Rotational Line Breeding White Plymouth Rocks
By Robert Blosl
In order to reach you goal as a White Plymouth Rock large fowl 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 Rocks 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 Plymouth Rock Fanciers Club is a method which I have been working with for about 17 years. I simply call it “Rotational Line Breeding”. You, as a potential large fowl Plymouth Rock large fowl 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#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.
Each chick 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, 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 in your mind's eye 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 may have.
The females in Pen 1 will have a male placed into their pen that 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.
Rotational Line Breeding Program
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 judgment, I’m not interested in quantity but quality. I want my whole strain of White Plymouth Rock large fowl 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 large fowl 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 to replenish new blood if necessary. 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 White Plymouth Rock large fowl. As I explained in this article, you only need good Rocks that are:
1. Correct elevated Plymouth Rock top lines.
2. Unconditional breast bone expansion
3. Good substance in feather quality
4. Good, fully-furnished tails in the males
In my opinion, the White Plymouth Rock 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 Plymouth Rocks.
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 White Plymouth Rock Large Fowl.