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Landrace Chicken project--some breeding thoughts--opinions and thoughts appreciated

 
Posts: 19
Location: Oshkosh WI
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I've been posting recently regarding some chicken breeding thoughts.  I spent much of the weekend in communication with several local friends who are on board with the project.  Several already raising chickens, and 2 actually operating full time organic farms.    

What I am hoping to do is, by mixing a large set of genetics, produce a flock that can quickly adapt to changes in environment. That is hardy and will hold up to harsh winters, that's good at foraging and ranging.  Also, one that has some markings and coloration that would make them difficult to spot by predators or thieves.  Really, an attempt to mimic a "landrace" breed.

In ecology and genetics, their is something called the "Founder effect".  If you take a small set of individuals, and isolate them, it is very likely that the new population will not represent the larger population.  These "founders" have a tremendous impact on the direction the population will take in the future.  My thought here was to spend the initial part of the breeding project generating a "founder flock".   I am a huge fan of, and am actually already breeding and raising Buckeyes.  They do great on range. They have a very, very small comb, do fine in the cold...  They produce eggs ok.  While marketed as a "dual breed", the carcass is actually kind of disappointing, but I still love them.  I love the other breeds too---New Hampshires (already have several), Barred rock (have access to several), Sp. Sussex (love them--and beautiful markings)....    The idea with the "Founder Flock" would be to cross solid dual breeds with some of the true monster meat breeds. Black and White Jersey Giants and Buff Brahmas.  

Doing this, hopefully, would produce birds that were good on range, but significantly larger in size, while also increasing the growth rate that the large breeds are notorious for.  Also, JGs are known to lay well in the winter, so that would be a plus.

This would encompass the first couple years of breeding.  Making a random mix of dual breeds and meat breeds. Selecting roosters with interesting markings, and especially with pea-combs. Selecting hens with good laying and interesting markings....

Then, from there, cross these again with good egg breeds with interesting colorations.

I don't actually care exactly what they end up looking like.  If they have some kind of mottled, barred, speckeled, or any combination of those things, they should blend well with pasture and be harder to pick off.  I would cull ruthlessly anything that wasn't healthy. Cross beak, foot problems, aggression, etc.  

I know this would be an enormous undertaking, but I have confirmation with 2 farm friends that they would allow me to run flocks on pasture in exchange that they could sell the resulting.  If I could divide the three flocks out over several locations, it would make lighter work.  After this founder flock was established, their would be more breeding of mixed (pure) breeds using a clan (spiral) breeding program to really mix up the genetics.  Male and female individuals of the breeds mixed in, offspring selected for interesting characteristics, for foraging ability, broodiness, and all the other stuff that would make for an excellent sustainable flock.  Mix in some Marans genetics for good dark eggs. Maybe some barnvelder and welsummer genetics... (that would be years down the road).   Or mix the F2 generation with flock 3--this one a 100% large meat breed cross.  (I included that, as one of my friends commented on the need not for a free range egg breed, but a free range meat breed)

Any thoughts on the subject?  Informed, uninformed, or just just gut feelings?  It's a cool intellectual exercise.  I hope to sit down during my pandemic down time and do some hard math. How much, exactly, would it cost? Facility upgrades, feed, etc.  Time, I have, especially divided with rural friends. But I would need range pens, etc for a large number of birds....
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steward
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I used to be a fan of spiral breeding. I'm not any more.

My general feeling these days it to keep large populations (of roosters as well as hens), starting with many breeds, and allow them to mix themselves randomly. And constantly be bringing new blood into the flock. Then allow a combination of natural and human selection to tailor the flock to local conditions.

If three farms are keeping a population of chickens like this, then spiral breeding is a great strategy, (move the new roosters to the next flock in the rotation). But the fussy record keeping required for a spiral breeding project on one farm seems too hard.  
 
John Kestell
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Location: Oshkosh WI
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I used to be a fan of spiral breeding. I'm not any more.

My general feeling these days it to keep large populations (of roosters as well as hens), starting with many breeds, and allow them to mix themselves randomly. And constantly be bringing new blood into the flock. Then allow a combination of natural and human selection to tailor the flock to local conditions.

If three farms are keeping a population of chickens like this, then spiral breeding is a great strategy, (move the new roosters to the next flock in the rotation). But the fussy record keeping required for a spiral breeding project on one farm seems too hard.  



I agree--any kind of really formal breeding project would require a lot of "intensive" methods. A lot of record keeping, etc.   My thought here was to take several breeds with desirable traits.  The REALLY desirable would be introduced both on the male and female sides.   Then, by using spiral breeding, you could ensure that the genetics were mixed up evenly (in a statistical sense at least).  It would also make sure that no mating was happening between closely related individuals. No siblings, no parent/children crossing.  

I thought, at least for the core genetics of the flock, it would be a good idea to do it that way. At least go through one generation that way. Make a 2-way cross, then a 4-way, then an 8-way.  By then you would have a very mixed up, diverse collection of genetics to start drawing from.  Some of the interesting recessive traist would start showing, their would be some co-dominance, some incomplete dominance, and other traits one could start drawing on.


I had another thought about this--there are a lot of crosses already available.  Golden Comets, Rhodebars, Welbars....    You could start Gen 1 with 2-way crosses and get a jump on that.  Also, even Ebay has several sellers offering "barnyard mix" eggs.  One of them had at least 20 cold-hardy breeds in the flock, claiming to have over 100 birds at any given time, and a 1:6 ratio of roos to hens.  Hatching out a couple dozen of those, and selecting interesting birds would also be a way to get a jump on diversity.

It would be an intensive project, no doubt.   The good thing is that whatever birds that are not selected to move on to the next round would still be good layers.  They could still serve a purpose. My friend with the organic farm claimed that the diversity in the eggs is one of the things that really helps them sell. He's got some legbars, americunas, some olive eggers, Marans....   A dozen of his eggs go the range from white, to chocolate brown, green, green with speckles....  and people love it.    

I think it would be an amazing undertaking.  I did a lot of reading abotu the Aloha chicken project, and interestingly a lot of breeders joined, and the project ended up being divided across the country.  People sending fertilized eggs to each other, people living close together letting each other use roosters....

With some promotion, if you could generate some interest, it would be fun. I have a friend, for example, who's a high school teacher in Idaho who thought it would be an interesting project for her agriculture class.  I'd send out eggs, they would hatch them, the kids could raise them...     The other benifit being, if one person had a flock wiped out from predators, they could put out a call that they needed eggs from collaborators.  They could re-start their flock with some seriously diverse and mixed up genetics and not have to start from zero.

I'll try and read up on it some more.    The one issue with any form of breeding to be successful is that you need to produce a LOT of offspring, and then select maybe the best 10%.    In my case, roosters with interesting markings, pea combs..... Hens with interesting colors, on the large side, with foraging instincts. Cold tolerance, decent egg laying...  Anything with any genetic problems would be ruthlessly removed from the flock.

Something to think about.  I'm actually intruiged with the idea of collecting some "barnyard mix" eggs from various sources--the more vaired the better--and starting there.   I would certainly still mix in a lot of Buckeye genetics, because they do very well here, and some larger breeds to get some overall larger birds.  
 
pollinator
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Location: SE Indiana
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Sounds like with your available network of friends to collaborate with it should be pretty easy to get a get some strong healthy flocks going. When I was a kid we always had plenty of chickens, I'd say at any given time a minimum of 30. Twice that or more in the summer when they didn't need fed as much. We didn't have a freezer so mostly we just slaughtered one as needed. I do remember a couple times killed a bunch at once and my mom and granny canned them whole in 1/2 gallon jars, or maybe it was quart jars, don't remember for sure but they sure were good.  

Back then grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors had similar flocks. Dad traded extra roosters and broody hens with them.  I don't ever recall anyone buying chicks by mail like is done now. Some kinds we had were, white leghorns, Rhode Island reds, and lots of big heavy ones whose names I don't recall. Also always a few bantams running around, just for entertainment I reckon.

In spring we picked out a few broody hens and built little cages for each one and gave her a bunch of eggs. Older hens went in the stew pot or baked with stuffing. Extra young roosters in the frying pan.

It isn't as easy now, especially trying by yourself to keep a healthy flock. I only have about a dozen or so at any given time and what I do is just get new rooster or two at least every other year to make sure there isn't any inbreeding going on. I keep watch to make sure I keep at least one good broody hen, even if she is so fanatical about it it's all she ever wants to do. That speckled one in the picture is like that. Have to give her a nest by herself with some fake eggs to keep her happy. The white rooster is her father and father to most of the others in the picture. He had just been traded for the black rooster, just hadn't delivered him yet. The black one is a  Black Australorp, he will father  and Gladys there will raise the next bunch of babies. Everyone else will be eaten. I don't like that big comb cause of frostbite but he was available for trade and I really like his demeanor.
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pioneer
Posts: 164
Location: Russia, ~250m altitude, zone 5a, Moscow oblast, in the greater Sergeiv Posad reigon.
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I’m in contact with a guy who did just that. He focused on enormous birds that will chase away predators. He let chicks die from cold in the winter, and let predators eat all that they could. He let chickens starve if the couldn’t find food by themselves. He never incubated eggs, only let the hens set them. He let roasters kill each other. He had two of his project hen in an enclosure chase away a hawk, minus a few scratches. The main breed that he started with was Turken. They are already bred for self-sufficiency. My landrace chicken project will be based on his.
 
Why does your bag say "bombs"? The reason I ask is that my bag says "tiny ads" and it has stuff like this:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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