Gamefowl breeding is a tedious and lengthy undertaking that requires full time attention. If you don’t have the heart for it, don’t do it. The good thing about gamefowl breeding as a bu…
Source: How to Start Gamefowl Breeding
Maintaining a Family of Gamefowl
Several months ago a good friend asked us to write an article that would map out a method on how to maintain a family of gamefowl. At the time, we did not give the matter much thought simply because we did not consider ourselves qualified to be writing about the subject.
Not that we claim to be experts on the subject now, but after maintaining a couple of strains of gamefowl at a high level of competitiveness since 1985, there are a few thoughts we can share with you that may help you in your breeding efforts. We will list as they come to mind, in no particular order of importance.
SINGLEMATE – You must know exactly who the parents are on both sides. Most great families owe their greatness to a few outstanding individuals and it is your never ending job to find them in your fowl. The only way we know to do this is by singlemating.
KEEP ACCURATE RECORDS – Of your matings and the offspring they produce as well as the performance of the offspring from each of these matings. This is the tool you will use to evaluate each singlemating and decide whether to continue it or not. Without good records, you cannot make sound breeding decisions. A NOTE OF CAUTION: If you track your fowl using a computer program, be sure and keep that information backed up on a disk everytime you update it, because if your computer crashes (which they all do now and then) that information may be permanently unavailable.
BE EXTREMELY SELECTIVE IN YOUR MATINGS – Very picky if you will, of both parents. They must be perfect in every way and HEALTY. Spend as much time as you need to deciding which individuals to mate. Study them carefully and make sure they will further your breeding goals. Follow your gut instinct and the facts rather than getting hung up on breed names, feather and leg colors, etc, as in the end all that matters is the PERFORMANCE of their offspring.
ONLY HAVE ONE OR TWO FAMILIES – Unless you have an unlimited amount of money, time and space, you need to concentrate your efforts on one or two families of fowl at the most. That is why you must find the ones that suit you the best and build from there. It’s a lot of fun to have different types of gamefowl, and we all have been there at some time in our lives. But if you are serious about your breeding program, you cannot afford to take this route. Each time you acquire new fowl, you will be taking away time, space, etc, from the ones you started out with and want to perpetuate.
PROVE EACH MATING – You will have to use other hens or an incubator to hatch the eggs from your singlemated pens in order to raise a good number of chicks from them. The more stags you can raise from a pair, the better you will be able to evaluate the production of that pair. Again, good record keeping is a must. Before deciding to breed any offspring from any of these matings, make sure the production of the pair lives up to your scrutiny and expectations. Work base on the results you achieve. It should take you on the average close to 2 years to prove the results of a pair, unless they are an early maturing strain.
DO NOT MAKE NEW MATINGS EACH YEAR – If you find a top producing pair, keep them together as long as you can before branching out and breeding to other individuals. A good pair should produce for 5 or more years depending on how old they were at the time you started with them. Remember that each new mating you put together will have to be put to the same scrutiny and that you will need additional space and pens to care for their offspring. So plan the number of matings carefully based on all the resource you have and the goals you hope to achieve.
DO NOT SKIMP ON FEED AND CARE – This one are will defeat you before you ever get stated. Good feed and care are what produces healthy fowl, and health is what you need for the longevity of a family of fowl. If you can turn your hens out to free range after the breeding season, you can keep them looking, feeling and acting like pullets for many years. We’ve had 10 year old hens that did not show their age and produced like pullets because they were turned out to free range at the conclusion of each breeding season. Sure you will probably lose some, but you will lose them quicker if you keep them penned up all their lives.
KEEP A SAFE NUMBER REPLACEMENTS – With gamefowl, disaster seems to always be lurking just around the corner. For this reason, once you locate your top producing pairs, it is a good idea to keep at least a couple of females and male from each of them even though you may not breed these offspring for couple of years or so. What you can do is replace these with subsequent years offspring from these pairs so you can have some fairly young individuals to use and carry on their bloodline. The blood of many good producing individuals is never carried on simply because their owners failed to plan and did not keep any of their offspring (because they were not going to breed them at the time), then they lose the hen or cock for one reason or another and that is far as they are able to go with that pair.
FIND THE BREEDING METHOD THAT WORKS FOR YOU – As most of you know, there is inbreeding, linebreeding, infusing, crossbreeding, and on and on. Which of these should you use is something you will have to find out for yourself based on the goals you have set in your breeding program., and your ability to make the right selections. Again, this is where good record keeping will prove to be a valuable tool in deciding which individual fowls blood should be used to carry on and improve the performance of the family.
We hope you are not too disappointed in finding out that we had no charts or graphs in this article showing you how the matings are to be carried out to produce super gamefowl for a lifetime. The reason for that is there is no such thing. It is all a matter of having good fowl to start with, keeping them healthy, singlemating, keeping extremely good production and performance records, and having the ability to analyze and interpret those records to decide your matings and the breeding methods you will use.
More Ideas on Maintaining a Breed
After I wrote my first article on establishing a breed, several people ask about how to maintain a breed. I did a little research and some thinking and came up with the following ideas.
The first factor is maintaining a large breeding population to select a few very outstanding fowl to perpetuate the strain. This population should contain some close bred and some almost unrelated fowl. The idea is to inbreed and then outcross then inbreed and outcross and so on. When I say outcross, I mean within the breed.
A second factor would be to have the healthiest conditions to raise our fowl. The best bred fowl raised poorly will not result in good fowl. I feel that many good strains have been lost because of over crowded conditions and poor feeding practices.
A third factor is money and time. (enough said)
Now to some productive practices. These ideas are not listed in order of importance, but all should be used at some point in the breeding program to maintain your strain with quality fowl.
1. The most successful matings should be duplicated with close relatives and if the Nick is true, you will have quality fowl from those matings to breed. For example, you breed a many time winner to a well bred well made hen and get world beaters. Get a good brother to the rooster and breed to some good sisters to the hen. You might even go breeding cousins of the original pair together.
2. The above mentioned pen should be linebred. Breed a good stag to his mother’s sisters and some good pullets to the rooster’s brothers. Then bring the reslting offspring back together. These would be bred much like the original cross and they should resemble the original cross breds. If you are lucky enough to get these results, then you can breed back to old original stock. This is inbreeding through line breeding and out crossing by crossing two line bred strains. The possibilities are endless when you maintain enough stock.
3. Breed some of the oldest stock to some of the youngest stock even when they are close bred. The tendency is to breed away from some of the good characteristics by accident and this will bring those back into the gene pool and very often it will result in hybrid vigor also.
4. Learn who has some of the same fowl and if they are good, bring their blood into your line. For example the Pitmaster breeds Redfox fowl and the Redfox fowl are being bred by Jack back in Alabama. If these two guys trust each other, they would have a lot going for each one by exchanging fowl from time to time. They have the same fowl, but because they are individuals, they will select for different traits. This practice will result in hybrid vigor also.
5. You don’t have to breed all your good stock every year. Most people have too many fowl to care for, it is much better to raise only what you can care for, but don’t let the unused brood fowl get away from you. You will need them later. Some years you will need to breed only battle stock, by breeding to other breeds.
6. Keep good records. You will need to know how all of your fowl are related. Record the fighting records of the roosters. You need to know which hens produce the most eggs and raise healthy babies as well.
7. Breeding brothers to sisters is usually unproductive, but if when the next generation is considered, it has a use. I like to select the hens from brother-sister matings that look the most like their grandmother and stags that look like their grandfather and cross these back to the old stocks (a brother to the old rooster and a sister to old hen). This is another form of linebreeding by intense inbreeding and then line breeding to the old stock. These fowl may not be strong enough to win at the top level, but they are very often great producers.
8. Bring your linebred strains together when you want to fight successfully, these crosses will have enough hybrid vigor to provide the bottom.
9. Always keep linebreeding only the very best crosses of these crosses. Every six or seven years you should be able to start a new line of fowl and bred these back to the old fowl.
10. Numbers are needed to maintain the line, but plan your breeding program so that you make only the number of brood pens that you need each year.
11. One last thought, have at least a five year plan for your matings. Plan breedings that will not be produced until five or ten years from now. This is one form of goal setting and it will provide you will a guide.
God Bless each of you and thanks for the opportunity to write this.
Roger I firstname.lastname@example.org
(taken from the old website of paulniteowl.com/birds/july4.htm)
The Importance of the Hen
By C.I. Bilbie (1982)
Throughout the history of game fowl breeding, the importance of the hen has, in the majority of cases, been overlooked, and in isolated instances, even ignored. It is my own belief (you may disagree) that any present-day breeder competing in the fierce competition that exists today ignores the importance of the hen not only at his own peril, but also at the peril of his fowl’s competitive success and the successful continuity of his strain of fowl.
How many men throughout the ages, have clamored for a cock at the pit side that has won a spectacular fight, to take home for use as their prized brood cock? The pit cock they desire so highly is “the product” and will not necessarily be “the producer” in their own brood yards, thus dashing their high hopes for the future.
A sensational pit cock quite naturally creates admiration, excitement and a desire to possess such a bird, to the extent that the would-be possessor of such a cock loses sight of the fact that it took two parent birds to “produce” this ace cock. He would be wiser to seek securement of the birds that produced the ace, not the ace himself, i.e. the “producers” and not “the product.”
Now, either parent bird could have been the dominant producer or what we term the proven cock or proven hen, such specimens being highly prized. The ace pit cock, himself, may well become a proven brood cock, too, and let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind that this has proved to be true on many occasions. The failure rate is, however, proportionately higher.
A proven sire is always popular in any sphere of bird or animal life, but such a view is only one side of the coin. However, the hen carries the bloodlines or pedigree of the strain and it is through her that the offspring’s prepotency will spring. As the old saying goes: “It takes two and the greatest producing cock will be nothing without a hen capable of continuing his influence of prepotency. The chips off the old blocks come in the opposite, i.e., the cock influences his daughters and the hen her sons. In other words, the producing cock passes on his qualities to his daughters who in turn pass them back to their sons. Thus the hen carries the sphere of influence of the sire, which is perpetuated through the strain. The responsibility of the balance in the strain always rests with the hen.
In a breeding program, be it in-breeding, line breeding, or cross breeding, with a preference being shown to the male line, it is the hen’s influence which keeps the male influence in proportion. Many of the first class breeders will find it a devil’s own job to induce such a breeder to sell a hen of the same caliber.
There is no doubt whatsoever that some of the breeders of game fowl taking part in major competition in America today are not only some of America’s finest, but also rank among the best in the world. Without exception, the gentlemen not only recognize the values of the hen, they never lose sight of that fact. When they have a proven hen they regard it highly and never part with it. For a beginner to become a force to be reckoned with, he, too, must never lose sight of this all-important principle.
I won’t go in to all the traits I feel that I WANT in broodstock, but what I hope to do is to make you think harder about what you want. Most all of the traits that gamefowl exhibit can be a matter of personal preference. Some people like tall, leggy cocks. Some like medium stationed, short breasted cocks. Some like Blues, others like reds. Some like peacomb, some like straight comb, some like green legs and some like white legs. My point is….these things have very little to do with the quality of the fowl. Some people fight in all weapons, some are gaff fighters only and some like the knife. This matters little when it comes to selecting broodfowl, other than you would select fowl that fight the best in your weapon of choice.
What you should search for, test for, and select for, is the BEST of the BEST. The male side is easier to find, test, and select because they are more easily tested and the testing of them is more accepted than the testing of the female side. Very little testing of the female side of a mating is done by most cockers.
A broodcock should be game. He should be the gamest cock that you can get your hands on, however you choose to test him, he must show you gamest above and beyond the average cock. If not, then you are only breeding a cock of average gameness. DO you want anything of average ability in your broodpen? I think no, everyone wants the best.
A broodcock should have ability in the pit. I personally like one that has won at least three fights. If a cock doesn’t have the ability to win three fights at your level of competition, what traits for exceptional ability can he pass on? An average cock in the pit will produce average cocks in the pit. You want a cock of exceptional ability, the BEST of the BEST. If you raise 10 brothers, fight them all until you have one left that has won the greatest number of battles. Chances are then; you will be breeding the cock with the most ability.
A breed name never won a fight. Just because you breed a “Sweater Blueface” doesn’t mean you will get the same quality or even the same bloodline as the Blueface that Sweater fought. A breeder’s name never won a fight or produced aces either. Alot of people feel that they can’t afford to fight a broodcock they paid $1000 or more for. I say you can’t afford not to fight and test him before you breed him. For example, if I wanted a Hatch broodcock from “Mr. Whoever’s Game Farm”, I would prefer to buy a dozen crowing size stags. They can be bought for practically the same cost as a “Broodcock”. Why buy a dozen crowing size stags when you want a broodcock? With a dozen stags, you can fight them all, turn the winners (if there are any) and fight them again, and continue until you have 1-2 of the best left. Now you have a “broodcock” that you know how he fights, you’ve seen his brothers fight, you’ve seen his brothers die, and you have a good feeling of his strengths, weaknesses, and ability. WHEN THE COCK IS BRED,
THEN YOU CAN TEST HIS ABILITY TO REPRODUCE HIS TRAITS IN HIS DAUGHTERS.
Breed these back to another ace cock and combine the genetics of two aces in your broodpens.
Many of the old time cockers and many of the spur fighters today, fight their hens and select them that way. It kind of makes sense that a hen that can fight and will whip the other hens, should throw her above average traits to her sons. The Mexican and Cajun cockers fight their hens in their weapon of choice and breed the winners.
Sit down and figure out what you want in your fowl. It all comes from the broodpen so proper selection is a necessity to your program being successful. Set a goal of what you want, go out, and find it. Only breed the best of the best and don’t settle for less.
To set a family properly, requires 6 generations of linebreeding, to produce a 7th generation offspring. I prefer to breed to the cock side because in this method, I can reproduce all the good qualities of the cock in his sons and daughters genetically. To do this right, start with 2 pair or trios. For simplicity sake, I will use 2 pair in the example.
Breed cock #1 to Hen #1 and cock #2 to Hen #2 the first year. Fight all the stags and save the best from both matings. Select and save the BEST 2 pullets from each mating. This will give you 1st generation offspring.
Breed Cock #1 to his 2 best daughters in single matings. Breed Cock #2 to his 2 best daughters in single matings. Fight all the stags and keep the best one from each mating. Cull the pullet whose sons win the lowest %. This will give you 2nd generation offspring.
Breed Cock #1 to his best 2 daughters out of the mating above. Breed COck #2 to his best 2 daughters out of the mating above. Fight all the stags and keep the best one from each mating. Cull the lowest producing pullet mated to each cock. This will give you 3rd generation offspring. The pullets you breed will be from a father/daughter (who is also his grandaughter) mating.
Years #4 – Years #6
Continue to breed the ace cocks, Cocks #1 and Cocks #2 to their best daughters from each mating. This will concentrate the cock’s genes in his offspring. Once you get a 7th generation offspring, breed the best pullet from Cock #1 7th generation to the best stag Generation #1 from cock #2. Breed the best 7th generation pullet from cock #2 to the best 1st generation stag from cock #1. Use cocks/stags from generations 1-4 as brood cocks over pullets from the other cocks family for battle fowl. Cocks of generations 4-7 are to be used primarily for pure brood stock when bred to hens/pullets generations 4-7 of the other cock’s offspring.
Breed Gen. #1 stags/cocks from Cock #1 to 7th Gen. pullets/hens from cock #2
Breed Gen. #1 stags/cocks from Cock #2 to 7th Gen. pullets/hens from Cock #1
Breed Gen.#7 stags/cocks from Cock #1 to 7th Gen. pullet/hens from Cock #2
for seed stock.
Breed Gen. # 7 stags/cocks from Cock #2 to 7th Gen. pullets/hens from Cock #1
for seed stock.
Seed stock fowl are crossed on other families to produce battle fowl.