The problems and interesting facts about breeding poultry on a small scale
Haven't done the ducks yet - all information gratefully received
is determined by the genetics of the parents - to a lesser extent by the feeding regime.
A challenge for breeders in this day and age is to breed a really good dual purpose bird : breeds such as the Light Sussex : The marans : The Orpington : The White Wyandotte
Producing a bird that has good carcase at around 4-5 months with great flavour AND the hens give an economic number of eggs!!
There seems to be a dearth of information about what sort of carcasses used to be produced.
My feelings and experience is that (for example)the Light Sussex has become rather eggy and some of the meat production quality has been lost. There are quite a lot of big Light Sussex from the exhibition breeding - which seems to be frame rather than bulk and they are aiming for very correct feathering (solid black necks with white lining round each black feather etc), rather than selecting for meat production. Also these birds are quite slow maturing - building up frame at the critical age for slaughtering instead of putting on meat.
Many of the utility lines are used a lot in the production of sex linked cross layer (with the Rhode Island Red - like the Calder Ranger) these need to be eggy rather than meaty; as it seems the latter is secondary in importance to the selection process.
These influences may have meant some diminishing of the meat traits. We find our cockerels make up to a good size and bulk but eventually - not the same amount of meat at the 80 - 90 day that for instance the Sasso is meant to.
Because we do not have a slaughter house facility nearby we ourselves have not experimented a lot on the meat side so it would be great to have someone doing this. If anyone knows or has lines they have been selecting in this way - either now or in the past and has some experiences to share - it would love to hear from you.
When starting a breeding programme it is vital to start with hens / eggs that have good fertility and hatchability as non selection or exhibition selection tends to reduce the numbers of eggs; fertility and hatchability - which are necessary basic characteristics in any breeding programme. It is becoming more noticeable in some non utility strains/breeds that simply getting enough eggs hatched to create a decent next generation is becoming more difficult.
In meat production it is the hen that is more important - she passes the size onto her male offspring - so you need hens from the best cockerels - and in this terms the best is the bird that gets to a good weight fastest.
For meat breeding one needs to record the weight of the birds regularly as they grow - at 6 - 8 - 12 - 16 - 18 weeks .
Identifying the birds as they grow could be very important - as each cockerel becomes noticeable then ring it - note its age and weight; it would be interesting to know whether the boys that show the male characteristics first make the best weight earlier in the end - or whether the slower maturing birds end up better.
There could be a conflict between producing the parent stock that produces good table birds and producing the table stock itself. If the qualities that create a good carcass are not compatible with those that give high egg numbers and fertility then a potential problem arises.
If there is anyone out there who has been selecting for table features we would be very interested to hear for you. The same goes for anyone who used to be involved. There must be an awful lot of knowledge untapped - there are some very interested people out here.
Don't forget that every egg you hatch of utility breeds may have an impact on the future of the breed. You chose the eggs that are hatched - you control the quality of the next generation.only hatch eggs that are of a good size for the breednever hatch eggs that are the wrong colour for the breedif you have eggs that are not correct replace the breeding male with one hatched from the correct size and colour
Every time you hatch (or if using broody hens allow to be hatched) chicks / ducklings that are from eggs that are not right for the breed - come from hens that are not productive - etc you are playing a part in the demise of utility strains in this country. The future of utility poultry lies in all our hands - every one of us