2006 champion cockerel2002 rirblack aussie hen 2005


sussex stag

Belonging to a pure breed poultry club is a nurturing experience. It entails building a flock of sometimes endangered birds and bringing them slowly to as near perfection as you can get. This requires luck in locating reasonable breeding stock and luck in being able to keep them too, because most people are not going to vaccinate their flocks and the risks of buying in birds to start a new flock are great.

It also requires determination, hard work and a lot of effort and cost. It will cause heartbreak when things do not go as planned, courage to start again, elation when things go well. In fact the rollercoaster!

You must also remember that fulfilling the potential of your breeds entails correct feeding.

If a bird does not receive the correct feed at the correct growth period he will not be able to achieve his absolute potential and be the best he can be. This is in people too. If you do not feed the child correctly he will be small, stunted and never be all he can be. A bird that has the correct genetic material, is pedigreed 15 generations back, will never achieve the glory of his absolute potential if he’ s not fed correctly. His growth will stop at mediocre.

This is especially true of the Brahma which more than any bird grows in spurts. You may think he is not eating, and will cut down his feed. He then hits a growth spurt and there is no food to satisfy him. You will never get that opportunity again, and the potential is lost forever. Watch your birds carefully. Monitor their feeding habits. Watch their mating habits too, the laying behavior, in fact all aspects of the poultry pen.

If you are into breeding pure bred poultry for the love of it,( not for the money which does not exist), then the rollercoaster is worth it. If you are breeding broilers, this article will not interest you. If you are simply breeding pets, this article may change your perspective.

Each breed is different. Each breed has habits and small differences that need to be observed and respected. It took me many years to unravel the enigma that is the large Australorp. I realized that my hens were sometimes very productive in eggs and sometimes not, that sometimes all the eggs were fertile and sometimes all were clear…this with the same cocks and the same hens.

It took me a long time to realize that the girls themselves were to blame. If they don’t like the cock given to them, they can go on strike, hold back laying, hide from the male and either you get no eggs or you get clear eggs.

Give them a male they like and the picture changes dramatically! All of a sudden eggs are plentiful, and all full!

I have observed this only with Australorp. Sussex on the other hand are fussy maters. The males are the ones who tend to be picky and will mate only with another Sussex hen, not with an Australorp or a Rhode Island.

Watch your birds. Do not allow staff free reign with your breeders. You need to be hands on at all times.

Pure bred poultry is a joy to behold. I started with some very mediocre stock in Australorp, Rhode island Reds, Sussex Light and others. Years later I took on the Partridge Brahma, the silkie and the Wyandotte. The stocks I started with was not worth even a pot to boil the birds for lunch, but since it was all I could get, I made do. I had every type of flaw in my birds, from weak legs to split wings to disease. I had theft and accidents, snakes and a very unreliable power supply for my incubators…nothing has changed there in South Africa!

My first years of breeding were painful but educational. The birds I bred were mediocre but slightly better than the parents.


Because the parent stock though mediocre, had good solid breeding genes which had never been allowed to fulfil their potential. The birds themselves might not be great, they were undersized, thin, small eggs etc.

BUT: The genetic code that formed those birds was intact. It was still there buried inside the mediocre packages. When I had my first batch of chicks, I fed them well, I looked after them like they were champions already. I made sure to vaccinate against just about everything that crawled or flew past. I dewormed and looked after the parasites. I made sure they were warm in winter and cool in summer, plenty of fresh air, plenty of greens…and:

Miracle of miracles, the second generation was better than the first…and so on. As my stock became stronger, the genetics woke up, the whole code was revealed and the potential of each bird unlocked.

I started with Brahmas that were small, weighed nothing over 3 kg and were riddled with missing toes, split wings, dented keels.

Within 3 years, my males weighed in at 5kg plus  and stood over 63cms in height, and although there were still plenty of flaws, I was working through them.

I would suggest that you start with building the car first before you worry about the upholstery. In other words, make sure you have the correct size, the build of the bird, the type, (very important), before you start playing with combs and colour.

The Brahmas I had still had a way to go, as they seemed to have developed a really bad comb and in some cases coarse faces.

BUT they had regained the size, the structure and the type which was on the way out.

I was in the process of rectifying that having brought in a bird from the Cape that was undersized but had a beautiful face and a perfect comb.

Unfortunately I had to give up on them at this stage, but it was a work in progress.

The trick is never to give up and also walk a balancing act with the genetics so that you don’t lose all the points you worked so hard to get right to achieve only one small victory in another sphere. Do not, because a judge tells you the comb on your bird is not right, throw away the whole bird and concentrate only on the comb. It will all come together  but SLOWLY! So, be patient, and don’t listen to too many opinions because none will ever agree! Listen to your own inner small voice, the one you have been cultivating since you bought your first pure bred bird. The voice that will tell you what you like and what you don’t. THAT is your personal yardstick. Have a picture in YOUR mind of what you want to get to, and stick to that. Take pictures, plenty, of your birds every season so you have a photographic record of your progress and you can then see how far you have come, how close to that elusive picture in YOUR mind!

Do not sacrifice size for anything. This for the large breeds. I was told by an uninformed person at one national show that the Brahma Partridge hen I was showing could not possibly be that size naturally. I must have given her growth hormones and cheated! It takes all kinds! I was also told by another “expert” at one show that my silkies were far too big and he did not place them. This after it had taken me five years to get the silkies to a size accepted by the British Poultry Club, because silkies in SA tended to be halfway between a bantam and a large. They are still too small in my opinion. Needless to say I did not destroy my silkies!

best bird on show 2009 bearded white silkie pullett

best bird on show 2009 bearded white silkie pullet

This pullet weighed over 2kg. She was the correct size for her breed according to British standards. Silkies are NOT bantams, though there are silkie bantams accepted as a different breed we do not get them in SA.

There is no secret to breeding pure bred poultry. There is only hard work, dedication and mostly breeding a lot of birds so that you have the choice to select for the next generation.

It is obviously an advantage to start with good stock, but in South Africa this is not always possible. Do not despair if you feel you have mediocre stock to choose from. You can without importing, release the full potential of your breeds.





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