Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Hybrid vigor

Hybrid chickens

Hybrid vigor is a term scientists use to refer to the observation that the offspring of two unrelated parents are often larger and healthier than more inbred offspring.  Cornish Cross chickens are an extreme example of hybrid vigor, but I was curious to see whether I'd notice any difference between the purebred Australorp chicks we raised this year and the Australorp X Marans chicks.

Heirloom broilersThe first thing I noticed is that the speckling on Cuckoo Marans seems to be a sex-linked trait.  Australorp X Marans pullets (girls) aren't speckled, while the cockerels (males) invariably are.  Since I didn't keep track of which eggs hatched into which pullets, I can't tell you about hybrid vigor among the girls since they looked just like the purebred Australorp girls.  Among the males, though, the Australorp X Marans hybrids averaged 12% heavier.

The results aren't really conclusive, though.  In addition to my small sample size, there's another factor I can't really disentangle --- whether what I'm seeing is hybrid vigor or whether Cuckoo Marans just bulk up faster than Australorps.  My data from when I was raising each as a pure breed isn't really comparable --- the two breeds were in very different pastures and on different rations.

Scientific or not, my glimpse into the possibility of hybrid vigor suggests that it's worth keeping a mixed flock of parent birds when raising your own broilers.  I suspect that in the long run, a constantly changing mutt flock might be better for our purposes than any single heirlom variety.

The Avian Aqua Miser is a POOP-free chicken waterer, perfect for broilers on pasture.

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