Poultry breeds come from a standard that tell us how a breed should look. In the UK we have the British Poultry Standards from the Poultry Club of Great Britain and the British Waterfowl Standards from the British Waterfowl Association. Membership of a breed club or association that is affiliated to these usually entitles you to a copy of the standard for the breed in question.
In most cases, breed standards were written a long time ago and are open to interpretation in places in what they say or often, what they don’t say. Most standards were written as breeds were developing (how else could you create something if you didn’t know what to aim for…?) and researching material from the 1800’s to the present day, it is clear to see how trends have affected some breeds over the years!
Select from one of the following 3 Poultry Breeds pages:
|Chicken Breeds||Duck Breeds||Goose Breeds|
The breed sections above contain British standardised breeds of poultry.
Most other countries have the same breeds although standards can be slightly different or in some cases, their names can be different. Where there are big differences, we have tried to include these on the breed page. We rely heavily on enthusiasts from other countries to let us know about these differences and this is why there is an option to comment at the bottom of each breed page so that we can draw on knowledge from around the World.
So how did we get poultry breeds? Well in order to understand that, you need to know how they sit in the grander scheme of things…
Orders, Families, Species and finally Poultry Breeds!
Within the Order Galliformes, there are several families. The families poultry keepers are interested in are:
- Phasianidae (Pheasant) family: Junglefowl (the ancestor of our chickens), Game and Ornamental Pheasants, Peafowl, Partridge and Quail.
- Numididae (Guineafowl) family.
- Meleagridae (Turkey) family.
The Order Anseriforms contain species that have webbed feet and are well adapted to living on or near water. Within the Order, there are around 150 species of birds. There are 3 families. The one we are interested in is the biggest with 140 of these species:
- Anatidae (Waterfowl) family: Ducks, Geese and Swans.
There are many species within these families that we are interested in. Wild Fowl – Wild Ducks and Wild Geese for example can be seen on lakes and some specialist keepers will keep them on large ponds. They are, as the name suggests very wild and will not tame easily. If their wings are not pinioned, they could simply fly off. Out of these species, there are a small number that have been tamed, and bred in captivity for hundreds of years to create the Domestic Poultry Breeds we know today. The Red Jungle Fowl is the ancestor of our chickens, the Mallard for ducks (with the exception of the Muscovy) and the Greylag Goose (with the exception of the Chinese and African Goose) for geese.
The poultry breeds we have on these sub pages are Domestic Poultry Breeds. That is, breeds that have been standardised so that breeders know what to aim for in a breed and with careful selection and in-breeding, all hatch out true to type. In other words, they should all look the same.
As long as size permits, you can cross any of these breeds with one another and according to the rules of genetics create different looking birds. We call these ‘Hybrids’ and since there is a mixture of genes from the father (called the Sire) and the mother (called the Dame), their offspring will be a mixed bag, (which is a non technical term!). This offspring will not breed true to type – their offspring will all be different again.