I have reviewed the concepts of spiral breeding; however, there is very little information on this breeding technique on the web. I understand you utilize the roosters for 2 seasons and then replace with new rooster. My question is regarding the hens. How many generations of hens would be recommended to keep with each line? How many seasons would you breed each generation of hens before retiring them?
I have heard that hens lay the most eggs in there first year. after that it is a slow decline but can still be adequate for nearly two years. I think this is a question that you will answer when their production no longer meats your needs. Keep in mind that with spiral breeding your are moving roosters from one flock to the next each year. all the while selecting the best for whatever traits you are breeding for. In a perfect world each years breeding will result in a better rooster and hens from each pen. It would in that case be counter productive to keep any of your older roosters or hens for more than one breeding season.
- DownSouth D'Uccles & Silkies
With heritage birds the laying isn't always just in the first year. And if the hen has perfect characteristics for your goals, then I wouldn't retire her until she was clearly past her prime.
What is spiral breeding?
To keep it simple this example will be based on 4 pens. We will number these pens 1,2,3 and 4
a rooster is placed in each pen to breed with those hens. any female chicks that are selected for breeding from each pen will remain with that pen. any roosters that are selected from each pen for breeding will be placed in the next pen. In that case any rooster from pen 1 would be added to pen 2, any rooster from pen 2 would be added to pen 3 etc. in this way every 4 generations, seasons or whatever time cycle is being used a descendant from pen 1 will return to pen 1. this in effect creating a spiral rotation of breeding roosters through sets of hens. You can use any number of pens of hens you want including 1. I don't understand how 1 pen works as well as I do the 2 3 4 or more pen idea though. It is basically a breeding strategy that allows you to maintain a closed small flock of birds for a very long time and limit the effects of inbreeding.
Well stated. I wouldn't see how you could effectively do it with less than 3 lines. In regards to the hens, I have a few ideas but was mainly wondering what those who came up with this technique had to say about it. One idea I had was to start with 5 hens in each line and add keep the five best hens from the first season breeding. Do the same each season keeping the top 5 hens of each generation. In the third season I was going to reduce the 1st generation hens to the best 2 birds. This would leave me with a total of 12 hens of each line. I am hoping to sell chicks to the local market so I believe this would give me a good start for having enough eggs to hatch for chick sells and also have some eggs to sell. As demand increase I can increase the number of birds I keep. I want to make sure I have good genetic diversity. Just a few thoughts.
The original rooster is used for two breeding seasons. Example with 3 lines.
First season you would linebreed. Breed your rooster with the hens of the same line. The second season you take that rooster and move him to another pen. B rooster goes to A hens C rooster goes to B hens and A rooster goes to C hens. Season three you take the best rooster of each pen and breed him with the hens in that pen so the new A rooster would stay with A hens and so on. You then repeat the process. Sometimes it helps to draw out a flow chart to better understand it. Here is a link to Pathfinder's website. This is where I found information on the technique. She is also a BYC member.
- Entwife in the Bluegrass
Here's the article I wrote about spiral breeding: