I thought I would attempt to open up a general dialog about breeding and standards and why breeders must endeavor to work to APA Standards of Perfection (SP). While attending the Northeast Poultry Congress and several other shows, I found the discussions always leading back to how breeders want to perfect their strain. More than a few of my old friends and a lot more of the old timers now long gone who taught me would snarl at the idea of "perfecting" a "personal strain". Breeders shouldn't be endeavoring to perfect any strain unless they are attempting to meet APA/ABA SP. The reason is simple, a breeder's job is to develop their personal strain along these standards to preserve said standards for future generations. The idea that say a breeder is going to use a Black Langshan to improve their Black Jersey Giants isn't necessarily wrong since the breed has Langshan in it. But if breeders get the notion that say they want to use a Sumatra Cock with Black Giant Hens; then this is pure folly and will lead to nothing but hybrid mongrels that will infect the Giant community with bad blood that could have lasting consequences. No, breeding must be true standard breeding and anything short of this is a disservice to the poultry community as a whole. When I go back to my grandfather and great grandfather's copies of The Standard of Perfection I don't tend to find any significant variances or differences between say what the 1905 Standard described versus the 2010 Standard. Yes it is true that there are "language" nuances and different adjectives added to meet current language but the basic information is unchanged. Now having said that, there are changes in the SP when say a breed has changed significantly then changes would be made accordingly. Or when a breed is no longer in favor and the APA/ABA decides to drop the breed from the SP. Years later the breed might be reintroduced but even then it would have to be recognized by its original attributes. I was recently reading an article in Poultry Press by Christopher McCary's from the American Buckeye Club where he cited the SP's definition of color for the Buckeye and the fact that syntax in language may have changed since 1905 but certainly a Buckeye then and a Buckeye now still has to be "mahogany bay" in color. Now he goes on to forcefully point out that body and shape far outweigh color with regard to breeding and in this I whole heartedly agree. I see too many show breeders today focusing on color rather than on structure and this is again folly and disservice to the breeding community at large. If color were the main goal of breeding then A Black Giant which meets and excels SP requirements for color could be 5 to 7 pounds and it would be a show stopper every time. This isn't the case. A breeds structure is the foundation of the breed and the single most important thing any breeder should focus on. The old saying that size matters holds here a true maxim for breeding Now don't get me wrong, I am not discounting color as an important factor; rather I am saying that it is not the most important factor. Whether single, line or multiple breeding techniques are used in a breeder's flock the ultimate goal should always be toward breeding for SP. Now I'm going to say something that will probably inflame the "Marans" community but nonetheless my point is valid. Marans are being bred with an eye almost exclusively to achieving that lustrous rich dark brown egg. Now the problem is the dark brown pigment is a recessive gene and therefore any corruption of the bloodline and the egg color can vanishe in one generation. So in an effort to achieve "perfect" color breeders are ignoring SP guidelines for breeding and rushing ahead without regard to standards. An example here would be leg color. What color should a Maran leg be? Well since the fowl still isn't recognized by the APA I guess that could be an up in the air question. But it cannot be if the Maran is ever to be admitted to the APA. By French and European standards the Maran must have a medium white leg. Now a white leg of medium size is a difficult achievement in and of itself; since this color links directly to the sex chromosomes of the bird. But if the breed is to be standardized, the white leg color must be achieved and maintained. And this standard is much more important than the color egg the hen lays. I've not yet seen or heard a judge say he wasn't finished judging a hen because she hadn't layed for him yet. So herein is the issue, is egg color more important than leg color in this case? Of course leg color far outweighs leg color. When I had a friend of mine recently offer me a couple dozen Maran eggs for eating I gladly accepted, as I was using all my eggs for incubating at the time. When I saw that the eggs were all uniform in size and of good quality I asked her why she was giving them to me instead of hatching then. To which she replied " Oh those colors aren't good enough " to which I replied "Oh why not?" to which she replied "Oh because I won't get hens that lay the proper egg color". (Now the moral here I guess is that if you want dark brown eggs then by all means breed for it. But if you want a Maran to be a Maran then breed for that.) So I went without eggs for breakfast for another week and put her eggs in the incubator. Weeks later she stopped by with more Maran eggs of ill repute but saw I had beautiful Maran chicks running about one of my brooders. "Oh WOW!" she exclaimed, "they are perfect what breeder did you buy them from?" I smiled and said "you of course". She looked shocked then asked, "When did I give you hatching eggs?" "Three weeks ago remember?, I replied. The real lesson here is breed for structure first, structure second, third, fourth and fifth; then muse with color and if you get all that right go ahead and worry about egg coloration. I look forward to all disagreements, points of view and all input that will help us all become better breeders!