BREEDS, VARIETIES AND STRAINS OF POULTRY By Frank R. Reese Jr. Distict 6 Director Exhibition Turkey Fanciers http://exhibitionturkeyfanciers.bravehost.com I often get phone calls of people who state they have just gotten a variety of turkey and want to talk about the variety they have gotten. My first question always is whats the source strain of your variety of turkey . The reason I ask this question is because it will tell me a lot about the turkeys they have gotten. I always encourage people who want to buy any type of poultry to be sure and ask about the blood line before they buy any bird. The American Poultry Association is the one who set up the system of Class, breed and variety of poultry. The Class tells you where in the world the bird come from. Breed tells you the genetic type of the bird. Variety tells you the color pattern and other genetic differences that may be allowed in a breed variety. So what is a strain and why bother about it, anyway? As you review ads in different hatchery books to buy hatching eggs, chicks or poults you no longer see strain names of poultry listed anymore like the old days. Poultry people today no longer seem to take an interest in the strain of the breed and variety they are buying. If you chose to go to a farmer to buy your poultry be sure and ask about the strain of the birds you are buying. This is a well-founded fact that there may be as much difference between strains within a variety as between varieties. Strains differ greatly in such economic factors as rate of growth, viability, mature size, conformation, eggs production, hatchability and probably feed efficiency. When I got started 50 years ago you did not just buy Barred Rocks, Black Giants, Bronze turkeys and so on. You were told to buy Ralph Sturgeons Barred Rocks, Golda Millers Black Giants and Norman Kardoshs Bronze turkeys. The list of breeders back then would apply to all breeds of poultry in the American Standards of Perfection. What is a strain?It takes several years of closed flock breeding (no introduction of outside stock) to develop a distinctive strain of poultry. Strain is defended in the Standard of Perfection as Fowl of any breed or variety that have been line-bred for a number of years, and which reproduce uniform characteristics with marked regularity. The delegates at the 1953 National Plans Conference defined strain as turkey breeding stock bearing a given name produced by a breeder through at least five generations of closed flock breeding. This definition clearly specifies when a breeder may designate stock as his or hers own strain. All strain names of poultry before 1950 were applied to standard bred poultry and not hybrid poultry. The farmer whom development the strain was often given the strain title; like Golda Millers Jersey Giants and Reimans Bronze. It applied to all standard bred poultry but should serve as a guide to other breeders even today. The breeder who has been successful in developing a superior strain of poultry is interested in protecting the good name of the strain. Chicks and poults are misrepresented sometimes as to strain for the purpose of inducing sales. Such misrepresentation, especially when applied to chicks and poults of inferior quality, are detrimental both to the original breeder and to the purchaser. When does a strain run out or become your own strain? There is always the question of when a strain ceases to be a strain.Stock purchased directly from the originating breeder certainly may be designated properly as of the strain, but what about the next generation and the next? Under the Plan rule of 1954 the strain name may be applied to first generation progeny of stock originating from eggs or chicks produced under the direct supervision of the breeder. Subsequent generations may be so designated only when specific authority for the use of the strain name has been given by the originator of the strain. In simpler words, this means that a breeder, grower or hatchery may produce (lets say Frank Reese Bronze) Frank Reese poults, for example, if the parent stock was hatched from eggs produced by Frank Reese or if the hatchery has been authorized by Frank Reese to sell the Frank Reese strain of turkeys. The rule is designed to give assurance to the purchaser that he or she will obtain the particular strain of turkeys that he or she thinks he or she is getting. I purchased my first Bronze turkey poults from Norman Kardosh over fifty years ago. I continued to buy eggs and poults from Norman over the years until his death. Does this still mean I have Norman Kardosh Bronze turkeys?Even though I have kept the Kardosh strain of Bronze free from other strains of Bronze turkeys I can only say now I have descendants of Normans Bronze. Since I have been selecting and breeding the turkeys on my own for over 10 years and not been able to purchases poults from Norman, the Bronze turkeys have now become Frank Reese strain of Bronze. Now I have decided what the Reese strain of Bronze turkeys will look like. In todays world they are very few purebred strains of poultry to be found. I would say 99% of the poultry being produced for market is hybrid strains from mega corporate hatcheries. Poultry now have names like Hubbard, Cobb, Nicholas, Hybrid and so on being the names of the corporations who development this hybrid strains of poultry.We now have very few individual farmers working on keeping strains of purebred poultry. When you purchases these corporate hybrid strains of poultry the individual farmer can no longer reproduce from these birds. These strains have been so developed as to keep the farmer from reproducing them. The strains are often from F7 crosses which take an industrial hatchery to produce.As a result of this type of poultry breeding of strains we no longer have any bio-diversity in our poultry. So the next time you purchase Barred Rocks, Bronze turkeys or Rouen ducks and wonder way they look nothing like the standards for the breed or variety; this means you have not checked out the strain of the poultry you have purchased. Be sure and ask those questions the next time from the hatchery or farmers. What is the rate of growth, feed conversion, mature weight, eggs production are just some of the question to be asked. If you feel you do not have the knowledge to ask such questions then find a licensed American Poultry Association judge to help you find the breed or variety you are looking for. Attend at APA poultry show and talk with breeders of the poultry you are looking for.Subscribe to the Poultry Press and look for those ads from breeders whom still keep a strain of poultry that goes back many years. You will be happy you did and the quality of the market birds you have will go up.