Preventing inbreeding in a small chicken flock

Crowing rooster“When we bought 9
chicks last year, one turned out to be a rooster. He was a
fantastic protector of the flock, didn’t overmate but did have
a few dismayed favorites, but whoa was he scary! He became
particularly aggressive and had to go.
This year we hatched a dozen or so eggs in a friend’s
incubator, and she offered a few eggs from her mixed flock
too. We chose this year’s new roo with attention to avoiding
possible issues with inbreeding (and aggression!) and the
crossed-beak tendency of Easter eggers. So we chose a male
from our friend’s eggs. How many years do you imagine one can
inbreed a flock before the tight gene pool negative affects
the flock? Do you know offhand what negative impacts one would

— jen g.

This is an interesting question, and one I don’t entirely know
the answer to.  I’ll answer the second part first since
it’s easier.

The first negative effects of inbreeding to show up in a chicken
flock will probably be a higher percentage
of dud eggs in the incubator
.  Chicks that hatch may
also be weaker and less inclined to thrive.  Finally, you
may start seeing unusual genetic defects in the offspring of the
rooster and his sisters or daughters.

Mother hen and
chicksI don’t think there’s any
hard-and-fast rule for how soon you’ll notice inbreeding
problems.  In part, it will likely depend on how large and
diverse your flock is to begin with.  Are you starting with
just a few birds that have been linebred to produce show-quality
chickens of a certain breed?  If so, you’re much more
likely to see inbreeding problems quickly.  On the other
hand, if your flock is made up of several different varieties or
of mutt birds, inbreeding will probably take longer to show
negative effects.  I’ve noticed in my own flock that the
offspring of our rooster and a completely different variety of
chicken tend to show hybrid
when compared to the smaller offspring of the
rooster and other birds of the same type.

Ussery’s book suggests some methods for getting around
inbreeding problems
, but his techniques rely on the
infrastructure to keep multiple flocks of chickens
separate.  On the backyard scale, I think the best bet is
to just save your best birds back for breeding each year, and to
add in outside blood if you start noticing genetic
problems.  I hope that helps!

Our chicken waterer
is an easy way to ensure that multiple flocks all have
access to clean water without turning chicken care into a
lengthy daily chore.

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  1. July 9, 2013
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