In 1935 the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) was introduced to ensure the health and well-being of American flocks and since then has grown to include 49 states who seek to regulate the health of chickens and other poultry including game breeds and show birds. At least for backyard flocks participation in NPIP is voluntary, probably appealing to those who may want to sell or trade birds more so than to someone with three hens in suburbia kept for eggs and companionship. For commercial growers NPIP means Americans can expect healthy birds to set on their dinner tables.
Even with NPIP to encourage biosecurity measures and healthy habits common sense goes a long way in raising poultry. The best example I can think of is for breeding top quality Americaunas with the trademark muffs and beards, red earlobes, wattles and combs one would naturally choose parents with the best of all of these characteristics as breeding stock rather than purchasing a mixed breed and hoping for that one chick that might possess the desired traits.
Perusing the online Breeders Directory makes a lot more sense than shopping flea markets and taking chances with the lineage of breeding stock. If one’s only interest is eggs for the table then by all means choose whatever appeals to the senses, but if there is any desire for producing quality chicks for sale or show then step up your game and research breeders and breeds. Now, let’s see what grandpa might have advised.
It is one of the well-known laws of heredity that “like produces like,”—what is bred in the fowl will out in the chick. The tendencies to certain habits are readily transmitted from parent to offspring and when handed down for a number of generations, the tendency becomes more firmly fixed.
To have healthy poultry we should breed for health as carefully as for any desired standard point. Breeding for health should be in the foremost consideration since with the habit of health firmly fixed in the flock we have a solid bed-rock foundation on which to build up a strain well fitted to develop all other desirable qualities. Breeding for health should begin not alone with the parent stock, but if possible with the grandparents.
In selecting breeding stock be sure to accept only strong, vigorous, healthy specimens, birds which are well developed, fully matured and which have never had any serious illness. . . No matter how good a specimen a bird may be, if it is not mature, does not possess size, vigor and a sound constitution, do not permit it to take a place in the breeding pen. . . Spending several dollars worth time and medicine in an attempt to cure a dollar bird, thereby endangering the health of the balance of the flock, is suicidal policy. . .
Inbreeding is bad practice. Hereditary tendencies possessed alike by both parents are prone to be exaggerated in the chicks. For this reason never mate males and females possessing the same fault.
Additions to the poultry yard should be made with the greatest care, both as to the choice of birds to be introduced so far as their breeding and characteristics are concerned, and their state of health. It is to be pointed out that frequently a strange bird has been the means of introducing disease into a previously healthy yard—disease that has taken months to eradicate. The system adopted by careful breeders is to keep purchased fowls by themselves for two or three weeks, so that any incipient disease may have time to declare itself and that the condition of the bird may be fully observed.
Bib: Reliable Poultry Remedies. 1913. “Poultry-keeping as an Industry for Farmers and Cottagers”. 1906.
National Poultry Improvement Plan, 1506 Klondike Rd., Suite 101, Conyers, GA 30094, 770-922-3496.