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Purely ornamental features??

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by RonoKT, Feb 26, 2016.

  1. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Are some chicken breeds and chicken features purely ornamental? I have just hatched some sultans and I bought the eggs because they looked like fun chickens and I knew my girlfriend would love them. I also have some silkies and a marans. All these chicks are feather footed and it seems to do them no favours. I had assumed that all chicken features would have an advantage in some situation otherwise they would never have been selected for. I am now wondering if that is a fair assumption. What advantage do feathered feet bring? Crests? Vaulted skulls? Polydactyly? I know any chicken or egg is edible but some fancy chickens seem so.. pointless? I hope I don't offend anyone by saying that. I am enjoying my "pointless" chicks but just can't help but wonder what the goals of the original breeders where?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    I’ll probably get somebody mad before I’m through, but breeds are not natural. They are all manmade. Nature did not select for those features, man did.

    The production breeds were selected for production traits. The first few were not breeds as we know them, more of types that maybe laid well or made good meat birds or both. Some specialized flocks were developed, but people in general were not worried about many things we now recognize as part of a breed. If they wanted chickens that laid well, what difference does feather color/pattern, eye color, number of points on the comb, any of that matter? A light colored meat bird will give you a prettier carcass so color does matter with them, but if you are just after meat, what difference does size of eggs or leg feathers make? Different people had different criteria so they developed different types.

    Eventually this wasn’t good enough. Some people decided they wanted to compete with each other, who could grow the best chicken. But the word “best” is pretty subjective. The person doing the judging might have their own criteria so they had to write a Standard of Perfection (SOP) to define a breed. That way they at least knew what standard to breed to. This link takes you through how the Ameraucana were originally develop from Easter Eggers here in the States. There will be some similarities with how all breeds were developed, sometimes by groups, sometimes by individuals.

    http://www.ameraucana.org/history.html

    Each country has its own SOP for each breed. For example your SOP for Araucana allows a tail, in the US ours doesn’t. Australia uses the UK standard. The French Marans have feathers on the legs, it’s not a requirement over here. Your Crème Legbar standards allow three different shades of egg color. One group trying to get the breed recognized over here are working to get only two of those shades recognized.

    If you think about it, what production benefit is there to have so many different color/patterns recognized for Sussex, Leghorn, Wyandotte, Rocks, etc? There are even red and white Rhode Island Red’s. Someone explain that to me please. It’s purely for show.

    The decorative breeds were originally kept because they were decorative or unusual. Normally it would have been royalty or rich people that could afford them. They were bred to make them pretty or unusual. But eventually some people wanted to compete and show them so they wrote SOP’s. When someone writes an SOP and gets it accepted is when breeds as we know them ae developed. Until then, they are just “types”.
     
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  3. ChicKat

    ChicKat Overrun With Chickens

    Ridgerunner - you really made a genius summary! Chock full of common sense.

    RonoKT - somewhere I heard that feather legs help keep the legs warmer -- kind of makes sense.

    Dogs are another animal that come in a vast variety of shapes and sizes -- some specially bred for a certain job. If you look at the wild birds -- there are some fairly peculiar manifestations. Lots of these are designed to attract a mate (as strange as that may seem) -- Penguin to peacock - beauty is in the eye of the beholder. --

    Great question ! great answer from Rdigerunner.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks, that is a great answer. I have read that sultans where developed as an ornamental bird for the Turkish sultans, purely as a novelty but I had thought silkies being an older breed must have had more "purpose" but I suppose we have always valued ornament and novelty.
    I had thought feathered legs would be helpful against cold, but having observed my chicks, they all have very cold legs, which I assume means they have a very effective counter current circulation system, so insulating the legs wouldn't be significantly advantageous and they seem to get dirty and wet so easily, I would imagine they are disadvantageous in cold weather more often than not.
    I guess the answer to it all is, we humans live to meddle and there is no end to the creativity we will apply to said meddling.
     
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  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

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    Cause someone, at some time, thought they were pretty and had the resources to continue breeding them.

    Same for most of the toy breeds of dog. They're not working dogs, they're ornamental. They were bred to be companions. Basically the same for the ornamental breeds of chickens.

    Interesting that the most common of the ornamental chickens and dogs all came from the Far East.
     
  6. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Interesting point. It's the human story that always makes animal breeding interesting to me. It is surely no coincidence that these ornamental breeds came from such a developed society. I think if polydactyly was introduced by a breeder now, people would be outraged.
     
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Those Chinese emperors and some other oriental rulers were rich beyond imagination. I’ve visited the Forbidden City. It’s amazing how rich they were.

    Sort of off-topic but maybe not, Silkies are considered a delicacy in China. Silkies have a purple flesh, many of us would probably be uncomfortable eating them from the color. I’m just guessing, but I’d guess that the Emperor was once served a dish of Silkie or it was served at one of his banquets. That’s probably how it became a delicacy.
     
  8. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Not at all off topic. I hope my three silkies are hens, but if I end up with a loud rooster (or 2 or 3), I will relish the novelty of a silkie soup.

    I was thinking about broodiness as a breed charecteristic, what causes it to be lost? Is broodiness an indicator that a breed is more of a landrace? has broodiness been selected against for production purposes or is a reduction in broodiness inevitable if it's not actively selected for? Or both?
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Mankind has been incubating chickens since the ancient Egyptians. With incubators you don’t need broody hens. You don’t want broody hens. A broody hen is not laying eggs so she is wasting space and can disrupt the flock. A broody requires special handling, which means she takes up your time. If your business is to provide eggs for incubators, you just might make going broody a fatal condition. After a few generations you have a flock where most hens never go broody. Broodiness is purposely bred out of them.
     
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  10. RonoKT

    RonoKT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've read about the Egyptian incubation caves after reading your post. Really interesting, what a skill. Thank you
     

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