April and now the weather has warmed up I have broodies going down everywhere. At the moment I have every broody coop full and are struggling to find room for the others. It creates a few problems in as much as the hen usually sits on eggs laid by her pen mates and once the eggs have warmed up to the hens body temperature the egg sparks into life. If the broody isn’t removed the eggs will not all hatch over a couple of days and more than likely the hen comes off the eggs after she has hatched a couple.

It would be pointless putting eggs under the broodies that were not worth hatching, as the amount of work and room involved in growing the chicks on is massive when you let indiscriminate breeding take over from common sense.

If your only hatching a few birds as garden pets pedigree doesn’t really matter much, just be aware that your going to hatch cockerels that no one wants and if your not capable of culling them, trying to find new homes for them is almost impossible,what ever happens to them needs to be concidered before you start breeding.

If, on the other hand you want to breed pure breeds your selection of breeding stock is very important. Since the future of a breed lies in the hands of the hobby breeder it goes without saying that breeding from sub-standard birds will eventually be the ruination of that breed, as this type of bird gets absorbed into the poultry keeping fraturnity and further bred from.

It takes experiance before you can see at a glance that a bird is of quality stock, but be aware that there are exhibition strains and strains of the same breed bred for what the breed was originally used for. In the case of layers it was bred for egg production and when most of these breeds were at their peak ( Early1900’s) they were superb examples, bred by highly committed poultry breeders. Leghorns, Anconas and Minorcas laid upwards of 280 eggs in a season and kept laying for more than the hybrids of today will ever achive. There were rumors of birds laying 1000 eggs in her lifetime.

Exchequer Leghorn.

Try to locate a strain of the bred you are interested in from a reliable source and unless you want to show, find a breeder that breeds for the future good of that breed. Poultry in the hands of the exhibition breeder is going the same way as pedigree dogs, downwards. To much headgear and feathers in poultry and what in hells name have they done to the poor old Polish. Not only bred a bird that is blinded by excess head feathers, but put a frizzle gene in as well.

There are a number of breeds that are in need of taking on before the utility factor has been bred out of them. Exhibition breeders are a dedicated bunch and are guided by the judges interpritaion of the British Breed Standards and these judges have their own ideas of what a bird should look like. The judges look at size, shape, colour of legs,comb shape and size and pattern, plus a few other visual points, but breeding that perfect specimen doesn’t always take into account what it lays like or how virile the breed is or even worse hatchability.

Selection should be based on what you want the breed to do, if it’s a layer and a pure breed you can’t get better than a Leghorn or if you can find a good strain of Ancona or Minorca they would forfill your needs in eggs. A meat breed is a different matter, as people are used to seeing Jordans (bird with big breasts) in the supermarkets and expect the pure breed birds to dress out the same I’m afraid they won’t. To get meat on the breast you will need to cross it to an Indian Game.