An Intro to Poultry Genetics (and free books too!)

When it comes to the modern day understanding of poultry genetics there is one person who repeatedly crops up as being ‘the man in the know’ and that chap is Grant Brereton, editor of Fancy Fowl magazine, prolific writer and author and one
of the leading authorities on the genetics of the domestic fowl.

It gives me great pleasure to provide a guest blog spot for Grant as I have immense respect for his understanding, knowledge and experience in the world of poultry breeding and genetics. So over to Grant who has also kindly offered copies of his E-book “Making New Colours 2” to 5 randomly selected readers who contact him.

Grant's E-Book full of photos and explanations - a great read for the poultry breeder
Grant’s E-Book full of photos and explanations – a great read for the poultry breeder

And if that’s not enough, ALL people entering will receive a copy of one of his other E-books “The Newcomers Guide to Poultry Breeds.”

Grant's E-book for the newcomer to Poultry - FREE with every competition entry
Grant’s E-book for the newcomer to Poultry – FREE with every competition entry

All entry details are at the bottom of the blog post and the deadline is midday Friday 15th Feb 2013…. Over to Grant to explain more


Poultry Plumage
Most people think of hens as plain-old-brown in terms of colour, and don’t give much thought to anything else aside from their ability to lay eggs.
The ‘show world’ is so far removed from most poultry keepers, that they are unlikely to discover its existence by accident; that is unless they attend agricultural shows and have a chance encounter with the poultry tent.
My own awareness of the wonderful world of poultry plumage was brought about when I received the book ‘Bantams in Colour’ as a child back in 1984. I couldn’t believe how many  different colours and varieties of poultry were available.
I kept the odd pure breed over the years, but it wasn’t until I could drive myself to the Wernlas Collection of Rare Breeds in Shropshire (now closed), that I could truly observe all the different shapes, sizes and colour patterns in poultry; I was dumbfounded by the choice.
They were laid out in attractive breeding houses (with attached runs) consisting of a cockerel and 4 or more pullets. The sight of all these different pure breeds in their separate quarters had a wonderful impact on me; it really sold the idea of perpetuating a single ‘predictable’ type as opposed to breeding hybrids, which I had done most of my life.
Traditional Cockerels
Looking back, there were several things that prompted me to question the genetics behind the wonderful colours and patterns in pure poultry. However, the first real time was when I observed that the ‘traditionally-coloured’ Welsummer cockerel was very similar to the Partridge Wyandotte, but that the females of both varieties were very different…
A pair of Partridge Wyandotte bantams
A pair of Partridge Wyandotte bantams
A flock of Welsummers
A flock of Welsummers
I asked the late Geneticist, Dr Clive Carefoot: ‘What would happen if I crossed a male of one variety to a female of the other?’ ‘Some nice clockers (broody hens)’ was his reply, assuming that I wouldn’t understand any explanations.
He later came to respect me, and we would eventually converse on the same level. However, that initial doubt only made me more determined to understand what was at the route of the all the different plumage patterns as well as physical features.
Once I eventually understood how all the patterns were linked, and that crossing two varieties together has to result in ‘something.’ it was a great feeling – as if I’d entered a door to a new world. (The E-books I subsequently wrote, are to help people understand what that ‘something’ may be).
Back to Wernlas…
Only living just over an hour away, I was a regular visitor to the Wernlas Collection from the late 90s onwards, and it wasn’t long before owner, Shaun Hammon made me stand up and take notice.
I observed that he had created his own breeds – one of them being the ‘Cobar.’ I realised quickly that he had taken the barring gene from something else and added it to his Partridge Cochins. ‘Wow’ I thought – how creative! To see a pen of Cobars with a really attractive male and 4 females was a real treat. I knew that I wanted to be part of this wonderful creativity.
In case there was any doubt, it really was all over for me when I saw Dr Carefoot’s Chocolate-Partridge Wyandottes. He had Partridge Wyandottes and Chocolate Orpingtons  (among other breeds), so it wasn’t rocket science to work out how the Chocolate-Partridge Wyandottes were created. I found this idea fascinating and so inspirational – all I could think was: ‘What can I create?’
Grant's self-created Chocolate-Partridge Wyandottes, the ancestors of which are on the cover of his E-book: Making New Colours 2
Grant’s self-created Chocolate-Partridge Wyandottes, the ancestors of which are on the cover of his E-book: Making New Colours 2
To cut a very long story short, I created new colours of Wyandotte (as well as being an advocate for pure breeds), and continued to show both. In 2008, I wrote the paperback ‘21st Century Poultry Breeding.’
In 2011, I wrote the follow up to my original E-book, this time called ‘Making New Colours 2.’ It has been hugely popular with breeders and fanciers alike.
I am giving away 5 copies of this E-Book, so simply email me at before midday Friday 15th Feb 2013 and head the email ‘Chickenstreet Comp’
All entrants will get a FREE copy of my E-book on pure breeds: ‘The Newcomers Guide to Poultry Breeds.’
Take care,
Grant Brereton
Poultry Journalist
Fancy Fowl Magazine Editor
Author of Making New Colours 1&2, The Newcomers Guide to Poultry Breeds (E-books)
21st Century Poultry Breeding, Breeding for Success – out May 2013 (Paperbacks)

8 Replies to “An Intro to Poultry Genetics (and free books too!)”

  1. Hi, i just started a poultry farm. I have been trying to get books to guide me on how to run a poultry and it seems pretty difficult. Is there anyway you can help, Pls.

  2. Fantastic post Grant. I will share a link to this now as I’m sure there will be a lot of entries!

    I can certainly vouch for 21st Century Poultry Breeding (along with Dr. Carefoot’s “Creative Poultry Breeding” which is another gem and sadly out of print).

    1. It’s certainly great to have Grant blogging on here and especially with such an excellent giveaway!
      I’ll echo the comment on 21st Century Poultry Breeding, it’s in my list of top poultry books

  3. Hi Grant, I’m new to all this just had my 5 girls for 6 months but learning all the time, I have a speckle, copper black, bluebells,Sussex and a columbine who has just started to get know me. As I’m learning all the time I tend to ask a lot of people lots of questions so gret o have found someone else

  4. I have just started breeding chickens in Malaysia and noticed that the Jungle Fowl is ‘immune’ to sickness that affects domestic poultry. It would be great to understand how to try and breed the traits of the Jungle Fowl to domestics.

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