How to Breed Chickens Using the Clan-Mating System


The importance of breeding heritage breed chickens to ensure the birds retain their historically beneficial traits is outlined in the article Heritage Chicken Breeding: Why Not to Rely on Chicken Hatcheries. If you wish to embark upon breeding your own flock, you have several options for how you manage the breeding project. Here, I describe and illustrate the three-clan system I use to breed my Icelandics (a landrace breed I have been working with for several years). You may conclude that a similarly managed breed improvement project is within your capabilities as well.

A clan-mating system starts by assigning initial breeding stock to separate “clans” or “families.” The minimum number of clans is three — four or even five would be possible with more management input.

Clan Mating 1 

Imagine that we have six breeding birds at the start, three hens and three cocks. We assign each hen and each cock to one of three clans — assume we call them Red, Green and Blue (in that order). We might have good reason for assigning breeding stock to one clan rather than another, but the initial assignment can be entirely arbitrary. Once assigned, however, each bird remains in its designated clan for life.

Clan Mating 2 

All the birds can be managed as one undifferentiated flock until we prepare for the breeding season, at which time we isolate the breeding hens and cocks by clan. We mate cock and hen of the same clan together in the first breeding season only.

3/9/2016 12:21:02 PM

Rabbits can be bred in much the same manner.

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