Crossbreeding dual purpose breeds for sustainable flock



Dec 2, 2020
Ohio USA
I know this is a popular idea so here goes another thread. I'm reading up on the previous threads but nothing so far has been quite what I have in mind. I have raised chickens before but I've never done my own breeding so this will be new to me. I have alot of questions and along the way I'll probably be posting pics of the chickens for more opinions on choosing the best birds for my goals. To help me get used to developing the 'breeders eye' for chickens.

I'm building a hoop style building. I plan to raise the chickens on deep bedding here. In the future I plan to build a ChickShaw and rotate along with my other animals. For now though I have to limit them to the building, I have several projects going so putting money to each as it goes.

I want to breed Bresse to several dual purpose breeds and select the ones that do best. It's not a precise set of standards yet. This is definitely one of the things I'd appreciate feedback on. Other than obviously health issue or deformities I need to define the standards for culling. I want a flock of dual purpose chickens that lay well enough and the offspring are meaty enough to bother with, preferably in the about 12-16 wk time of the bresse breed. I haven't raised my own meat birds and I'm not set on butchering alot in one go vs butchering as needed. The chickens we had growing up we would do a bunch in a day, culling the hens out and seeing how many replacement chicks to get.

I've been reading about the breeds and these seemed like the best options for dual purpose for my goals, while also being attractive to look at. I also would rather keep the option of broody hens and foraging instincts, getting a few more eggs isn't worth losing brains. If anyone has crossed Bresse to other dual purpose breed before I'd be very interested to hear about it.

Bresse- 4-7#, cream eggs. Buy straight run. Choose best two roosters, eat the rest. Any hens will produce full Bresse chicks to compare the crosses to. 16wk maturity.
Buff Orpington- 8-10#, brown eggs. Buy F chicks. 20wk maturity.
Silver Lace Wyandotte- 6.5-8.5#, brown eggs. Buy F chicks. 20wk maturity.
Speckle Sussex- 7-9#, brown eggs. Buy F chicks, but more as straight run, roosters finish for meat. These are the cheaper ones so seem the better option to buy SR, and admittedly they are really pretty so I can't say I won't maybe keep one roo just to see lol. 20wk maturity.

1) I don't understand color and pattern genetics for chickens so I'm not sure what the offspring will look like.

2) For space and ease of chores etc. I was thinking to just have the hens and the keeper best 2 roosters run together. Just hatch from the full group of eggs. I am going to do more reading on small breeding groups. In a big group I'll be keeping back only the top best, so it may end up an even mix of chicks from all three hen breeds, or it may skew to mostly one hen breed that was the best cross. I see the merits of both. The group hatch will have the widest gene pool. But small known breeding groups will be able to tell me if one hen breed cross is much better than the others.

3) I have done some hatching before but not to any scale. Doing this I would be investing in an incubator and planning to hatch about 40 at a time. I have drawn up plans for a big brooder that will make for ease of use if I'm doing batches of hatching. I also hate the clamp-on heat bulbs and would be investing in the heat plate for the brooder, the big one says rated up to 50 chicks. After I get to a point I'm happy with the flock I'd like to keep the option of letting a hen brood her own chicks occasionally to repopulate the flock. And I'd be able to hatch a bunch if I want to sell them or plan a bunch to butcher at once.

4) Since the hen breeds lay brown eggs and Bresse lay cream eggs, the offspring I'm guessing will lay eggs in the range from cream to brown?

My breeding plan rough draft at the moment is...
First year:
Bresse roo x hens = F1 offspring, retain the best.
Second year:
Bresse roo x F1 hens = BC1 offspring, 75% bresse 25% original hens.
F1 roo x F1 hens = F2 offspring

From here I don't have a solid idea. I want to see what the F2 and back cross offspring look like and how they grow. With no specifics of goals I think I'll have to wait until I at least have the F1 to look at before I can really buckle down more specific goals. I want to keep the birds dual purpose. I'm keeping in mind the possibility that the crossing doesn't turn out great past F1. This experiment may show me that one of the breeds is doing much better and I go to that. We shall see.
Buy straight run.

My first order was straight run. I got 7 Buff Orp pullets in an order of 7 straight run. After that I always ordered them sexed. This may not be an option for you.

Choose best two roosters, eat the rest.

Definitely the way to go. One time I got 18 Buff Rock cockerels, I wanted one to be my flock master. I started eating the ones that did not meet my standards. It was pretty easy to get down to the last three. Any one of those three would be OK. The point is, the more you have to choose from the better your choices. This is when you order them and when you hatch them. It is easy to wind up with a lot of chickens.

1) I don't understand color and pattern genetics for chickens so I'm not sure what the offspring will look like.

As far as meat goes the only reason that's important is if you pluck them. The white or buff birds will give you a prettier carcass because the dark colored birds leave dark pin feathers that are easy to see. I don't see any possibility of sex links in your choices.

When you cross purebreds as to color/pattern you can usually have a real good idea of what the chicks will look like in the first generation. When you cross crosses that blows up on you, You can get a lot of different colors/patterns.

I assume you are talking about White Bresse. White is a bit challenging because there are two different ways to make a solid white chicken genetically. If they use Dominant White on Black your first generation should be white with all those breeds. If you breed the mixed pullets back to a White Bresse rooster the second generation should all be white too. If you use a mixed rooster after that you will get white, black, and possibly other colors depending and which hens are the grandmothers.

If they use recessive you could get about anything but the first generation should be pretty consistent depending on which hens are the mothers. The nest generation will likely explode on you as far as colors/patterns.

2) For space and ease of chores etc. I was thinking to just have the hens and the keeper best 2 roosters run together. Just hatch from the full group of eggs.

That's basically the way I do it. If you have a white bresse rooster based on dominant white one way you will be able to tell which is the mother is the Wyandottes, those chicks will have a rose comb. The Orps and Sussex offspring will have a single comb. I cannot remember leg color dominance. You may be able to tell which chicks are Orp or Sussex by leg color.

From here I don't have a solid idea.

Nothing wrong with that. I assure you that you will have many many conflicting ideas as you go along. There is a learning curve, not just in how to do this but what to look for. The more different criteria you have the harder it becomes. For example, broodiness is inherited. If you want more broodiness in your flock hatch eggs from a hen that goes broody and keep her offspring. That includes her boys as well as her daughters. If you do that you may have to choose against other traits you want like the size and conformation of the cockerels or egg laying of the pullets.
Thanks all!

Colors- Yes that is kind of what I figured lol! I'll just have to see what happens. With my other animals I have a fair grasp of the genetics but chickens seem to have very different rules. That's fine, I'll always be surprised that way hahaha.

Straight run- yeah I was thinking about it and if I order chicks I'll just go sexed chicks. The Bresse are only straight run so I'm planning to order more than I think I'll need. Running on the idea of unknown usually means mostly males. Which being the sire breed is fine, but getting a few hens would be good for comparison.

Roosters- Glad to hear that it's a good method of weeding out the ranks!

Future- Yeah I'm totally fine with having this as an amorphous general direction to start off. I tend to be a big over planner. I'm happy to learn as it comes with this project though. I'm also keeping in mind it might end up that I keep a couple hens as a broody line. But for now I'm looking forward to bulk hatching! Haha. I've hatched a couple times but never at any kind of scale. I'll be like a kid on Christmas lol.
I think my only input is when selecting culls from your hatch, you may not want to select the top 10% (or whatever your number is) because, as you stated, it may favor a cross or pure breeds. However, it may also favor a particular pair of birds and your genetic diversity will decline. So what you may want to is is choose the top 10% of each clutch so you're not accidentally only selecting a particular pair.

Obviously tinker with that as you see fit (top 3% roos and top 7% pullets, for example) or select more from a crossing or less from it. Just be wary of choosing over the whole hatch.
We could have some long discussions on feather color/patterns. There are rules but it can get complicated pretty quickly. Most genes are either dominant or recessive, but some are partially dominant. That mans if you have only one partially dominant gene at a certain gene pair you get one result, if both are that partially dominant you get a different result. And some genes only have an effect if a different gene is present. The Blue/Black/Splash gene demonstrates both of these. If you have two blue genes you get splash. One blue and you get blue. None and you get black. But this gene only acts on feathers that would normally be black. It will not affect a red feather. If you have a chicken that would be red with a black tail you might see this in the tail only. You won't see it at all in a solid red chicken.

A big problem for me is that there are different genetic ways to make some colors. I mentioned two different ways to make a solid white chicken, Dominant White or Recessive White. There are different ways genetically to make a black chicken. You often cannot tell what genetics you are working with just by looking at the chicken.

Another problem is that there are often many different genes that can have an effect on one trait. Which example to use? I'll go with combs. There are two genes that affect the basic comb type, pea and rose. Pea only, pea comb. Rose gene only, rose comb. Pea and rose genes together gives you a walnut comb. Neither pea nor rose genes means a single comb. So four basic comb types. But there are all kinds of genes that modify the comb. Different ones affect size (big, medium, or small). Is it firm or floppy? How many points does a pointed comb have? These go on and on.

When you cross chickens these genes get jumbled up. If you know what you start with you can usually predict the first cross results pretty well. But since they are passed down randomly you can get a huge number of different looks in the second generation if the two original parents had many differences to start with.

There are rules for color or size of a cockerel. You can manage these by selective breeding. You may see some surprises along the way, good and bad, but you can get there. Good luck!
That's a good point about the selection favoring too narrow number of parents. On one hand, if the best is favoring one breed of hens, then that is part of the experiment. However I don't want to narrow the gene pool to just a few select individuals.

What do you mean by each clutch?

For my starting stock chicks I'm thinking minimum 6+ of each the three hen breeds. So about 12 hens minimum. Then the two best Bresse roos and cross my fingers for a couple bresse hens. I would be aiming to hatch out alot. After researching incubators again I'm settling myself to just build a cabinet incubator. Minimum I was thinking about like 40 or so. Less than that and I don't think there would be enough of them for me to really see a breadth of variation.
With 12+ hens all together with 2 roos and me holding all the eggs for 3-5 days to incubate. I wouldn't be able to know for sure until I could separate the starting hens into breed specific groups. Have each breed in it's own pen with a bresse roo. Then I'd know which eggs from which breed of hens.
That would be a really good experiment. Not til I can separate them into groups for a few days though.
Ahhh, I see. That is much more interaction than what I know of rabbits and sheep genetics. With the chickens though I'm happy to let it be a mystery for a while haha. Once I start seeing the offspring I'll get curious I'm sureTil that point my brain is quite jumbled enough with all my other projects.
I'm buckling down on the sheep and culling hard this coming year. I have this building to build in the spring. Have to work up to have things ready for pigs come spring. And I need to visit a friend to talk cows, to happen sometime the coming year.
😂 The chicken project will just be starting. Having them and getting into the groove with them. Having some roos to eat. Having layers. That's the 2021 goal. The rest of it is going to start rolling 2022 I think.
Maybe brood is the right term? I'm still getting my terms straight. But the eggs collected from a certain hen was what I was getting at. I'm used to have broody ducks and geese where I could say all these babies were from this girl (not that I was doing anything other than rearing ducks and geese for fun then).

So if you have 12 hens, I'd aim to keep the top performing chicks from each hen if you can get an idea of who the eggs are from.

With my own chickens, I only have six pullets and one cockerel (made the mistake of not getting a few to select from). I'm choosing to rear from my top three hens and keep the best chicks from each hen (numbers to be determined post hatch). I'm hoping this may be simplified by the girls going broody, but otherwise I may use dye on the vent to spot the eggs from my select hens. I don't have the space to build a separate breeding pen yet like I would like.

Most my knowledge is from books so far, so I'm mostly in the planning stage as well.

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