Confused by SOP's... Newbie needs help!

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by janchilds, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. janchilds

    janchilds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 27, 2011
    We have been raising chickens for years. But this past year I decided that I wanted to sustainably breed all of our replacements instead of buying them from big hatcheries. Well, if I am going to do something, I want to do it right. I know from other livestock that it is much easier to start with good stock then to start with poor and breed up. So the hunt was on... I knew what breeds I wanted... all I had to do was find good quality stock.

    Well it didn't take long (a minute or two) on BYC to realize that "good stock" = breeding towards the breed standards. Cool! I could deal with that! I mean my Rhode Island Red should look like a Rhode Island Red. Learning to understand and truly appreciate the SOP's was going to be challenging but I was up to the challenge. BTW, the reference to RIR's is just an example. We have several breeds. You can replace RIR with whatever breed.

    I have been raising livestock (the four legged kind) my whole life. As a child my family had a nationally recognized Jersey dairy farm and I successfully showed and judged dairy cattle up and thru the national level. When I got married, the cost of going into the dairy business was prohibitive, so we purchased 10 sheep with our wedding money and never looked back. My husband had a very similar background to mine except in the livestock (beef/swine/sheep) world. So we've been breeding and showing sheep for 25+ years now and I have coached many of our county's successful livestock judging teams.

    In all other species of livestock, type has been closely related to production. In dairy cattle we are looking for a cow with depth and spring of rib so that she can eat all that is necessary to turn grass into milk. We have very specific skeletal structure that we are looking for so that she has a long and productive life; we know that there is a direct correlation between dairy character and milking ability and her udder is to be designed in such a way to insure that it stays where it belongs - preferably above the hocks! [​IMG] In the meat species, we want specimens that are wide based, long hindsaddled, and show width across the loin. We know these traits are direct indications of muscling (our ultimate retail product). All breed specific classes, be it dairy, beef, or whatever are given consideration to breed character. Do they measure up to the breed they represent; color, appropriate size, distinct characteristics, etc.

    I get that the standards are very specific to breed character. But what about the rest? Are there any correlations between the body type / correctness and production? Are we breeding to color and "type" to the exclusion of production? I am totally confused?!?

    Like I said, I want my RIR's to look like RIR's, but they also have to be a productive part of my farm. I can't afford 100 lawn ornaments. They need to be able to lay eggs consistently throughout the year, handle the changes in seasonal temperatures, and forage like they were meant to. I'm not expecting them to be the answer to my ever goal, I have other breeds that I can reliable harvest for meat. But I do think they need to be productive within their niche. Can't we have both?
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  2. fowlsessed

    fowlsessed Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2011
    east Tennessee
    I think that s.q. birds are not verry productive as a whole because of course, people are breeding for the s.o.p. and not productivity. when breeding for productivity you cull unproductive birds and breed only the highly productive ones, so therefor you may be sacrificeing that s.q. bird for a productive bird and vice versa. So if you wanted production coupled with s.q. you would have to select birds with both qualities to breeed, and this would take much longer than breeding for either s.q. or productivity, but of course is posible. Hope that helps some.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  3. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 14, 2011
    Central Oregon
    No problem. Start with birds from a breeder who considers utility as well as looks when planning breedings. There are many of them out there.

    Then you take your birds and consider both looks and utility (and temperament and health) when you plan your breedings.
  4. heritagebirds

    heritagebirds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2008
    Eastern Shore MD
    I agree, you can have birds that meet the standard and are very productive. Some breeds tend to lay more than others, but the RIR is usually a pretty high producing bird. If you want to breed to the standard and can keep track the laying rates of the birds, you can select for those lay more vs. those that lay less. Your flock will evolve depending on what you select.
  5. janchilds

    janchilds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 27, 2011
    Is my only option for evaluating egg production trap nests? They just sound like alot of work with so many birds. I guess I could narrow down the field first by SOP's and then only choose those who have the production records to back it up.

    Selecting for egg color and meat production should be a whole lot easier! [​IMG] Hatch only the darkest (or whatever) eggs and select only whatever traits I find most desirable in the broilers to keep as breeders.

    Thanks guys! Now finding those breeders who still believe in utility too!
  6. dickhorstman

    dickhorstman Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

    Dec 8, 2009
    I doubt that any purebred poultry is going to lay as well or as early as the commercial hybrids etc. I have a neighbor that combined some of the best exhibition S.C.Reds in the country with commercial Reds because the exhibition Reds were not laying enough eggs and were not laying at all until they were 7 months old. They now lay in the 80% range and they start laying at 4 1/2 to 5 months. They arent as good exhibition quality as they were b ut he did have 2 & 4 old male at Crossroads. We do offer eggs and chicks from his matings. ""
  7. OkChickens

    OkChickens Orpingtons Are Us

    Dec 1, 2010
    Owasso, Oklahoma
    I would look into getting some SQ birds and consider getting RSL's for you egg production? Its just a consideration or having a small amount of SQ RIR and possibly having the rest of your birds for production.

  8. ChickenWisperer

    ChickenWisperer Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 30, 2008
    If you want to do it right, you're going to want to look for superior birds. This does not mean just conforming to the SOP - that is more or less a guide for what they should look like. Many times you get those that conform to the SOP and they will not have the type of production and sometimes even temperament they're supposed to, or could be fragile/finnicky to raise. I'm guessing to acheive these things, you'll need to buy stock from several different breeders with different blood and choose the best birds to breed.

    Points to look for and breed for in birds -

    - Have a great temperament - both bird to bird and bird to human. Any and all aggressive or skittish animals should be culled or sold IMO.
    - have good production of eggs. You might also look into birds that produce a good amount of eggs beyond the point of a year old (I have a heritage bred Australorp that is still laying around 3 eggs a week at the ripe age of 6!)
    - Have the correct/good amount of meat for the breed.
    - Can forage
    - Are hardy. Many people do this by not heating coops and picking out those that thrive the best.
    - Conform to the SOP.
    - And of course, have no obvious inheritable defects/etc.

    This way, not only will you appeal to the "show crowd" but also the people who look for pets and those looking for farm birds... I believe there was another thread talking about these points also. Hope this helped [​IMG]
  9. gjensen

    gjensen Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 22, 2011
    Midlands, South Carolina
    Quote:I built a few trap nests, and they can be a useful tool. I can't use them practically most of the time, because I am not home during the day. The ALBC has a guide to evaluating layers on their site. I am evaluating mine in a similar manner. With your experiences with livestock in general, you will pick it up pretty quick. If you haven't checked it out, look for it. I think it is in line with what you are looking for.
    Many of our birds were farm birds. Their type would fit a particular production model. The early breeders knew what they were doing, and knew what they were looking for. A lot of our birds (American) are dual purpouse. Though they potentially lay well, and can put some meat on the table, they will never excel at both. Many of these breeds were popular for a time, because they did performed well. I think they still can have a role on small farms, where someone wants to produce their own eggs and meat.
    Finding birds that fit your expectations is easier said than done. You have to discuss your expectations with who you are considering purchasing from. You still have to grow them out and evaluate them youself. I would plan on having to do my own selecting and improving over time. It is like any pure breed animal. Once they aren't used for the role they were designed for, they begin to lose the characteristics that made them popular to begin with. If you don't hunt and you breed bird dogs for their look, I see it difficult not to start losing their unseen traits. They have to be evaluated. You can have both though. We should still be realistic with our expectations, however. They will not ever compete with hybrids, but thye are not a dead end either. I personally do not want to replace my laying flock every couple years.
    If you are interested in Rhode Island Reds, I would go with Mr. Horstman's suggestion. It sounds like a possible good start to what you are considering.
  10. janchilds

    janchilds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 27, 2011

    I visited your website and see that you have the rose comb RIR. Beautiful birds by the way! Mine all have single combs. Can the be mixed/breed to each other or are they similar to different varieties within a breed? Other than the combs, are their other traits more or less the same?

    Are you one of the judges reviewing your birds? I think that's neat! I don't have time to show chickens but it would be nice to find someone knowledgable who could walk me through the flock. In the meantime I guess I have some holiday reading to catch up on.


    And thanks to everyone else who posted and answered my questions. I feel much better now! I still have to learn the SOP's but at least I can add a little common sense to the mix and have birds that perform well too! [​IMG]

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