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)
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.
By Tan Bark.
If a man lives long enough the time will eventually come when he will have to cross his inbred fowl. Fowl cannot be raised under such ideal conditions, and no man is so infallible that he can inbreed fowl indefinitely and produce practical pit cocks. Generally speaking most of us expect to introduce fresh blood every 15 or 20 years.
It amuses me to have men quarrel about the purity of fowl claimed to have been inbred for 60 or 70 years, and then advertise shake cocks for sale of these same strains. I do not believe that nature suspends her laws in favor of a few chosen individuals, and it is amusing or disgusting, as you choose to view it, to see some huckster blossom forth advertising some grand old strain, that has been extinct for a quarter of a century.
Every case of this kind that has ever come under my personal observation I know to be hokum pure and simple. I have letters from some of these self-styled perpetuators written when they were scurrying around hunting all sorts of crosses. They would make a much a better hit with me, if instead of advertising Whitehorses, or Warhackles, bred from trio arriving from John Gilkerson or George Stone in1858 ,they would advertise “fowl carrying large proportion of the blood of such and such a strain and closely resembling them in appearance and pit qualities. They contain only the following additional crosses, etc.” Then I would have some confidence in what I was getting and feel that I was dealing with an honest man. If the purebred fowl did exist which they don’t, they would be fit only for museums and not for the pit.
So when the time does come for crossing, you will have had sufficient experience to know what men breed fowl that you would not be afraid to try. No man can foresee the results of a cross, it is entirely a gamble. I have known two excellent, inbred strains to be crossed and result in chickens that couldn’t whip a canary bird. It happens more often than not that a cross is entirely different from what might be expected. All you can do is make a guess and hope for the best and if it fails try again.
For crossing select a strain that has been pure bred for a number of years, as much like yours in style of fighting and characteristics as possible. Style and characteristics of the proposed cross are much more important than color. Color in itself cuts no figure, but you will probably be more apt to find fowl like you own in the same color. Most of the light reds in this country are descended from and carry more or less of the blood of the old Derbys and allied families and fight more or less alike. As a general proposition the dark reds are rushing, body cutting fighters.
The Doms all descend from the Minton and O’Neil blood and all that I ever saw were shufflers. The Pyles are descendants of Genet and Newbold blood and are sparring cocks expect of course Pyles, which are merely crosses of White Dominics.
So other things being equal, you are more likely to find what you want in strains colored like your own. Get the best individual of the strain obtainable. It is usually more satisfactory to get a cock, because you can select the kind you have seen in battle, that suits you and it is a very rare thing that you can buy a tested hen .Breed the new cock to the very best hens that you own. When old enough test some of the stags for gameness. If they are going to be bad, the sooner you know it the better. If satisfactory so far, breed the new cock to his daughters and one of his sons back over the hens. Then the next winter your original cross of your old stock so that you may compare them.
Unless the cross is approximately as good as your old family, you should go no further with them, as by so doing you will be going downhill.
It is very likely that you may be fooled by the goodness of the first cross. Sometimes a cross between two inbred strains will temporarily niche and produce chickens better than either side of the house, the stream runs higher than the source, as it were and yet the niche will not breed on when put back to either ingredient strain. That is the first cross or half bloods may be the only mistress of the two bloods that is any good. So don’t pat yourself on the back until you have fought the cocks of 3/4th your own blood and 1/4th of the new blood.
If they can fight as well as your own chickens you are on the right track. As I have said before, if your hens are intensely game, their sons out of short bred cock may act game, so you will not be sure of the deep gameness of your cross until you have tested out cocks with new blood on their dam’s side. So likewise test out some of the sons of the new cock over his daughters. If they stand the test your cross is game at any rate.
After you have bred the new blood down to 1/8, 1/16, or 1/32 you have the advantage of the cross and have chickens just like and as good as your own family with all the characteristics you have spent in developing your fowl.
If the cross is real success, put aside a few of the hens carrying 3/4 of the new blood. When they are seven or eight years old, you can go back for new blood of the same blood and can do away with all the guesswork and uncertainties of trying out an entirely new mixture.
When you have made a cross be man enough to admit it .Don’t join the band of phony old dodos who claim that nature makes special dispensation on their and who breed game chickens just as Noah had them in the Ark
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Breeding is the most valuable and most lasting factor in the improvement of a family of gamefowl. Performance of the rooster in the pit depends largely on the breeding qualities of the parents. Breeding is both an art and a science and it is not an easy task as it seem. The main objective of breeding is to improve the next generation in terms of desired qualities such as gameness, cutting ability, power, speed, stamina and endurance.
The main prerequisite of breeding is to do proper selection – that is, to select superior individuals. It is not just a matter of mating a quality broodcock with a quality brood hen with multi-winning records. It is not enough to buy all winners in the pit after each fight and use it as seed fowl. Breeding entails time, effort and money. A prospective breeder should set a goal or standards within his limits.
The first thing to do is to select the strain or breed to be used as seed fowl. The common breeds are the following: Kelso, Claret, Roundhead, Grey, Butcher, and Hatch. Proper knowledge of the characteristics of these breeds will be a good guide in developing your breeding program.
Start breeding with quality broodcocks and brood hens from a reliable source. In the selection process, see to it that brood cocks and brood hens are vigorous and healthy, and free from parasites and infection. They must come from families of superior performance.
Another essential tool to achieve a successful breeding operation is proper record keeping. Proper identification of both parents and offspring are indispensable. The use of markings such as nose punch, toe punch and the combination of the two are common in most breeding farms. Wing bands also help in the identification of game fowl. Records must be simple, complete, accurate and practical.
There are two (2) breeding methods commonly used in gamefowl, namely: inbreeding and crossbreeding. Inbreeding involves the mating of closely related fowl with the aim of concentrating the blood and thus impressing the desirable traits of individuals or families within the breed. This breeding method is is the quickest way of producing superior group in the qualities for which they are being bred. However, never use individuals with undesirable qualities for inbreeding. The undesirable traits will likely appear in the offspring.
Crossbreeding, on the other hand, is the mating of two (2) different breeds of gamefowl. The main objective is to find new combinations of characters or qualities that will lead to the formation of new breeds. Crossbreeding is ususally utilized in the production of battlecocks. There are several variations of crossbreeding, namely: straightcross, three-way cross, and four-way cross.
The polygenic character of gamefowls make breeding more complicated. Proper judgement is needed to evaluate which trait or character will be strengthened, maintained or eliminated in the breeding proper. Selection must always be coupled with proper culling to be successful in any breeding operation.
Gamefowl breeding is not an overnight job but involves a lot of patience, perseverance, time, effort and money. Frustration may divert the way but never give up. Always remember that the creation of a champion rooster is only through a sound breeding program.
One of the most talked about, but least understood, aspects of gamefowl husbandry is the subject of breeding. Let me disabuse you of one notion immediately. I am not an expert, never have been, never will be, don’t even pretend to be. So, if you decide to read further, keep repeating that to yourself. What follows are some of my observations, experiences and, yes, downright opinions, gleaned from almost thirty years of fooling around with gamefowl on one level or another.
In those thirty years, I would be hard pressed to name five real breeders that I have personally known. Yes, that’s right, I could count them on one hand. Even more surprising, less than half that number have been what I would term successful cockers, if success is to be measured by percentage of fights won. Most of the true breeders I have known have been small timers with a limited number of fowl and resources. Yet, over the years, these breeders have consistently produced fowl much sought after by other cockers. Not surprisingly, most have concentrated on one, at most two, families of fowl.
Don’t confuse a gamefowl raiser with a real breeder. Let me illustrate this point. A friend and I were discussing breeding one day many years ago, when the name of a certain individual-who had been prominent in the sport for many years and was much admired-came up. I foolishly observed that the guy must be a really good breeder to have done so well for so many years. My friend looked at me as though I had taken leave of my senses. “Are you crazy? That man has run through and ruined more good families of chickens than you or I will ever own in a lifetime!” And he was right. Despite the fact that the man had been at or near the top for many years, it had been with a succession of different families, none of which he kept more than a few years, then discarded and went on to another winning family. To give the man his due, he was an excellent raiser of gamefowl and was great at recognizing and obtaining good fowl in the hands of others.
It is my contention that successful gamefowl breeding is as much art as science. Consider the following observation. Over the years, I have known many knowledgeable men whose background and education would seem to guarantee success with gamefowl-these included veterinarians and guys with advanced degrees in genetics and animal husbandry. Such was not the case, however, since nearly all were barely average-if that-as cockers. I have known guys who could recite genetics- phenotype, genotype- chapter and verse, but put them on a yard with a field of gamefowl and they didn’t have a clue.
I feel that I have told you hardly anything of value thus far, so I think I will answer some questions that a “young” cocker e-mailed me and see if they might clarify some points that you other beginners might have.
Q: Selecting brood fowl. What qualities should come from the cock’s side? The hen’s side?
A: Horse breeders have an adage, “Strength and endurance from the female, speed and action from the male.” Not a bad rule of thumb.
Thoughts on Breeding Page 2
Q: Do you believe in cross influence since genetically the offspring are 50/50? Father influences daughter/mother influences son.
A: There may be some validity to this since it is proven that some characteristics, like gray color, are sex-liked. Personally when I make a cross of a “pure” line and a crossed line, I prefer that cross to be on the female side. I have no proof this actually works, however.
Q: Why do good traits seem to exhibit themselves in crosses than pures? Is the gene selection random or a fixed pattern?
A: That last one is a million dollar question and one that geneticists would love to know the answer to. Crosses are better usually because they tend to have “hybrid vigor”, whereas closely bred fowl may exhibit poor traits due to concentration of the gene pool.
Q: What is your method of “setting a strain”?
A: One generally sets a strain by identifying an “ideal” and breeding toward that ideal, often using an individual more than twice in the line.
Q: How come crosses don’t carry on after two or three generations?
A: Some do. Otherwise, how do we account for “pure” Hatch, “pure” Butcher, etc., which were once, after all, merely crosses.
Q: How do we recognize prepotent individuals? Is there any other way other than test mating? What percentage of the offspring should show traits for the parent fowl to be considered prepotent?
A: I know of no other way than single mating and testing offspring. Look for consistency in looks and actions among brothers and sisters. As far as parents are considered, look for nearly 100% shared traits to identify prepotent parent individuals.
In conclusion, let me share this with you. The late Cecil Davis of Jackson, Tennessee, told me this. “I have only seen two families of ‘super chickens’ in my life, those Hatch of Bill Ruble’s in the ’60s and the Cantrell Greys in the ’70s.” I personally was fortunate enough to see the Greys myself and they were truly “super”. Since then, I haven’t seen their equals for all-around performance. But someday, someone will breed them. Who knows? Maybe it will be you.
If you enjoyed these ramblings, let the good folks at Pit Master know and maybe I’ll jot some more down, or suggest a topic and I’ll try to oblige. In the meantime, I would suggest you pick up a copy of “Modern Breeding of Gamefowl” by Narragansett, the pen name of Frank Shy. He had some interesting ideas on breeding, and, oh yes, he was one of the five “real” breeders I referred to earlier.