Becoming a Chicken Breeder
So you want to raise some young birds......... You could order chicks from
a hatchery or specialty breeder and take your chances on the characteristics
they might possess. You could buy adult birds that catch your eye and collect eggs for incubation. Maybe
you might decide to maintain your own flock and develop a group of chickens that suit your likings.
To many in the poultry fancy, the challenge of improving a breed or variety is one of the attractions of
raising birds. You ask; Can I improve this group of chickens
until they have all the things I want in a bird? If you fall into this category you have chosen the demanding
task of becoming a poultry breeder.There are chicken raisers and chicken breeders. Determine which activity you
will pursue. In this article I will be addressing the prospective poultry breeder.
Step number one; is to determine the ideal for "your" strain of chickens. A mental picture of what "your"
flock will look like and how they will perform. Notice I say "your" strain because they will ultimately reflect you as the
breeder in the traits they possess. This ideal will set the criteria for the breeders you will carefully be selecting in the
generations to come. Consider some of the following in developing your ideal
chicken blue print. 1. Size, type, and color as described in the American Standard of Perfection.
2. Layability; including rate of lay, egg size, and shell color [especially if you will be working toward a closed flock]
3. Rate of maturity. 4. Rate of feathering 5. Temperament [Yes, disposition is an
inheritable trait] 6. molting pattern 7. Longevity, stamina, and disease
resistance. There may be others that come to mind. However, you need to analyze what you really want "your"
strain to exhibit in the final analysis before you begin
Step number two; is to settle on a breeding program that will most efficiently and quickly help you reach
the goal for "your" strain. Over the years many ideas have surfaced regarding how to breed chickens. Many, I believe, fall
into the category of old wives tales with little if any empirical evidence to support them. On the other hand there exists
several proven line breeding methods that have been employed with poultry as well as other forms of domesticated plants and
animals to turn out the abundance of produce and livestock we enjoy today. Do your home work on this and save yourself the
time, expense, and frustration of repeating some one else's
mistakes. Life is short, don't reinvent the wheel. Pick your favorite internet search engine and you will
be amazed at the information on line breeding that is available. If you are really in a bind for breeding programs, you can
contact me and I will share several that I know of with you. Understanding and following a proven breeding program will save
you enormous amounts of time and energy.
Step number three; is to select the necessary birds to fulfill the requirements of your breeding
program. Many have written and discussed this all important aspect of poultry breeding. This step becomes an ongoing exercise
in observation and decision making. If you have completed step
number one [You have, haven't you?], you can prioritize the desired traits, usually in order of those that
are most difficult to develop, and choose individuals that come the closest to exhibiting the most characteristics from your
check list. Do not despair! You wanted to be a chicken
Breeder right? This is where your expertise comes into play, along with that proven line breeding program
you have selected. To quote a well known chicken breeder from years ago, one Ralph Sturgeon, "start from where you are with
what you have".
Whether you are selecting birds from your flock or just beginning and buying foundation stock the process
is the same. You may not find any one bird that has all the traits on your check list but try very hard to find all of the
traits from your check list some where scattered through your breeding birds. Now double check everything, mate the birds
according to individual traits, give them plenty of TLC, and crank up the incubator.
Step number four; is persistence. Never give up! This will take several generations and there will be problems
but the reward of seeing "your" strain of birds and the feeling of accomplishment will be worth it.