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thoughts on developing a "landrace" breed?

 
Posts: 19
Location: Oshkosh WI
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A couple years ago I learned of a project called the Aloha Chicken project. A breeder was attempting to develop a bird that looked like a Swedish Flower Hen, but that didn't contain SFH genetics (as they were not available in the US at the time the project started).  http://alohachickens.blogspot.com/   Very cool stuff!

I got to thinking back to being a kid, and the weird "barnyard mix" I kept with my grandfather.  Some more or less pure breeds (standards--RIR, NHR, BR), some crosses.  We weren't breeding to any kind of standard.  Just using whatever rooster was available with whatever hens we could catch...

In any case, I'm in the closing stages of a property purchase. My permaculture project--after 20 years of intense work--might launch soon!  Very excited.  Chickens will be a major player in the operation. For food production, for integrating into the composting/gardening programs, pest control, pasture improvement, etc.

I have zero interest in breeding anything to any kind of "standard".  In fact, I am hoping to undertake a kind of breeding project of my own, and develop a flock that works well in my particular situation. I live in Wisconsin--it gets very cold here.  Cold hardiness, and some degree of camo to help evade predators would be essential.  Good laying characteristics would be a must.

I've been raising a "mixed flock" for several years on a very small scale.  5-6 hens, in the city.  Now, with access to land in the country, I can keep roosters, and would have the room to expand. And a place to process the manure and bedding.  I'm excited about the prospect of all of this.


I'm wondering--since I seem to be incapable of deciding--what everyone thought about purposely creating multi-way crosses?   Their are 8-10 breeds I very much want in my flock.  Cold hardy, sometimes broody.  Some that are exceptionally well suited to avoiding predators.  Some that are exceptionally good brown egg layers, etc.

If you were to undertake a breeding project, say to create an 8-way cross of some kind, would you rigorously and in a step-wise way produce 2-way crosses, then 4-way crosses, then 8-way crosses?  

I was working out some genetics on this, and it gets very complicated very quickly.    And considering that their can be incomplete dominance, or traits "leaking" through that formally shouldn't be, I'm wondering if I can actually just leave much of this up to chance.  

What I'm starting to think is (and I'm discussing this with 2 other chicken raisers, so hopefully I could spread the labor and expense out) maybe the best thing to do would be to collect a large number of suitable hens.  A flock of maybe 60 birds of various breeds (not a huge problem--not if it were divided between 3 farms).  Then, another collection of suitable roosters, also of mixed breeds.   I could divide them up, even if just totally randomly into clans, and then employ a "spiral breeding" program.  

The first season, lets say I had 3 breeding flocks with 2 roosters, and 15 hens each.  Let's also say the 2 roos were different breeds, and different from the 6 breeds the hens contained.  That would produce a totally random collection of 12 different crosses.   Not having any knowledge of what any of them would look like, I could  just produce them, run them on range, see what is most suitable, and the best couple of them would go on to the next round of breeding.   This would happen with 2 other breeding flocks.  Then in the second season, the roos would move "one clan over", producing a totally random 4 way cross.  Then again, producing a totally random 8 way cross.

Breeding decisions would be based on measurable traits--egg production, egg color, aesthetics (interesting markings--speckling, barring, lacing...).  

I realize this would be a tremendous amount of work--any breeding project is going to be expensive and labor intensive.  But it would be very cool, I think, to sort of put a lot of genetics "in a blender" and see what floated to the top.   Produce a lot of random crosses, select a small handful of interesting roosters, and a larger handful of interesting hens, cross them....

Maybe one could even get a jump start on the project by purchasing cross breeds in the first place.  Even Ebay has sellers who have "barnyard mix" fertilized eggs available.  One of the sellers must have had 20 cold hardy breeds in the mix.  Also, hatcheries often time have crosses available.  Red Rocks (RIRxBR), golden comets (NHR x White Rock).

In a sense it would replicate natural selection.  Put a population in an environment, and the ones most suited would move on. The ones that were cold hardy, predator resistant, etc.  

Any thoughts on how one would do this?  My gut feeling is to leave much of it up to random chance.  Produce a lot of offspring, raise them, and select interesting traits (interesting mixes of markings, dark brown egg layers, etc).  The 2x crosses might not be interesting, but the 4x crosses could start showing interesint incomplete dominance, co-dominance, and other interesting things.  

Just my ramblings--I've been stuck at home for 2 weeks thanks to the pandemic :-)  


 
Posts: 4
Location: Colchester Vermont
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Neat thought. We finally have started our Homestead on 2 acres. Hatching our first collection of eggs as we speak. Hopefully will have above 50% through my DIY incubator. I got the eggs from another young fella who sells eggs from his flock about 30 or 40 chickens. He has been working on developing a breed of chicken by crossing a brown Egger with a green Egger to produce a dark green egg. His results have been very interesting, and I got one of those eggs from him. That’s all I got though. Have an actually done it myself.
 
Posts: 91
Location: Winters, California
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I'm familiar with the general idea of breeding and selecting for specific traits in mammals. What I wonder is how you would do the selection when you have a flock of hens, and you have no idea who is producing which eggs/offspring? If you have a few hens pop up with cool colors, or who are fantastic layers, how would you try to continue their genetics specifically?
 
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I know some homesteaders who did a simpler version of that.  They have 30 or so hens and a couple roosters.  They incubate eggs and sell chicks (that's how I got my flock).  Every year or two they get a different rooster(s) to adjust their genetics in whatever direction they want.  The hen's keep blending in the new rooster's genes and the flock evolves year after year.
 
pollinator
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I just separate the rooster and the hens I want to continue with into a chicken tractor and then hatch the eggs.
 
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