Systems Used for Breeding
An animal breeder must set goals for the animal he wishes to produce, and devise breeding systems that will allow him to approach those goals. Many breeds of poultry, with their plumage color, body shape, comb type, and other distinguishing characters, represent the goal that the breeders set out to achieve many years ago. Modern breeders set goals to achieve and use their knowledge of genetics and poultry husbandry to move toward these goals. The goals may vary to suit the objective to be reached.
Hens for egg production must have the ability to lay large numbers of eggs. Selection of hens based on the rate of lay is the uppermost objective of the poultry breeder. However, the ability to lay large numbers of eggs is not enough. If the eggs are small with poor shells, have water albumen, or contain numerous blood or meat spots, the hen will not be valuable for the production of market or breeding eggs. Hens that are highly susceptible to disease and may die before laying for a full year are not valuable. The traits considered to be of economic importance include rearing mortality, laying mortality, egg production, food consumed per dozen of eggs produced, and body weight.
A breeder producing stock for meat production has a variety of factors to consider in setting his breeding goals as well. A broiler must be fast-growing and have acceptable body conformation. It must be efficient in converting feed to meat, be free from leg weakness, be resistant to disease, and have appropriate skin and feather color. The parent of the broiler chick must have good reproductive characteristics in terms of fertility, hatchability, egg production, and egg size, to insure the economic production of the broiler chicks.
Many breeders consider poultry breeding to be a combination of genetics, animal husbandry, and good luck.