There are two general methods of breeding that are used in game fowl production: crossbreeding and inbreeding. Any one or a combination of techniques can be used or experimented on, depending upon what kind of progeny is wanted. In using any of the techniques, it should be remembered that the brood cock and the brood hen each contributes 50% to the genetic make-up of the progeny.
Usually, a breeding program is presented as a line diagram. A long program appears complicated, but is in fact just a presentation of a series of pairing and the progeny of each pairing.
The individual on the top left side of the line diagram (Angelo) is the father, while the one on the right side (Felicity) is the mother. Sometimes, the father is placed on the right, but the symbol o is placed to indicate that it is such. The two lines that meet at the bottom indicate the pairing of the two parents. The individual beneath the point where the lines meet (Benjie) is the progeny.
Crossbreeding is the mating of brood fowls that are from different bloodlines, say a Kelso to a Butcher. The mating of brood fowls from two unrelated inbred bloodlines is also considered as crossbreeding. As opposed to inbreeding, crossbreeding does not produce families, since all the birds mated are not related to each other.
Crossbreeding increases genetic variation in game fowls within a breeder farm because of the introduction of genes not normally present in a bloodline – the birds become heterozygous. More importantly, the crossbred progeny oftentimes performs better than its parents because of hybrid vigor. Aside from this, the traits acquired by the progeny are a combination of those of its parents.
Two-way crossing.Two-way crossing is the simplest crossbreeding method – it is the basic. It is commonly used in producing battlecocks, normally called battle crosses. These are produced by simply mating two selected brood fowls coming from two different bloodlines, producing a first generation (F1) progeny that is half the father and half the mother. The male F1s can immediately be used as battlecocks, as they are expected to exhibit heterosis or hybrid vigor, making them better than either of their parents. Hybrid vigor is the difference between the performance of the offspring and the average of its parents, with the progeny performing better than its parents. In game fowl characters like gameness and cutting ability, this is indicated by the superiority of the progeny over that of its parents, although this is very subjective in nature. Hybrid vigor is expressed more by progeny produced out of crossing two unrelated inbred lines.
The decision on which bloodlines to use for two-way crossing depends upon what game fowl characters one is interested in. For instance, Hatches are known for power while Kelsos are known for speed. If Jordan is a multi-time winner pure Hatch or a Hatch brood cock known to produce outstanding battlecocks, he is mated with an outstanding hen, say Sunshine, which is a pure Kelso. They produce a brood, one of the males of which is selected because of its outstanding characteristics, and is named Abarrientos. Abarrientos should show a good blend of brute power and awesome speed both in training and in the pit. Of course, this assumes that he is managed and trained very well.
In two-way crossing, the breeder has to decide on which traits to combine, and which among these traits will come from the brood cock and from the brood hen. Experts recommend combinations like Hatch-Kelso, McLean-Roundhead or Hatch-Claret for speed and power combination, but a breeder can do his own experiment, depending on what traits he wants to combine.
Three-way crossing. Three-way crossing is an extension of two-way crossing. A brood cock or brood hen that is a product of two-way crossing is mated to a pure brood fowl coming from a third bloodline. The resulting progeny has ¼ of each of the bloodlines composing the two-way cross parent and ½ of the purebred parent.
The purebred brood fowl from the third bloodline used to produce the three-way cross is called terminal parent. In practice, a female F1 is bred to a purebred brood cock from a third bloodline to fully utilize hybrid vigor of the said F1. Usually, this lays more eggs per clutch than a purebred brood hen.
Since a three-way cross has ½ of the blood of the terminal parent, a three-way crossing program should be planned in such a way as to use as terminal parent a brood cock from a bloodline that carries the most preferred trait or traits.
Using Diana, Jordan’s sister, mating her with Hardaway, a Claret will, produce offsprings that are ½ Hardaway (Claret) ¼ Jordan (Hatch) and ¼ Sunshine (Kelso). Hardaway is the terminal sire, since he is used to produce the three-way hybrid. If a male two-way cross is mated to a female from another broodline, this female is called terminal dam. Kobe, Hardaway’s and Sharon’s son, who is a three-way cross, is a blend of the three bloodlines, but he will more or less show more of Hardaway’s characteristics, since half of his blood came from him.
The three-way cross utilizes the hybrid vigor of the brood hens. Like the two-way cross, hybrid vigor is utilized more if unrelated inbred lines are used.
Four-way crossing. Four-way crossing is an extension of two two-way crossings. It produces what is known as the four-way hybrid, which has ¼ of the genes of each of the bloodlines used. The four-way hybrid often exhibits hybrid vigor, particularly if the four lines used are inbred but not related to one another.
To arrive at a four-way cross, one needs four purebred brood fowls, two males and two females, each coming from a different bloodline. In deciding the bloodlines of the males, the characters that are expected to come from the male and the female parents should be considered. Therefore, in pairing the four bloodlines for the first mating, the same criteria used in deciding the bloodline of the male and the female brood fowls in two-way crossing are used.
The foundation stocks are paired (2 pairs) and mated. This mating is called line crossing or simply two-way crossing. The progeny produced by the two pairs are mated, to produce the hybrid generation. The males from one side are mated to the females of the other side and vice versa to see which combination will nick. Nicking is a particular mating combination that yields favorable results which, in game fowl breeding, is seen in the growing and pit performances of the progeny.
Jordan and Sunshine may be used on one side of four-way crossing. On the other side, Sharon would have to be mated to Jabbar, a four-time winner and a pure Butcher. They produce Assunta, who is mated to Abarrientos and Assunta are four-way crosses, and their blood composition is ¼ of each of their grandparents.
In choosing which bloodlines to use, a careful study has to be done to assess the merits (and demerits) of each bloodline. Also, the brood fowls to be used in a four-way crossing program have to pass the criteria set by the breeder in terms of physical appearance and fighting qualities to ensure optimum response to breeding.
Rotational crossing. Rotational crossing is a crossbreeding technique wherein bloodlines are used in succession to produce crossbred generations that are a combination of the bloodlines used in rotational crossing varies.
Rotational crossing uses at least three bloodlines. With this, it is assumed that this crossbreeding method utilizes heterosis better than most other crossbreeding techniques. The more bloodlines are used, the greater heterosis may be expected.
Crisscrossing. Crisscrossing is an extended backcrossing. It involves the use of two bloodlines, which are first crossed to produce the first generation. The first generation is mated to another purebred whose bloodline is the same as that of the first parent to produce the second generation, which carries ¾ of the first parent’s bloodline. The second generation is then mated to another purebred of the same bloodline as the second parent, producing the third generation, which has 5/8 of the second parent’s bloodline and 3/8 of the first. Thereafter, the two bloodlines are used in succession.
Grading up/Topcrossing. It is possible to change one breed to another or a mixed population to a “pure breed” through grading up. In game fowl breeding, this may be done on the assumption that the bloodline to be used will breed true to type. That is, the bloodline is genetically pure, at least as far as the characters for which it was developed are concerned so that when it is mated, its characters are more or less the same characters that appear in its progeny.
Grading up is done simply be crossing males of the desired bloodline with females of the existing bloodline or stock. The pullets produced in each generation are mated to another brood cock from the desired bloodline. Repeating this for several generations will significantly increase the proportion of the genes of the desired bloodline in the progeny. The game fowls produced in the latter generations will look much like a purebred of the desired bloodline, both in genotype and phenotype. For instance, a breeder wants to change his Orientals to game fowls that are almost pure Kelsos. To achieve this, he has to have enough pure Kelso brood cocks to enable him to upgrade his Orientals without worrying about inbreeding. The Kelsos are mated with the Oriental brood hens for several generations, as may be desired.
It takes 7 generations to replace 99% of the original bloodline. In practice, 4 or 5 generations of grading up are considered sufficient. For instance, a ¾ Kelso; ¼ Roundhead cross is a result of topcrossing a Kelso-Roundhead cross with another Kelso cock. With each new generation, the proportion of genes of the existing bloodline decreases by half the proportion present in the preceding generation. Gene replacement slows down with each generation.
Topcrossing is a breeding system whereby the breeder returns to the original line to gain new genetic material. In upgrading, it takes 4 or 5 topcrosses with the desired bloodline to consider the upgraded bird as pure. Again, the purity of the sire has to be emphasized to ensure success in topcrossing.
Inbreeding is the mating of brood fowls that are related to each other by blood. It is used in “fixing” a type, as long as the desired characters are simply inherited, or are qualitative. A character or trait is said to be qualitative if its expression is controlled by only a single gene pair or a few gene pairs and is thus simply inherited.
In fixing a type, the proportion of homozygous gene pairs in a flock is increased. Of importance is the fact that recessive genes are brought into a homozygous state more frequently with inbreeding. A gene pair is said to be in a homozygous state when the two genes that comprise the pair are the same, thereby allowing for the expression of the trait they control, even if the said trait is recessive in nature. Since many of the recessive genes tend to be deleterious, inbreeding results in a higher frequency of undesirable characters.
Inbreeding varies in degree. It may be mild (half-sib mating, cousin to cousin mating) or intense (father-daughter, mother-son and fullsib matings). As such, inbreeding produces families – that is, game fowls within a family are related to one another at different degrees. Also, inbreeding increases the prepotency of the birds, or their ability to transmit their good and bad characteristics to their progeny. This is because game fowls having a common ancestor carry replicates of one of the genes present in the ancestor. If these game fowls are mated, they may pass on these replicates to their progeny.
A word of caution when using inbreeding as a game fowl multiplication technique: inbred progeny that show any defect or ill-health should never be used for further inbreeding, especially when mating close relatives. Doing this will lessen the chance of reproducing or intensifying undesirable traits that come out because of inbreeding.
Culling is more important in inbreeding than in crossbreeding. It should be ruthless, so to say, if only to ensure that the right individuals are used in furthering the inbreeding program. This means that even the best looking inbred game fowl has to be culled if a small defect is seen on it.
Coefficient of Inbreeding
When utilizing inbreeding as a technique in perpetuating a bloodline, it is important to know how inbred the progeny of any mating combination is. There is a formula to compute for this, but it requires the breeder to record the lineage or pedigree of every game fowl produced in his breeding program. Anyway, the use and importance of the pedigree are limitless. In an inbreeding program, it allows the breeder to regulate the degree of inbreeding in his birds by carefully planning which relatives are to be mated with one another. By looking at the relationship of the two individuals that are to be mated, a decision on whether to proceed with or cancel the combination can be readily made.
In the breeding parlance, degree of inbreeding is measured as the coefficient of inbreeding, which is the sum of the total number of generation gaps or the number of intervening generations from the father of an inbred game fowl to its mother via the common ancestor, counting the parents as generation 1. It is the probability that two genes at any locus (locus is a specific location of genes in a chromosome) in an individual are identical be descent, meaning that they are replicates of a gene from a single ancestor. The common ancestor is the one that makes the progeny inbred. Inbreeding coefficient is taken as the sum of ½ of the number of intervening generations from one parent of the inbred progeny to the other, passing through their common ancestor plus 1 times one plus the inbreeding coefficient of the common ancestor, if he is also inbred. Its formula is thus:
Fx = å(1/2)n1 + n2 + 1 (1 + FA)
Where Fx is the inbreeding coefficient of the inbred progeny; n1 is the number of intervening generations from the father to the common ancestor;n2 is the number of intervening generations from the common ancestor to the mother; and FA is the inbreeding coefficient of the common ancestor, if he himself is inbred.
To determine the number of generation gaps from the parents of the inbred progeny to their common ancestor, an arrow diagram has to be made, writing down its ancestry form the parents up. Counting of the intervening generations starts from the parents to the common ancestor, which is then used in the computation. If the common ancestor itself is inbred, then his coefficient of inbreeding is also taken because this information is very necessary in determining the exact degree by which the progeny is inbred.
The following table may be used as a guide in determining the degree of inbreeding of an animal. It shows the number of intervening generations from the parents of the inbred progeny to their common ancestor. It is noticeable in the table that with every increase in number of intervening generations, there is a corresponding decrease in the degree by which an animal is inbred. This simply means that the farther an inbred animal is to its common ancestor, the less inbred it is.
Degree of inbreeding based on number of intervening generations between two relatives
For instance, Siegle is inbred because his parents, Abarrientos and Rica, are half-sibs (half brother and half sister). How inbred is he? The following illustration shows Siegle’s pedigree:
The illustration shows that Jordan, who appeared twice in the pedigree, is Siegle’s common ancestor. Recalling that the counting of generation steps starts from the parent, Jordan is one generation step away from Siegle on the father side and one generation away from him on the mother side. Since there are two generation steps, Siegle is 12.5% inbred.
To clearly show that Jordan is a common ancestor, the line diagram is converted to an arrow diagram.
If Jordan is inbred himself, his inbreeding coefficient is determined and fitted to the equation.
Since Jordan is a son of full brothers and sisters, he is 25% inbred. The formula says that his coefficient of inbreeding is to be added to 1, then multiplied to the number of intervening generations between his and Siegle’s parents.
Since Jordan is inbred, this increases Siegle’s degree of inbreeding to 15.63% instead of just 12.5%.
The computation of degree of inbreeding is easier with the use of a scientific calculator. The calculator is set at its statistical mode (SD). Using Siegle as example, the operations involved are:
Close inbreeding. Close inbreeding is the mating of closely related individuals to produce inbred lines with a high degree of homozygosity. Examples of this mating are full-sib mating (mating of full brother and sister), half-sib mating (mating of half brother and half sister) and parent to progeny mating. Homozygosity is achieved faster with full-sib mating. It takes 16 generations to achieve complete homozygosity in this type of mating. The same effect is achieved with milder inbreeding, but it takes a longer time to achieve homozygosity.
Backcrossing to the father results in a degree of inbreeding comparable to that of full-sib mating. However, after two generations, the increase in homozygosity declines. If the father (or mother) is not inbred, repeated backcrossing will not result in an inbreeding coefficient higher than 0.50. If backcrossing is done alternately – that is, father to daughter in one generation and granddam to grandson in the next and so on, the increase in homozygosity is similar to that with full-sib mating.
The following illustration is an example of close inbreeding as applied to a breeding program, where the offsprings in each generation are mated back to the original males.
Since the degree of relationship between the original parents and each succeeding generation lowers, the degree of inbreeding also lowers with each generation produced. For instance, the fourth generation offsprings in a continuous backcrossing program have a lower inbreeding coefficient than those produced in continuous full-sib mating.
Line breeding. Line breeding is a form of inbreeding directed towards concentrating blood composition in a particular ancestral line. It aims to increase an outstanding brood cock or brood hen’s proportion in the genetic make-up of a progeny. This is done through a programmed inbreeding so that the outstanding brood cock or brood hen’s blood is in every bird produced in each generation.
In line breeding, the brood fowls may be of the same bloodline or not. If brood fowls of the same bloodline are used, it is a way of maintaining that bloodline. However, even when using birds from the same bloodline, the relationships among the other individuals used in the line breeding program need to be as far as possible because the object of line breeding is to maximize the influence of an outstanding individual in the line, and diluting that of the others, although this does not mean that the other individuals in the line may be mediocre. As discussed in the section on selection, they have to be outstanding as well, but may be not as outstanding as the father or mother where the breeding program is focused.
For instance, if Jordan is superior both in the pit and as a brood cock, the breeder decides to keep him in the broodyard and maintains a close relationship between him and the other brood fowls, at the same time maintaining a low degree of inbreeding.
Jordan is mated to Sunshine, Assunta and Nannette, who are unrelated to one another. These matings produce Abarrientos, O’Neal and Mutombo, who are mated to three other unrelated hens. O’Neal sires Rodman, while Mutombo produces Yna, who are mated to produce Ruffa Mae, a perfect pullet. On the other side, Abarrientos produces Kobe, a potential brood cock. Since they are well above the breeder’s criteria, Kobe and Ruffa Mae are paired, producing Lewis, who has ¼ of Jordan’s blood.
While Jordan is used only the original matings, and while his contribution to the progeny is diluted by half with every generation, the breeding scheme maintains a high degree of relationship with him. From the third generation down, each progeny contains ¼ of his blood. The proportion of his blood is halved with every generation, but since both parents carry it, the proportion is restored in the progeny. While this is so, the degree of inbreeding is low.
Simplifying the line diagram into an arrow diagram to show the paths going through Jordan, the common ancestor, to Kobe and Ruffa Mae, Lewis’ parents:
There are two paths through Jordan:
Kobe – Abarrientos – Jordan – Mutombo – Yna – Ruffa Mae: N = 5
Kobe – Abarrientos – Jordan – O’Neal – Rodman – Ruffa Mae: N = 5
Hence: F1 = s (0.05) 5+1 (1+0) + (0.05) 5+1 (1+0)
= 0.0156 + 0.0156
= 0.0313 x 100
Lewis is only 3.13% inbred and so is his mother, Ruffa Mae. This, inspite of him being closely related to Jordan. It should be noted that from generation 2 onwards, Jordan’s contribution to each individual is 25% of his genetic composition. Since there is always a drop of Jordan’s blood in generations, his superiority should be maintained in every generation, assuming that he is prepotent. Jordan is said to be prepotent if he is able to stamp his good (and bad) traits to most of his progeny.
Use and Maintenance of Trios
Trios, particularly imported ones, cost a fortune especially to the discerning but less affluent breeders. They are indispensable in local game fowl breeding, because they are the very foundations of each bloodline or crosses produced and maintained by breeders. Since purebreds serve as foundations of any game fowl breeding program, their presence in their unaltered genetic makeup is very important if the local breeders are to have a readily available supply of these birds and if they are to lessen importation of foundation stocks. Hence, maintenance of their purity (assuming that they are real game and pure, at least in the traits of interest to the breeder) is essential without their phenotype suffering as a result of the breeding program followed.
It is ideal if two or more trios of the same bloodline are purchased at a time. Even if the females in each trio are full sisters, the breeder can readily come up with a sensible breeding program to maintain the bloodline in five or six generations without inbreeding. However, since breeders normally acquire one trio per bloodline at a time, there is no way of maintaining the bloodline but to resort to inbreeding. The program, though, has to be well planned to prevent the inbreeding coefficient from becoming too high. One’s knowledge of inbreeding would tell him that highly inbred lines may suffer from the effects of inbreeding depression like reduced body size and reproductive capability. It is generally known that even a single generation of inbreeding results in some degree of inbreeding depression. Since body size has a heritability of about 50%, using a small inbred brood cock in a crossbreeding program is likely to produce small progeny. While this can be compensated for by mating it with a big hen, but looking for one may be a problem in itself. Moreover, if the pairing does not become corrective, uniformity in size of the progeny would likely to be a problem.
To maintain the bloodline of a trio, it is very important that the pullets are individually mated or trapnested. Every egg laid by each pullet is carefully marked to identify which pullet laid it. In the hatching stage, the eggs are segregated according to mating combination and placed in pedigree baskets. Every mating combination, the eggs laid, the fertility and hatchability of eggs and the parentage of chicks are properly recorded. Recording facilitates identification of the pedigree of every purebred fowl produced. Recording of egg production, fertility and hatchability gives a comparison of the performance of every generation.
The chicks hatched are carefully taken out of the incubator, making sure that those from one pedigree basket do not get mixed up with those from the other pedigree baskets. They are immediately marked as they are taken out of the pedigree trays. These measures should be explained thoroughly by the breeder to the incubator or hatchery operator.
Segregation of progeny is even more important when these are already about to reach onset of sexual maturity to prevent uncontrolled interbreeding, which may ruin the line breeding program. Since the maintenance of the lineage of the trio is at stake, it is very important that every mating that takes place among the birds and their progeny is according to plan. Also, not all progeny are used in maintaining the inbred line. Only those that do not show defects and other ill effects of inbreeding must be used to avoid producing genetically inferior fowls.
The following breeding diagram is a sample breeding scheme to maintain the bloodline of a trio for a number of generations, using line breeding. The program is designed in such a way as to be able to continue the line breeding program even if the original brood fowls (the imported trio) die young. As the program indicates, parents in each generation are produced by those selected in the preceding one or two generations, which means that the parents are relatively young.
The original hens are subjected to the same breeding scheme, with the original brood cock as the common sire. The progeny produced in each generation are properly marked and placed in separated pens upon maturity.
Production of every generation involves the following activities:
Mate the original parents to produce F1, which are not inbred.
Backcross the female F1 to their father and one or two males to their mother to produce F2, which are inbred.
Mate the paternal (father side) and maternal (mother side) backcrosses to produce 50:50 F3. After producing the 50:50 progeny, which can be used for battlecrossing with any other bloodline, backcross F2 to the original brood cock and brood hen to produce F3, which will be used to produce F4.
Mate the paternal and maternal F3s to produce 50:50 F4. After this, backcross F3s to the paternal and maternal F2s to produce F4 to be used as parents.
Mate the paternal and maternal F4s to produce 50:50 F5. Then mate F4s with the 50:50 F3s to produce F5 to be used as parents.
Mate F5s, then with the 50:50 F4s to produce F6 parent stock.
If birds are able to withstand inbreeding, the process may be continued beyond F6. If not, the 6th generation or any affected generation may be mated with their counterpart in the other side of the program (original brood cock and second hen) to produce a less inbred progeny. Following the same scheme, line breeding may be continued for as long the birds would allow. It would be better to infuse new material of the same bloodline at the 6th generation or any generation where the negative effects of inbreeding have become serious – that is, if the progeny have lost gameness, vigor and if egg production has fallen dramatically.
It is very important that selection based on a predetermined set of preferred qualities is done in every group of progeny produced in any mating within the inbreeding program. These qualities must include those that may be affected by inbreeding like body size and egg laying ability. Birds that do not pass the criteria should be culled to prevent rapid deterioration of these qualities in the succeeding generations. It has to be borne in mind that however good an inbreeding program is, mating of very closely related individuals will always result in a certain degree of inbreeding depression.
If the generation interval (the average age of the parents when an offspring to be used for breeding is born) between any two generations is 1 year and if the inbreeding program reaches 6 generations, then the scheme is good for 6 years, assuming that the original trio is 1 year old when acquired. In this case, the breeder will have to infuse new genes every 6 years.
The breeding scheme can be used hand in hand with a selection program (e.g. reciprocal recurrent selection) starting from the F1. Since a cross is needed to produce battlecocks, a breeder would require two trios of different bloodlines, the choice depending upon the characters he wants to combine. The 50:50 progeny in each generation are crossed with their counterpart in another bloodline, and the cross pit-tested. Matings that do not produce the desired progeny are eliminated from the breeding program, or paired with other brood fowls from the other bloodline in the same generation, with the goal of achieving a nick.
The only drawback of doing selection work simultaneously with maintaining purelines is the increase in generation interval. Instead of the assumed 1 year, this may increase to 2 years because of the time needed to grow the stags for pit testing.
Inheritance of Plumage Color
Plumage color is a major factor that differentiates one bloodline from another. There are breeders who are not particular with the plumage color of their birds, as long as performance is there. A breeder who sells his birds as brood fowls or battlecocks may have to pay more attention to this trait, because a bloodline is always associated with a distinct plumage color.
Plumage color is a trait that follows a simple mode of inheritance, and is either dominant or recessive. However, there are instances when the two genes controlling a particular plumage color are codominant: that is, neither of the two genes that carry different plumage colors is dominant over the other, which results in the progeny showing a mixture of the two plumage colors.
The grey plumage is dominant over the red. Hence, a capital letter (G) is used to denote it, while a small letter (g) symbolizes the red. Greys may either be homozygous (GG) or heterozygous (Gg) while reds always have to be homozygous (gg) if the color is to be expressed. Hence, in mating a grey fowl to a red fowl, a red progeny produced is in its pure state as far as plumage color is concerned. However, most reds are said to be not pure red and, therefore, are apt to throwback off-colored progeny like whites from time to time.
A homozygous grey male mated to a red female produces progeny that are all heterozygous greys. The ZZ (male) and the ZW (female) are included in the illustrations to show which is male and which is female in the progeny, although the silhouettes of a rooster and a hen already show this. For simplicity purposes, greys and reds are used instead of G and g. In the offspring, Grey is homozygous prey (GG) while Grey (red) is heterozygous grey (Gg). The (red) indicates the presence of the gene for red feather in the genotype, but is not expressed by the individual because it is recessive.
If the progeny are mated among themselves (inter se mating), they produce greys and reds at a ratio of 3 greys: 1 red. In this combination, the red is always a female. The red female does not carry any gene for the grey plumage. Among the grey males, one is homozygous, although it takes time to prove it.
In trying to produce greys out of crossing with reds, it is better to use a homozygous grey male than a homozygous grey female. If the first generation females are backcrossed to the sire, all the males produced are homozygous greys, which breed true to type. On the other hand, if a homozygous females is mated to a red male, the second generation male progeny are mixed homozygous and heterozygous.
Game Fowl Selection
It is not enough that a sound mating system is followed in trying to develop or maintain a line or to cross one bloodline with another. Of equal importance is selection, which may be carried out on individual or family basis.
Breeding alone will not yield any significant improvement in gameness and fighting ability of a game cock. It is selection that results in the alteration of gene frequencies, depending upon what is desired by a breeder. Since the aim of a breeding program is to increase the frequency of genes controlling such characters as gameness, cutting ability and intelligence, therefore, selection is important and inevitable.
Because of the nature of the characters that are important in increasing the winning percentage of gamecocks, not all selection techniques can be utilized, as some of these have been designed for traits that are important in producing commercial chickens. Of greater importance are those that, in combination with crossing, allow for the exploitation of non-additive genetic variation. Such schemes involve crossing of inbred lines, since inbreeding reduces genetic variation of additive traits. Crossing highly inbred lines utilizes hybrid vigor, which is caused entirely by non-additive gene effects.
In the wild, survival of the fittest ensures the continuity of a species, including that of chickens. This is because the fittest imparts the best genes to its progeny, making sure that these, too, have what it takes to survive even in the harshest condition.
In ensuring the continuity of their species, wild cocks do not just pair indiscriminately with wild hens. They choose, and so do the females. As soon as a cock has chosen the hen it wants to pair with, it has to compete with other cocks to win the courtship game. This may be simulated in a more or less controlled condition to make sure that only the best brood cocks are paired with the best brood hens. With minimum human interference, this process could be a modified version of natural selection.
The method is based on the assumption that even in modern game fowls, the brood cock chooses its mate and vice versa and that in choosing its mate, the brood fowl has its own criteria that include those that are necessary for survival, particularly gameness. Gameness may be seen in the bird’s rank in the peck order. A hen, in particular, will not allow herself to be mated by a dunghill, which in the first place, would usually be at the bottom of the peck order and dominated by the rest. This ensures that only the gamer ones become parents of the succeeding generation. One way is to allow brood hens to look for their mate among brood cocks on the cord walk. However, chickens are, by nature, polygamous – a trait that may be related to their natural instinct to make sure that their kind continues, generation after generation. Since a hen may be mated by not just one but many brood cocks and, in the absence of any mating record, what may be produced are considered OGKs (only God knows), which could not give an insurance that a particular progeny is really a product of the mating of excellent brood fowls.
A simplier method that would allow for some recording is to put together in a pen an excellent brood cock and a group of brood hens coming from a very good family. The birds are to be closely observed, noting which hen the brood cock is always with, including nighttime. Based on the assumption earlier mentioned, the hen that is always with the cock is considered as being on the upper part of the peck order in the group and that the brood cock has chosen her based on its own instinctive selection. With the hens trap nested, the eggs laid by this hen could be separately incubated and the progeny used either as replacement brood fowls or the males as battlecocks.
When the decision on which brood cocks are mated to which brood hens is made entirely by the person in-charge of the breeding operation of a farm, what is applied is artificial selection. Because of the breeder’s intervention, goals are achieved faster in artificial selection than in natural selection. Results are also better and more definite, since selection is usually programmed by the breeder according to his breeding goals.
Individual and Within-family Selection
Individual selection. Individual selection is applied in situations where the source of brood fowls does not keep records of the performance of its relatives. It is the selection of an individual based on its own merits, regardless of its family background. Since game fowl breeding does not involve very large game fowl populations, individual selection is applied, to make sure that only the best brood fowls are mated. The use of like-to-like matings ensures continuous improvement in the fame fowls produced.
A brood cock may be selected based on its pit performance or that of its male progeny’s. In the first criterion, a multi-time winner is perceived as having a higher breeding value and is thus priced higher. In the second criterion, a proven sire or dam is more expensive than an ordinary brood fowl. A sire or dam is said to be proven if it is known to have produced superior pit performers that have won at least 60% of all cockfights participated.
Game fowl breeding experts recommend that newcomers in game fowl breeding look for proven brood fowls rather than start a breeding program with winners. They point out that while a battlecock may be an ace fighter, this may prove to be poor brood cock. This is absolutely true since in this case, the brood fowls that produced the winner had proven themselves, and that the combination nicked.
Looking for and acquiring the parents of a multi-time winner is the right thing to do – that is, if the game fowl buyer can afford the price that goes with proven fowls, or if the breeder-supplier is willing to part with these birds. If not, one has to contend with using a winner, which, while not proven as a brood fowl, has proven itself in the pit, which is what game fowl breeding is all about, in the first place. A winner should have what it takes to be a winner – gameness, cutting ability and stamina, among others. What is important is to know the lineage or blood composition of the cock, so that the breeder would know how to go about using it as a brood cock. This will facilitate the task of proving its potential as a genetic material. If at all possible, it would be a huge help in deciding whether to use a winner as a brood cock or not if the pit performance of its brothers is known. The siblings’ winning percentage should not be less than 60% for them to be considered a family of winners.
Within-family selection. Family selection is the selection of the best families in a population of game fowls. This is rarely used in game fowl breeding. What is often used is within-family selection, which involves selection of a proportion of each family. The selection of a game bird is often based on its performance as compared to the average performance of its siblings (full-sibs or half-sibs). This involves pit-testing males of a brood, recording game birds tested. Females are also selected based on this percentage. It is important, though, that these birds are prepotent as parents. If not, then the whole family may be culled.
In both individual and within-family selection, there are other important parameters that have to be looked at. Body conformation, which has bearing on the fowl’s station, alertness, freedom from defects, flight height and plumage type, are some examples of traits that could increase one’s probability of producing top-performing progenies.
Progeny testing is a selection technique whereby the selection or rejection of a brood fowl is based upon the performance of its progeny. This technique is useful in the early stages of a breeding program, especially if records of the brood fowl’s ancestry are not available. Before a brood fowl is used, however, it is first subjected to relaxed selection. This is done through visual observation of the fowl’s phenotype, touching, pit testing or sparring in the case of a brood cock, to make sure that it passes the breeder’s standards in whatever qualities he has in mind. In the case of a brood hen, its phenotype or physical appearance may be the sole basis for its prequalification.
Progeny testing is the only way to assess the breeding worth of a brood fowl or of a mating combination. It involves recording of the pit performance of the progeny, to decide whether or not the combination nicked. While any winning percentage more than 50% should be acceptable, a specific minimum of 60 or 70% is advisable as a target, especially if the brood fowls are for sale.
A breeder’s decision in progeny testing is based on the performance of both male and female progeny. Male progeny are pit-tested or at least sparred with other stags or cocks of proven quality. Female progeny are observed for parameters like egg production, fertility, hatchability and viability of offspring.
Egg production may be difficult to record if pen mating is used, not unless pullets or hens are trap nested. Egg production record for one season is usually enough to serve as basis in selecting the parent. Viability is the proportion of the progeny, particularly the males, that survive to maturity (6 months of age). The male-to-female ratio of the progeny produced should also be looked at, because it appears that this is hereditary.
The problem with progeny testing is that it is a long, drawn out process that requires extensive recording. This necessitates mating of brood fowls as soon as they mature, which is not recommended by most breeders. Also, by the time the test is through, some of the parents may have already died. While their progeny can replace them, but with their death, half of the genetic material is lost.
Recurrent selection tests the breeding value of a bloodline with the use of a highly inbred tester, which has a good general combining ability. The progeny produced out of the matings with the testers are grown, conditioned and pit-tested. A standard in winning percentage is set (not less than 60%), and any individual that fails to produce offsprings that attain or surpass this standard is culled. Those that qualify are used further in the breeding program.
Reciprocal Recurrent Selection
Reciprocal recurrent selection is the testing of two lines by crossing them and basing the judgment of the breeding value of each individual on the result of the progeny test of the crosses. The progeny test is through pit performance similar to that in recurrent selection. Individuals whose progeny pass the test are used for multiplying their own line and in producing more battlecrosses while those that do not are culled. The crosses, on the other hand, are not used for further breeding.
The selection and culling processes aim at improving the combining ability of each line. Crossing the lines increases heterozygosity, which, by overdominance, may improve pit performance. Overdominance is a situation wherein heterozygotes (the crosses) perform better than homozygotes (the purebreds).
Reciprocal recurrent selection is very useful in producing battlecrosses. Hence, the bloodlines to be tested should be those that, when crossed, will give a good combination of the most desirable fighting traits like gameness, power and speed.
Selection for Multiple Traits
It is very seldom that a breeder focuses only on a single trait in his game fowl breeding program. Normally, one would want all the traits needed to win battles to be in the battlecocks he produces. This goal is not impossible, but it is extremely difficult to achieve.
Selection for a single trait makes breeding and selection work easy. Since selection in game fowls starts from the brood fowls to be used, such trait is already seen in majority of the first generation progeny. The progeny that do not show the trait are culled, ensuring its perpetuation in the succeeding generations.
The problem is that it does not take only one prominent trait for a battlecock to win top-notch competitions. Ideally, it should be game, agile, intelligent, should pack awesome power, an excellent cutter, an infighter, has a desirable body conformation and had a station of the breeder’s choice. The last two traits are easy to select for, since they are readily seen on the bird’s last two traits are easy to select for, since they are readily seen on the bird’s phenotype. Going for all these traits will grind selection to almost a halt. That is, improvement in all of them will be extremely slow to be noticeable. This is because of the negative relationship (negative correlation) between most traits, where an improvement in one may mean a setback in the other.
One may decide to concentrate on one trait at a time, say for one or two generations. Again, this may lead to a situation wherein progress in the earlier trait is lost if the birds selected show inferiority in the succeeding trait.
To be able to include all the traits in a selection program and expect some improvements generation after generation, the best that can be done is to decide which traits will come from the father side and the mother side. This requires keen observation and prior knowledge of trait inheritance, like gameness, which is generally perceived as coming from the hen. Once this is done, selection for the male parents will be different from that for the female parents. When the parents with diverse traits are mated, the progeny will hopefully show an improvement in all the traits of interest to the breeder. As discussed earlier, since a brood fowl selected for one trait would likely be inferior if selected for another, mating will hopefully correct this – the mating being called corrective mating.
Testing the Purity of a Brood Fowl
Oftentimes, bloodlines are referred to as “pure”. Since bloodlines have undergone inbreeding of varying degrees, they are homozygous in many aspects. This is usually the case if a brood fowl is acquired directly from where the bloodline originated, which keeps the pedigree of birds. This, however, may not necessarily be true if the fowl is acquired from breeders who, in turn, just acquire brood fowls from sources other that where the bloodline originated.
A practical test to determine the purity of a brood fowl is to mate it with a “pure” individual belonging to the same bloodline but is unrelated to it. This is called outcrossing. The eggs produced over a month of lay during the breeding season should be enough for the test. These are hatched, and if the brood fowl being tested breeds true to type, then it is genetically homozygous for a number of characters. If it does not, then it is assumed to be heterozygous.
The Brood Hen
In backyard breeding, the brood hen is often the neglected part of the breeding program. There is very little amount of selection exerted by the breeder in deciding which pullets or hens would be paired with which brood cocks. Oftentimes, the knowledge that a particular pullet or hen belongs to a good bloodline is enough for it to be designated as a brood fowl. As discussed earlier, the importance of the brood hen should never be forgotten, as it contributes half of the genes of its progeny.
Pedigree and its Importance
Whether selecting an individual or a family, it is helpful to look at the performance of a bird’s ancestors to increase one’s chance of acquiring quality of brood stock. This emphasizes the importance of recording not only the pit performance but also the factors that may influence this performance, like mating combination, management, conditioning and nutrition. These information are important in developing management techniques that would complement genetics in producing quality game fowls.
Age to Breed Brood Fowls
Like any other chicken, a game fowl matures at 5 to 6 months of age if given the right nutrition and exposed to the right environment. At this age, the stag is already capable of fertilization while the pullet starts laying eggs.
If a pullet is mated or artificially inseminated, even the first few eggs she lays are fertile, and hence, would produce chicks when incubated. However, even in commercial poultry, these are not incubated because of their small size. Small eggs also produce small chicks, which are not as desirable.
The usual practice in game fowl breeding is to start using the brood stocks when they are 6 to 8 months old. At this age, the brood fowls are already mature enough, so that they have already shown most of the characters of interest to the breeder. The eggs laid by the brood hen are already of the desirable size.
Brood fowls may be used for breeding until they are about 5 years of age. As a guide, egg production, fertility, hatchability and chick quality also deteriorate with age. These should be noted in deciding when to cull brood fowls.
Pen Mating Versus Single Mating
Pen mating is easier since it involves grouping a brood cock with a maximum of 10 brood hens in a pen, facilitating management. It requires fewer facilities, since each group needs only one pen. The only problem with this is that one or two hens may net be treaded upon by the brood cock, resulting in a decline in egg fertility and hatchability.
A good practice is to use trap nests when pen mating, to be able to mark eggs properly. This will help identify which among the hens are persistently laying infertile eggs.
With single mating, a pen is required for every brood hen. In this system, more pairings need to be managed, since a brood cock is usually mated to several hens. It is laborious because of the need to transfer the brood cock or the brood hen from one pen to another. If the brood cock being transferred from one pen to another is a man fighter, he becomes a problem to the handler. However, if mating combinations and every progeny’s ancestry are to be recorded, single mating is very useful. Eggs laid by a brood hen can be individually marked.
Traits of Interest
Except for traits like egg production and egg fertility and hatchability which are observed only in females and, therefore, require a different selection method particularly on the cock side, virtually all phenotypic traits that have to do with fighting ability and gameness have to be present in both the cock and the hen sides to ensure production of good pit performers.
Most of the traits game fowl breeders are interested in are subjective in nature. Gameness, intelligence and body conformation are based on visual observation and judgment, and are not measured quantitatively. As a result, what is game to one might not be game to another.
While quantitative measurements and the use of correlations for non-measurable traits that may be necessary to facilitate the selection process, their possible use has not been dealt with yet. Presently, selection is based on repeated visual observations of a trait. Hence, it is important that brothers are pitted a number of times to record consistency of their performance, which has a lot to do with their natural ability. This is the closest a breeder can get to being able to actually measure gameness and intelligence.
Because of the complexity of the selection process in game fowls owing to the multitude of traits being simultaneously considered in a single program, it is advised by game fowl breeding experts that a newcomer spends some time observing the qualities most breeders are interested in, until he acquires the ability to distinguish between a good and a poor brood fowl based on these qualities. Although actually breeding game fowls is the best exercise one can perform to become a proficient breeder, this may become a costly exercise if one does not succeed in his first attempt. Alternatively, going to the cockpits and observing how game birds fight and talking with known breeders, at least in the locality, give a newcomer all the lessons he needs to learn to be a successful breeder himself. This does not mean, though, that whatever knowledge he has makes him a good breeder. He has to translate this knowledge to reality which, at times, is either difficult to do, or that the reality is either not what is supposed to happen or is not what he expects to happen.
An American cocker defined gameness as “an unquenchable determination of a cock to kill, no matter what”. It is a behavioral trait, but it has not yet been studied intensively, unlike other traits.
Game fowl breeding stories on experiences would reveal that gameness comes from the hen, not form the cock, although to be sure, breeders would normally want a game brood cock in breeding for battlecock production. The same stores would further reveal skip in generations as far as expression of gameness is concerned, where the characters supposed to be transmitted by the parent are not seen in the first generation progeny, but in the second. These prove that, indeed, gameness is passed on by the sire to its female progeny and by the dam to its male progeny.
Intelligence is a trait that is difficult to observe. However, there are cocks that apparently avoid getting hit by the opponent’s blow, and in turn give a devastating blow especially when the opponent is off-balanced. These cocks may be the kind that does not get drawn to the opponent’s fighting style.
An intelligent cock times its attacks and counter attacks. It may not break immediately upon release, but seizes up its opponent, appearing to learn about its fighting style before unleashing vicious, well-timed blows that are either lethal or put its opponent off-balanced. It is this kind of cock that is able to quickly take advantage of any advantageous position.
Selection for infighting ability may be aided by recording the number and strength of a gamecock’s shuffles even on the beak hold of the opponent. Ground shuffles are also important, as these often surprise the opponent. It is also believed that a cock that never lowers its head even when tired is a cock that has good infighting ability.
Cutting ability is usually observed in the pit. Close observation is needed in selecting for this trait, since the breeder should be assured that the candidate cock cuts properly and well – that is, its cuts penetrate the opponent.
It is possible that cutting ability is correlated with one or two traits of the fowl, particularly of the leg. If proven, this, coupled with good training, nutrition and management, could facilitate selection for cutting ability.
Power is usually influenced by nutrition and the training a gamecock is given. However, individuals differ in this trait even though subjected to a similar regimen.
A battlecock’s power is based on endurance and stamina when pitted with other battlecocks. It has to do with the cock’s consistency in terms of its ability to deliver strong potentially lethal blows even after a long bout. Its power allows it to push its opponent around, and therefore, control the tempo of the fight.
Station is the height of a bird relative to its body size. It is subjective in nature, and it is only through constant practice that one becomes proficient in distinguishing between stations.
A battlecock is classified as having low, medium or high station. It is said to have low station if it appears too short for its body size and high station if it is tall for its size. A battlecock is said to have medium station if its height is proportional to its body size.
Most breeders and cockers prefer a battlecock with medium station. A gamecock should have a sturdy station, one that would allow it to balance itself when it lands from a shuffle. It has to have strong pair of legs, with a pronounced bend in the hock for it to reach out farther when it cuts. The legs should be strong enough to allow the bird to stand on one foot and not tip over.
A practical standard of knowing if a bird has a good body conformation is if it resembles a banana blossom (puso ng saging). This means that the bird is broad shouldered, indicative of strong wings. It has to have strong bones. A bird with a V-shaped breast, one whose keel bone protrudes by almost an inch, is preferred over one with a round breast. With a V-shaped breast, a cock cuts straight, since the body does not interfere with the cutting movement. With a round breast, the cut starts from the side, which is slower and not as strong. Orientals and Roundheads are exceptions to this general preference, though, because they have naturally roundish breasts.
Breeding and selection for the production of ace fighting cocks are never complete without considering fighting style. This, together with the other equally important characters, make a dream fighting cock.
Since every bloodline has its distinct fighting style, the decision on which bloodlines to use depends on the fighting style preferred, among others. The preferred bloodline may involve gamecocks that maybe flyers, grounders, shufflers or wheelers, although nobody has yet intentionally bred for wheeling.
Experienced breeders believe that fighting style is taken form the mother. If this is the case, then a male progeny takes its fighting style from its maternal grandfather. This also means that a progeny’s fighting style could not be the same as that of its mother’s brothers.
Eyes. Desirable eyes are round, protruding, reddish in color and fiery looking, particularly in the cock, except for Orientals that have pale eyes. Protruding eyes indicate a wide vision. This is important since a good, wide vision is directly related to the extent and speed of a bird’s reaction during a spar or a fight.
The eye alone can be a gauge for the health condition of a game fowl. Dull, teary eyes indicate poor health and viability. It is believed by some breeders that grayish eyes indicate poor eyesight, a trait that is vital during cockfights.
Feathers. Smooth but tough feathers are essential, although these have to do more with health and vitality rather than gameness.
A gamecock with tight feathers is preferable, although almost all the current game fowl bloodlines have a characteristic tight feathering. There is no concrete proof that this is related to game cock performance, but it is believed that tightly feathered game cocks are better than loosely feathered ones.
Tight feathers bare the true health status and body conformation of a bird. On the other hand, a loosely feathered bird may look deceivingly big and healthy, even if it is not.
Effect of Season on Breeding
Chickens are long-day breeders. In the Philippines, long days are from December to June. After the winter solstice in December, daylength starts to increase. With this is an increase in breeding activity in chickens brought about by heightened reproductive hormone levels.
After June, daylength decreases, and so does chicken reproductive activity. However, breeders note that while the number of chicks produced declines from June to August, their quality improves, probably due to the cooler weather because of the onset of the rainy season. In the shorter days from September, reproductive activity in chickens is at its lowest, and the chicks produced, if there are any, are mostly weak.
The decline in daylength after the summer solstice in June coincides with the molting season. A bird in molt is sexually inactive. Molting is a stress an adult chicken goes through once a year.
The effect of season is removed if brood hens are in cages and with artificial lighting at night to increase normal daylength, simulating that of a long long day. In effect, egg production is year round, so long as they are provided the right kind and level of nutrients.
Artificial Insemination in Game Fowl Breeding
Artificial insemination is not widely used in game fowl breeding. The preference for natural mating may have to do with the belief that progeny produced through artificial insemination are not good as those produced through natural mating. In reality, however, artificial insemination does not affect fertility and hatchability of eggs and the quality of the chicks produced. Moreover, it accelerates flock improvement.
In bird reproduction, as long as the sperm is normal and healthy, it will be able to fertilize a follicle and cause the normal development of an embryo. With artificial insemination, semen is extended only with a saline solution that approximates its composition, and this does not harm the sperms at all.
Advantages of Artificial Insemination
A simple and cheap procedure contrary to what may be believed by many, artificial insemination can be successfully integrated in game fowl production, regardless of farm size. Its potential use in gem fowl breeding is enormous, particularly in maximizing the use of imported ace brood cocks.
Since quality semen is usually extended before insemination, multiplication of a line is made faster and use of a superior brood cock will have ample number of progeny to perpetuate it. It also results in a more uniform progeny because of the influence of a single brood cock to a number of hens.
With artificial insemination, injured superior cocks can still be used. Impaired superior battlecocks may just be corded or caged and used in semen collection, provided that the injury has not affected the birds’ reproductive ability.
Artificial insemination is useful when individual matings are recorded. If coupled with individual caging of brood hens, this procedure makes individual mating faster by several folds, since semen taken form a brood cock in a single collection can be used to inseminate up to 10 brood hens. This means 10 brood hens inseminated by a single brood cock in a single day. Being able to do this also means increasing the likelihood of being able to produce uniform progeny.
Scientists are on the verge of successfully freezing cock semen. If this happens, prized brood cocks can still be used long after its death. It may be used to influence the flock anytime its characteristics need to be reinjected into the flock.
Semen Collection and Insemination Gear
The semen collection and insemination gear consists of simple tools that can be found anywhere. For semen collection, a funnel connected to a vial by rubber tubing is most desirable. In its absence, any suitable container like medicine cup, measuring cup or coffee cup may be used as a semen collection vessel. The only requirement for a semen collection gear is that it has to be wide-mouthed to facilitate collection. A plastic laboratory washbottle is needed to contain and dispense semen extender, although any other vessel will do.
A two-ml disposable syringe attached to the tip of a medicine dropper with a rubber tubing or a tuberculin syringe with its tip removed and smoothened, can be used in inseminating hens.
Gear for artificial insemination in poultry
left to right ) vial, 2-ml syringe and plastic funnel.
Semen is extended using Ringer’s solution, a physiological saline which approximates the chemical composition of brood cock semen. Ideally, it is contained in a laboratory washbottle. The solution is warmed by putting laboratory wash bottle containing the extender in a bowl of hot water. The warm (lukewarm) temperature helps in prolonging the life of the cock semen. Since the semen is stored inside the fowl’s body, it is used to being in a 41oC temperature.
Composition of Ringer's Solution
Training a Brood Cock for Semen Collection
A brood cock needs to be trained before semen can be collected from it. It has to be at least 6 months old, healthy and selected based on the breeder’s standards. It is very important that it has no genetically induced defects, since with artificial insemination, these will also be rapidly multiplied in the flock.
As much as possible, only one person should do the training, so that the brood cock will get used to his touch. Training should be done daily in mid afternoon, which is about the time actual semen collection and insemination are done. However, during summer, training and insemination may have to be done early in the morning if brood cocks are tie-corded in the teepees. Doing these in the afternoon may not yield good results, because the brood cocks are already heat stressed. After 5 to 7 days of training, the brood cock is ready for semen collection or “milking”.
The following procedure is undertaken:
1. Pluck the feathers surrounding the cloaca because these impede the flow of semen to the collecting vessel.
2. Holding the brood cock with one hand, stimulate it by gently stroking its back down to its tail a number of times. After about 10 strokes, squeeze its cloaca moderately with the thumb and the forefinger. Squeezing the cloaca too hard hurts the bird, and this may cause bleeding, which is a traumatic experience for it.
3. After a few training sessions, the brood cock responds to the stroking by stiffening its body, an indication that it is ready to ejaculate. The cloaca appears red and swollen when squeezed. Premilk the brood cock once (one training session) before actually using it for semen collection, to ascertain the quality and quantity of its semen.
Two persons are needed in collecting semen: one to hold the bird and the other to collect semen. The brood cock is laid on a flat surface, its tail facing the collector. The collector stimulates the bird as described in the preceding section. When the bird shows signs of an impending ejaculation, he puts the collecting vessel at the lower side of the cloaca, squeezes the cloaca gently and catches the semen with the collecting vessel.
The semen volume ranges from 0.50 to 1.50 cc per brood cock. Its appearance varies form watery fluid (low sperm concentration) to an opaque white suspension (high sperm concentration).
The semen adhering to the sides of the collecting vessel maybe flushed with Ringer’s solution to let it settle at the bottom of the vessel. The semen may be used in its pure form or diluted with Ringer’s solution 5 to 10 times its original volume depending on its quality without any deleterious effect on fertility and hatchability.
A healthy cock should only be used for semen collection for a maximum of three times per week. Extensive use of the rooster will lower its fertilizing capacity.
The collected semen should be inseminated right away, as avian sperms do not live long outside the bird’s body. They live only a maximum of one hour after collection.
Insemination is done in the afternoon, when most hens have already laid an egg. This ensures that no egg in the shell gland blocks the syringe during insemination. However, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, insemination may have to be done in the morning during summer. The inseminator just has to be careful not to break the egg that may already be in the shell gland. Hens are inseminated once a week, because eggs laid 7 days after insemination are still fertile. However, egg collection for hatching should start 3 days after the first insemination to make sure that the eggs are already fertile. This is because it is most likely that the hen has already ovulated at the time it is inseminated. It will ovulate the next day, and the follicle will be fertilized. This will develop into a complete egg on the third day.
Insemination is carried out by two persons: one to hold the bird, the other to inseminate. The hen is laid on a flat surface between them to avoid getting soiled whenever it spurts out dung in the process of insemination.
The one holding the hen gently presses its abdomen and tail with his two thumbs. The push towards the head of the bird everts its cloaca. This is the reason why only laying hens can be inseminated. The cloaca of a non-laying of hen cannot be everted. The inseminator inserts the syringe containing about 0.20 cc of semen one inch into the left oviduct, the tip of which is on the left side of the everted cloaca. The one on the right is the end part of the digestive tract. After insertion, the pressure on the cloaca is released, and the inseminator plunges the syringe. It is important to release pressure during insemination so that the semen does not flow back with the removal of the syringe.
Artificially inseminating a brood hen. Note the everted cloaca.
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