THE WELSUMMER CLUB
BREEDING FOR EGG PRODUCTION|
IN LARGE WELSUMMERS
by Edward Lobb|
Reproduced from the 2001Yearbook|
As I keep only a small flock of Welsummers,
about 20 adult birds in the breeding season, I have found it possible to record
every egg laid by every bird over the last fifteen years or so. I do not use
trap nests; I find that individual Welsummers lay such distinctive eggs that,
once a new pullet has laid her first few eggs, her eggs can quite easily be
recognised by their size, shape and colour. I hope that other members of the
Club may find the statistics that I have gathered interesting.
Over the years, my first-year pullets have
averaged 110 - 115 eggs each, Second-year hens average 75 - 80 eggs and
third-year birds about 65 eggs.
But these averages, which I think are
disappointingly low, conceal great differences between individuals. I have had
several birds which have exceeded 150 eggs in the first year and the highest
has laid 168. On the other hand, I have had pullets which have laid as few as
55 eggs in their first year. My best yield for a second-year hen to date has
been 123 eggs, and I have sometimes had more than 90 from three year olds.
One has to bear in mind that the biggest and
darkest eggs, generally are laid by the poorer layers. There are exceptions to
this: I remember that a few years ago Geoffrey Johnson had a pullet that laid
over 180 eggs in her first year and retained excellent dark egg colour right
through the season. But if, like me, you tend to set the largest and darkest
eggs, you will probably find that your production will not be breaking any
records! However, I don't like the idea that Welsummers should lose their
utility attributes (so highly emphasised in the Welsummer standard) so I always
try to include some eggs from better producers, even if their colour and size
may be slightly inferior.
In my keenness to improve productivity in my
Welsummers, I have been experimenting with an outcross to a commercial hybrid
strain. I hatched five pullets, Welsummer x Commercial, in 1993. These birds
laid very well and I still have the best two of them, now aged eight. Of these
two birds, one has laid about 900 eggs, averaging more than 3ozs (85g) in
weight. The other has now laid 1100 eggs, averaging 2¾oz (78g). This bird
laid 100 eggs in her seventh season!
Starting with these first-cross birds, I have
bred them back to pure Welsummers for several generations so that I now have a
few birds that are 1/16th, 1/32nd, or even 1/64th hybrid. As you would expect,
the productivity of these outcrosscd females has been better than that of the
pure Welsummers. The best has been a bird hatched in 1997 which is 1/16th
commercial. She has laid 219 eggs in her first year, 147 in her second and 122
in her third.
You have to be careful, of course, with
outcrossing in this manner because it would be easy to lose track of the
foreign blood and just allow it to run indiscriminately through your strain. As
I sell quite a few hatching eggs I always make sure that I know which birds are
pure bred and which are not so that egg purchasers are not puzzled by the
appearance of odd-coloured birds.
On a slightly different subject, for the past
twelve months and more I have been feeding my Welsummers with a breeder's
pellet rather than an ordinary layer's pellet. I also feed a little cracked
maize every day to keep up leg colour and the colour of yolks. There is no
doubt that the breeder's pellet has significantly improved fertility and
hatchabilitv. For example, I was telephoned yesterday by a Welsh farmer to whom
I sent two dozen Welsummer eggs by Amtrak. He was delighted to tell me that
every egg had been fertile and that he has hatched 19 strong chicks. My own
hatching results have been similar this year, and very much better than I ever
achieved with a layer's pellet.
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