Standard of Perfection

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by AllenWMiller, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. AllenWMiller

    AllenWMiller Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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!
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
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  2. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

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    I'm pretty new to showing birds, but I've got decades of experience with show dogs and show horses. My experience has always been that beginners get fixated upon easy to understand and easily visible features because the important stuff, like structure or inherited disease, is much harder to comprehend.

    Color, topknots, egg color are easy to see and understand. The structure of the skeleton or the placement of the muscles takes a lot more study. It's easier to see the size of a topknot than it is to understand if prolapsed vent is inherited and how.
     
  3. AllenWMiller

    AllenWMiller Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks Oregon you make valid points. I agree with the idea that novice breeders may tend to focus on the icing without noticing or understanding the cake as it were.

    But we all started at the beginning and learned from there and my overall thoughts regarding breeding is that we should start off with a strong foundation and to that end if novice breeders want to learn correctly they must start with the APA Standard of Perfection as the starting source for understanding how a chicken's overall appearance should show.

    Honestly, this is where I began as a breeder and it makes good sense since the SP has been around for more than a century. And this is far easier to grasp and learn than starting from a genome perspective!
     
  4. AllenWMiller

    AllenWMiller Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In another string discussing "dry" incubation methods I found myself getting caught up trying to simplistically explain how humidity is critical to the incubation and hatching process. That humidity is one of the four cornerstones of ova incubation is undeniable; but I found without going into epigenetics there was no way to simply explain how critical humidity is to the developing embryo.

    I was concerned in the string that folks might lose interest and I felt if I went into a textbook discussion of ova epigenesis I would being doing more a disservice than a service by chilling the discussion at hand.

    So for those reading this string that have a more advanced interest in poultry breeding, rearing and husbandry generally; I want to continue my thought process on humidity and ova epigenesis for those interested.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  5. AllenWMiller

    AllenWMiller Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When we discuss genetics we are speaking of inheritable traits passed on from parents to offspring; whereas when we are discussing epigenetics we are talking about the developmental changes taking place at a cellular level. This can affect cellular division during the life of the offspring and for several generations beyond.

    We know that nutrition affects the cellular development from day one of life on a critical level and while genetically the individual remains unchanged, how those genes are expressed is in a state of constant flux. Likewise, aging plays a vital role, in that, as cells age and divide each copy becomes less resilient that the previous version. In this manner humidity plays a vital role in ova epigenesis through impacting, from the very beginning, how cells will divide and multiply and how healthy or weak they will impact the genetic material being compounded within the egg.

    One of the debates has been that lower humidity incubation will lead to early hatches and for the commercial hatcher this is a tempting thing. If you realize that saving even one day on an incubation cycle can save time, energy and reset; then you realize there is a profit to be made commercially by forcing the hatch in this manner.

    But is is what low humidity leads to epigenetically that makes this allure completely unattractive to the poultry-man generally.

    Deformity is a one of the cornerstones of failure to both the breeder and the hatchery operator. The breeder points and says to the hatcher he didn't do his job right and the hatcher points to the breeder and says the breeder didn't do his job right. It is a simple matter to determine if the hatcher was at fault by checking his logs during the hatch right?. Humidity is a crucial factor in epigenetic malformation. Much the same as calcium loss can lead to epigenetic osteoporosis in humans as we age; so to improper humidity can lead to environmental malformation in the developing embryo.



    And while deformity seems the most distressing outcome of improper humidity it actually is not the worst complication. Far worse can be the epigenesis of actual genetic mutation and anomaly occurring in generations to come all as a result of improper humidity.

    As breeders we are always on the lookout for “visual” flaws in our stock. A white feather where only black ones should be, or a crooked toe or improper leg color; but of far more importance is the inner workings of our breeding efforts. Do we breed a beautiful bird to win shows only to one generation later produce absolute genetic failure? Or are we breeding for perfection generationally and not just for here and now?



    While the humidity issue may not seem a matter for breeding, as I stated earlier it is a cornerstone to proper ova development. As breeders we must take this into account along with other factors when starting any breeding program; being keenly aware that our efforts today affect generations to come either positively or in the negative.
     
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  6. NYREDS

    NYREDS Overrun With Chickens

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    dialogue: conversation between 2 or more people

    monologue: a prolonged discourse by a single speaker
     
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  7. AllenWMiller

    AllenWMiller Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes NYRED you are correct. I guess I'm talking about breeding subjects that no one here is interested in. My lecturing days ended long ago; which is why I haven't continued with this topic.

    Thank you for your kind observation.

    Cheers

    Allen
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
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  8. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

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    Sure. Go ahead and continue. I'm reading it. Most of it looks like it doesn't require a response.
     
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  9. AllenWMiller

    AllenWMiller Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks Oregon. I guess you're right I wasn't really looking for responses per say on this string but as an old man rambling on don't want to tick people off either.

    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
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  10. cgmccary

    cgmccary Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Many people will send me pictures of their Buckeyes and ask me to tell them my opinion. Without actually holding the bird and feeling the body underneath the feathers, there is really no way I can give a fair assessment. I usually ask, "How old is the bird in the picture? What does it weigh?" as the questions at least give me a size assessment. Other than noticing a pinched tail/ saddle area or thin shanks, maybe small head - that is as far as I can go. Color is the easiest thing to see; even the beginner can judge color. It is the body underneath that makes the breed.

    Monte Bowen remarked in a column on "Breeding for Type" in the SPPA Bulletin several years ago that a Black Java with perfect feather condition and color but not meeting the SP's body (too short a back, etc.) is not a very good Java, but take a Java meeting the SP's criteria for the body but colored black and green with purple polka dots, you'd still have a good Black Java.

    Several years ago, a fellow in Australia sent me a picture of a pullet that had a pea comb, rich mahogany bay color and yellow legs. It was not a Buckeye but something he had created using different breeds -- he said jokingly, "I have made an Australian Buckeye." To the amateur, they would have said "Buckeye" -- but I am sure the body underneath did not purport to be a Buckeye (skull shape and width; breast shape; width of heart girth, spacing between the legs; width & length of back, pelvic spread, pelvic-keel width, etc.).

    It takes more time, patience and experience to learn to examine the shape of the body underneath the feathers (and not simply the outline the feathers create) and to get beyond color. Yet, the body shape is what makes the breed. When people buy young birds from me, they will examine its chest for the slightest black blotch. They'll say, "Oh no, he has a few black spots . . . don't want him." I will have one that will be color perfect, and I show them that one & that is the one they want. Yet, I point out that the other bird has the better body type and that is the one they should take -- they never do. I always tell them that the Buckeye male I started out with was covered with black spots on his breast and hocks.

    In 2009, at the Ohio Nationals, I took a couple of Buckeye cockerels to sell in the sale area, and I also had three in the show. One of mine in the sale area was actually an exceptional male & he should have been in the show. One man, a potential buyer, came up and asked if he could take them out and look at them. I said "yes" and he took out the exceptional male. The man immediately fluffed the back to see if he could see the slate bar -- with one flick of his finger, he didn't see it and shoved it back in the cage and said, "nope" shaking his head. Not fifteen minutes later, probably the most well known poultry breeder (and an experienced APA judge too) stopped by because he wanted some new Buckeye blood. He examined both cockerels in the sale area and of course, immediately put his name on the exceptional male that the previous "looker" had said an unequivocal "no" to.

    Recently, at the Crossroads, I wanted a Buckeye cockerel from another breeder. He said, "Everyone has made their picks before you and all I have left is this one & you are welcome to him if you want him."

    I took the cockerel out of the pen and examined his heart girth and pelvic spread; he had a nice shaped head & thick shanks -- his body type was an A+ -- he was literally perfect type, so I said ," yes, I want him, I can use him." The male is in my breeding pen with 4 hens right now. The reason nobody wanted him? his color. He had the evil black blotches on his breast, all over it.

    I can go on and on with color stories.

    You can say select for "TYPE, TYPE & TYPE" and mostly, folks are still going to only see color -- after all, seeing color is easy. Who can't discern color? The SP is much more.

    Christopher McCary
     
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