiring a new flock became one of her initial priorities, and this time, she faced the challenge of acclimating her two German Shepherds to the presence of chickens. Her flock focused on egg production; a small group of 8 hens of various breeds became her backyard companions. The desire to deepen her understanding of poultry prompted her to venture into hatching eggs again, necessitating the acquisition of a new incubator.
Living in an urban setting, Mandelyn Royal found that the limitations on flock size were accompanied by an abundance of extra cockerels. Urban areas were witnessing a surge in backyard poultry enthusiasts, leading to many surplus cockerels that faced uncertain fates.
A visit to the grocery store served as a pivotal moment when Mandelyn, surrounded by packaged chicken, pondered the potential fate of her own surplus cockerels. Thus was born the idea of transitioning her flock from a focus on egg production to a dual-purpose approach encompassing both eggs and meat.
The decision to embrace a dual-purpose flock marked a paradigm shift for Mandelyn. While she was aware of the existence of meat chickens, laying chickens, and novelty breeds, the revelation that true dual-purpose chickens were relatively scarce launched her into uncharted territory.
The disparity in taste, size, and texture between her homegrown cockerels and commercial poultry prompted her to explore the intricacies of sustainable breeding practices.
As Mandelyn dug deeper into the realm of poultry genetics, it became evident that the path she was forging required more space. The quest for a larger property became a necessity, and after a patient three-year search, Arcadian Orchard emerged as the realization of her vision. The property, named in homage to an idyllic orchard, became the canvas for her sustainable poultry farming dreams.
The transformation of Arcadian Orchard became a collaborative project. Her husband refurbished the barn on the property, and Mandelyn assumed a managerial role at a local hardware store in order to source (afford!) the seemingly never ending need for building materials. Sleepless nights were spent building pens together and repairing siding.
Gardening too became a much loved hobby in the pursuit of home grown food sources, with its own learning curve and the need to experiment in order to find what varieties worked the best for the climate and soil type of the region.
The expansion of the flock prompted Mandelyn to immerse herself in extensive research on chicken breeds and varieties. Taking a systematic approach, she evaluated performance, retention, and continuous refinement of breeding techniques.
The realization dawned that to truly enhance her flock, Mandelyn needed to deepen her understanding of breeding poultry, transitioning from merely hatching to orchestrating the genetic tapestry of her flock.
Passionate about her newfound role as a breeder, Mandelyn began documenting her experiences and sharing perspectives through writing. Attending poultry shows and engaging with breeders, producers, and hobbyists became integral to her learning journey. It became her personal mission to elevate her flock to its full potential.
The introduction of American Bresse chickens marked a transformative phase in Mandelyn's journey.
A small group of processed American Bresse cockerels also served as a culinary revelation. "Oh yeah," Mandelyn says, "That first Bresse dinner sealed the deal after everything else we had tried!"
The American Bresse birds showcased the differences in meat texture, skin thickness, fat layering, and the mildness of dark meat thighs, along with other differences. These distinctions fueled Mandelyn's culinary experimentation, pushing her to explore proper cooking techniques that would complement the unique qualities of the American Bresse.
Over the next seven years, Mandelyn diligently worked to expand her American Bresse flock while phasing out other chicken breeds. Her commitment to sustainability, purebred poultry, and culinary excellence became the cornerstone of Arcadian Orchard.
Mandelyn has found herself in the role of Breed Ambassador for the American Bresse, and many say she is filling the role very well. Her enthusiasm and gift for teaching and educating has been a huge help to many, both to beginners and diehard breeders.
Eager to share her experiences and knowledge, Mandelyn utilizes social media platforms to connect with those interested in establishing sustainable, purebred poultry flocks.
She established, and serves in admin and group expert roles, on these Facebook channels:
As interest in the breed continues to skyrocket, membership levels in these Facebook groups continue to rise; the groups are a rich source of information, education, and networking.
Mandelyn maintains her personal YouTube channel which operates under the name Arcadian Orchard: Arcadian Orchard on YouTube
This is where her many YouTube videos are posted, which serve as visual documentation of her journey. The many glimpses into the daily operations of her farm are helpful and illuminating.
Mandelyn was also given the honor of becoming a co-host of the Poultry Keepers Podcast with Rip Stalvey and John Gunterman. Here is where she delves into the diverse aspects of poultry keeping while offering insights and expertise.
Mandelyn was, she says, "prompted/goaded" into establishing an American Bresse Breed Club. For sure, her enthusiasm and understanding of the value of the breed has been recognized by the Facebook "village." As a result, the mantle of Club leadership has fallen on her, including the formulation of a first draft breed standard of perfection for the American Bresse breed.
Her knowledge, experience, and skill set has equipped her well to helm the course of the Club.
Mandelyn will continue to hone the standard of perfection in response to ongoing feedback, and in preparation for the ultimate goal - acceptance of American Bresse Chickens into the American Poultry Association. And for this, the support of many breeders will be needed. There is still a long road ahead because the American Bresse gene pool needs a lot more breeding work.
Mandelyn's vision for the Club and educational posts and videos will go many miles towards the longterm success of the American Bresse breed.
Today, Mandelyn's exclusive focus in poultry is on American Bresse chickens, White Holland Turkeys, and Muscovy ducks.
That she has journeyed from a childhood surrounded by poultry to the sustainable poultry farmer she is today is a testament to her unwavering passion, commitment to learning, and innovative approach to poultry keeping.
Arcadian Orchard stands not just as a piece of land but as a living testament to Mandelyn's dedication to sustainable agriculture, purebred poultry, and the culinary arts. As she continues to shape the trajectory of her farm, Mandelyn invites others to join her in the pursuit of a more sustainable and enriching poultry-keeping experience.
Minor edits and additions (especially under the "Today: Breed Ambassador" section),
by Karen Patry, webmaster of Ambresse.com.
Facebook: Arcadian Orchard
American Bresse Club webpage: American Bresse Breed Club
Breeder Info: https://www.ambresse.com/american-bresse-chicken-breeders.html#royal
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