To create the ideal homestead breed for each of your poultry species you have to create a clear-cut concept of the new breed’s ideal attributes or traits. You are going to formulate a Standard of Perfection of Conformation for your new homestead breed for each species in your poultry flock.
Modern breeding methods which focus purely on extremely high feed conversion rates, early maturity, high egg production, or beauty alone and rapid weight gain do not favor health, vigor or longevity. Thus disease takes hold of flocks, such as the avian flu, which then renders a poultry farmer bankrupt and creates an epidemic pushing its way to more farms resulting in an industry bankruptcy and a true tragedy. These breeding methods inherently cause health problems which render the bird unproductive after a year and a half or as soon as eight weeks, thus shortening the profitability of that bird’s life to a few weeks. This is not a suitable policy for the homestead breeder. We are going in the opposite direction back to the old-time breeders who developed vigorous, healthy, with low mortality rates, poultry breeds.
Your goal should be to create new homestead breeds which will continue to flourish with each new birdy generation; well past your lifetime into your children’s, grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s. Talk about a legacy! Consequently, your goal should be creating a breed which has the skills to do most of the work, consistently lays enough eggs – regardless of season, produces a consistent, decent weight, and retains fertility year after year without the loss of health, longevity and vigor.
When looking to produce a new breed of bird, you must first determine its Standard of Perfection. The Standard of Perfection is a list of set traits you are seeking for each new breed of bird. There are four categories of standards (in the order of importance): Health Standards, Behavior Standards, Production Standards and Physical Standards.
Above everything else are the Health Standards in your breeding program. There are more disqualifiers in this category than any other. Bird Health is vital for your homestead and almost everything can be sacrificed for your birds’ overall health and well-being.
When you homestead you are busy, busy, and yes, busy. You will not have time to devote to industrialized food production practices; which are so time-consuming that currently a farmer only has time to produce one thing. This doesn’t mean you compromise your goals. Instead, you must rely on your bird’s natural skills and instincts. They must know what to eat, how to find it and how to catch it. They must know how to hatch and raise their own young. They must know how to mate, and mate well. They must know how to avoid predators and escape predators.
Once you have read over the previous section on breeding for purpose, it all becomes very real. You will keep poultry to produce meat, eggs, feathers, manure and labor for your family, friends and community. In return for all that your birds give you, you provide your birds with an excellent environment, ability to express their nature, loving and compassionate care, the most nutritious foods and a good death. It is a relationship. While industrialized practices focus purely on the bigger, faster, more (thank you Joel Salatin for the saying) traits of production, you will focus on consistency.
Your last concern should be the beauty of your birds. No, “I bred my birds this way because it is beautiful” here! Your new breeds will inherently be beautiful because you have chosen Physical Standards from a practical point-of-view. You will love the look of your birds because you will have selected the best Physical Standards for your area of the country and for your purposes. You will see the benefit of each trait you have selected. You will become quite passionate about all of your bird’s traits as they will be an expression of your choices. As you see your new breeds take shape you will have a new sense of pride.