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Our Poultry Breeding Method

We work hard to keep a closed flock so that we do not have to worry about disease outbreaks, or issues with bringing in bad stock that could ruin our breeding program. Most of the poultry we breed and sell are being bred to a method of breeding called spiral breeding. This method was used by a Rhode Island Red breeder to maintain a line for over 90 years. We will show you how it is done below.

On our farm we keep a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 25 lines of a single breed. Breeds that we own that  we have under 5 lines of are being bred the same way but we are seeking strong new lines to bring our total up to 5. Our breeding method is not for the weak. It is not for the average backyard or the average chicken owner. Our method involves hatching hundreds and hundreds of chicks from each seperate line to pick one or two of the very best to make it to the next step. Spiral breeding is hard work. It looks easy on paper, but it is not as simple as hatching chicks from each pen and just throwing daughters back in with their mom to keep it going. No! It is selecting the best replacement breeders by hatching as many chicks as possible. Any mistakes made now can be a problem in the future.

Quick Info:

Lines are based on the Hen, not on the Cock.

Lines are setup in this method based on how many hens are available.

We breed all of our breeds using the same method. The same for everything on the farm. I setup a breeding pen with 1 hen and 1 cock.

Getting Started...

We prefer breeding with the single mate method if at all possible. It requires more pens but it also helps us to determine which hens has produced the best offspring. If you were to keep 2 hens and a cock in each pen to make a trio and one hen was producing superior chicks while the other was producing weak or defects, you wouldn't know which hen was the problem and which was the best unless you seperated them. This is why it is best to start your first time setup with one hen per pen. Their are hundreds of ways to mark a chick starting at one day old. You can use a toe punch, V mark in the tip of the webs of the feet, as well as nose marks. We simply use a toe punch system for our breeders. Most of our breeds we have 6 breeding pens. On the rarity we may have more. It is very important that once you begin your system, you never mark a chick differently just because it will mess up your breeding system.

Setting Up Breeding Pens...

Ok, so you have a breed and you want to start breeding them so that you wont have to bring in new blood for many years. You have already built your pens and are ready to go. Pick out the hen that will become line 1. Mark her with a toe punch if she don't already have one with a Outside Left Toe Punch and place her in her pen. Now pick your line 2 hen and mark her with an Inside Left Toe Punch and put her in pen two. Continue to do this until each hen is marked and in her individual breeding pen. It is best to have the pens in order such as pen 1, pen 2, pen 3, and so on. It is also a good idea to put a number on the pen with either a nailable house number, painted with a stencil, or other means. If you only had 5 hens, you will only have 5 marks. You will have 10 extra marks that can be used but do not use them on any chicks or it will confuse you in the future. If you bring in a new line or new breeding stock and want to create a new pen, the new hen for the new pens will get the next mark. Now once all hens are toe punched and in their own pen, it is time to pick out your breeding cocks.

1) Hen 1 & Cock 1tp-1.png

9) Hen 9 & Cock 9

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2) Hen 2 & Cock 2
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10) Hen 10 & Cock 10tp-10.png

3) Hen 3 & Cock 3tp-3.png

11) Hen 11 & Cock 11tp-11.png
4) Hen 4 & Cock 4tp-4.png 12) Hen 12 & Cock 12tp-12.png
5) Hen 5 & Cock 5tp-5.png 13) Hen 13 & Cock 13tp-13.png

6) Hen 6 & Cock 6tp-6.png

14) Hen 14 & Cock 14tp-14.png
7) Hen 7 & Cock 7tp-7.png 15) Hen 15 & Cock 15tp-15.png
8) Hen 8 & Cock 8tp-8.png  16) Unknown Parentagetp-16-no-parentage.png

I highly recommend starting out with one male for each pen just as we did for the hens. If you only have one or two breeding cocks such as if you are starting out with two trios then each day rotate the cock to the pen next to him. If you have a cock for each hen then that cock will be left with his hen for the whole breeding season and not moved or taken out, nor bred to anyone else. If though you only have for example the two trios you will be required to move the cock to ensure each hen is bred. To do this you can go with one of two methods. Since you would have 4 hens you could move Cock 1 each day to pen 1 & 2 and Cock 2 to pens 3 & 4. The other way you could do this is Rotating Cock 1 between pens 1 & 3 and Cock 2 between pens 2 and 4. Either way it is best to start out with one cock for each hen, and to not have to switch the cocks around. If you can't afford a brood cock for each hen, then this method is probably out of your budget and you should stop now as this system is not for you. This is a costly breeding method. It isn't for the cheap or weak hearted.

Year 1: Line Breeding (Breeding Hens & Cocks from the Same Pen)

Now that all of your breeding pens are setup and you have one hen and one cock in each pen, collect all eggs from each pen daily. Take a pencil or china marker (my favorite) outside with you when gathering eggs. If you do not have a pencil or china marker to mark the eggs during collection, do not collect at that time. For us we have all of our breeds setup to the Spiral Breeding Method. So for us labeling eggs requires us to label the eggs with the breed and the pen number. If you only have one breed that you are spiral breeding just label each egg with the corresponding pen number. Hen 1 eggs would be marked 1, and hen two's eggs would be marked with a 2. For us we insist on labeling the eggs with either the breed or a code. If you look under our poultry catalog you will see each breed had a code. For example: White Leghorn Bantams would be WLB. So if we collected an egg from our 3rd pen of White Leghorn Bantams the egg would be marked on the top fat end of the egg: WLB 3. This ensures that from the very beginning the eggs are kept up with from each pen. If you go outside to collect eggs without a way to label the egg, you are setting yourself up for a messed up breeding plan and need to give up now. Seriously, follow these directions completely. If you see an egg and want to collect the egg without a pen or way to mark the egg. Collect the egg from the nest and lay it on the ground or in something right next to the nest on the outside of the pen, and then go get your pen or china marker and return outside to label the eggs properly and collect. If you think you can setup some kind of way to remember which egg is which, I promise you sooner or later it will fail. Ive had eggs get messed up that I was positive was from a certain hen. However I wouldnt hatch it for breeding. If it was hatched, it didn't get a toe punch, and was sold to someone because I was unable to know for 100% certaintity which hen laid the egg. Keep in mind your hens never ever move. They are in their pen for their life or until removed from the breeding program. So if you do as I say, you will succeed.

The first year nothing changes. You keep Hen 1 and Cock 1 in the same pen, and so on for each line. Always refer to your line as line 1, line 2, and so on based on the hen. Your line 1 will never change, it will always be line 1, and so on for each line. Remember the Line is based on the hen, not the cock as she never moves. Now that you have eggs, you are hatching them to get your first chicks from your lines. Seperate each lines chicks into mesh vegetable bags, seperate hatching trays, or something to keep them from getting mixed with chicks from other pens. Only remove one line's chicks from your incubator at a time. Mark the chicks as you take them out with the same mark as their mother. Line 1's chicks are all marked Outside Left, Line 2's chicks are all marked Inside Left. Do this for each of your lines giving them the toe punch of their line. Raise as many as you possibly can and cull beginning day one. If any chicks aren't top notch, not the right color, etc then cull them by selling them as barnyard mixes, layers, etc. Pick out the best top 5% of pullets from each line, the rest you can sell or eat. I highly recommend hatching as many as possible from each pen. I try to hatch at least a hundred pullets and 100 cockerels from each line. I choose the best 5% of my pullets and my best 2% of my cockerels from each line as breeders for the next year.

Year 2: Inbreeding

Most people add the offspring back during year one. I choose to add the pullets back to their mothers pen at the start of the second breeding season. Once you have selected the best quality offspring from year one to keep as breeders, add the pullets in with their mother. So line 1 pullets go in the line 1 pen, line 2 pullets go in the line 2 pen, etc. Now inspect your cockerels. Are they more superior than their dad, if they are an improvement over their father then they can replace their father in their breeding pen. I choose the very best cockerel and save the second one as a backup. Leave the mother in with her daughters for the second year. Breed just like you did the first year, and mark the eggs line 1, line 2, etc. Hatch and select chicks just like you did in Year 1 for next years breeders.

 

Year 3: Line Breeding

This year we will be removing the original hen from each pen. This is because you are trying to improve your line and her work is done. Also if you chose to keep the original brood cock he is retired as well. Sell the pair to someone getting started and let them enjoy the breed. Be sure to tell them the true age of the birds you are selling. So now you should have your 1st year's offspring in the pen, and now you will add the pullets you raised from last year. This is where the change starts. This year you take a line 1 male and move him to line 2, you take a line 2 male and move him to line 3, and keep doing this until each line rotates over one pen. The last male will rotate back into the first pen. Now breed them just as you have the last two breeding seasons and when you hatch the chicks they are still marked line 1, line 2, etc. Raise them all and do as you have in the past choosing the best for next years breeders.

 

Year 4: Inbreeding

This year we once again are inbreeding. Follow the steps in year 2.

 

Year 5: Line Breeding

Follow the steps in Year 3.

Year 6: and So On...

Continue the system. Every 2 years the cocks are moved over a pen, and the 2 year old hens are replaced with the pullets from the previous year. If doing this method and you keep the top 5% of pullets each year from a hatch of 100, you will have a total of 10 breeding hens per pen each year beginning from year 2. You can always choose less such as just 1 or 2 to breed each year, but I choose 5 of the best each year to breed. So I keep 10 a year per cock.

 

To be finished later...