Breeding hatchery stock to SOP, is it worth it?

Discussion in 'Exhibition, Genetics, & Breeding to the SOP' started by K813ZRA, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Okay let me preface by saying that my chickens are nowhere near ready to give me eggs let alone fertile eggs. However, I do plan on hatching some of my own chicks and my stock is hatchery quality: I was wondering if it is worth it to try to breed my hatchery stock to SOP in order to attempt to strengthen my flock. It isn't that I intend to show my chickens but I would like to strengthen their genetics and get them looking as close to correct if at all possible.

    Is this something that is worthwhile or an exercise in futility? Or even something that maybe I shouldn't even be worried about? I ask because I intend to raise dual-purpose birds for their intended purpose, meat and eggs as well as eye candy but I have been reading a lot on here that often times hatchery birds are bred solely for egg production and often times lose some of their meat value.

    I decided to go with hatchery birds for a few reasons, the main reason being that when you find a breeder even in a long list that sells what you want, they simply do not have any or they do not ship and are far away or even that they only sell eggs which seems like quite the gamble to me. Another issue is investment, you are often times looking at a minimum of 3x the investment with upwards of 10x the investment IF you find someone that stocks what you want.

    So basically my idea was to take what I get, choose the best birds, breed them, hatch new ones and keep the best out of the new birds as well and continue. Now, this may be the long way around but it sure sounds intriguing and fun to me, a project if you will.

    Any insight would be much appreciated.
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Breeding your hatchery stock is just fine and will be enjoyable. If all you wish to do is have some birds, they'll do just fine. They're chickens afterall.

    However, you wish to pursue breeding to the Standard that's a different matter. The standard for your breed, (the SOP is the Book, the assembled standards of all the breeds) thus, properly said, one breeds to the standard, not the SOP.

    Starting with hatchery stock is a woeful way to go to achieve standard bred poultry. You might achieve slight improvement, but it would take decades and often, the required genetics simply aren't there to begin with. It usually results in sheer futility and frustration.

    The Standard of Perfection is only available from the APA at their website. It is copyrighted and a gorgeous book, filled with a boat load of valuable information, especially the first 40 pages which pertain to all birds, not to specific breeds. The cost is $59 delivered to your door.

    To see your chosen breed in all it's glory and finery and bred properly to the standard, attend a high quality, APA or ABA (bantams) backed show near you. You will immediately see the stunning, jaw dropping differences between hatchery stock and birds bred to the breed standard. In most cases, words, thousands of words spoken can never replace actually seeing, with your own eyes, just how wide the gulf is between these two worlds.
     
  3. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you, you have cleared things up for me. I learn so much every day. I will have to order the book as it sounds like something I would enjoy.

    I guess what you said is about what I expected, slight improvement but nothing close to the standard. I guess I will have to go to some shows and compare for myself, as you said. I am just trying to find a happy medium as I am not into showing. My end goal is to eat the birds and I am not sure if it would be a waste of a good possible show quality bird to be raised simply to fill my belly!

    I guess there is a lot to think about!
     
  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Those who breed the best birds? Eat alot of chicken. hahahaha

    We hatch 60-100 chicks in our breeding of a particular breed/variety. This is typical of breeders. We're searhing only for those top 3 or 4 birds that show type and feather and other details that move our program forward. So the other birds? Eaten, sold off, or used in the layer pen perhaps.

    Now showing. To have peer review of your breeding program? To honestly know how one is doing and to have objective review? That, my friend, is why you take your best to a show to find out. There's no other way, to be honest about it.

    Breeding to the standard for the breed and participating in one or two top quality exhibitions a year? That's what this hobby, even for an old homesteader like me, is all about. Don't be afraid to go exhibit and have your breeding work judged.

    As for expense of breeder quality, top quality birds as your foundation? It is BY FAR the cheapest way to go to get where you want to be.

    How much does it cost to feed out scrub birds for 5 years in the search for the elusive holy grail which will often never come your way, if you begin with scrubs? Consider this. Cheapest way to get somewhere is to take the straightest, quickest path.
     
  5. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Once again, thank you! I guess it cant hurt anything but my ego to go this route and give it a try. I guess I have been bitten by the chicken bug because I started out with a little coop that my father and I built with a mixed lot and ended up building two more pens, large pens, for 24 Buff orphingotns and 24 Silver laced wyandottes. Like I said, my main goals are in order, meat, eggs and eye candy. I have never been much into showing anything, we bred meat rabbits for years and years when I was a kid. They were great to have around and even better to eat! But the more pictures I see here the more pretty chickens I want. I believe that is what I see referred to as chicken math.
     
  6. Sydney Acres

    Sydney Acres Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As someone who is several years ahead of you on the "standard bred vs hatchery bred" path, I'd say that either option is fine, and that your use of the chickens will eventually point you in the direction that is right for you. Regardless of where you start, you can always change your course later. You're not signing a lifetime contract with these birds, and any birds you get will be a learning experience that you can use towards future flocks.

    My household is a good example. Many years ago my husband ordered some Speckled Sussex from a hatchery. The hens were very pretty and sweet, but they were about 2 pounds undersized and laid many more eggs than is appropriate for the breed. They were more like sweet, calm, spotted Leghorns, and their excessive egg laying caused serious health problems, so many of the hens died (they were necropsied by a poultry pathologist, so that conclusion is definite, not an assumption). The roosters were mean and not well fleshed. They could not be free ranged because they attacked anything that moved, and they could not be kept in a bachelor pasture because they tried to kill each other (I'm not talking about the usual cockerel pecking order issues -- it was a fight to the death unless I intervened). Just to get them to slaughter size they had to be kept in individual grow out runs. My husband is stubborn, and insisted on keeping the "best" rooster for breeding, as he had fallen in love with the breed. The rooster couldn't be kept with the hens, as he was horribly abusive, so he spent his days in a large run in the center of the free range pasture, and spent his nights in a small run in the center of the overnight coop. Every time my husband tried to move him from one run to the other, the rooster attacked him, but my husband still wouldn't give up. By the time they were about 16 months old, I was just plain done with this arrangement, so I made a deal with my husband. He would let me slaughter Simon, the rooster from hell, if I could find him some good quality Speckled Sussex that represented the breed well in every aspect -- well fleshed, appropriate number of eggs, good health, vigorous, and wonderful pets. He finally agreed, and I started my search.

    Within a few months I was able to find a wonderful breeder who shipped me 24 day-olds. These chicks were large and vigorous and just stunning. There were 8 pullets and 16 cockerels in the group, which was perfect for me, as I wanted about 6-8 hens and 2-3 cocks. This gave me plenty of cockerels to select from, and we got a good sampling of their meat potential, since they all fleshed out wonderfully. Now, even from a good breeder these chicks didn't all grow up to be perfect birds. A few of the cockerels were excessively aggressive for the breed, although no where near the vicious temperament of the hatchery boys. One of the cockerel chicks had some skeletal problems and had to be put down when he was just 2 months old. But at 13 months old, I now have 3 exhibition quality hens, 5 layer quality hens, 2 exhibition quality cocks, and 1 reserve cock. When I say exhibition quality bird, I don't mean that I plan on showing them, or that they would end up as champions if I did. What I mean is that they truly represent the breed up to that level. Their frame is perfect, their size is perfect, and they have all the finishing details right. The finishing details aren't as important to me (although I do truly appreciate their beauty), but the frame and size are important for production of both meat and eggs. And that level of breeding has also produced a bird that is healthy, vigorous, and has a perfect temperament. The Standard isn't just about being a pretty show bird, as the finishing details of color and comb and all the easily seen traits should never be the dominant factor in winning.. It's about producing a bird that has the right frame and size and health to be able to serve the farming purpose that they were developed to serve, as most of the SOP descriptions were written in the day when these birds were depended upon to feed the family, and the country, from family farms -- long before the development of the commercial broiler and layer hybrids.used in factory farming today.

    So what's the difference in cost to get a hatchery bird vs a standard bred bird? In my case the hatchery chick cost $4.79 each, plus $30 shipping for 25 chicks. Several of the chicks died during shipping, and several of the hens died at their peak of production, so averaging out those losses and adding shipping would bring the cost of each chick up to about $9-10, not including the feed cost that was lost to raise those hens that died prematurely, losing both a lifetime of egg production and a good soup hen carcass, which is supposed to offset the cost of feed. Plus the poor feed efficiency of the cockerels that never fleshed out properly, producing a disappointing carcass. It also cost time and materials to build special housing for the cockerels as they grew out, and for the rooster that was kept. Plus the time of moving the jerk from indoor run to outdoor run and back again every day. And the loss of years in developing a good breeding program. And the frustration/disappointment of having poor quality birds.

    The standard bred chicks cost me $7 each (actually $5.83 each, as I ordered 20 and was sent 24, all of which lived despite a shipping delay), plus $15 shipping. When you average out for the one chick that had to be euthanized before producing a usable carcass and add in shipping, the cost of each chick was $6.74, which is significantly less than the $9-10 of easily-calculated costs for each hatchery chick. It also "cost" a few months of searching APA show records, and posting questions online, and making a few phone calls, all of which ended up being a very positive experience that was done in my spare time, and resulted in no out-of-pocket costs. It costs just as much to feed a good quality bird as a poor quality bird, so we'll say that the feed costs are the same just to make it easier. All 12 of the standard bred cockerels that were slaughtered produced excellent carcasses, making the feed costs worthwhile for these birds, but not for the hatchery cockerels. There was no cost for special housing, and no time wasted for unique management needs. The breeding program will be able to progress on schedule. The temperament of the boys is wonderful, with each of the three cocks being totally safe lap roosters, and no serious fights in the bachelor pasture. When a layer hen occasionally flies into the bachelor pasture, they are obviously young males with normal virility, but they are also gentlemen with appropriate breeding behavior, not aggressive rapist roosters that frighten and attack the hen en masse. Overall, there is no disappointment in these birds, as I wanted Speckled Sussex, the total package of dual purpose production, farm vigor, health, temperament, and beauty, and that's exactly what I received. So for me, the standard bred chicks were significantly cheaper in the long run, just costing a little extra effort to find them.

    Obviously, this is an example of two extremes. Not all hatchery birds will be this disappointing, and not all standard bred birds will be this desirable. But it's a good example of looking at the total cost of your starter flock, not just purchase price and convenience of ordering. When you look back in 10 years, it will not matter to you whether you paid $4 a chick, or $7 a chick, or even $25 a chick for your foundation stock. What will matter is how much you enjoyed your birds, and how well your breeding program progressed. Even against the odds, some hatchery chicks will grow into beautiful birds that represent the breed well, and many people start with hatchery chicks. With rigorous selection, some breeders have developed great lines from a hatchery foundation. Usually it doesn't turn out that way. Where ever you start, the important thing is to enjoy the process, and to realize that you can always stop one day and decide to go in a different direction, starting from another source, if you're not happy with the path your breeding program is taking.
     
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  7. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

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    Hi,
    Both these breeds need a skilled touch and/or high quality birds to get where you want. color wise Their standard breed type hallmarks are also their production hallmarks. Buy the best rooster you can. Breed him to your hens and then breed the best daughters back to him for 2 generations. Buy a top quality hen. Breed your original fowl rooster ( not the special rooster) to her. Breed her best sons back to her for 2 generations.
    Now breed the best great grandkids from the special rooster and the special hen together. You should have really nice improved birds by this time. Always paying attention to correct color and proper breed type.
    Best,
    Karen
     
  8. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with me. There was a lot of good information in your post, I read it a few times. For now it think I will have fun with what I have and then maybe add some quality birds as a go and see where it goes from there.
    Sounds like I need a a couple of breeding pens, I have plenty of time to build them before my current chicks are of age to breed. If I understand you correctly you are saying to add a quality roster to my hatchery stock and then put my hatchery roosters with quality hens and then breed the offspring (second generation of each line) of the two lines. Thank you for the advice, I think once my birds are grown I will invest in some quality grown birds and give that a go!
     
  9. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

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    yup/
    1. Get a top rooster for your best hatchery hen.
    Take the best daughter, granddaughters and great granddaughters back to that top rooster.
    2. Get the best hen you can for your hatchery rooster.
    Breed the best son, grand son and great grandson back to that top hen.
    By now your hens and roosters should be mostly the same genetics as the top rooster and top hen you started out with in the 1st generation. Yeah!
    Now:
    3. Finally, breed together the best great grandkids from the hen line and the rooster line.
    If you have chosen wisely along the way, ( get help from a top breeder in your breed) by now you should have birds which can place at the shows. Congrats!
    By this time you will know how your flock inherits traits and be able to make quality decisions about who to breed to whom.
    Don't worry about inbreeding. Chickens have a very wide genetic base and many sex-linked genes. They can handle quite a bit of inbreeding without problems. Just don't double up on defects in the same generation. If one bird has a defect, make sure the bird you mate it to is correct in that trait and doesn't also carry that defect.
    Best,
    Karen
     
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  10. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Once again, thank you very much. This sounds like a fun project for a long time to come!
     
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