of the world's poultry
The total number of chickens in the world was estimated at 24
billion in 2004 (Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds, Ed. Perrins,
Christopher. Buffalo, N.Y.: Firefly Books, Ltd., 2003).
commercialisation of poultry for egg and meat production caused an
ever-increasing uniformity of the birds selected. Recent studies have
found that industrial chickens have now lost between fifty and 90
percent of the genetic variations that wild populations once showed. In
other words: the vast majority of today’s fowl are genetically closely
related to each other (Muir
et al, 2008
dramatically increases the threat to the world’s poultry population by
avian influenza and other diseases. The less genetic variety exists the
smaller the chance that the birds will be able to fight off the disease.
It is quite possible that the time will come when breeders of industrial
poultry have to fall back onto the genetically varied birds that
backyard breeders keep to build up genetic variety in their own breeds
again. Without the genetic variety of the world’s backyard poultry,
diseases might quite possibly wipe out domesticated poultry completely.
This is why it is so important that as many people as possible keep a
large variety of traditional breeds rather than commercial hybrids in
their backyards. We all become “the guardians of the vast majority of
the diversity in poultry breed genetics in Australia.” ( Rare
Breeds Trust of Australia, Status report 2006, page 45)
there is something else: from a purely aesthetic point of view isn’t
it disappointing that most fowl today look so much alike?
Wherever you look, you find ISA Browns
and Hy-Lines, brown ones and white ones, all looking similar.
Where are the colourful birds we see in old photos or paintings?