How do you manage breeding/genetic diversity of your flocks?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Sen, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. Sen

    Sen Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 28, 2011
    Jacksonville, Florida
    I feel like this belongs in the Managing Your Flock section, but also considered putting it under Breeds, Genetics, and Showing, but decided that it seems more of a managing of flocks type thing. If this is in the wrong place, I'm very sorry!!

    I I ran a search of the forums on this and read through ten pages of results, and only found a handful that addressed my questions. Most only addressed one aspect of them. I decided to make a thread. This could be more of a poll type thing than anything else, but I'm looking to learn through the experience and knowledge of those of you who have been keeping chickens for a long time (or, longer than me, which is any time at all!). I like to learn plenty about a species, breed, and type before jumping into it, because I don't want to do a lot of "learning through mistakes". That's fine when I'm the only one potentially in danger, but with animals, if I mess up it's them suffering, and I don't want that.

    I'm also not the type to do things, I don't want a laying flock made up of just whatever birds I happen to find, with no roosters, or even with a laying flock of one breed bought from craigslist or whoever happened to be selling them that may or may not conform to breed standards. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that!!! It's just not what I, personally, happen to want. I've narrowed what I want down to about 3 species, in one or two color varieties. I want to get them for the purposes of enjoyment primarily, egg production, and breeding to improve my flock, and potentially for showing purposes. Like I said...I don't do things halfway. Lol.

    With that being said, for those of you who breed specific breeds to conform to breed types/improve the breed/etc, I have some questions. (Yes, I'm picky enough to separate my questions out into bolded subcategories, LOL!)

    Genetic Variety:
    1. How rigorously do you work to maintain genetic variety? I've seen people mentioning only adding new blood once every ten years, which seems like an excessive amount of inbreeding--something I want to avoid. Do you take extensive care to buy from unrelated lines?

    2. How frequently do you bring in new blood? Are your new blood typically adults or chicks, and cockerels or pullets? Do you try to have a few hens from several bloodlines and a few unrelated roosters (unrelated both to the hens and each other)?

    3. Do you ever have breeding partners with whom you work to attain a particular goal together? How do you do it?

    4. If you're working on a new project, how do you handle your unwanteds? Cull them? What about extra chicks that are perfectly fine/good/what you're looking for but which you just don't need (if you have a surplus of good chicks, but don't have space to keep them all)? Sell?

    5. How important is genetic variety among chickens? I've heard this both ways and of course generation after generation of it will cause problems, but what would you say is a safe barrier point, excluding breedings between siblings? How do you safely linebreed?

    Color type breeding/Breeding organization
    1. Do you separate different color flocks of the same species from one another, or do you keep them togehter? Do you have any way of preventing crossbreeding among species or color types?

    2. If someone kept theirs together, would it be possible to keep a smaller "breeding pen" in which to isolate a desired rooster and hen to allow them to breed, and be guaranteed to get offspring only from those two animals? I.E, do chickens retain sperm from previous breedings (this is known to happen up to a year later in snakes, and I know snake breeding more than bird breeding!!)? How long would they need to be kept isolated to ensure pure genetics and fertile eggs? Does anyone do this in order to track the chicks' lineage? Is this impractical? Why?

    3. Do you keep chicks from multiple breedings of one animal, or do you stop retaining chicks as future breeders after a point? What is that point? How many chicks would you hold back for future breeding from a particular hen? A rooster? Why?

    4. Do you free-range your birds? If so, how do you maintain separation between breeds/colors? Do you just let them all out at once, or rotate them in and out to give everyone isolated outside time?

    I know there's a LOT in this, but I've got a lot of questions and wanted to see how you all answered. Lol, please feel free to only respond to one or two questions if you want to, I just wanted to see what people have to say about their own flocks.

    Also, pictures of birds, enclosures, setups, etc. are happily welcomed and eagerly viewed! Thank you so much for your patience and responses.
    Have a great day!
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I work with a single breed where my population is as gentically diverse as I could start it.
    I use family selection where a given individual, be it male for female, is mated to multiple individuals during a breeding cycle and records kept as to who is related to who.
    My flock is not what I want it to be so my selection efforts is directional without line breeding.
    Birds evaluated and bred by 2 years, held longer only as back up in the event offspring wiped out by some dissaster.
    Free range during growout only, brood animals confined as they are considered most valuable.

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