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Tracy DeLore – If you’ve kept a number of hens for a while, you must have said, “I wish this hen had a smaller comb” or “I wish I had more hens that lay blue eggs.”
Here is the good news! If you are hatching at home, whether in an incubator or with a broody hen, you can selectively breed to get the traits you want in your flock. It just takes a little research on the herd.
Selection of traits for selective breeding
Much depends on your personal preferences. I selectively breed for two traits – smaller combs/wattles and more green eggs. For what? First, our winters in central New York are quite cold and chickens with smaller combs and wattles are less prone to frostbite. Two, I think green eggs are pretty.
I was somewhat successful in achieving this goal. I have several Australorp crosses that have either very small combs or even a pink comb. And I added several new layers of green eggs to the flock.
Your traits might be different. It doesn’t matter what the traits are. The general method is the same.
Here is rule number one for selective breeding in your backyard flock. You should have a good general idea of which hens lay which eggs. It is not a problem if you have blue or green eggs and want to hatch those who know that the hens of these eggs also have a chance to lay blue or green eggs.
It’s a little more difficult when you have multiple breeds that lay eggs of the same color. It took me about two years to really learn the differences between my eggs. The lighter to almost pinkish eggs are probably from one of my Buff Orpingtons or their offspring. The slightly darker brown eggs are most likely from one of my barred rocks. The rich brown eggs with darker spots are probably from one of my Australorps.
You need to spend some time with your flock at lay time and start learning which eggs go with which hens. Then you will know which eggs you want to hatch and which ones you will have for breakfast instead.
Ok, if you’re hatching at home, a rooster is sort of an essential part of the process. So be sure to choose your rooster wisely for selective breeding in your backyard flock. Do not introduce or keep roosters that have undesirable traits.
Right now I have four roosters. A bantam cochin named Oreo who is four years old and my daughter’s pet. He is also smaller than everyone else and not really a successful breeder because of that. We can exclude it from the reproduction equation.
Of the other three roosters, only one has all the traits I want.
Before the spring and summer dashing season, I will have to evaluate the three and decide who can stay and who must leave before hatching. It is an important part of selective breeding in backyard flocks.
The olive egger rooster is beautiful and I am tempted to keep him to bring more green egg genes into the herd. However, he has a huge comb and wattles, which are traits I try to stay away from. Same for one of the boys who hatched here. He is quite handsome, but sports a very large crest and wattles.
My third rooster is a beautiful cross that has a nice little pea crest and almost non-existent wattles. Perfect for what I’m looking for! This spring, I will watch the women he seems to favor and make sure to collect their hatching eggs.
Let’s hatch some eggs!
It will take a bit of detective work on your part, but you too can selectively breed within your backyard flock.
Traci De Lore grew up with chickens on the family farm, but didn’t start raising her own chickens until she was 40. Her desire to raise chickens came from the desire to have her own fresh eggs from chickens that she knew were well cared for and happy. Traci started with six chickens – then chicken math took over. These days, she has about 60 chickens – and three “rotten” ducks. (I say this because having ducks is like living with toddlers.) Traci also raises and processes her own meat chickens on occasion. Follow her on Instagram.
Originally published on Community Chickens and regularly checked for accuracy.