Line Breeding Rhode Island Reds
In order to reach
you goal as a Rhode Island Red breeder, you must develop some method of line breeding. Hopefully, one that is easy to
understand and follow. Among old time breeders, line breeding was referred to as in-breeding when the sire was bred
to his daughters or the dam to her sons. Some breeders found even greater success with their reds by mating the uncles
to their nieces and the aunts to their nephews.
This is when inbreeding a
family line is established and strong family lines are fixed to their progeny. Thereby putting together a foundation
of the family lines. To go another step further, one may visualize four family lines crossed in some systematic manner
where a breeder could keep such a program going for 10 to 15 years without ever introducing new outside blood.
The best definition
of line breeding that I ever studied is as follows: Line breeding is a method of systematic inbreeding in which an effort
is made to avoid breeding too close. Line breeding, in a popular sense, means that although the birds used in
breeding are related, the relationship is somewhat remote, but in inbreeding, the relationship is much closer. Line
breeding, as its name implies, is the restricting of matings to either a certain line of descent, a certain family
or to a limited number or breeders with a common origin, representing a similar type.
The main purpose that I wish
to reveal to the membership of the Rhode Island Red Club is a method which I have been working with for about 7 years.
I simply call it “Rotational Line Breeding”. You, as a potential large fowl Red breeder, would use it as
I do with four family lines or reduce it yourself to two or three family lines to save space, time and labor.
If you can visualize
four Poultry houses 4’ wide, 5’ tall, and 4’ deep attached to a 4’X8’ wire covered run.
This pen is built on 4”X4”X14’ treated runners that can be moved to fresh ground every 3 to 5 days.
The first house is for a family called #1 which is painted red and has #1 painted to the entrance door. In this
pen will be two pen sisters (pullets) mated to a cockerel. The females are all toe punched with the pen number #1 punch.
The cockerel has been toe punched Pen #4.
The next building
will be built the same. However, painted white with the #2 painted on the door. We have again two pen sisters
revealing toe punch #2. With them is placed a male bird toe punched #1.
The next building is painted
blue with a #3 on the door. Again, with 2 pen sisters with the toe punch #3. The cockerel has a toe punch #2.
The final pen that I have,
like the other three, is painted green. The number on the door is #4. The two pen sisters are toe punched with
a pen #4 punch. The male bird will be a cockerel with a toe punch #3.
So, as you can see,
I have about two females with one male. Each breeding season, I take a pencil and write the number of each breeding
pen number on each egg. The eggs are hatched in my incubator in four separate compartments and I carefully toe punch
each chick to his appropriate pen which would be between Pens 1 to 4.
is raised to an age where I can make some decision on vigor, breed type, beak, and leg color. I chose the best off-spring
in comparison to their parents hoping to improve each generation and pass on to future offspring the improved traits that
my goals are at that time.Now, if you will please, visualize two of the best pullets that I have raised from each breeding
pen placed back into the pen from which their eggs came. Also, please see that I have on their legs a leg band of the
color of their building. Now that I have all of the pen sisters in their pens as their mothers where before them.
Let’s pick the best males that will be chosen as mates to these females. We may pick a male not because he is
closest to the standard but, more than anything, to look handsome as he can be and to compensate for any faults that the females
The females in Pen 1 will
have a male placed into their pen who was toe punched #4 as his sire was before him. Pen 2 females will have a sharp
cockerel from Pen 1. Pen 3 females have a cockerel from Pen 2. Pen 4 females will have, as you may have guessed,
a male that comes from Pen 3. So as you can see this simple system places every year the best females back into their
pen and the best male rotates down to his right from the pen that he originates from.
The four breeding pens that
I have revealed in my case can be expanded with more than two females. You could have 4 to 6 females but, in my judgement,
I’m not interested in quantity but quality. I want my whole strain of Rhode Island Reds to look as they
were uniform or, as old timers would say, “They all look like peas in a pod.”.
A four pen system, as I use,
has a 16 year time limit before new blood needs to be added. If you eliminate pen 4 and go with just three family lines,
you can go about 12 years without entering new blood. If space is really limited, as many bantam breeders have a problem
with, may I suggest just two such pens and you can go about 5 years without new blood. You could always go back to the
breeder that you started with or from someone who has the identical blood lines as yours. You could easily hatch 40
to 75 chicks from two such family lines then cull often and hard to save space for their prodigy.
In conclusion, you
do not need a lot of space to line breed Rhode Island Red large fowl. As I explained in this article, you only need
good Reds that are:
1. Level in carriage
2. Even in surface color
3. Good substance in feather quality
4. Good, fully-furnished tails
In my opinion, the Rhode Island
Red large fowl is one of the finest large fowl on earth to line breed and raise. In the show room, when conditioned
to look their best, they will win you the blues.
As more of us are returning to raising and breeding large
fowl, I hope you will consider this grand old variety of Rhode Island Reds.
I have tried to make
this information as informative and interesting as possible without any highly technical verbiage to confuse you. There
will be a few who may not agree with my concept of line breeding. However, I challenge them to write an article
and relate their success in the next issue.
If this article is of some
value to just one or two of you, I feel my efforts were worthwhile. Please support the majestic Rhode Island Red Large