Breeding for meat qualities in a sustainable dual purpose breed

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by TimG, May 3, 2009.

  1. TimG

    TimG Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 23, 2008
    I am on a quest for a sustainable meat chicken -- I don't want to purchase Cornish cross chicks every year. I do not mind if the meat birds I raise are the result of a cross (meaning that I must maintain two lines of breeding stock). In fact, there seems to be some evidence that hybrid vigor has a beneficial effect on size, so a cross may be useful in getting a bigger bird. Ideally these meat chickens (or their parents) would also be good layers – I want a dual purpose bird – but my emphasis is definitely on a high quality meat bird. I'd like to be able to achieve a dressed weight of over four pounds and have a good mixture of dark and white meat. I fully understand that nothing I do will result in a bird that will reach this sort of weight in the 6-8 weeks that may be possible with a Cornish cross.

    I expect that in order to be satisfied with the end result, I will need to work with a heritage type breed or breeds and will have to undertake a selective breeding process to get a line of chickens that are both early maturing and large in size. Rather than start from scratch, I hope to find that someone else has already started the process of selective breeding so that I can buy hatching eggs from them and continue what they have started. I think the process will take much longer if I were to start with hatchery chicks.

    I am not concerned with conforming to a breed standard. I am not adverse to introducing new blood into a breed in order to improve production (meat or egg) qualities; I do not need purebreds. In fact, there is a little mad scientist in me that would appreciate this.

    I live in Maine, so the chickens must also be very cold hardy.

    In my reading, two breeds have caught my attention for their combination of size and early maturity: New Hampshires and Delawares.

    The information that I have found on the internet regarding these breed is sparse and sometimes conflicting.
    For instance, one site describes New Hampshires as “competitive and aggressive” another as “friendly and placid”. There seems to be general agreement regarding their very early maturation and their size: cock-8-1/2 pounds; hen-6-1/2 pounds; cockerel-7-1/2 pounds; pullet-5-1/2 pounds.

    There is less information on Delawares but they are generally described as an excellent dual-purpose bird with well developed egg and meat qualities that is rapid growing and early to feather. They are described as having a friendly disposition. Cocks grow to 8 pounds and hens to 6 pounds.

    I don’t expect that hatchery purchased New Hampshires or Delawares would live up to those size standards.

    One potential advantage of working with a combination of these breeds is that certain matings will produce chicks that can be color sexed (so that meaties and pullets can be feed separate diets or so that sale of sexed chicks will be practical). Also, I have read that a Delaware x New Hampshire is an excellent egg layer.
    While my intention is primarily to raise chickens for personal use (both eggs and meat), I already sell excess eggs and, if successful, would like to sell chicks or hatching eggs. Not so much as business, but as a way to help support my habit.

    This project is months (or years) away from happening. But, I’d like to have your input on anything from feasibility, to sources of starter stock, to criticism of breed selection or anything else you might like to comment on. There seems to be limited information available online or in print about such an undertaking, so any information that you can pass on would be much appreciated. I have read many of the chicken genetics material that is available online: available books and websites. But, I have not found anything that really talks about a breeding program (beyond the charts for line breeding).

    Anyway, I would appreciate (I think) your comments and suggestions.

    Last edited: Jan 24, 2010
  2. saladin

    saladin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 30, 2009
    the South
    You need fast growing heritage breeds for your project (if feasability-as you said- doesn't matter).

    Some of those would include:
    Marans (fastest growing heritage breed I know of)
    Naked Necks
    Madagascar Games
    Exhibition Cornish (these can mate without AI)

    Delawares would not be a bad choice either.

    You need 3 lines not two. Breed A x Breed B = F1
    The F1 x Breed C = F2 (your F2 birds are your eaters!)

    Of course you can also eat any culls and the F1s when you are through with them.

    For your project, check out Urch/Turnlund and Sand Hill Preservation Center. Also, getting stock from breeders at a Poultry Show would also a good idea.
  3. Glenda L Heywood

    Glenda L Heywood Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 11, 2009
    **From the rules:
    10. Luring members to other forums is not allowed and we prohibit discussing drama that happens on other forums. We've worked hard for 10 years to build up this community and we will not tolerate people coming in and spamming our members via the public forum, private messages, or emails to join another community.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2009
  4. Krys109uk

    Krys109uk Chillin' With My Peeps

    Interesting name, Saladin. Interesting post. [​IMG]
    Do you do a lot of breeding for meat birds?

    Marans do seem remarkably fast maturing. I'd never heard of Madagascar games. I've just looked at them on Feathersite....really interesting. Thanks. [​IMG]

    I know they used to cross Dorkings to Malays or a breed called Indian Chittagongs (?) to get sizable table birds for the London market but I don't think Dorkings are not fast maturing, at least these days. The Indian (Cornish) game was also a popular cross with the dual purpose breeds. I didn't think them particularly fast growing though. [​IMG] Do you suppose Dorkings could be used again these days?
  5. TimG

    TimG Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 23, 2008
    I have read that the Dorking is slow to mature and that it has a large comb that might need protecting in very cold weather. Though I understand there is a Dorking program at Plimouth Plantation as part of an effort to raise the livestock breeds that the Pilgrims would have raised.

    I thought it was quite possible that I would want to breed into one of my breeder lines some Cornish for its size (especially breast size). But, since they are not a good layers, have minimal feathers (not so good in cold climates?) and have some trouble with natural mating, I didn't think I would want to try to maintain a line of Cornish.

    It's odd that the Cornish is moderately early maturing and the Dorking is slow to mature, but their cross was once known for early maturing.

    Why do I need 3 lines instead of 2? I'm not saying you are wrong, just looking for some explanation. This kind of information is what I'm really looking for.

    Thanks for the link to the yahoo group. I will take a look.

  6. Ryu

    Ryu Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 6, 2009
    I bought some supposedly 'SQ' Cornish eggs, turned out to not be anywhere near any standard for any breed I've seen, they didn't even look like Cornish. I think that they are going to be really nice meat/egg birds.

    The hens lay about 6 really nice large lt brown egg. The hens have kind of a wild prarie chicken look, but they are very heavy in hand, with a well filled out breast.

    I bred one to my heavy exhibition dark cornish, and got something that looks like a lighter frame Cornish putting on weight nicely. They are very athletic and active youngsters.

    The plan is to keep the best combless/small comb hens and take the rest to the processor at 4 months. I am going to cross with our Buckeye roo and try for a roo to breed back to the hens. Do that cross next spring and and see what I get.

    I want something that can handle the Iowa winters, and the Cornish need just a little more fluff for the cold weather.

    It's just a small project but if you wanted some eggs I could send some your way. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them too.

  7. TimG

    TimG Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 23, 2008
    Quote:Last edited by gumpsgirl (Today 8:42 pm)

    Glenda, I appreciated the pointer to another resource. Thanks. I was able to find it even after the reference was removed.

  8. Krys109uk

    Krys109uk Chillin' With My Peeps

    I thought it was quite possible that I would want to breed into one of my breeder lines some Cornish for its size (especially breast size). But, since they are not a good layers, have minimal feathers (not so good in cold climates?) and have some trouble with natural mating, I didn't think I would want to try to maintain a line of Cornish.

    Not sure about minimal feathers, never thought of it that way. They have the usual hard feathers of the games & they do have that featherless patch along the breast bone which I believe is linked to the pea comb. I didn't know there was an issue with their mating in US. The Indian Games we had back in UK were huge & vigorous. We had them in a half acre enclosure & they had no trouble reproducing without help. Really they were pretty wild & if the hens managed to brood a clutch out in the hedgerow the chicks were about uncatchable. Their egg production wasn't too bad for a meat breed, but obviously not in the league of the dual purpose breeds. I thought ours rather hardy but Britain's winters are much warmer than winters in most of US.​
  9. TimG

    TimG Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 23, 2008
    I don't have personal experience with Cornish, the information I got was in large part from an Oklahoma State poultry information site which says (in part):
    The feathers are short and held closely to the body, and may show exposed areas of skin. Cornish need adequate protection during very cold weather as their feathers offer less insulation than can be found on most other chickens. Because of their short feathers and wide compact bodies, Cornish are deceptively heavy. Due to their shape, good Cornish often experience poor fertility and artificial mating is suggested.​
  10. Ryu

    Ryu Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 6, 2009
    I raise Exhibition Cornish, and all my roos mate naturally and they are quite large. The Exhibition Cornish are very slow maturing birds (about 10 months for the first egg, about 9-10 months before a roo is interested in females).

    The faster growing cornish ment for meat production grow faster and end at a similar size. I think that they have leg and hip problems that make mounting difficult for them.

    I do agree that the Cornish type birds need more feathering. My Exhibition birds are inside for the winter in a barn we keep just above freezing.

    The hens I described above where out all winter. They could go into the barn to get out of the wind, but otherwise on their own. They have full looser feathering and a ton of fluff.

    Have you thought about a Chantecler? They were bred to be a dual purpose bird and to withstand Canadian winters.

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