Hatcheries v. Private Breeders...the good, bad and the ugly...

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by sjshaw1980, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. sjshaw1980

    sjshaw1980 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So can anyone explain why the folks that sell stock on this website (and many other private sites) like to specify "NO HATCHERY STOCK"? (usually in all caps)

    If you aren't showing your chickens, does it really matter? And if you are, does it really matter?

    Are show lines (with the accompanying price tag) really what a backyard hobbyist who raises for meat and eggs would need or want anyway, since they are raised for looks rather than productivity?

    All my girls are beautiful, in my humble opinion, and eye candy is great, but if she's not a good producer, into the pot she goes... I'd take an "ugly" hatchery hen who lays 5-6 eggs a week, over a gorgeous show hen of the same breed who lays 1-2 per week any day. Or am I missing some hidden point about the evil of hatcheries here? And FYI, I do have two ex-show hens - one is the best layer in my flock (a bantam cochin...go figure), and one is the worst (a golden laced polish...no surprise there). I also have one hatchery Rhode Island Red who should have begun laying by now (she's 28 weeks and nothing yet), and three private breeder "easter egger" hens who stopped laying and started molting at 8 months old...So I'm not sold on private versus hatchery either way.

    I'd like to get a dialog going here because it seems to be a pretty important topic to those who are involved in it. All responses are welcome and appreciated!
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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  3. groundpecker

    groundpecker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hatchery birds are great for their own purpose, which is egg and meat production. I have 2 hatchery breeds myself.
    Most of the time Hatchery stock does not meet the Standard of Perfection, and only is a "representation" of a breed, meaning
    if you get a "rhode island red" it is nothing like the old type great grandma used to have.

    I also have Private line show breeds that do meet the SOP and i breed them as such.. Producing eggs and meat is not what i am breeding towards. I want to preserve the bloodlines and the breed as they "used to be" many years ago.

    So depending on what your goal is, hatchery or private breeds is an individual choice.
     
  4. canesisters

    canesisters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It all depends on what you want out of your flock.

    In my own personal situation, I am the only one who regularialy eats eggs so the fact that I get 3 eggs a day out of my 5 hens has me giving them away to friends and family on a steady basis. To me they are pets. I got them from a swap meet so I don't know if they came from hatcheries or from breeders. I picked the breeds based on: their expected egg color, what the adults would look like (prefer the 'classic' look over the really squatty or standing up super tall breeds). I plan to get a few more in the spring and am searching out local breeders solely because I only have room for a very few more birds and I would rather drive a ways to meet a local breeder and pick up a single chick (or 2) rather than stressing over all the possible problems of shipping (too hot, too cold, lost in the mail, left at hub, rough handling, etc).

    If I was raising them for commercial purposes - eggs to sell, meat to fill my freezer - then I'd certainly go with the lowest cost v/s highest profit. It would make MUCH more sense to order a few dozen 'meaties' from a hatchery than to get the same number of birds from someone who is breeding them for show. Or to order a batch of 'barnyard layers' over some 'rare and lovely' who may or may not lay on a regular basis.

    If however I was raising them for the purpose of selling hatching eggs or chicks, then I would take into consideration how closely my birds stand up against the SOP - and I would show them as often as possible so that I could prove my 'higher quality' and could justify my higher prices.

    So, for me, private breeder is the way to go. I'm looking for birds that are close enough to the standards that they are clearly a certain breed but I'm not necessarily concerned if they are show quality. Nor am I concerned if they are superior egg layers since I only really require a few a week. And since I don't plan on eating any of them, I'm only concerned if they are round and meaty enough to look 'fat and sassy'.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I’ll take what is probably an unpopular view. I think for the vast majority of us, hatchery stock is the best choice if we are looking for productivity.

    Not all hatchery stock is the same. They have different people selecting the different chickens that go into the breeding pens. They often have different goals. Different hatcheries have different business plans. I’ve gotten the same breeds from different hatcheries. There can be some pretty big differences between those birds.

    With breeders there can be a tremendously greater difference. Some people get hatchery stock, have no idea what they are doing when it comes to selecting breeding birds, and sell the eggs or chicks as purebreds. Some breed only for show and pay no attention to productivity. Some breed for productivity and not for show. Some breed for productivity, show, and behaviors. These are extremely rare and are extremely passionate about their birds. You generally can’t get birds from them because they will only trust their line to people passionate about keeping them pure and that know enough to know how to do that. Basically, I have trouble understanding what I’d get from a breeder without knowing a fair amount about that specific breeder.

    What I’m about top say is what will really aggravate some people. The SOP’s for different breeds were written and developed by people that wanted to compete against each other. When you compete against each other, appearance is what counts. Judges don’t see how well they lay or even if they lay much at all. They don’t see how fast a rooster reaches butcher weight or how much feed it takes to get him to butcher weight. They don’t see how the bird behaves in a flock. None of the productivity things matter to a judge.

    Some breeds were developed specifically for productivity. The Delaware and New Hampshire were bred and developed to be meat birds for example. Conformation was important so you got more cuts of the meat you wanted. They were light-colored so pin feathers did not show up on the carcass of a plucked bird. But I’ll venture to say that the goal of these developers was to get a Delaware that would weigh 4 pounds at 10 weeks, which is a claim I saw in an old advertisement for them, not eye color or the number of points on the comb. Those things become important when you compete against each other in the show ring, not when they meet the butcher.

    Shape probably defines a show bird as much or more than anything else. Different breeds have different shapes. Different breeds were developed for different purposes so you can expect some differences in shape, but if a certain body shape is more conducive for egg laying, why don’t more have that specific shape? It may be that the curve of the breast may give a hen more room to hold an egg, but I’ll look at what she leaves in the nest to evaluate her egg-laying ability, not her body shape. Hens of a certain shape may have more potential to lay eggs, but I’m more interested in what potential has been actually developed.

    Show birds tend to be big. They have a lot of body mass. They have to eat a lot to maintain that body weight. That means they eat more to produce the same number and size of eggs. If I have to buy more feed to get the same eggs, I consider that to be inefficient.

    Some traits for show are directly counter to good productivity. An easy example. Yellow legged hens lose the yellow color as they lay. One way to tell a really good egg layer of a yellow legged breed is that her legs get really light if she has been laying a lot. If you take a yellow legged hen that lays well to a show, you are going to lose judging points because her legs are the wrong color. By selecting a hen for your show-breeding program that has good yellow leg color, you are selecting against good egg laying.

    Even if you get top-of-the-line show chickens, if you breed them and don’t have a really good handle on how to select your breeders, you are back to hatchery quality in just a few generations anyway. Or maybe not even that good a quality. Don’t get me wrong. I highly respect the people that can breed birds that win at shows. They know what they are doing and they are good at it. But for the average backyard flock. I just don’t see the advantage.

    Many people think that Grandma raised chickens that met the SOP. I don’t believe so at all. Grandma raised chickens for productivity, which means egg laying, meat, and a certain ability to forage for food. I grew up back in the ridges of East Tennessee where many people kept those flocks that Grandma raised. We had a flock like that. It was mixed breeds and all kinds of colors. Dad was not trying to win a show bird contest. He was trying to feed five hungry kids. That’s what most Grandmas were interested in too. Hatchery birds come closest to meeting Grandmas criteria. They have been bred in breeding flocks for decades so they have lost some of the traits that Grandma’s birds had, but I’m convinced they come a lot closer than show quality birds.

    Your question specifically mentions productivity traits, meat and egg laying. We all have different goals. Some people are willing to pay big money for a dog that looks like the one that did well in the Westminster Dog Show. I’m happy going to the pound and getting some mixed breed mutts that can handle the foxes and coyotes around here. I don’t need to pay $500 or even much more for a purebred dogs for that.

    If you are interested in meat, it is hard to beat just getting some broiler chicks and raising them for 8 weeks before you put them in your freezer. If you are interested in eggs, it’s really hard to beat getting some commercial egg layers and replace them every couple of years. Some of the sex links certain hatcheries sell fit this category. But if you are interested in a backyard flock that produces both neat and eggs, about any dual purpose hatchery quality chicken will do quite nicely.

    That’s just my take on it. I expect you will get differing opinions.
     
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Ridgerunner, in more words than I used but very well said and I agree completely.
     
  7. sjshaw1980

    sjshaw1980 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wow! Thanks for all the responses! Keep 'em coming!

    And so this begs my next question....I agree that "Granny's flock" probably did not look like what would meet today's SOP, because Granny very likely kept those chickens for their production abilities, meat or eggs and not so much their ornamental qualities...on a country farm back then or now, if you are a critter, you make yourself useful or you go...SO...for the breeds that are very pretty, but strictly ornamental, like a seabright, japanese breeds, the old or modern english game, or even the polish (some are great layers, not mine.) Aside from the "cool" factor, what would be the purpose in even developing these breeds...It seems counter productive to me..."I've developed this great new chicken breed! Oh yes? What's it do? Nothing. Nothing? Nothing. It just looks really pretty is all..."

    Please don't get me wrong, I love looking at the ornamental breeds just as much as the production breeds, and they certainly have a place as a pet or a pretty "grounds bird" like guineas or pea fowl, but who developed the SOPs in the first place? Who developed the meat and laying breed standards, and what criteria did they use?...Ridgerunner is right, the judge doesn't look at the things that make a good utility bird, so how were those standards developed and who decided that a RIR cock should look like this, or a Langshan should look like that?

    I'd bet any amount of money the "original" imports looked nothing like the same breed birds of today, and so "preserving" the breed, seems counter intuitive because the original genetics have been lost to breeders emphasizing for certain traits. So a cochin that was once a taller, leaner bird, that laid pretty well, gave a good carcass, and was hardy even in wet, muddy conditions, is now a huge but squat ball of fluff that doesn't generally lay well, leaves a massive carcass, and needs to be kept in the run during foul (fowl?) weather to protect the feet from ice and snow...it seems that in order to differentiate and emphasize "our" breed, breeders have been getting more and more away from the real reasons we started keeping chickens in the first place....

    Your thoughts?
     
  8. canesisters

    canesisters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just look around at all the other animals that have been domesticated and then developed into breeds.
    What purpose does a Pekingese dog serve? Or what makes a Scottish Fold cat necessary? How about a mini Clydesdale - not sure if there is such a thing but you get the point.
    The breeds that are simply pretty exist simply to be pretty.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. sjshaw1980

    sjshaw1980 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good point, but that doesn't account for the utility breeds that have been "prettified" into ornamentals... [​IMG]
     
  10. HallFamilyFarm

    HallFamilyFarm PA ETL#195

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    Here is a comparison of a hatchery source Buff Orpington and a breeder source Buff Orpington.


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    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013

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