Production breeding

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by The Yakima Kid, Aug 9, 2014.

  1. The Yakima Kid

    The Yakima Kid Cirque des Poulets

    OK. The title of this forum is "Exhibition, Genetics, & Breeding to the Standard of Perfection" so it appears to permit logical "OR" values as well as logical "AND' values. I mention this because I gather that some folks more into Exhibition consider discussions of genetics alone sort of off topic - but I don't know where else to put this question. Be forewarned that the only term in the form title that I am working with here is "Genetics." Maybe the moderators could set up a forum for production improvements if this isn't the right place?

    What I want to know is how many people here are breeding for egg production, and what methods do you use to determine which pullets and cockerels to select as breeders.
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    What kind of production; size of egg, frequency of laying, laying well into later years, starting to lay early? Not that it matters to my response, just that you need to define exactly what you are looking for. If you don't know what you are looking for you won't know when you find it. To me, this is the most important step.

    Some people can tell you what to look for in conformation or other characteristics of the hen to show which ones have the potential to be good layers. They even have special names to define those characteristics, like “tent”. I can’t do that for you. Hopefully someone else that can will see this and help you out there.

    I look at what the hen leaves in the nest. That means you can’t decide on a pullet. You need to give her time to mature so she can show you what her eggs will look like when she grows up. You also need to keep records so you can analyze them and see which hens actually meet your requirements. If you are looking at selecting pullets without a laying history, conformation for potential may be your best way forward.

    Since roosters don’t lay eggs, they are harder to analyze. Roosters contribute just as many or even more genes for egg laying than hens because of the sex link genes so they are important. For egg laying purposes, the best I can do is hatch eggs from hens that lay the way I want them to and select a rooster from those chicks. If you know the laying history of not only the mother but of both grandmothers you are a step ahead in this process. You can select cockerels this way.

    Other than the obvious size and frequency, I will not keep a hen that consistently lays a bad egg. Determining which hen is laying which egg can be a challenge, but if a hen often lays an unacceptable egg she does not get to breed and pass on her genetics. We all have our own criteria, and a hen that rarely lays a bad egg does not necessarily make my reject list. Any of them can have an oops occasionally. It’s consistency I’m looking at. Some things that get my attention are hens that often lay an egg with a blood spot or meat spot, lay soft or thin eggs shells while the other hens are laying good egg shells, laying double yolk eggs or tiny fart eggs, lay eggs that don’t hatch when incubated, or anything else that indicates the hen’s internal egg making factory is not working the way it should. I’m not too worried about what they lay when they first start laying, it’s what they do once they get the kinks out of their internal egg making system that counts for me.
    1 person likes this.
  3. gjensen

    gjensen Crowing

    Feb 22, 2011
    Midlands, South Carolina
    I do not religiously commit myself to particulars. For me there is a lot to a bird.

    I believe that the process should vary from breed to breed. For example, it does not make a lot of sense to put excessive pressure on rate of maturity in a breed like the Minorca. It takes time to develop the large frames, and you do not want to drift towards a lighter Leghorn type. What you want is a large framed bird that is a productive layer of extra large and jumbo sized eggs. Otherwise, you are working away from an advantage that the breed should have.

    I also feel as if the birds have some say in what we would emphasize, and that can evolve over time. In other words, there might be a need to prioritize the largest need.

    I have started a flock of Catalanas, and though I am still trying to get a "stable" flock established, I intend to put a particular emphasis on their production characteristics. They are already as much or more productive than most that I have tried. I believe that they have excellent potential. I want to see more uniform results, and push them a little farther.

    They mature sexually, at a fast rate. However, it takes them some time to fill out enough to be useful for the table. With the Standard weight being 8lbs for cock birds, they should be a dual purpose bird. They had/have a reputation for good quality flesh in their country of origin. I am showing preference for birds that fill out earlier than their siblings. I have added another strain, and I am building one for a future outcross. My hope is that I will have enough variability to make reasonable progress.
    At this point, I have some birds reach appropriate weights. The average overall is not satisfactory.

    The pullets are reaching POL @ 20wks. I would be satisfied if they averaged 22 wks, because of the size and weight issues. Currently, I am not applying any pressure on this point. Instead, I am emphasizing type and weight. If needed, I can adjust in the future.

    Egg size is very good, and so is egg quality. There is some variability in shell color. There is a range is accepted in their country of origin. From white, off white, to lightly tinted pink. I prefer the lightly tinted pink eggs, and guess that many would. Once the flock is established, I intend this to be a selection point. I have good egg size, so I will not be be setting eggs of average quality or size. I do not want to lose this strength.

    When they molt and rate of molt is highly variable in this flock. I am struggling to get to this point, but I do not like an excessively early molt. I want the pullet year longer. Then I am eyeing who comes back to lay the soonest, feeling like this helps me tease a few more eggs from a hen during the off season. I also like a hen that comes into full lay earlier in late winter than her siblings.

    For me, if the lay rate is good, it becomes a series of small victories. Teasing a few ore from them from POL, then before they molt, after they molt, and again in spring. An example could be on all of these points the difference between a 220 per annum layer, and 240 eggs.

    I do not feel like I know who my hens are until they have come back into lay in the spring. A complete laying cycle.

    I do not believe a male is an more influential than the female counterpart, other than sex linked color genes. Otherwise the contribution is even. I do believe a male has more influence in a flock so he is especially important. I cannot test all of the cockerels, but I can see pen averages. Over time, it may be a reason that I go another season with a cock bird, or replace him with a cockerel. It could also mean that a male could be used in an additional pen.

    I agree on the inheritance of laying genetics. It is not a single gene, but a compilation of traits. Family inheritance (or influence) rules. It is ore about the birds behind the birds than the individual itself. Other than I cannot practically trap nest, the main reason I am most concerned with pen averages than individual numbers. If I identify a pullet that is hurting an average she is removed, unless she has a remarkable trait(s) that I need. Then she is likely to be used once.

    I am unforgiving concerning type and capacity. I might not be (other than capacity), if I was not working with a pure breed. Then I would probably be influenced by personal preference.

    Of course their is a lot more, but this post is excessively long already.
  4. The Yakima Kid

    The Yakima Kid Cirque des Poulets

    Your answer is a large part of the answer I was looking for. What you emphasize, and when you emphasize it.

    For volumes of production lower broodiness and earlier maturity, and late molting - but all of these can be problematic if you are trying to homestead and have hens set and brood. A long laying hen you might even want to slow her onset so she is really and totally fully mature before she starts.....

    This is for me as much raising the questions as not - because when we get into eating spare cockerels, we're looking for fast and early growth...,
  5. The Yakima Kid

    The Yakima Kid Cirque des Poulets

    Got it.
  6. Michael OShay

    Michael OShay Crowing

    May 14, 2014
    This may not be what you're wanting to hear, but if sheer egg numbers is your goal, then breeding for production is not the most efficient way to go. The hatcheries have already done that for you by breeding hybrid stains and sex link hens that are egg laying machines. The laying houses do not waste time and feed by raising and breeding roosters to hens. They order these egg laying hybrids in large numbers from commercial hatcheries. I have become very utilitarian over the past two decades, and have somewhat followed their lead (I do keep a few standard breeds for other reasons). I don't keep my hens in small cages under artificial lights. I give them excellent care, but I do order some new Black Sex Link pullets from the hatchery whenever my BSL hens' laying rates begin to decline. When the new batch reaches laying age, I either give away, sell, or butcher the older BSL hens. In this way, I am not feeding any non-laying roosters, and have no breeding headaches, and I have a constant rotation of high yield layers.
  7. The Yakima Kid

    The Yakima Kid Cirque des Poulets

    I agree in principal - but my goal is to see what suggestions are out there for improving heritage breeds (some of which, like the Delaware were developed after the sex links were widespread.)

    It is interesting that there are still brown egg laying strains of Barred Rocks kept in part of the country, especially on pasture since they are very tough. The other popular pasture layer is the BSL, along with RSLs and some Rock/Production Red strains.
  8. Michael OShay

    Michael OShay Crowing

    May 14, 2014
    Gotcha! :eek:) The Black Australorp breed was developed for similar reasons; to increase the laying rate of the Black Orpington, and the program was so successful that a Black Australorp held the world laying record with 364 eggs in 365 days until it was finally broken five decades later by a caged White Leghorn strain in 1979. There is always value in improving the lay rate of heritage breeds, particularly the dual-purpose ones. Good luck in your breeding for egg production.
  9. The Yakima Kid

    The Yakima Kid Cirque des Poulets

    And the problem really began in the 19th Century when breeders began to focus on fancy points. I am amazed at how many Australorp strains today are actually rather poor layers.
  10. Michael OShay

    Michael OShay Crowing

    May 14, 2014
    Some of the hatchery strains are actually the best because they breed for production rather than to meet visual standards.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: