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.