What’s their life ex­pectancy?

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

Q Our res­cued hybrids are prov­ing won­der­ful pets and lay­ers. In one book we’ve read, it’s writ­ten that hybrids ‘tend to be more dis­ease re­sis­tant than pure breed chick­ens’. How­ever, else­where, I saw some­one say­ing that hybrids have a shorter life­span than pure breeds. Could this be true? A Jeremy Hob­son says: A re­cent piece I saw on­line stated that ‘whilst pure breeds tend to have a life ex­pectancy of eight to 10 years, hybrids have a shorter life­span (three or four years)’. Sev­eral other on­line blog­gers’ also main­tain that hybrids lay well, but ‘burn out’ quicker than do pure breeds. While there may be sen­si­ble rea­son­ing be­hind this think­ing (chick­ens bred for com­mer­cial pur­poses may well tend to ‘burn out’ more quickly than other types), I do, though, know of many peo­ple who have res­cued hybrids in a back gar­den sit­u­a­tion and they’ve lived as many years as pure breeds.

In­ter­est­ingly, in the past, the blood­lines of pure-breeds were oc­ca­sion­ally sac­ri­ficed in favour of a hy­brid which would pro­duce more eggs and/or put more meat on its breast. Be­tween the two world wars, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture (now DE­FRA), set up a com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate the sit­u­a­tion – and sub­se­quently re­ported that the big­gest sin­gle rea­son why the ef­fi­ciency of chicken pro­duc­tion was in de­cline was due mainly to faulty breeding meth­ods. In their opin­ion, too much em­pha­sis was be­ing placed on se­lect­ing for egg and ta­ble pro­duc­tion and not enough on breeding for har­di­ness, vi­tal­ity and health.

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