What breed is that chicken?
Tracking chicken parentage is too logistically difficult to be practical generally.
We cannot say that any chicken is "purebred."
There are no "breed registries" for chickens.
- It can be very hard to know which egg came from which mating, to keep track of an individual egg in an incubator or under a hen (especially a hen brooding "adopted" eggs), to tell chicks apart, etc. It is possible to segregate breeding pairs, and then specially mark eggs and chicks, but few people want to take on such involved processes.
- Also, chickens can each have a large number of offspring & a fairly high percent may die in embryo or while still chicks, so it can be overwhelming trying to keep records of each.
Fanciers of specific types of chickens often breed "outside" birds into main lines.
- There is no way to "prove" a bird's ancestry. Unlike for dogs or horses, there are no organizations that store certified pedigrees for chickens.
- Frequently, if an exhibition-quality breeder finds a bird of a different breed that they think will improve characteristics in their main breed line, that person will cross in the "outside" bird, and then carefully choose how to breed the offspring.
- Until genetics sufficiently re-stabilize after the cross (which might take a few generations), it may be that only some of the offspring will qualify as being the main breed of chicken. However, this careful cross-breeding will result in many descendants that are classed as the original main breed, though none are purebred.
A chicken's individual characteristics -- not its ancestors -- officially determine its breed.
A chicken or waterfowl is officially classified as a certain breed ONLY by examining whether it matches a standardized description.
- The American Poultry Association (APA) and American Bantam Association (ABA) are the main official breed-determining organizations in the U.S. They maintain "Standard of Perfection" books that list the required characteristics for each breed that they oversee. There are other smaller breed-specific organizations that also create their own "Standard" descriptions. If an individual bird fits a Standard breed description, the bird qualifies as that breed within the organization's authority, whether the bird's parents did or not.
- "Official" breed classification is only really important if you are showing birds, selling birds as definitely being a particular breed, claiming birds are "true" or "show-quality" members of a breed, or trying to help preserve a particular breed by sustaining a correct breeding pool.
Official breed requirements include specific coloring.
- Each recognized breed description includes one or more "varieties" of that breed. The "variety" subcategories include genetically consistent color patterns.
- Even if a particular bird's other characteristics match a breed description, if its coloring (feathers, skin, beak, eyes, feet and leg shanks) does not sufficiently match a single one of the "Standard" listed varieties, the chicken does not qualify as a member of that breed.
- Exception — Varieties under development: Birds with intergenerationally consistent color patterns may be bred to develop new varieties. Such birds may be entered in shows as follows:
- At APA and ABA shows, these birds should be called "[Color Pattern] [Breed]". Officially, they should be judged only against other birds of the same color pattern and breed. They cannot be named Best or Reserve of Breed, Class or Show.
- Caution: At these shows, judges may be less accepting of or even disqualify a non-recognized color pattern, particularly if is not commonly known to consistently breed true to color, nor to be under development by several breeders for official recognition.
- At breed club shows and fairs, these birds are often entered as "AOV [Color Pattern] [Breed]", "AOV [Breed]", or "[Color Pattern] [Breed]". Often all birds of a single breed that have unrecognized color patterns are judged within a single variety grouping called "AOV [Breed]", though rules differ. A number of shows allow such birds to also be considered for Best or Reserve of Breed. It is less likely the birds may also be considered for Best or Reserve of Class or Show.
Appropriate genetic crossing is needed for reliable breed production.