Breeding ethics...

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by TubbyChicken, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. TubbyChicken

    TubbyChicken Songster

    Jul 30, 2008
    Being very new to the world of chickens I have a few questions about breeding ethics. I know very little about chickens and breeding but I know a lot about dogs...and the ethical concerns with mixing breeds, marketing hybrids and breeding substandard animals without proper testing and conformity to health standards.

    Obviously these are two very different animals with very different functions. I wonder about the ethical concerns when breeding chickens...What are the implications of producing and buying hybrids? I notice there are breeds on the conservation list which makes me wonder if the production of non-breeds are stamping out many of the heritage breeds for their faster production.

    Do roosters get culled in experimental breeding because of the difficulty with placement? If so, how is this justified? I notice there is a great deal of experimental breeding with chickens...Are there any newer breeds that are awaiting validation (by breeds, I mean unrecognized breeds that are able to breed true.)

    Lastly, how does one determine good breeding stock? In the dog world, I look for a strong pedigree, attempts by the owner to compare his or her stock with others (shows, competitions)... chicken breeders follow the idea that form follows function?

    Sorry for all the questions...I've been wanting to understand how chicken breeders operate and how the ethics compare with breeding other animals.
  2. MaransGuy

    MaransGuy Songster

    Oct 25, 2007
    Greenfield, MA
    The answer could be volumes but here are the basics. There are recognized breeds that some people breed very seriously to a standard of perfection. There are many shows around the country where competition is stiff. There are also some other breeds that are not yet accepted by the APA but are still bred to a standard of perfection. At the other end of the spectrum are the mixed breed chickens. They can be very pretty birds, have great personalities, and make wonderfull additions to the flock. It all really boils down to what you are looking for in your flock and what you want out of the hobby. As far as ethics go, it really depends on the individual. Surplus birds, cockerels, or birds who do not meet the standards of the breeder are culled. Culled does not always mean killed. They may also be simply rehomed. Because chickens are more often accepted as livestock instead of "pets", the act of killing the surplus and creating all sorts of mixes is not really looked down upon.
  3. Vcomb

    Vcomb Songster

    Aug 19, 2008
    South Dakota
    My Coop
    Quote:There aren't really many hybrids, just cross-breds. Hybrids would involve crossing to junglefowl, which a lot of folks don't keep. However, by crossing two very distantly related breeds, you can accomplish hybrid vigor. It works sort of the same way in cattle - beef and dairy cattle in some areas have been bred so distinctively and seperately for so long they've almost become two seperate subspecies.

    Quote:crossbreds gave rise to many of today's breeds. further, they have proven instrumental in reviving extinct or nearly extinct varieties. Production bred fowl have definately taken their toll on the old breeds due to their popularity.

    Quote:Even with purebre males placement can be difficult. Most folks just don't have the want or need for multiple roosters. The justification in killing, when they do kill them, is that they can be eaten, or at the very least they will lighten their feed bill.

    Quote:There are always new breeds coming out of the woodwork that breed true, as well as old breeds who's devout followers are finally trying to win "validation" in the show world for their old breeds. A perfect example is the American Gamefowl. Its been around nearly as long as this country, born out of Irish, English, Spanish, and oriental lines blended together. Until now though many have not had the want to exhibit them at chicken shows. So now hundreds of years later the breed is fighting for recognition as an actual breed.

    Quote:Pedigrees aren't really used by breeders in the same manner as in dogs. Sure, breeders usually have records and can trace the lineage back, but its not a real selling point. Saying, bird "x" is out of the famous bird "zz" isn't as much of a seller as saying bird "x" is out of John Doe's famous line he's had for 50 years. Consistency in show wins in various parts of the U.S. under different judges, along with comparing the birds to the written standard are two big components. The more you get into breeding, the more you start studying things like temperment, size, production, compatibility with your own line, etc.

    Quote:Depends on what they're breeding for. Show chickens are (generally speaking) bred to look good. Production chickens will look the way that permits them to lay the most eggs. Really the only breed that truly comes to mind when speaking of form following function was the methodology used in breeding the American Game back when it was legal to fight them. The way they were structured played a big part in their movement, strength, agility, etc. Creating your own breed for specific reasons is where this also comes into play. The Chanticlar and Lamona are a good example here. Chanticlars were developed to survive cold weathers and be dual purpose but good egg layers. Hence a broad bodied, harder feathered peacombed bird was developed.
  4. Blisschick

    Blisschick not rusty

    Feb 20, 2007
    Shepherd, Texas
    To add to VComb's comment on form following function...

    Another example I can think of is Jersey Giants. The original intention of creating the breed was to have a chicken that could replace the turkey as a large table fowl, so size and muscle were the two main things that were centered upon. (Jerseys were created from at least three established breeds.) The reason they never caught on is because they take too long to mature compared to turkeys (18 mos.!), and so they weren't practical for mass production purposes. But because of their stature and large egg size, they've stayed around for mostly because having such huge chickens laying such big eggs is a novelty. The roos even have a deeper crow.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2008
  5. flyingmonkeypoop

    flyingmonkeypoop Crowing

    Apr 30, 2007
    Deer Park Washington
    That is one thing I like about birds, you dont have to keep pedigrees. If for example I wanted to make a new variety in a breed but had to cross in another breed to get the color you could breed for better type and color and in a few generations you would never know they had another breed in them. One other good thing about chickens compared to dogs when it comes to making a new breed: you can eat the culls.
  6. Anne

    Anne Songster

    Feb 11, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    Quote:Production leghorns and crossbred production birds vastly outnumber heritage breeds, mostly because these are the types of birds used on egg farms. Many people with backyard flocks keep them too, as they are indeed some of the most economical layers. If you're trying to make money as a small-time breeder, however, it makes the most sense to keep some of the more uncommon pure breeds. Production chicks are often sold at hatcheries for a dollar, whereas hatching eggs from good-quality Marans or Araucanas can go for $100 or more per dozen. It's the smaller flocks and backyard breeders that are keeping many of our rare/heritage breeds alive.

    Quote:Any breeding program, whether experimental or not, will produce extra roosters. In my flock the pretty ones are often able to find new homes, and the ugly ones that no one wants are butchered and eaten. I don't see this as a moral issue at all. If the extra roos are killed and thrown away, then you've got a moral issue on your hands.

    Quote:It's best to be very familiar with the Standard of Perfection for the breed you're interested in. How closely do the breeder's birds resemble the Standard's illustration of the "ideal" bird? How closely do the breeder's birds resemble the top show winners pictured at Where do their birds place at major shows? Does their name come up a lot on breed websites, message boards, or google searches for the breed, and is the context good or bad? Go to the breed club message board and ask who the top breeders are considered to be. Then approach them and see if they have anything for sale!

    Quote:I think that they should. That's not to say that they do.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2008

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