Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS)

Regional dual purpose chickens for organic farming


Many old regional chicken breeds in Germany are at risk of extinction. Keeping them is economically not viable even for organic farms, because the market is dominated by a few modern high-performance hybrids specialized on either laying performance or meat production. In addition to loss of biodiversity in case of extinction of those old breeds, there is the ethical problem of killing male chicks from the laying lines. Solutions to these problems are now being sought by the "RegioHuhn" project funded under the Federal Programme for Organic Farming and Other Forms of Sustainable Agriculture (BÖLN). The Information and Coordination Centre for Biological Diversity (IBV) of the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) has supported the project development by bringing various stakeholders together.

The three-year project will investigate the performance of six local and endangered chicken breeds, such as the Ostfriesische Möwe or the Mechelner Chicken, in organic farming conditions. By means of cross-breeding, new dual-purpose chicken will be created allowing an economically interesting poultry production in a regional agricultural context. With this project, the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute for Farm Animal Genetics in Mariensee (FLI-ING), together with the Bavarian State Institute for Agriculture (LfL/BaySG Kitzingen), the University of Bonn and the expert advisory service for Naturland, want to show new ways for a more sustainable regional production.

Preserving the diversity of regional breeds - ensuring the sustainability of poultry farming

"The diversity of local chicken breeds can best be preserved by using them," emphasizes project leader Prof. Dr. Steffen Weigend from the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute. At FLI-ING, the focus of the investigations is on the local breeds of Ostfriesiche Möwen and Ramelsloher chicken, at LfL Kitzingen on the Altsteirer and Augsburger breeds, and at the University of Bonn on the Bielefelder Kennhuhn and the Mechelner. Private breeders support the project by providing hatching eggs.

These old breeds of chicken are characterized above all by their greater robustness, but as traditional dual-purpose chicken, they lag far behind modern laying and fattening lines in terms of performance. Therefore, by crossing with animals from high performing lines, so-called utility crosses are to be created.  The crossbred animals will undergo performance testing for traits related to both laying and meat performance.

Testing husbandry and regional marketing in practice

"We hope to find dual-purpose chicken that perform well and are easy to keep", explains Werner Vogt-Kaute from the Naturland advisory service. In order to ensure that the project has practical relevance, various Naturland farms with poultry farming and direct marketing will be involved in the project. Naturland's farms are to test the performance of the animals and the marketing of regional products in practice.