A question we sometimes receive is, “How do you selectively breed in a closed flock and avoid inbreeding?” Inbreeding and inbreeding depression and the associated effects—small bird size, loss of vigor and productivity—can become a problem in any closed flock, not just selectively-bred flocks. The key is to maintain genetic diversity while also breeding for improvement. One means of doing this is to maintain multiple lines of each breed and practice what is known as “clan mating”, “spiral mating,” or “pen mating,” where birds are crossed from one line to the next in a systematic way to avoid close inbreeding. We practice clan mating with many of our flocks, and we continue to research, discuss and experiment with other breeding programs and approaches for keeping genetic diversity while continuing to improve our flocks.
If you’d like to learn more about breeding programs and how to raise and manage breeding flocks on your own farm or homestead, we will be happy to help you learn. We offer classes through the Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture on this and other topics.
For more information, see www.SustainLife.org.