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Chicken inbreeding

 
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At what point does incest become a concern in a small flock? We started out 3 years ago with 7 commercial hatchery buff orpingtons. The following year we introduced a young jubilee orpington rooster. Last year we kept a young rooster from him (his son) and now those are our 2 mature roosters. We have hatched 2 more batches of eggs this summer and are waiting to see how many are roosters and who gets to live vs who gets the slow cooker. But now we’ve essentially got a grandpa and dad reproducing with their own offspring. And the older hens may or may not be related considering they came from a hatchery. Just wondering when I should introduce a completely new line of genetics like a rooster from a different breed or something.
 
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I usually try to change the rooster line every 2 to 3 generations.  But it doesn't seem to make much difference in a small flock to have the rooster line longer - just keep an eye on genetic defects.  

If you are breeding or selling live chickens, it's an entirely different story.  
 
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If you have farms/family/friends nearby and they have fertilized eggs or rooster. I would switch every generation.
 
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r ranson wrote:I usually try to change the rooster line every 2 to 3 generations.  But it doesn't seem to make much difference in a small flock to have the rooster line longer - just keep an eye on genetic defects.  

If you are breeding or selling live chickens, it's an entirely different story.  



No breeding or selling here, just raising them for meat, eggs and manure. And enjoyment!

What kind of genetic defects would happen? Stuff that’s outwardly noticeable or more like internal/health issues? Or both I guess.
 
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S Bengi wrote:If you have farms/family/friends nearby and they have fertilized eggs or rooster. I would switch every generation.



Oh wow! I’m reluctant to switch just because these 2 roosters are fantastic. Our first one was an ass, so we ate him. But he also was an orphan hatchery chick. These 2 were born and raised with the flock and have been much more friendly to us and the hens. Id like to introduce either Swedish Flower chickens or Icelandic chickens into the genetics, so maybe next year I’ll look into that and maybe swap out our rooster for one of them.
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

r ranson wrote:I usually try to change the rooster line every 2 to 3 generations.  But it doesn't seem to make much difference in a small flock to have the rooster line longer - just keep an eye on genetic defects.  

If you are breeding or selling live chickens, it's an entirely different story.  



No breeding or selling here, just raising them for meat, eggs and manure. And enjoyment!

What kind of genetic defects would happen? Stuff that’s outwardly noticeable or more like internal/health issues? Or both I guess.



A tenancy to angel wing or deformed feet.  More effected by mites and illness.   Slower growth than expected.   Inability to learn or deal with changes, or other personality issues that make it hard for that generation to thrive in the flock.

I'm sure that there are other signs,  these are the ones we look for.
 
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But also, we started with a great genetic variety in the hens, so it takes longer for inbreeding defects to show.

Livestock breeders can sometimes breed 3 or 4 generations to the same sire to amplify  a desired trait and they are usually starting from a limited genetic pool, so I'm not too worried about my flock.
 
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The big signs I look for are low hatch rate and high chick death rate. After you take out other factors any way. If your candling eggs as you hatch, eggs that start but don't make it are an indication. Thought if you aren't selling chicks, I wouldn't worry about it until you lose a rooster. I personally would add unrelated hens periodically before thinking about changing roosters. But I don't like training roosters
 
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r ranson wrote:But also, we started with a great genetic variety in the hens, so it takes longer for inbreeding defects to show.

Livestock breeders can sometimes breed 3 or 4 generations to the same sire to amplify  a desired trait and they are usually starting from a limited genetic pool, so I'm not too worried about my flock.



I guess I have no idea what I started out with genetically. We got Buff Orpingtons from an online hatchery, so I figured they could be direct siblings, not blood related at all or anywhere in between. But we ate that rooster and added a jubilee orpington rooster. He has mated with the buffs and now we have him, his daughter and his son mixed in. Since then, he could be mating with his daughter and so could his son. And we’ve raised 2 batches of chicks since then and really dont know who the parents are of any of them.
 
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Dave Luke wrote:The big signs I look for are low hatch rate and high chick death rate. After you take out other factors any way. If your candling eggs as you hatch, eggs that start but don't make it are an indication. Thought if you aren't selling chicks, I wouldn't worry about it until you lose a rooster. I personally would add unrelated hens periodically before thinking about changing roosters. But I don't like training roosters



So far, we usually do eggs in batches of 6-8 and usually only 1-2 stop developing before hatch. We were 6/6 this last time but 2 didnt make it out of the shell. That wasn’t genetics though, it was because mom got off the eggs for hours during the hatch to go warm up a couple of chicks that wandered off.

I love our roosters and hate the idea of eating them just to switch up genetics. Partly because I dont want to end up with a mean rooster. I suppose swapping out the rooster would guarantee 100% that theres new genetics in all following chicks. Swapping out some hens would help but depending on who the roosters’ favorite is, there could still be quite a bit of inbreeding. Unless I swap out all the hens.
 
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You are most likely going to have to eat some rooster, because having 1 rooster per hen isn't a good ration. Having 1 rooster per 7hen is a much better ratio so you are going to have to cull some of the roosters that hatch.
 
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Traditional wisdom recommends more than 3 generations of separation. So no breeding with parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc...

The easiest way to avoid inbreeding in small flocks is to replace the rooster every year with one from an unrelated line.
 
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You could always add hens that lay in different colors than the buff orpingtons. If you introduced white, blue, green, or dark brown layers, you would know for a fact that you were only hatching unrelated hens' eggs. If you introduced a new egg color every generation, it would take a few generations to run out of new colors.
 
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S Bengi wrote:You are most likely going to have to eat some rooster, because having 1 rooster per hen isn't a good ration. Having 1 rooster per 7hen is a much better ratio so you are going to have to cull some of the roosters that hatch.



Oh for sure, thats the plan! Right now we have 2 mature roosters, 7 mature hens, 2-3 young roosters, a young hen and 4 chicks. The plan as of now is to keep 1-2 mature roosters and eat the rest before they start trying to mate. Just trying to decide if we should keep the 2 that are already mature or eat the oldest one and let a young one take his place.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Traditional wisdom recommends more than 3 generations of separation. So no breeding with parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc...

The easiest way to avoid inbreeding in small flocks is to replace the rooster every year with one from an unrelated line.



I feel like if you replace your rooster every year you will likely never develop a good relationship with any roosters! Plus, if you get a beautiful and friendly rooster, wouldn’t it be nice to keep him around in hopes that his traits pass along to the chicks? I could see replacing roosters every 2-3 years but yearly seems like there would always be chaos.
 
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J. Hunch wrote:You could always add hens that lay in different colors than the buff orpingtons. If you introduced white, blue, green, or dark brown layers, you would know for a fact that you were only hatching unrelated hens' eggs. If you introduced a new egg color every generation, it would take a few generations to run out of new colors.



But I still wouldn’t know who fertilized the eggs even if the shells are different colors.

Im hoping to introduce either Swedish Flower Chickens or Icelandic Chickens into the flock next year for their hardiness and self sufficient qualities. Not sure what color their eggs are but my goal is to have a flock that isn’t so dependent on commercial feed, does well with nasty winters, have enough instincts to not get eaten and regularly go broody. Plus, decent egg laying and a big enough size to be worthwhile to eat is a big plus!
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Traditional wisdom recommends more than 3 generations of separation. So no breeding with parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc...

The easiest way to avoid inbreeding in small flocks is to replace the rooster every year with one from an unrelated line.



I feel like if you replace your rooster every year you will likely never develop a good relationship with any roosters! Plus, if you get a beautiful and friendly rooster, wouldn’t it be nice to keep him around in hopes that his traits pass along to the chicks? I could see replacing roosters every 2-3 years but yearly seems like there would always be chaos.


Here i replaced the rooster every year and kept some daughters to replace old layers, so he would leave some of his traits behind, my flock would have genetic diversity and a new rooster was pretty much free to a good home every late summer/early fall due to people having broody hens and chicks that they can't all keep and often don't want to eat. Right now no chickens, but breeding father to daughter and brother to sister kind of stuff is for emergencies, not for standard practice.
 
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Generally speaking, you'd use line breeding to cement the good traits you're looking for, but you would try to minimize that to prevent bad traits (very recessive things) from popping up. Since hatcheries tend to be fairly inbred anyway (they raise all their own breeders from their own lines and cull the ones that don't have the looked for traits typical of the breed they're trying to sell) you're starting out with a slight handicap. This isn;t the problem you might think it is, but it *can* be a bad one.

I.e. I bought Silver Grey Dorkings from Murray McMurray. I did this for building and rebuilding several of my flocks (predators would disappear them and I'd restart). I noticed that, over the years, Murray McMurray birds would look just like  a Silver Grey Dorking should, but they had lost the broodiness trait that I was hoping for. For a commercial hatchery, broodiness isn't something you want in a hen.
I was able to find a smaller hatchery that was willing to take the commercial ding to provide birds that were as true to type as they could breed up.
I suddenly have broody Dorkings, again. And they go broody when the wind blows. It's fabulous. They also have a few things I had noticed were very prominent on the Murray McMurray birds, but are not quite so obvious, such as a wiggle in the comb that is an oddness and interesting genetic marker of some sort, but I don't have enough genes, space, or inclination to figure out how to get rid of it or what it might "mean".

What you're doing is line breeding, but it's line breeding without the heavy culling aspect of it. If you want to keep line breeding (only a problem when you're talking about making it a legal option for sentient beings and trying to legislate morality), then you'll need to make a few decisions.

If you want to keep your current Head Roo, you might want to restrict him to being your only breeder. Caponization isn't really practiced much any more, but is a valid option if you really like a rooster but need him to Not Rooster.

Or you can have a private "Family Zone" for the birds you want to breed, while you keep the other birds doing chicken things. Keeping your breeding rooster in one area and providing him with company to produce the fertile eggs you want, while keeping  a laying flock of Everyone Else, and collecting and eating those eggs religiously is going to be easier on the rooster you don't want breeding.

If your question is more to the "I like the setup I have and want to keep doing what I'm doing without fuss", that's not as workable long term unless you're willing to set up a separate flock with the 4th generation offspring so there's a limit to the interbreeding and/or you are very particular about what birds you cull and keep.

Either way, culling is in your future. Setting up a secondary flock is a possibility if it's doable for you, and two flock linebreeding is better for the long term sustainability of your flock, anyway. You are at a point where you have to make a few hard decisions and then act on them. It's kind of a "Start the way you plan to continue" plan. If you have genes you like, and temperament is partially genetic, then making a plan based around keeping your current roo and expanding outward is a good idea. Breeding him back multiple times to his offspring is less of one, but doable with being very particular with which pullets you keep and culling everyone who doesn't match your new, stricter, limits.

In a two flock line breeding plan, as I've had pointed out to me by someone with much more experience in this, you are going to keep *maybe* 2 chicks out of 25. The rest aren't worth keeping for breeding stock.
Unless you have a lot more chicks that you aren't mentioning and you're talking about your replacement critters, you aren't yet doing the hard culling that would be needed to keep your flock going in a healthy manner.
And it's health will suffer first.

As you've noted and been told, first comes hatch rate, then chick survivability, then less serious but just as deadly health concerns, then congenital disabilities, then immune response, then possible visible signs. You want to stop before the reduced hatch rate occurs and prevent the rest from happening. After all, it's much easier to prevent genetic damage from taking place than to try to correct it.

I hope making your decisions on how to handle this is easy and you are able to start a plan that will enhance the health of your flock while keeping you with good tempered, friendly roosters and productive hens.
This link defines terms and describes how to do it.
This is a link to a conversation about doing what you're talking about. Pretty good advice.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Here i replaced the rooster every year and kept some daughters to replace old layers, so he would leave some of his traits behind, my flock would have genetic diversity and a new rooster was pretty much free to a good home every late summer/early fall due to people having broody hens and chicks that they can't all keep and often don't want to eat. Right now no chickens, but breeding father to daughter and brother to sister kind of stuff is for emergencies, not for standard practice.



Well, we have 5 of our original hens left and i have no idea if they are related at all since they came from a hatchery. The oldest rooster was bought, so he’s completely unrelated. He has a son and daughter in the flock now but I dont know if he or his son actually breed with the daughter or not. Most of the breeding is with the older hens. And his son is obviously related to one of the hens (his mother) but that still leaves 4 more unrelated hens he can breed with. So although there could be inbreeding going on, that doesn’t mean there’s much of it as of now. Its not like they’re in little breeding pens, they’re more or less free range and can do what they want.

I’m trying to decide now who to keep between the grandfather and his son. Both are calm and friendly towards people. The son is more aggressive with the hens though. And the grandfather is a Jubilee orpington and I would like his coloring to continue to pass on. Trying to decide between aesthetics, behavior and genes. Either way, I’ll plan on introducing a new unrelated rooster in the spring, but for now, what would be better genetically, keeping the grandfather or his son?
 
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Kristine Keeney wrote:Generally speaking, you'd use line breeding to cement the good traits you're looking for, but you would try to minimize that to prevent bad traits (very recessive things) from popping up. Since hatcheries tend to be fairly inbred anyway (they raise all their own breeders from their own lines and cull the ones that don't have the looked for traits typical of the breed they're trying to sell) you're starting out with a slight handicap. This isn;t the problem you might think it is, but it *can* be a bad one.

I.e. I bought Silver Grey Dorkings from Murray McMurray. I did this for building and rebuilding several of my flocks (predators would disappear them and I'd restart). I noticed that, over the years, Murray McMurray birds would look just like  a Silver Grey Dorking should, but they had lost the broodiness trait that I was hoping for. For a commercial hatchery, broodiness isn't something you want in a hen.
I was able to find a smaller hatchery that was willing to take the commercial ding to provide birds that were as true to type as they could breed up.
I suddenly have broody Dorkings, again. And they go broody when the wind blows. It's fabulous. They also have a few things I had noticed were very prominent on the Murray McMurray birds, but are not quite so obvious, such as a wiggle in the comb that is an oddness and interesting genetic marker of some sort, but I don't have enough genes, space, or inclination to figure out how to get rid of it or what it might "mean".

What you're doing is line breeding, but it's line breeding without the heavy culling aspect of it. If you want to keep line breeding (only a problem when you're talking about making it a legal option for sentient beings and trying to legislate morality), then you'll need to make a few decisions.

If you want to keep your current Head Roo, you might want to restrict him to being your only breeder. Caponization isn't really practiced much any more, but is a valid option if you really like a rooster but need him to Not Rooster.

Or you can have a private "Family Zone" for the birds you want to breed, while you keep the other birds doing chicken things. Keeping your breeding rooster in one area and providing him with company to produce the fertile eggs you want, while keeping  a laying flock of Everyone Else, and collecting and eating those eggs religiously is going to be easier on the rooster you don't want breeding.

If your question is more to the "I like the setup I have and want to keep doing what I'm doing without fuss", that's not as workable long term unless you're willing to set up a separate flock with the 4th generation offspring so there's a limit to the interbreeding and/or you are very particular about what birds you cull and keep.

Either way, culling is in your future. Setting up a secondary flock is a possibility if it's doable for you, and two flock linebreeding is better for the long term sustainability of your flock, anyway. You are at a point where you have to make a few hard decisions and then act on them. It's kind of a "Start the way you plan to continue" plan. If you have genes you like, and temperament is partially genetic, then making a plan based around keeping your current roo and expanding outward is a good idea. Breeding him back multiple times to his offspring is less of one, but doable with being very particular with which pullets you keep and culling everyone who doesn't match your new, stricter, limits.

In a two flock line breeding plan, as I've had pointed out to me by someone with much more experience in this, you are going to keep *maybe* 2 chicks out of 25. The rest aren't worth keeping for breeding stock.
Unless you have a lot more chicks that you aren't mentioning and you're talking about your replacement critters, you aren't yet doing the hard culling that would be needed to keep your flock going in a healthy manner.
And it's health will suffer first.

As you've noted and been told, first comes hatch rate, then chick survivability, then less serious but just as deadly health concerns, then congenital disabilities, then immune response, then possible visible signs. You want to stop before the reduced hatch rate occurs and prevent the rest from happening. After all, it's much easier to prevent genetic damage from taking place than to try to correct it.

I hope making your decisions on how to handle this is easy and you are able to start a plan that will enhance the health of your flock while keeping you with good tempered, friendly roosters and productive hens.



Thanks for this information, I’ll check those links out!

As of now, I haven’t been culling any hens because we don’t get enough eggs as it is. We lost a hen to a predator and I’ve culled most of the roosters but thats it so far. More roosters will be culled in the near future and im planning on introducing a new unrelated rooster and possibly some hens in the spring. Im not interested in a complicated 2 flock setup or in doing something to a rooster to prevent him from breeding. Either they can live like a chicken or they can be food in my opinion. As of now, we have a 2 year old roo that is only related to his daughter and possibly some chicks that are recently hatched. We love him, he’s beautiful and friendly with us and the hens. He also has very slow growing spurs which is nice for us all. Then we have his son, who is obviously related to at least one of the older hens if not more (hatchery hens), plus his sister, plus maybe the chicks that just hatched. Then we have 2-3 young cockerels as well. Trying now to decide who gets to live and who gets to meet the slow cooker. What would be better genetically for the flock, keeping the oldest roo, his son, or one of the young ones? Id like to keep the oldest but not if its a horrible idea.

So far, we haven’t noticed any issues. Our hatch rates have been 4/6 and 5/6 the last two times. And the last time would have been 6/6 but we had a mishap with mama and she ended up letting a couple eggs cool down for hours during hatch day.
 
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As far as "I want to work with what I have",  keeping the grandsire to breed back to the second and third generations is fine and preferable as a linebreeding technique. You seem to like him better so it works out.

If your choices are a bird you don't like and a bird you like, always keep the bird you like, unless there are other reasons that heavily weight your decisions.

I will always cull a mean rooster or a rooster who jumps at me. Period. One jump and his fate is sealed unless there's a Really Amazing Reason as to why he felt the need to hop. I will not put up with it.
To that end, a truly beautiful Easter egger roo ended up in freezer camp. I kept a few feathers, but he was our only roo for a time so, he got a stay of execution until I was able to raise some roos with good manners and no aggression towards me.

I made the decision, about that time, that I would keep only a Dorking roo with my flock. I currently have 5 or 6 of them and have a cull coming up, but I have never had trouble with a Dorking roo. It's a personal preference, but a decision that makes things easier in the long term.
For instance, I currently have a teenage Cuckoo Marans cockerel. He, technically, could be set up in a separate pen with the three pullets that are growing up with him, but I don't want a secondary flock. I could sell him, but would probably have to sell the girls, too, which I'm not excited about.
He's a very nice, pretty, and well-mannered lad. He's also what he is, which is 'Not a Dorking'. So he goes to freezer camp unless some friends decide they want chickens after all. The 4 chicks (who were supposed to be girls) were intended for my layer flock, to be overseen by the assorted Dorking roos.

Do what you want and/or need to do with your flock. I have to cull from time to time when there's space in the freezer and the birds are suitably sized. It's always hard to cull a critter you saw as a little peeper, or raised from an egg. I understand and empathize.
As an intellectual discussion, it's easier. As a Real Life, "these are critters I have fed and protected" situation, it's better for me to set up rules - like No Mean Roos; or No Non-Dorking Roos unless an Emergency. (Substitute your own rules as needed.) That way, I can emotionally distance myself and prepare for the cull.
 
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Kristine Keeney wrote:As far as "I want to work with what I have",  keeping the grandsire to breed back to the second and third generations is fine and preferable as a linebreeding technique. You seem to like him better so it works out.

If your choices are a bird you don't like and a bird you like, always keep the bird you like, unless there are other reasons that heavily weight your decisions.

I will always cull a mean rooster or a rooster who jumps at me. Period. One jump and his fate is sealed unless there's a Really Amazing Reason as to why he felt the need to hop. I will not put up with it.
To that end, a truly beautiful Easter egger roo ended up in freezer camp. I kept a few feathers, but he was our only roo for a time so, he got a stay of execution until I was able to raise some roos with good manners and no aggression towards me.

I made the decision, about that time, that I would keep only a Dorking roo with my flock. I currently have 5 or 6 of them and have a cull coming up, but I have never had trouble with a Dorking roo. It's a personal preference, but a decision that makes things easier in the long term.
For instance, I currently have a teenage Cuckoo Marans cockerel. He, technically, could be set up in a separate pen with the three pullets that are growing up with him, but I don't want a secondary flock. I could sell him, but would probably have to sell the girls, too, which I'm not excited about.
He's a very nice, pretty, and well-mannered lad. He's also what he is, which is 'Not a Dorking'. So he goes to freezer camp unless some friends decide they want chickens after all. The 4 chicks (who were supposed to be girls) were intended for my layer flock, to be overseen by the assorted Dorking roos.

Do what you want and/or need to do with your flock. I have to cull from time to time when there's space in the freezer and the birds are suitably sized. It's always hard to cull a critter you saw as a little peeper, or raised from an egg. I understand and empathize.
As an intellectual discussion, it's easier. As a Real Life, "these are critters I have fed and protected" situation, it's better for me to set up rules - like No Mean Roos; or No Non-Dorking Roos unless an Emergency. (Substitute your own rules as needed.) That way, I can emotionally distance myself and prepare for the cull.



Thanks for the information! I think I’ll plan on going into winter with just the grandsire as our only roo, unless I decide to keep a young one around just as a back up in case the other dies. Maybe it will depend on how many hens I cull this fall. I really dont want to kill any of them because with 7 laying hens we are still only getting 2-4 eggs a day, and that will only decrease as winter comes on, especially if I cull some older hens. Its a paradox. I can pay to feed some older hens through the winter in hopes that they lay a few eggs. Or i can accept that those few eggs probably wont justify all of the feed and just cull the 3 year old hens this fall along with most of the roosters. Either way, in spring Im hoping to introduce new genetics and hopefully get a broody hen again to help out with chicks. And I guess thats another reason to keep some of the older hens around until spring, because they have gone broody multiple times.

Decisions decisions!

 
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I keep a lot of the older hens around as they calm and defend the younger birds.
 
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r ranson wrote:I keep a lot of the older hens around as they calm and defend the younger birds.



I think I’ll keep a few or the older hens around for broodiness and because they just know whats going on and hopefully will teach the young ones how to do this chicken thing! Seems like every batch of chicks we hatch are a little more rebellious and wild than the last. Maybe the older hens will help me keep them in line😆
 
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When I didn't replace roosters every year, I had issues with deformed feet.  The issues cropped up if I went past father/daughter breeding.  I don't need to develop a relationship with my roosters, I need them to create healthy offspring.  If I get a mean rooster, I get rid of it and get a new one.  Roosters are plentiful and free pretty much constantly.  To me, it isn't worth taking a chance with inbreeding.  I also have issues of I have more than one rooster per eight or ten hens.  I have a flock of 44 hens currently and I'm only keeping two roosters.  Less is better in my mind.
 
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Thanks for this thread. I went with three breeds in my flock with part of the idea to get a lot of genetic diversity in order to avoid inbreeding problems. Not sure if I am thinking clearly on this though. I have three roosters from these crosses for a flock of 25-35, and figured some linebreeding would be acceptable in this kind of situation. I don’t cull the hens, no congenital problems seen, a lot of diversity in type among them, but select the roosters for type. Three generations of roosters at this point, with two having the landrace features I am looking for and one being a pure original breed type. What do you think, can I keep my beloved senior rooster around in this type of situation?
 
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J W Richardson wrote:Thanks for this thread. I went with three breeds in my flock with part of the idea to get a lot of genetic diversity in order to avoid inbreeding problems. Not sure if I am thinking clearly on this though. I have three roosters from these crosses for a flock of 25-35, and figured some linebreeding would be acceptable in this kind of situation. I don’t cull the hens, no congenital problems seen, a lot of diversity in type among them, but select the roosters for type. Three generations of roosters at this point, with two having the landrace features I am looking for and one being a pure original breed type. What do you think, can I keep my beloved senior rooster around in this type of situation?



I don't think there is any question that you will have inbreeding problems at some point, the only question is when.  I bred dogs for more than 30 years and I really dislike the term "linebreeding" as well.  I would prefer to call it inbreeding, as it is.  I understand the process, I understand the reasoning, I understand the results.  I don't think it is worth it overall.  I think the only reason people call it linebreeding is because it doesn't sounds as bad as inbreeding.  A rose by any other name...
 
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If my rooster looks "boring/etc" and I never really socialize with him, and we are basically stranger, it increases the odds that he will view me as a stranger-danger-threat and attack me. And because I never really interacted with him and make him know that I am the flock-pack leader, he is more likely to challenge me and attack. There are things that we can do to raise very protective, forage friendly roosters that don't attack their human adults or kids.
 
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I may be a complete outlier here.  I don't do any of the things anyone is talking about.  I have had roosters that were very friendly, and roosters that would attack, but I never treat any of them differently as they are being raised.  I keep them in the brooder for the first several weeks, and then I generally hand carry them to a run a have specifically for young chicken until they are old enough to be added in with the bigger chickens.  I've never had a really young rooster that was aggressive.  After they are in with the bigger chickens, if they get aggressive, I get rid of them and try a new one.  I'm sure there are ways to make them tamer or meaner, but I have to much to do to bother with it.  I leave it up to their nature, and I've still had the vast majority of my roosters turn out to be friendly.
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

J W Richardson wrote:Thanks for this thread. I went with three breeds in my flock with part of the idea to get a lot of genetic diversity in order to avoid inbreeding problems. Not sure if I am thinking clearly on this though. I have three roosters from these crosses for a flock of 25-35, and figured some linebreeding would be acceptable in this kind of situation. I don’t cull the hens, no congenital problems seen, a lot of diversity in type among them, but select the roosters for type. Three generations of roosters at this point, with two having the landrace features I am looking for and one being a pure original breed type. What do you think, can I keep my beloved senior rooster around in this type of situation?



I don't think there is any question that you will have inbreeding problems at some point, the only question is when.  I bred dogs for more than 30 years and I really dislike the term "linebreeding" as well.  I would prefer to call it inbreeding, as it is.  I understand the process, I understand the reasoning, I understand the results.  I don't think it is worth it overall.  I think the only reason people call it linebreeding is because it doesn't sounds as bad as inbreeding.  A rose by any other name...



I was hoping having this diverse combination of 3 breeds would give me some leeway in comparison to doing the same with a single breed.
 
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J W Richardson wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:

J W Richardson wrote:Thanks for this thread. I went with three breeds in my flock with part of the idea to get a lot of genetic diversity in order to avoid inbreeding problems. Not sure if I am thinking clearly on this though. I have three roosters from these crosses for a flock of 25-35, and figured some linebreeding would be acceptable in this kind of situation. I don’t cull the hens, no congenital problems seen, a lot of diversity in type among them, but select the roosters for type. Three generations of roosters at this point, with two having the landrace features I am looking for and one being a pure original breed type. What do you think, can I keep my beloved senior rooster around in this type of situation?



I don't think there is any question that you will have inbreeding problems at some point, the only question is when.  I bred dogs for more than 30 years and I really dislike the term "linebreeding" as well.  I would prefer to call it inbreeding, as it is.  I understand the process, I understand the reasoning, I understand the results.  I don't think it is worth it overall.  I think the only reason people call it linebreeding is because it doesn't sounds as bad as inbreeding.  A rose by any other name...



I was hoping having this diverse combination of 3 breeds would give me some leeway in comparison to doing the same with a single breed.



The breeds themselves don't matter.  In some case, depending of course which roosters mates with which hen, you are breeding father to daughter, then father to granddaughter, then father to great granddaughter, and on and on.  The only way to be sure you aren't getting inbreeding is to remove the fathers from the daughters.  
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:When I didn't replace roosters every year, I had issues with deformed feet.  The issues cropped up if I went past father/daughter breeding.  I don't need to develop a relationship with my roosters, I need them to create healthy offspring.  If I get a mean rooster, I get rid of it and get a new one.  Roosters are plentiful and free pretty much constantly.  To me, it isn't worth taking a chance with inbreeding.  I also have issues of I have more than one rooster per eight or ten hens.  I have a flock of 44 hens currently and I'm only keeping two roosters.  Less is better in my mind.



Im definitely over the hens’ limit with roosters right now, but that wont last much longer. A friend wants one and i will butcher the rest, besides the main one we want to keep.

When you were getting foot issues from inbreeding, were all your hens related, so that essentially no matter how the mating went it was incest?

I ask because 5 of our hens are from a hatchery, so we dont know how (or even if) they share much genetics. One is their offspring with a different rooster, also from the same hatchery, and another is their offspring with a completely different rooster. So although we do have some inbreeding going on, there is probably quite a few mating combinations that aren’t inbreeding in our flock as of now. So far no foot issues, or any other issues for that matter. But I do want to stay ahead of the problem.
 
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J W Richardson wrote:Thanks for this thread. I went with three breeds in my flock with part of the idea to get a lot of genetic diversity in order to avoid inbreeding problems. Not sure if I am thinking clearly on this though. I have three roosters from these crosses for a flock of 25-35, and figured some linebreeding would be acceptable in this kind of situation. I don’t cull the hens, no congenital problems seen, a lot of diversity in type among them, but select the roosters for type. Three generations of roosters at this point, with two having the landrace features I am looking for and one being a pure original breed type. What do you think, can I keep my beloved senior rooster around in this type of situation?



Im no expert in breeding/genetics but to me it sounds like you’ve probably got a decent variety and probably can keep that rooster around without issue.
 
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S Bengi wrote:If my rooster looks "boring/etc" and I never really socialize with him, and we are basically stranger, it increases the odds that he will view me as a stranger-danger-threat and attack me. And because I never really interacted with him and make him know that I am the flock-pack leader, he is more likely to challenge me and attack. There are things that we can do to raise very protective, forage friendly roosters that don't attack their human adults or kids.



I agree. I try to handle our roosters a bit, talk to them and bring treats to them to feed to the hens. Their tendency is to be defensive so getting on their good side early on seems like a good idea to avoid confrontation. And if it fails, slow cooker for them!
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:I may be a complete outlier here.  I don't do any of the things anyone is talking about.  I have had roosters that were very friendly, and roosters that would attack, but I never treat any of them differently as they are being raised.  I keep them in the brooder for the first several weeks, and then I generally hand carry them to a run a have specifically for young chicken until they are old enough to be added in with the bigger chickens.  I've never had a really young rooster that was aggressive.  After they are in with the bigger chickens, if they get aggressive, I get rid of them and try a new one.  I'm sure there are ways to make them tamer or meaner, but I have to much to do to bother with it.  I leave it up to their nature, and I've still had the vast majority of my roosters turn out to be friendly.



More or less the same here. I handle them often while young due to moving them from a brooder area to a grow out pen and back several days a week. The only mean rooster we have had was a hatchery/orphan so that makes sense to me. The rest from our flock have seemed friendly, although they dont live long enough to really get too good of a feel on that. We generally butcher them before they get too hormonal.
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

When you were getting foot issues from inbreeding, were all your hens related, so that essentially no matter how the mating went it was incest?



I had hens of all different breeds.  In each breed, all the chicks I got, I got at the same time, so within each breed, they may or may not have been related.  It doesn't really matter though.  All the offspring from those hens were related to the roosters of course, so after the first hens were hatched, they were all related to one or other of my roosters.  That said, at least some of the breeding from that point forward was "linebreeding", ie breeding father to daughter.
 
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We all raise our birds with different expectations and different focus, because we get different things out of our flocks. Yes, all chickens provide meat and eggs to varying degrees and (other than how I choose to do a primary selection on my roosters for temperament) we all have different things we're looking for in our flocks. That's great! Life would be so dull if everyone did the same things the same way.

The problems with mammalian inbreeding are different and more difficult to fix. A couple of generations of birds will fix most of the ones that might, accidentally, get bred into a closed flock. I won't get into the various types of breeding you can do, if you chose to, I had shared the information of line breeding because that was the situation Brody Ekberg is/was facing. Line breeding *is* a form of inbreeding where you do your best to control the possible problems that might come.

If you have a rooster you like, hens you like, and you're happy with your flock? Great! Keep doing whatever you're doing! It works for you and that's the important thing.
If you want to landrace your flock, just get a bunch of chickens and let them all cross and intercross. Always remember, though, that unless you're talking about a large flock or several smaller flocks, you're not really doing a "real" outcrossing landrace project. It's a closed flock and you're dealing with the limited genetics that you added in. But that's OK! It's not a problem unless you think it is!

Brody Ekberg's three roosters with the related hens? Keeping the older roos and sending the cockerels to Freezer Camp is probably the best way forward. You know the flock works with that balance and everyone has their place. There's no excitement, so the flock would be very happy and stable. You could keep that flock going, adding pullets from outside every so often, until the Head Roo dies of old age or gets retired.

As far as the starting genetics coming from the hatchery - they're all related just by virtue of being from a particular breed. The hatchery picks the best representatives of that year's hatch from the mass of jumbled up genetics of their "in-house" flock and keeps those for next year's breeders. Are the birds related? Yes. But there's no way of knowing how closely and it doesn't matter too much anyway. If you have decided that you want to start a stable closed flock, or "intermittently open" flock and raise your birds to be a particular type, I'd advise you to get all of your pullets from one hatchery or place, and then make sure your cockerels all came from another very different (cross as many lines as possible - another hatchery/state/breed/country/?) hatchery. Only then can you be reasonably certain they aren't related. It's the same problem that exists in any situation where you have a limit on the known population of a given thing.
As a mental exercise or thought experiment, consider that the only accepted way (as of when I last spent too long researching this topic) you can have a virtually unlimited genetic pool within a given whatever is to have 100 males and 100 females and have each male breed with each female 100 times. That's it. That gives you a limited closed cycle, maintains the genetic variations within the type of whatever and allows you to ignore the possibilities of inbreeding while maintaining variability. Plants do this much easier than animals do. It's much easier to produce a land-raced plant that's well suited to whatever you want from it, because plants do this automatically.

David Luke has the right idea. Do that.
So. Keep your older roos and eat the younger ones until you start to notice a problem. Then, stop and do something else for awhile. Add in new hens. Keep those chicks if you like them. Select for egg production (which does mean eating the girls that don't meet a certain minimum, eventually) or fast growth or prettiness or temperament.

It's your flock. Do your thing.
 
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Kristine Keeney wrote:We all raise our birds with different expectations and different focus, because we get different things out of our flocks. Yes, all chickens provide meat and eggs to varying degrees and (other than how I choose to do a primary selection on my roosters for temperament) we all have different things we're looking for in our flocks. That's great! Life would be so dull if everyone did the same things the same way.

The problems with mammalian inbreeding are different and more difficult to fix. A couple of generations of birds will fix most of the ones that might, accidentally, get bred into a closed flock. I won't get into the various types of breeding you can do, if you chose to, I had shared the information of line breeding because that was the situation Brody Ekberg is/was facing. Line breeding *is* a form of inbreeding where you do your best to control the possible problems that might come.

If you have a rooster you like, hens you like, and you're happy with your flock? Great! Keep doing whatever you're doing! It works for you and that's the important thing.
If you want to landrace your flock, just get a bunch of chickens and let them all cross and intercross. Always remember, though, that unless you're talking about a large flock or several smaller flocks, you're not really doing a "real" outcrossing landrace project. It's a closed flock and you're dealing with the limited genetics that you added in. But that's OK! It's not a problem unless you think it is!

Brody Ekberg's three roosters with the related hens? Keeping the older roos and sending the cockerels to Freezer Camp is probably the best way forward. You know the flock works with that balance and everyone has their place. There's no excitement, so the flock would be very happy and stable. You could keep that flock going, adding pullets from outside every so often, until the Head Roo dies of old age or gets retired.

As far as the starting genetics coming from the hatchery - they're all related just by virtue of being from a particular breed. The hatchery picks the best representatives of that year's hatch from the mass of jumbled up genetics of their "in-house" flock and keeps those for next year's breeders. Are the birds related? Yes. But there's no way of knowing how closely and it doesn't matter too much anyway. If you have decided that you want to start a stable closed flock, or "intermittently open" flock and raise your birds to be a particular type, I'd advise you to get all of your pullets from one hatchery or place, and then make sure your cockerels all came from another very different (cross as many lines as possible - another hatchery/state/breed/country/?) hatchery. Only then can you be reasonably certain they aren't related. It's the same problem that exists in any situation where you have a limit on the known population of a given thing.
As a mental exercise or thought experiment, consider that the only accepted way (as of when I last spent too long researching this topic) you can have a virtually unlimited genetic pool within a given whatever is to have 100 males and 100 females and have each male breed with each female 100 times. That's it. That gives you a limited closed cycle, maintains the genetic variations within the type of whatever and allows you to ignore the possibilities of inbreeding while maintaining variability. Plants do this much easier than animals do. It's much easier to produce a land-raced plant that's well suited to whatever you want from it, because plants do this automatically.

David Luke has the right idea. Do that.
So. Keep your older roos and eat the younger ones until you start to notice a problem. Then, stop and do something else for awhile. Add in new hens. Keep those chicks if you like them. Select for egg production (which does mean eating the girls that don't meet a certain minimum, eventually) or fast growth or prettiness or temperament.

It's your flock. Do your thing.



Very helpful, thank you!

We’re giving one rooster away soon and will be butchering the others within the next month or two, besides our oldest, nicest, prettiest roo. I may also butcher a few of the 3 year old hens as well since they arent laying much anymore. But, they do still lay a bit (when they arent molting, brooding or enduring winter) so it is hard to justify killing them. A few eggs is better than none, but feeding 7 laying hens and only getting 1-3 eggs a day is also hard to justify! Then next spring i plan to hatch some Swedish Flower chickens and get those genetics into the mix.
 
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