Welcome to the pages we are putting together to explore the interesting and complex world of breeding and keeping old fashioned breeds of chickens and ducks while maintaining and in many cases improving their productivity.
This site is very much in its infancy - and in places consists of little more than jottings of information I have found - with the hope that others with different experiences will join in and help us produce a useful resource for any interested breeder of birds. I do not mind a bit to be told I have got some thing worng - we are all here to learn.
At Kintaline Poultry and Waterfowl Centre here on the West coast of Scotland near Oban we are concentrating on breeding utility types of pure breed chickens and ducks. We want to produce youngstock for our customers that are as productive as possible as well as being a good type for each breed.
In trying to find good foundation breeding stock over the past few years, we have found that, in the United Kingdom, the poultry, and especially the waterfowl, world has lost most of the main large breeders of utility pure breed. We are seriously at risk of losing many of the old very useful strains of both waterfowl and chickens. In the waterfowl world it may well that this has already happened. (for the sake of this web site I will include both chickens and ducks in the term POULTRY.) In the opinion of some respected poultrymen anything up to 98% of the best old lines have been lost already.
Up to forty years ago most egg and meat production was using pure breeds of chickens and ducks and not the hybrids that are now so prevalent in the intensive units around the country.
[Definitions of purebred : cross bred : hybrid]
The systems for chicken egg production had high death and disease rates (over 25%) in the systems used (mainly free range and deep litter types) using big pure breed birds with high food consumption which meant that the production was not viable. With the increased use of intensive units, and the development of the hybrids, the mortality dropped dramatically (to under 10% immediately) and increased efficiency meant that the big egg producers remained profitable. The alternative would have been for this country to import all our eggs and this has much more serious implications in both animal welfare and food safety for the consumer.
In recent years the financial viability of the remaining pure breed units declined (speeded along by issues such as the mis- handling of the salmonella issue in the 1980's / the problems caused by the "Transport of Livestock" legislation). In simple terms too, breeders that were so important in the 1950's are now retired or have left us altogether. Many wonderful breeders for one reason or another have stopped poultry keeping and it is vital that the next generation take on the mantle of breeding for production before it is too late. There has been a drastic decline in the knowledge to maintain let alone restore the utility breeds - but if any of us are interested we must surely act sooner rather than later.
Every single owner of birds has a role to play in this - however small. The ducks are especially weak now. For the past 20 years there has been a concentration of breeders to select birds for a physical standard. It is nice to have Cayuga's producting all black youngsters and Rouen's having a nice white line around their neck - but this selection has resulted in most strains that are easily avaiable having very low production and consequently also very low fertility and hatchability. In the UK we had some of the worlds best domestic waterfowl breeders who matched wonderful productivity with attractive healthy birds. We owe it to their memory to restore the table and laying qualities. Remember Welsh Harlequins and Buff Orpington Ducks used to lay over 300 eggs a year!!!!
Here on the West coast of Scotland we will be hoping over the next years to do our small part - we have selected the breeds we feel still have utility strains available and will be constantly on the look out for the best foundation breeding stock to add to our flocks. If we and other pure breeders like us are to continue to meet the needs of customers both now and well into the future we all need to work together. The hundreds of small breeders in the country are vitally important - as in their small flocks may be some of the best old genetics and potential for improvement and restoration of strains. Sometimes the most frustrating things is to get a phone call from someone who has just lost birds that were really productive.
The first job is for everyone who has pure breeds to record their birds production. This can be very very simple. Weighing birds - even if you will never eat them at differnet stages in their development and assessing them by feel for "meatiness". In an old diary jot down every egg that your birds produce. If you can ring the birds with a number so you can record which hen / duck starts laying first.
In this site I will try and share the methods and infomration I have learnt and continue to learn - if you have anything to add PLEASE get in touch we need all the help we can get.
SO IF YOU HAVE DUCKS OR CHICKENS THAT SEEM TO YOU TO BE GOOD LAYERS AND GOOD AT PRODUCING YOUNGSTOCK PLEASE GET IN TOUCH - firstname.lastname@example.org [Jill 01631 720223]
In this site we hope to explore, with as many other people as possible, how best to proceed - share the information that is available about breed traits; genetics; breeding practise - discuss ideas - identify the best strains both old and new
the start of an encyclopaedia of poultry and waterfowl genetics and breeding help HERE
If you are interested in restoring our utility strains of poultry and working with other breeders in this aim CLICK HERE
If you are interested in information about the Utility Poultry Breeders Association of the United Kingdom CLICK HERE
SITE MAP : breeds; genetics. breeding; books