I'm asked many times over the year by fanciers to suggest what birds should be put together for breeding.
My first question to this request is to ascertain what they are breeding for.
With any poultry breeding you need to have a long term plan and goals to achieve.
It's very easy to breed chooks and have more of them but if you are breeding for a purpose it is much more complicated.
To start with if you are planning to breed for show it is best to start with the best birds you can get.
This will save a lot of time and effort although it may cost more initially.
Breeding lately has become somewhat easier with the expanded gene pool due to the lifting of restrictions on imports.
New genetic material and better transport has made availability of rarer breeds more available than ever before.
Breeding for show is still complex and long term.
It is best to choose a breed and focus on improving it one trait at a time.
Begin with birds that have a proven genetic history and some traits can be hidden in a first generation mating.
Dominant genes like feathered legs or recessive genes like wry tail can be hidden.
When purchasing breeders try and see the parents.
As a general tip the best breeders cull heavily and keep only a select group of show birds and breeders.
Breeding show birds adds a problem as birds which are heavily shown can lose some vigour and fertility.
For show breeding you'll need to know the standard for that breed and think also about the temperament of the birds.
This is also important for backyard birds and people with children. Wild and/or aggressive birds, especially roosters, are unwelcome.
You will also need to keep some record of your breeding.
Pencil details on eggs are fine and leg bands are often used. Toe punching is also a good way to mark birds breeding lines.
There are a few other rules.
Never breed with a bird that has a serious fault despite the fact it may be perfect in every other way.
When line-breeding, put the cockerels over the maternal hens and the rooster over the pullets.
Pullets should be laying a good sized egg for best results.
Experience is the best teacher but we will have more on breeding in the next edition.
- Bruce Pattinson is a past president of the NSW Exhibition Poultry Association. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to: Chook Feed, PO Box 25, Kogarah, 2217, with your name and daytime contact number.