Adding New Blood: When and How

This article is on when and how to add new blood to a breeding program and is being republished from Acorn Hollow Bantams website with permission from Lou Horton.

A carefully bred line of birds may not need an infusion of new blood for decades but it is likely that at some point, it will need what I would call a “modified outcross”. By that term I mean that a bird a few generations removed from the current line will be introduced to add a feature no longer present in the line or to reintroduce vigor which has been diminishing. The further removed the relationship between lines, the more risky the outcross, in my experience.  Some outcrosses simply do not “nick”; that is, the resulting offspring are disappointing.  While most breeders would prefer to use a male for such outcrosses, my feeling is that the best bird available should be used whether it be a male or female. The most important matter is from where that bird should be obtained. Rather than speaking entirely in the abstract, let me illustrate with a real life example: my line of Black East Indies.

judging black ducks, east indie, adding new blood

I have been breeding Indies for about 50 years now. Over that time, I introduced birds from other flocks on several occasions to improve color, improve fertility and/or hatchability, etc. In recent years, I felt the need to do so again but took some time to locate the right source. Two years ago, I recalled that I had sold a mating of my best Indies to someone on the west coast about ten years ago. A phone conversation with that breeder indicated that no other bloodlines had been introduced and that fertility and hatchability were outstanding. Of course, I would have preferred to go to his place and select birds myself but since that was not possible, I ordered two high quality pairs and hoped for the best. I found that both females and one male were what I was looking for while one male was not. I then mated the one pair together the following spring while mating the extra female to one of my best drakes. The hatches were excellent and the quality of the offspring from both matings convinced me that the cross was quite successful. This spring the hatches were even better. The offspring are quite uniform at a high level.

If I manage the matings carefully while keeping at least one parallel mating of the new new blood separate for further occasional crosses I see no reason why the line will have further need for outcrosses for a number of years.

By Lou Horton