Line matters more than breed

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by iamcuriositycat, Nov 21, 2010.

  1. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    1. Dave Holderread (in a personal interview) says that when it comes to egg-laying ability, line (strain) is more important than breed. Why? Because in order to maintain high laying ability, a breeder must carefully select in every generation for best laying qualities. So purchasing Khaki Campbells or Runners or Welsh Harlequins doesn't guarantee that you'll have great layers.

    2. He says in his book that you can improve egg-laying ability by selecting genetics from hens who lay well in winter months.

    Based on those two bits of information, I've been paying attention to my hens this early winter and discovered something interesting: The offspring of my hatchery ducks, hatched this past Spring, are laying at roughly 20-25%. The hens I ordered from Holderread and received in April are laying at 66-100%. The most interesting aspect to me, is that the hens who are laying most heavily are not one of the top heavy-laying breeds often cited--they are magpies. Holderread magpies.

    These numbers are not precise, because although I have them separated into three groups, within the groups it is hard to tell which hen is laying. Group A has a Holderread hen, several young hatchery offspring and several older hatchery ducks, so that group is hard to measure--the Holderread girl could be raising the percentage, and the older hens could be lowering it. Their overall laying percentage is about 18% (1-3 eggs a day), but it's possible that sometimes the Holderread girl is the only one laying--I just don't know.

    The other two groups are easier to measure. Group B contains three Holderread magpie hens laying between 66%-100% (i.e., 2-3 eggs per day), and Group C contains four Spring-hatched Runner hens, out of hatchery stock, laying at 25% (i.e., 1 egg a day).

    These preliminary findings lean me toward possibly thinning my flock down to pure Holderread stock, and then focusing very tightly on egg-laying ability. I would have to thin my numbers in order to keep a pen open for separating hens to measure winter laying more precisely. But it's beginning to seem very important to me.

    Any thoughts? Anyone here breeding carefully for laying ability? How are you doing it? How are you measuring laying ability? What kind of records are you keeping? Have you seen your laying numbers going up or down?

    How important is it to you, when you buy ducks, that they be from a heavy-laying strain?
  2. pascopol

    pascopol Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 6, 2009
    Tampa Bay
    Very good post and thoughtful observations, Magpies are very similar to Anconas , which supposedly are one of the best laying medium size dual purpose breeds.

    I was itching to get some Anconas, unfortunately Holderread is no longer breeding them.

    I am afraid that the future of Ancona breed will suffer cause of that.
  3. katharinad

    katharinad Overrun with chickens

    Selective breeding is always good when you are looking for production. Even Metzer Farms does it. They cull the non-laying ducks and save lots of feed to those that are not producing. This also means that their hatchlings are from ducks that are good egg layers. Not all will get the good laying gene, but many will. It will get better with subsequent breeding, if they selection process continues. I consider myself lucky, because I get 7 eggs daily from 8 hens. That is with them being outdoors all day, and all they do is walk and walk because of the cold weather. Then they have the heated duck house with a light coming on at 3am each day. They are getting a total of 13.5 hours of light per day. I guess I could ramp it up to more, and Metzer actually said to me that 17 hours is best. I personally also think it has to do with what the ducks are used to. Well we see how my setup works, so far so fine. Metzer also published an article about yellow light working the best on ducks. That being followed by fluorescent. I've asked him what he thinks of the new LED lights, but apparently there is no data out on what part of the spectrum they release. I've also told him that the fluorescent did not work well for my ducks. I'm using a growing bulb for plants, which seems to work wonders. I do have Saxony ducks, which were bred for heavy egg production, and I think it shows. [​IMG]
  4. gofasterstripe

    gofasterstripe Chillin' With My Peeps

    I bought 4 Pekin hens from the Jockey lot back the end of September, 3 of them were older and 1 of them was this years hatch so once she did start laying I knew what egg was hers. My 3 older Pekins have all layed an egg EVERY day since I got them. I write my egg totals on the calender every afternoon. My ducks are split into 2 groups, Little ducks (Khakis and babies) and big ducks Pekins & Swedish) so I can see who lays what. Last month for my big ducks I had 107 eggs. 3 layed every day totaling 93 eggs and the youngun layed 14 in 1 month. I also have 4 out of 8 Khakis laying. Come next year when everyone is laying I SHOULD get 21 eggs a day...yep 21 girls and 2 boys.
  5. CityChicker

    CityChicker Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 21, 2009
    You most definitely have to continuously select for laying ability (among other things). Absolutely. I fully agree with Holderread and others on this. It has always struck me as funny the number of people anymore that select for appearance, not utility. It really flies in the face of the people that created all the breeds we know today. When you read the old writings from the early breeders, it is almost all about utility. They recognized and used to their benefit the phenomenon of hybrid vigor, which is essentially that recent hybrids are more productive than established strains of "purebreds" (which to most of them would have been a laughable term to begin with).

    Over almost three decades of raising ducks, I have found time and again that hybrids are the best layers followed fairly closely by good strains of Runners. I suspect that good strains of KC, W. Harlequins (and yes, possibly Magpies as well) are close behind. It just seems harder to find lines of the those breeds that have been preserved for laying ability. I also fully agree that the Holderread's are a great place to start for excellent stock. Some of my best birds have come from them and they are indeed people that select for both appearance and utility. Certainly they are far above quality wise than most hatcheries.
  6. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Very interesting thoughts!

    Another thing Holderread says (in Storey's Guide) is that you can't *just* select for utility if you want a strain that will last into posterity. He doesn't say this, but I think of it like a brand name--the utility is what everyone wants, but if it doesn't *look* like a Runner, how does anyone know it's a good line of Runners? They may wear like Levi's, but if they look like Walmart brand, well...

    Of course, for home use, by all means utility should be king. And most of the hatcheries that select for utility over appearance probably produce wonderful utility birds.

    What amazes me is that Holderread's birds are SO far superior to anything else I've seen (though I'm sure there are other WONDERFUL hatcheries & breeders out there), but his prices (for the "utility" quality--which is still outstanding) are the same as anyone else. No wonder they sell out every year.

    Now I just need to convince them to let me build them an online shopping cart so I can make impulse buys instead of having to print out an order form and mail it in, which gives me enough time to come to my senses and realize I have too many birds and too little money at the moment, and makes it impossible for me to convince DH that I just wasn't thinking. [​IMG]
  7. Birdcrazy

    Birdcrazy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 21, 2009
    I've always believed in line rather than breed, and its interesting reading what you said. Its funny how genetics from a stronger layer effects the egg laying.
    I was talking to my grandma who had purchased laying chooks from a seller who comes past our town a few times a year - she was complaining about the quality of the egg laying and believed they were probably inbred. Since then I've always wondered how much it effected egg laying.. [​IMG]

    Also, just a question.. I have friends who have the option of either taking some of my runners due or my muscovies, completely for egg laying (they consume a lot of eggs for breaky) - which would be better for laying? These are my first runner ducks eggs under my hen so I'm a newbie on them [​IMG]
  8. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    In general, Runners tend to be better layers (by a good bit) than muscovies. But of course... the line matters more than the breed, lol! Still, if you purchased your birds from a hatchery, they were probably selecting reasonably well for laying in the Runners, so those will be the safest bet for laying.
  9. Omniskies

    Omniskies Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 7, 2008
    I agree with you to an extent. But keep in mind, your average Call Duck or Dutch Hookbill probably still won't out-perform the average, run of the mill Indian Runner or Khaki Campbell. And when you select for egg laying above all else in meat breeds you end up with a lot of smaller, leaner birds than you otherwise would have. It may be better to say certain _lines_ of a specific breed lay better than others.

    Comparing to hatchery stock just isn't fair. Hatcheries breed for...well...I don't know what they breed for. If they had any sense they would breed for the breed traits - including culling out birds that lay poorly. Yeah, it would eat up more time for the first month as the breeder tried to sort out who laid well and who didn't (and cull out inferior stock), but after that they would be spending less money to produce more eggs and have a quality that would attract more customers.

    But hey, what do I know? Throwing a bunch of brown birds together and swearing they are Khaki Campbells is apparently putting enough money in their pockets for nothing else to matter.

    Not that I'm bitter or anything...

    Alright, so maybe I am.

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