I’m regularly asked about tools to evaluate birds for breeding programs. Here’s what I tell people: if you can’t do a good job evaluating your birds it will be far more difficult to make improvements each year.
There are two tools that you have at your disposal that are invaluable. They are your eyes and your hands.
Using Your Eyes: Books and Birds
It’s important to mention that you should use your eyes for more thank looking your birds over. What I’m getting at is to use your eyes to read and study the breed standard (what the breed should look like). If you don’t have a really good understanding of the standard you will struggle to select your best birds.
Use your eyes to carefully evaluate your birds as they grow and mature. I’ll often times grab a lawn chair and a glass of ice tea and let a group of birds out, have a seat and watch them as they move around and interact. This will let you see their type when they are relaxed and at ease. I sometime call this “judging by sitting around.”
Using Your Hands to Evaluate Birds
Now let’s talk about using your hands to evaluate birds. Since you can’t see the body beneath the feathers, you need to use your hands to feel and evaluate the bodies. You can easily feel things like length and width of back, body depth, etc. Before you start though I would suggest reading some “How To” references that can be found here. These will help train you in the methods of how to use your hands.
Once they have matured then you can set up several pens, side by side, and place one bird in each and go over each one, as well as compare birds to each other. As you move from bird to bird you will begin to see and feel differences, both in color and type. This process makes it easier to evaluate your birds and find the best birds to move your breeding program forward.
By using these two tools you will be well on your way to making improvements in your birds year after year. Practice makes perfect!
By Rip Stalvey