Light SUSSEX chickens for eggs and meat
Light Sussex breeding
Over the year I spend a lot of time on the phone and here at the farm talking to folks who want birds for me. Many are are interested in the Light Sussex for meat birds. Chatting to folk is a great way for me to have to rationalise my thoughts and the information I have gleaned so far.
To many I have laid down the challenge to breed a really good meat Light Sussex.
There seems to be a dearth of information about what sort of carcasses used to be produced. My feelings and experience is that any productive Light Sussex have become rather eggy and just about all of the meat production quality has been lost. There are quite a lot of big Light Sussex from the exhibition breeding - which is all frame and feather, rather than bulk, meat, and they are aiming for very correct feathering (solid black necks with white lining round each black feather etc), rather than selecting for meat production. Also these birds are very slow maturing - building up frame at the critical age for slaughtering instead of putting on meat. This results in the meat being "boot leather" by the time the birds are big enough to give a decent family meal. Many of the utility lines are used a lot in the production of sex linked cross layer (with the Rhode Island Red - like the Calder Ranger) these need to be eggy rather than meaty; as it seems the latter is not important at all to the selection process.
These influences may have meant a complete diminishing of the meat traits. After many years of hard work and careful selection, We find our cockerels make up to a good size and bulk but eventually - not the same amount of meat at the 80 - 90 day that, for instance, the Sasso is meant to. Because we do not have a slaughter house facility nearby we ourselves have not experiemnted a lot on the meat side so it would be great to have someone doing this. If anyone knows or has lines they have been selecting in this way - either now or in the past and has some experiences to share - I would love to hear from them.
People often start with a small number of young birds - usually the selection over the previous generations unknown - I suggest that they take careful records of laying : mark all birds to identify them, record first birds into lay, and all records they can.
This is important in starting a breeding programme as non selection or exhibition selection tends to reduce the numbers of eggs; fertility and hatchability - which are necessary basic characteristics in any breeding programme. It is becoming more noticeable in some non utility strains/breeds that simply getting enough eggs hatched to create a decent next generation is becoming more difficult. I have suggested that they watch the birds they have as they develop - as each cockerel becomes noticeable then ring it - note its age and weight; it would be interesting to know whether the boys that show the male characteristics first are the best in the end - or whether the slower maturing birds end up better. If there is anyone out there who has been selecting for table features I am sure both they and I would be very interested to hear for you. The same goes for anyone who used to be involved. There must be an awful lot of knowledge untapped - there are some very interested people out here.
our breeding flocks of Sussex are housed in Brentford poultry house -available to order from Kintaline - click on the house for more details
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