Should You or Should You Not Inbreed Chickens?

A time comes when your young chicks finally develop into mature fertile hens and seductive crowing roosters! The roosters soon take their male roles and start chasing and jumping over mature hens. You may wonder: Is it right for your rooster to have a “breeding encounter” with its sister, daughter or mama? Should you or should you not inbreed chickens? What are the pros and cons of inbreeding chickens? Read further and be well informed.

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Inbreeding or line-breeding of chickens is simply allowing chickens that are genetically similar to breed or mate and bring forth new offsprings. If your initial breed is of good quality, brothers and sister chickens can safely mate to produce offsprings of desired traits. This includes son and mother or daughter and father. It’s only after the 5th or 6th generation that negative effects of line breeding will begin to manifest. Before you notice the negative signs of extended inbreeding, it’s important that you introduce new breeds to boost your chicken’s genetic diversity.

Compared to many animal species, chickens have been found to pretty tolerant of inbreeding (line breeding). However, if inbreeding continues for long, your current breed will be rendered extinct due to infertility and reduced egg hatching rates. Talk about the adverse effects of inbreeding depression at its worst!

inbreed chickens-Poultry farming

If you opt to inbreed your high-quality chickens, consider the following:

  1. Breed only healthy chicken breeds desirable characteristics
  2. In each generation hatch several chicks for maximum benefit
  3. Cull several chickens accordingly in each generation

Interesting Facts About Chicken inbreeding!

  1. There is no law that inhibits inbreeding. What’s bad or good is, therefore, dictated by unchangeable natural genetic laws! Great freedom for you to capitalize on where you can!
  2. Inbreeding chickens will not introduce new chicken breeds! 🙂 It only ensures that your current breed is massively homogenous or pure! Well, “pure” doesn’t imply “good” nor a “guarantee” that the quality should appeal to your genuine desires. The opposite can be true!
  3. While out-breeding tend to “mask” defects, inbreeding ensures that your chicken lines are homozygous and discloses all secrets to your naked eyes! It does not cause defects. But if defects had initially manifested themselves, inbreeding will surely be magnifying their manifestation in wider screens for you to behold!
  4. You’ve got the power to select your chickens for inbreeding. You can either choose to inbreed high-quality breeds with desirable characteristics or encourage defective traits to “infect” your flock through inbreeding. Go for the best option!

When Should You Consider Inbreeding Your Chickens?

Before you consider inbreeding which in livestock is called line breeding, ensure that your intention is to have young hens with genes that closely resemble their parents.

If for instance your current chickens grow fast and lay many eggs, inbreeding will ensure that the chickens produced have these traits.  Now, if on the other hand, your current flock has “characters” that you don’t like such as being noisy, very aggressive with each other, and less productive, DO NOT inbreed. If you do, you’ll be duplicating more chicken problems!

Does Inbreeding Affect Your Chickens?

Yes indeed. If the inbreeding chickens have a particular characteristic, it is enhanced on the newly produced chickens. If they have negative recessive traits, then these too will be enhanced on the new chickens.

Studies have shown that if inbreeding continues up to the 5th generation, it can start having the following effects:

  • Reduced Eggs fertility
  • Low Hatchability of eggs
  • Hatching of deformed or sickly chicks
  • Reduced flock viability

What Should Prompt You to Consider Inbreeding Your Chickens?

Before you consider inbreeding which in livestock is called line breeding, ensure that your intention is to have young hens with genes that closely resemble their parents.

Inbreeding Chickens-Farm scene
Pure breed chickens foraging for food

If for instance your current chickens grow fast and lay many eggs, inbreeding will ensure that produced chickens enhanced egg production and fast growth characteristics.  

Now, if on the other hand, your current flock has “bad characters” that you don’t like being noisy, aggressive with each other, and less productive, DO NOT inbreed. If you do, you’ll be duplicating more chicken problems!

Only consider linebreeding:

  • For enhanced improvement on quality chicken breeds
  • To maintain your flocks’ good characteristics

It’s important to note that inbreeding does not create either good or bad characteristics in chickens. It only enhances the existing bad or good characteristics that your flocks have. Therefore, it’s important that when inbreeding, your flock of chickens ought to have the best qualities that you would wish to be passed to their young ones.  

When Should You NOT Consider Inbreeding Your Chickens?

  1. When you always experience low hatching rates or fertility issues.
  2. When your current stock is NOT healthy and LESS productive
  3. If your chickens have physical deformities, sickly or display abnormal characteristics
  4. The chickens are either gaining too much weight or losing a lot of weight

What Are The Benefits of Inbreeding Your Chickens?

When you have a high-quality flock of chickens, the following are the advantages you’ll reap as a result of inbreeding:

1. Preservation of Good Characteristics:

If your current flock of hens has positive characteristics such as high egg production by the Australian Australorps, inbreeding is good. Produced chickens will carry the same egg-producing flat!

 If on the other hand your flocks mature very fast and known for their high meat quality like Orpington chicken breed, then by all means, let your chicken sisters and brothers continue breeding to uplift their family’s good “meaty” name!

2. Ensures preservation of disposition

Certain chickens may be known to be tolerant of certain harsh conditions such as hot or extremely cold weather. Some may be known to produce eggs of unique color. Other chickens can do well when confined while others may be good at foraging. If you desire to keep these unique disposition genes, inbreeding is a great option. It will help in preserving your heritage breeds

A heritage chicken breed must, therefore, be a pure breed that has not been scientifically engineered to have specific special traits. The most common heritage (pure) chicken breeds include:

  • Bantams
  • Hollands
  • Rhode Island Reds
  •  Delaware
  • White Leghorns
  • Wyandottes.

For the above unique pure breeds with unique foraging abilities, you will gain tremendously if you allow for line breeding (inbreeding). Introducing other breeds will tamper with their unique and valuable genes.

In general, if your plan is simply to maintain a flock of egg or meat-producing chickens, line breeding can be beneficial especially in the short term. If you have special chickens that are resistant to diseases or extreme weather conditions, inbreeding (line breeding) will work best for you.

Disadvantages of Inbreeding Chickens

inbreeding chickens-weak chicks

When chicken inbreeding continues for about 6 generations, your chickens may be adverse effects as follows:

  1. Infertility will step in with low rates of hatching
  2. Low productivity: Your chickens will start producing fewer eggs, and low-quality meat
  3. Their growth rate will be negatively affected. Mature chickens will start to weigh less
  4. Weak, sickly and deformed chicks
  5. Leads to inbreeding depression since all the existing bad genes in your flock will be enhanced in their offsprings
  6. While inbreeding ensures that you gain from good traits, you may loose on other good traits that your current chickens don’t possess
  7. When inbreeding chickens have no resistance to certain diseases such as influenza, the effects can be devastating. This is because such breeds may not have evolved accordingly to be effectively resistant as they’ve been continuously being inbred.

Negative Inbreeding Signs You Must Look For

To notice any negative signs, it might take about 6 generations of inbreeding. The signs may be subtle and difficult to instantly notice. Some of the signs will include physical deformities on hatched chicks such as bending beak, missing eyes, etc. Another sign is reduced infertility leading to a low hatching rate of incubated eggs.

Should you notice any of the above signs or general negative changes in your flocks’ conditions and productivity in general, it’s time for you to introduce a new breed in your backyard.

Introducing a new breed can be a big risk especially if you bring a sick rooster or hen. It can also ignite a war between roosters and subject your flock to a lot of stress. Chickens are also known to display different behaviors. New members can be cannibalistic! As such, care must be taken when introducing new breeds to your current chickens.

Ensure that the new member(s) you are introducing are free from serious health problems such as worms, mites, cough, etc. Do not rely on the verbal assurances of those you purchased the new chickens from. If you are not absolutely sure that the new chicken family members are healthy, make sure that you put them under quarantine for at least 30 days. This will give you enough time to evaluate their health status effectively before allowing them to mingle with the older folks!

Final Word

Inbreeding or line breeding is beneficial as it ensures that you continue benefiting from the good characteristics of your selected quality breed. After a while, it’s important that you consider new genetic breeding to ensure that your chickens remain resistant to certain common diseases.

Allow for fresh breeds to boost your stocks’ genetic diversity. Breeding your chicken with new breeds will finally enhance your chickens’ fertility and production in general.

Other Important Links

  1. Best Way to Water Your Chickens
  2. How to Help Your Chicken Lay More Eggs

Meshack Sewe

Meshack, is a tech-savvy Creative Copywriter, Poet, a Blogger, and a proud owner of few locally bred cows and goats. He first trained in Agricultural Engineering & later in Business Information Technology (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology). He has served both as Program Officer and Program Manager with two NGOs focusing on Agricultural & Humanitarian Programs targeting local communities.

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