Inbreeding: the mating of closely related individuals, such as cousins, sire-daughter, or brother-sister, which tends to increase the number of individuals that are homozygous for a trait and therefore increases the appearance of recessive traits.

Lavender is a recessive gene in guineas. I expect to get a lot more lavenders in the future.

Too many a poultry novice has been led astray by well-meaning yet uninformed peers through the Internet. She may ask whether or not it is acceptable to breed a male chicken to his full sister, and instead of giving solid, encouraging advice, her friend will rebuke her with vehemence, making inbreeding seem like the worst sin known to man. The poor poultry newcomer is discouraged in her efforts and passes on this misinformation to others. Nowadays, the word ‘inbreeding’ is enough to make the average American citizen cringe. Nonetheless, your ethical beliefs should not get in the way of recognizing its benefits. Inbreeding in poultry is beneficial.

I introduced a grey hen into the flock of Calls and got some colored Calls. However, because whites are in their ancestry, and they are being bred to white half siblings, I expect more whites in their future offspring.
Back in the heydays of exhibition poultry, inbreeding was a widely accepted practice, even after it’s derogative effects in mammals were discovered. Quite simply, inbreeding had been practiced for so long, any of the bad things that could crop up had already been exposed and eliminated.

This black d’Anvers hen was mated to her lavender half brother by mistake. I had not realized she was related. The chicks behind her display that she was carrying the lavender gene.

“What does inbreeding do?” you may wonder. Essentially, inbreeding is the multiplication of traits. For example, inbreeding Leghorns with nice tails give you offspring with those good tails… multiplied. Almost all of their offspring will probably have nice tails. If those birds carry bad traits that you do not see, however, like wry tails, all of those bad traits will come right out of the woodwork. The same goes for health issues. If a bad trait is discovered by inbreeding, you must take action immediately. Find and eliminate all the birds carrying this trait through experimental breeding, if at all possible. If an exceptional bird carries this gene, you may want to only use it in the showroom, or outcross and breed its offspring back, finding and eliminating all carriers. You may wonder why if inbreeding can cause problems as such, why not avoid inbreeding altogether?

Big Buck has appeared to have grown two black antennae, is inbreeding to blame? In all seriousness, because I had limited stock, I had to inbreed a lot for size... so now my best cock has both a single comb gene and expresses feather stubs. :thTry not to do that folks...

Outcrossing, which is the practice of breeding to unrelated birds from another strain; can actually be a lot worse than inbreeding if introducing birds from another farm. The disaster scenario in inbreeding is fairly rare, while in outcrossing, it is very real. Every time you inbreed, you are taking a small risk in their offspring. Every time you outcross with birds from another farm, you are risking the life of every member of your flock. The threat of disease is real. Take careful measures every time you introduce a new member to your flock. First, make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder with a disease-free flock. Second, make sure the bird is actually an improvement on what you actually have and worth your money. Buyers beware! The bird may look fine but may hide the very traits you are trying to avoid, or introduce new ones. Third, properly quarantine your bird before introducing it to your flock. Cull at any signs of disease. Many breeders try to avoid outcrossing from new stock altogether, using alternatives.

Bubbles, Zee, and Silvia are my new purchases. I am glad that I quarantined, I caught disease and parasites early before they could spread. Don’t forget to monitor the birds that you have in quarantine closely!

So what alternatives do we have? First, inbreeding is still a good practice and is what breeders still use today. But inbreeding isn’t a method in itself. Linebreeding is by far the most common method. In linebreeding, one will breed fathers to daughters and mothers to sons rather than brothers to sisters. Spiral breeding involves selecting hens for their own individual pens and rotating cocks through the pens, repeating this same process. Clan or flock mating involves keeping different flocks and only breeding birds from different clans together.

Hotshot, a d’Anvers, resides with his cousins/sisters Sally and Diamond (Sally is behind him) and two of his daughters. Because they are related, I hope that his type will be strong in the offspring produced by him and his daughters. I am happy to see that they display a healthy amount of variation.

Whatever your methods, try to keep a closed flock and an open mind. Or at least try to keep a closed flock... I know you want those limited edition white chocolate peppermint Silkies that are coming out just in time for the holidays. ;)

While these Anconas were purchased from three different people, they actually come from the same basic source. Be aware!