Heritage chickens

Discussion in 'Chicken Breeders & Hatcheries' started by tlb8080, Aug 31, 2016.

  1. tlb8080

    tlb8080 New Egg

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    Aug 30, 2016
    Sorry if this isn't really the place to post this question but it seemed fitting. So I understand the definition of a heritage chicken but do hatchery chicks really fall under this definition?
     
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    The answer to this is probably going to be largely a matter of opinion, but I would say no. A true heritage bird comes from a breeder. Most hatchery birds do not fit breed standards, and many are the result of outcrosses and are not pure descendants from such real heritage birds.
     
  3. tlb8080

    tlb8080 New Egg

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    Aug 30, 2016
    Well not all chicks from "breeders" would necessarily fit breed standards either. But how many breeders actually cross thier birds with other birds to breed back in the actual traits of the true standard?
     
  4. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop


    I wouldn't consider any breeder that doesn't breed to the standard to be breeding real heritage birds.

    Some breeders might use another breed to create a new variety, but I imagine most would consider it a last resort and try to use other varieties of the same breed first. Beyond that, any breeder with a good program is going to be breeding those initial crossbreeds back to the original breed for a LONG time, to the point that they will eventually be a very nearly pure bird with a few donor color/feather type genes. Hatchery outcrosses are usually being sold with one or two generations of being crossed.

    As far any other breeding... I don't see why any good breeder would cross outside a pure line to get closer to a good quality bird. There's a reason the breed standards are for that breed... crossing outside that breed is only going to make the stock worse, unless you're already starting with birds of very low quality.
     
  5. tlb8080

    tlb8080 New Egg

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    I don't think your understanding what I'm saying. Not very many breeds today are actually like the birds our ancestors had due to crossbreeding. So what I'm saying is for instance you take a bird like a dorking they used to have better egg production so you breed that dorking with a bird of higher egg production. Producing a half breed...then keep breeding that cross breed with pure breed dorking till you have to egg production you want. So what I'm saying is that an "ideal" breeder would have taken this into account now I understand that the breeders line isn't crossed but you could really end up with a bird of the same quality as from a hatchery through a breeder if they aren't breeding these negative traits out. Yes they can still meet the standard but so could your hatchery chick
     
  6. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop


    I'm the interest of accuracy in this discussion, I'll go ahead and quote here the "Definition of a Heritage Chicken" according to The Livestock Conservancy's official website.

    According to this alone, essentially 100% of hatchery birds do not qualify as heritage, and neither do any birds which are the product of lazy breeding by backyard keepers. This is specifically thanks to this line: "and with traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed."

    I'd also like to single out another point, not from the except above but from another page on TLC's website:
    Note that they do not say these animals were of particularly extraoridinary production values. In fact, most heritage varieties are considered downright TERRIBLE with regards to egg/meat production when compared to modern, non-heritage varieties and hatchery fowls. I mean, sure, back in the days... a hen who produced 150 eggs was a very good layer indeed. Or a cockerel who matured to 7-8 pounds by 6 months was an excellent meat fowl. Today? Anything less than 300 eggs a year is below industry Standard and if a bird isn't 6-8 pounds by 8 weeks, it's a failure as a meat fowl. The point of heritage breeds isn't that they have good production. It's simply their history and purity that is important. Closeness to the old standards of living is what is being seeked out by raising them.

    Beyond that, I'll try to discuss your points made above, starting here:

    I've reread your comments several times and I'm not sure exactly what I might be misunderstanding. I do agree with the second sentence here, though I would amend the word "breeds" to "birds." Most birds today are indeed very far from the old types. However, breeds, as in a pure type of chicken bred in accordance with the APA standard, are still quite similar to those of the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents; of course some minor changes have occurred, but that's simply paying the dues of time.

    A. Again, this just isn't the point of a heritage bird. The point of a heritage bird is that it is very similar to what would have been seen in "the old days"; aka measly egg production by today's standards. Not to mention... breeding for good egg production or good SOP-conforming fowl are projects which are nightmares unto themselves. It can take 20+ generations to get back to the original once a new breed or strain is crossed in. Breeding for both together? I'd call it a lost cause or a lifelong project.

    B. I'm not sure what you mean by "used to have better production." Modern day hatchery-quality (outcrossed) Dorkings have significantly better egg production than any of their true, heritage breed ancestors. 95% of people purchasing hatchery quality birds are looking for "pets with benefits." Hatcheries have every incentive to outcross to high-production breeds in order to IMPROVE egg production. That's the whole reason that hatchery birds aren't heritage, because those values were abandoned im the pursuit of production. Let's go ahead and continue using the Dorking for an example of how and why this might be done.

    Hatchery #1 acquires some purebred Silver Dorking stock to add to their inventory. Let's say that this Dorking line is of very good quality and has been linebred (selectively inbred) by the breeder with NO introduction of outside blood for, oh, 50 years. Let's say that because they've been bred to the standard, not for drastically increased egg production, they might produce an average of 150 eggs in a year. Now, genetically speaking, Silver Dorkings aren't very complicated - it's a basic duckwing (e+) base with the silver (S) gene added, as well as the gene for five toes (Po); they also have very short legs, though this hasn't been attributed to any gene in particular. Now let's say Hatchery #1 goes and gets some Brown Leghorns from Hatchery #2. The Leghorns have been outcrossed and messed with for a few decades, and are no longer SOP-conforming or pure. However, they do have excellent egg production of 300+ eggs per year. And let's take a look at the genetics of these Brown Leghorns - color-wise, they're very similar to Dorkings! A duckwing (e+) base with gold (s+) instead of silver (S), and no dominant gene for five toes; they also have relatively long legs compared to Dorkings. Let's say hatchery #1 crosses a heritage Silver Dorking cockerel over a modern Brown Leghorn hen. 100% offspring are going to be a (phenotypically) Silver Duckwing bird with a single comb, pink/white legs of medium length, five toes, and lay a pale brown egg. They would be a bit skinner than the purebred Dorkings as well. To the layman, they would look very much like Dorkings indeed, despite being a straight-up mixed breed! However - and this is where hatcheries profit - they're likely going to produce at least 200+ eggs a year, thanks to their Leghorn parentage. That's 50+ more eggs than a pure, heritage Dorking; and if a hen is laying 5+/- eggs a week, that's about an extra 2.5 months of laying
    each year. And that's a lot more marketable to the average keeper than "Hey! This bird comes from really old lines and while it may lay less than half of the days of the year, you can take it to a poultry show and impress people!"

    On the other hand... you have the breeder the hatchery originally purchased from... he or she may be having to resort to eating store bought eggs in the coldest months of winter because those darned heritage fowl decided to up and quit laying for the season... but I'll bet he or she is just fine with that when they get to see their birds take Best of Variety, Best of Breed, Best of Show, etc. or think about the past 50 years they've enjoyed culminating and perfecting their own unique line.

    Moving on...

    What exactly is an "Ideal" breeder depends entirely on a subjective definition of ideal. To someone who wants a cool backyard chicken who will give them fresh eggs most of the year, a hatchery is an ideal breeder - chicks are of good laying ability, easy to find, and cheap to purchase. To this very same casual backyard keeper, an honest-to-God heritage bird is more than likely the exact opposite of what they want - difficult to find, expensive, and not a terribly good layer. On the other hand, to a real exhibition poultry enthusiast, a heritage bird is ideal - though it may not lay as many eggs, it will be fun to raise, have a good chance of placing in show, and be a fun to challenge to locate and purchase.

    I absolutely agree on the first count. You can take a perfectly excellent line (for example the 50+ year linebred Dorking example above) and ruin it in just a few generations if you don't cull flawed offspring ruthlessly and breed only the birds that truly fit the standard. However, on the second sentence I disagree. No hatchery bird in the world will for an SOP standard. It just doesn't happen. It's called the "Standard of Perfection" for a reason. Perfection takes a close eye and a sharp mind, constantly handling, judging, rejudging birds of their usefulness in your program. I know a breeder who has managed to get her stock so good that her main worry now it smoothing out the point in her Araucana's pea combs. The combs are tiny, perfectly shaped, three rowed, and overall quite impeccable quality. And yet she's right! On many of her birds, on the very last millimeter of the comb, is a tiny pointed peak. Perfection means removing that. A hatchery, on the other hand, can only be bothered to see that their stock has the generally correct comb type for the breed - and not always even that.

    Edit: I see I may have gone off on a bit of a tangent. It's rather late here and I've been in a very academic mood today. I apologize if any of the above seems to take on a rude tone, I've been told I sometimes come off that way and please know that I don't mean any of it in a rude or "know-it-all" manner, I'm simply after discussion for the sake of discussion. Based on my research and experiences I find my point (ultimately amounting to no - hatchery birds are not heritage) to be sound; but I am FAR from infalliable and given that wall of text I'm sure I've made a few mistakes in my logic somewhere or other.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2016
  7. tlb8080

    tlb8080 New Egg

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    Aug 30, 2016
    I didn't find any of what you had to say rude in the least bit bc it was all backed by actual knowledge. I agree that hatchery birds are not heritage birds and true heritage birds would be extremely hard to find. I'm also saying that people are crossbreeding birds bc some have lost catch tertiaries of what the used to be. Not to make them industrial egg layers but to try and get them back to what they used to be a little bit. Allen smith is doing it on his farm idk if you know of him but thier doing a biology project with dorks. Another question is why is my pet chicken have a tab called heritage for thier chickens if they aren't heritage?
     
  8. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop


    OK, I think I may see what you're saying. However this point I'd like to try and clarify:

    When you say outcrossing birds, do you mean hatchery or breeder stock? I think you mean breeder stock, but I'd like to make sure I understand what you're saying. If you do mean breeder stock birds, I still wouldn't understand the point of outcrossing. The point of heritage birds is essentially to raise the same livestock our forebears did. I would certainly consider the laying of modern day, standardbred poultry to be on par with the abilities of the same breeds 50, 100, 150 years ago. Perhaps a bit better simply due to the very cleanly conditions and excellent feed available today. And that's not to say that there isn't work that could be done to perhaps even improve them - but using outcrossing to an entirely separate breed seems like a very poor way to do it. Even outcrossing to another breeder's strain within the same breed can be disastrous to the quality of the stock.

    I hadn't heard of him but I did a bit of googling. Based on the video I saw, he's got some nice quality stock on his hands. Seeing those and hearing him say he'd like to outcross scares me... those are already nice heritage birds. Of course, he mentioned having them with Buff Orpingtons so he's not gonna be breeding anything pure anyways. His idea was that "the Dorking is the dominant rooster so he'll father all the chicks"... he's gonna be hatching a lot of mutts this season if he keeps thinking like that. Subordinate roosters get up to a lot of trouble while the dominant cockerel's back is turned.

    The same reason hatcheries get away with calling Easter Eggers, which are complete mutts, "Araucanas" or "Ameraucanas." It's a blatant lie, but hatcheries like to play pretend like they're raising the real deal. The average customer doesn't particularly care, and even those of us who do care, can't do much about it anyways.
     

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