As with all livestock the way to progress is with youth. The younger the stud the healthier it will be. I usually breed off birds for two seasons but will use some for a third if I cannot find suitable replacements for them.
My first elimination point is the birds that have been used for three breeding seasons. Regardless of the quality they have produced they make way for a son or a daughter. I then put the birds that have been used for two seasons to one side should they be needed.
Now I look at the birds that have just had their first breeding season and the ones that reared without any cause for concern go forward for possible retention. Any that were troublesome with their breeding duties are out. Having said that, I have retained birds in the past that have failed to rear in their first season but have been my best producers the following season. My old mentor Fred Blenkinsop used to say to me ”Give me all of your non feeding first year hens and I will have a good breeding season with them the following year”. In fact going back to my foundation birds, the two hens that came from David Button were awkward to say the least. One of them reared eight chicks in her first year and would not even pair up with the same cock in her second and the other let two nests of four die in her first year and reared a four and a five without the help of a cock in her second. So food for thought when deciding on the flighted hens.
I now assess all of the youngsters and any which have split or fish tails are out along with any that have scissored or dropped wings. I then look at the remaining birds from a judging angle and select all of the birds that are of the type I am looking for in an order of merit.
The young and first season cocks are then placed in an order of merit and the hens matched to them in pairs for the following breeding season. The surplus birds will be moved on but I would never sell anyone a bird that I would not keep myself. I will only sell birds that I would like to keep myself but cannot house because of space.
I now have my stud running down one male line which originated from the initial stock that was purchased from the Green & Stillie partnership in 2004.