The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Long hatch and hybrid vigor

Marans hybrid chickWe've had a strangely elongated hatch this time around, which I think is due to cold weather exacerbating differences in temperature within the incubator.  But it's hard to complain when the final count is 18 living chicks, two yolkers (which were either infertile or died very young), and one fully formed but dead in the shell chick.  (It's possible even that last guy might have hatched, but I thought for sure he was dead when he hadn't pipped by the end of day 23!)

Most of the chicks have australorp fathers and mothers, but two have sussex and seven have marans mothers.  You know how humans take one look at the squashed up Homemade chick feederface of a newborn baby and immediately say it looks like the father (seldom the mother)?  Well, I thought the same of our little hybrids at first.  But soon I noticed that some appeared blacker than others, making me think those are the maransXaustralorp chicks.  I wonder if I'll see signs of hybrid vigor when the time comes to weigh then eat them?

(As you can tell, the creek went down enough that I could bring in the chick feed.  Our youngsters thought the milled grain was almost as interesting as hard-boiled egg yolks, but they spilled it pretty badly until I made a homemade feeder.  More on that eventually if it works.)

Our chicken waterer keeps the brooder clean so our flock can steer clear of childhood diseases.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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how did you procure this latest brood? are you keeping roosters these days?
Comment by kevin Tue Mar 6 15:04:40 2012

Black Australorp roosterThese guys are 100% homegrown! We kept an Australorp rooster from our third hatch last year, and he's been mating with our Australorp and Marans hens. Since he came from an entirely different lineage, there's no worries about inbreeding this year, but next year I'll have to start thinking through breeding schemes.

Comment by anna Tue Mar 6 15:58:55 2012

what a beautiful boy! congrats on a very successful hatch! sounds like you might want to buy a clutch of eggs, maybe in May, to introduce another bloodline in the fall/winter.

we recently purchased year old layers from a farm in Petaluma - an hour north. they replaced girls that were hand raised in our yard that we culled mid-fall and winter.

Comment by kevin Tue Mar 6 16:33:59 2012

I think homegrown really helped with my hatch rate and the ease with which our chicks pushed out of their shells.

Ordering hatching eggs to get a new rooster for the next year makes sense, but I'd hate to risk changing half of my genetics to what might be a dud when our current rooster is such a gentleman! I guess I'll ponder for a while...

Looks like you got some good hens!

Comment by anna Tue Mar 6 17:19:10 2012
You dont need to get rid of your rooster. He looks great and if he is from a good laying strain, linebreed from him with the best Astralorp hens he produces. Its totally fine to breed father to daughter, people are far too worried about inbreeding. Check out this guy knows his poultry
Comment by Dave B3 Thu Apr 19 22:28:11 2012

Dave B3 --- Thanks for the interesting link! I'm not so sure it proves that it's okay to breed fathers to daughters, though.

I think that sibling breeding is slightly less likely to pair up bad recessive genes than father-daughter breeding, if I'm thinking this through right. The father gives 50% of his genes to his daughter, so they definitely share 50% of the same genes. On the other hand, siblings share an average of 50% of the same genes, but that amount could vary from 0% to 100%. (That's why some siblings look much more alike than others.)

So, the author of the website could have gotten lucky and bred siblings that shared less of their DNA. (And I also noticed that he only inbred once, sandwiched between two sets of extreme outbreeding.)

The trouble with line-breeding/inbreeding is that if bad recessive traits pair up, you could end up with some really troubled birds. If you're willing to cull them relentlessly, that's okay, but it does add an element of hard-heartedness I'm not sure I'm ready for. :-)

Comment by anna Fri Apr 20 13:18:38 2012
It took me a while to track down but here's the article on linebreeding Astralorps.
Comment by Fri Apr 20 18:59:09 2012

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