777Funk, I’m not sure how to address your question without writing a book. A lot of my posts are too long to start with. I’ll try to not ramble too much.
At some point man domesticated chickens. Over time, they learned by selective breeding they could enhance certain traits, egg laying, meat production, or just keeping pretty chickens for decoration like chickens with strange feathers or funny things on their heads. At first these were not really breeds but just types. Say a type that lays well versus a type that puts on meat quickly.
Over time they did develop into certain “breeds” but not breeds as we know them. They became pretty specialized, but their specialty was more laying eggs or producing meat or looking weird. And they learned they could control color and pattern. People have always liked pretty things. Some of the traits they were enhancing at this stage might be a light color for a meat bird so you get a prettier carcass when you pluck or maybe better egg size or frequency of laying. Production traits.
Then some people decided they wanted to compete in who could raise the best bird. Before you can compete you have to give the judge some rules to judge by, so they developed rules to define a breed. Today we call these rules the Standard of Perfection (SOP). Thus a breed was created. In addition to the production traits they included things like specific colors and patterns, eye color, number of toes, skin color, type of comb, and very specific body shapes. Some of these things were a directly related to the function the breed was supposed to fulfill, like body shape, but some really didn’t. How does eye color affect egg laying ability? Does it really matter if they have a single, rose, or pea comb, or whether a single comb has exactly five points and whether that comb is upright or flops over. But all these things became very important to a show quality chicken. The wrong leg color can get it disqualified in a show.
Something important with chickens is that unless you enhance a certain trait continually with each selection of breeding birds, you can lose that trait fairly quickly. Quality breeders usually carefully select one or two specific hens to go with one specific rooster to try to get the best possible show chicken. Even after they get their line well established I’ve read that most quality breeders still only get about one on five that hatch as show quality. The rest just aren’t good enough. It’s not cheap or easy to develop a quality line of show chickens. It takes a lot of knowledge and a lot of dedicated work. These chickens are not cheap when you buy them.
On the other hand, hatcheries are not about breeding show quality birds. They are mass-producing birds that pretty much look like the breed they are supposed to be, but at competitive prices. They do not carefully select which specific birds get to breed, they might put 20 roosters in with 200 hens in a pen and let them randomly mate. You don’t get or maintain show quality chickens that way but you can charge fairly low prices.
Something about pure breeds. There is not genetic requirement in how you make a breed. It’s all about the judging. What does the judge see? Some breeds have to have certain things, a Delaware has to have Columbia and Silver, but there are different ways to make a solid white bird. You can use Dominant White on a black base, you can use Recessive White on any base color. You can use both. Some people may add Silver to help get a whiter bird (probably female), some add barring to make the white look whiter. You can get a solid black bird using Extended Black, but you can also get a solid black bird using Birchen with Melanizers (a color modifier). Some breeders keep different flocks to make show quality males versus a flock to make show quality females. Owen, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the requirement for a flock to be considered “purebred” they have to breed true for five generations. It doesn’t matter what the specific genetics are, they just have to have stabilized for five generations. Even them you can get some recessive genes to pair up. It’s hard to totally eliminate recessive genes. Dominant genes are a lot easier to eliminate. It is not easy to produce show quality birds.
You are exactly right. Some people conjure up some mythical god or goddess when they hear the word “breeder”. Breeders come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some produce show quality birds that actually have the production traits and personalities the breed is supposed to possess. Several years back, a certified APA judge said there are probably three flocks in US that have this quality of Rhode Island Reds, a fairly common breed. His flock was one of them. Many people breed show quality birds but mainly concentrate on the qualities the judge sees. Then you go all the way down to people that get hatchery birds, don’t have a clue what an SOP is so they have no idea how to select breeders, and sell those as purebreds. It’s a jungle out there.
I suggest you first decide what your goals are for your chickens. Do you want or need show quality? Those chickens are expensive. Unless you know what you are doing when selecting your breeders, you will probably lose a lot of those traits in a few generations anyway. If you want show quality stock, see how many ribbons they are wining at shows.
It sounds like your goals may have more to do with meat or egg production than winning ribbons. This can be a challenge. If you can find a breeder that knows what they are doing and are breeding to your goals, you have it made. I have no idea how to find that person though. Maybe go on your state thread in the “Where am I! Where are you!“ section of this forum and chat with your neighbors. But it boils down to knowing what your goals are and talking to the breeder to make your own assessment of their birds relative to your goals.
I took hatchery birds and bred my own flock toward my goals. If you want good egg layers, hatch eggs form hens that lay a lot of good eggs. If you want larger bids eat your smaller ones and breed your larger ones. In a few generations you will be getting closer to your goals if you select good breeders. The fewer goals you have the faster you will get there. I made that mistake.
For pure meat birds you cannot beat the broiler specialists. For pure egg laying you cannot beat the commercial egg laying hybrids. But for a dual purpose flock you’re going to have to work at it to get what you want.
Like I said, my posts are too long. Hopefully you can get something useful out of all this.