Coloured chicken genetics

First domestication in China 6000 BC.

In the genus Gallus, there are several wild species that have their native territory in South East Asia (Gallus varius, Gallus sonnerati, Gallus lafayetti and Gallus gallus or red jungle rooster). Only Gallus gallus provides fertile products when crossed with domestic fowl and is "the ancestor of the domestic fowl with which he shares song and plumage”. The oldest traces of domesticated Gallus gallus are found in China dating back to 6000 BC. The species then arrived in Europe by two routes, one coming from China and Russia, the other through Persia and Greece.

The development of breeding

Animal breeding, which includes poultry selection is based on factorial genetics, itself based on the laws of the monk Mendel. The work of Mendel on small smooth and small rough peas served as the basis for work on the animal kingdom. Bateson, published in 1902, worked on the Gallus species, to confirm the first laws of heredity in the animal kingdom.
By 1930, the U.S. produced the first commercial crossings. The situation was very clear by the end of the 2nd World War: if one wanted to get into poultry one must import animals from the United States. Combining growth rate and conformity, these lines paved the way for the selection of specialized broilers and condemned mixed breeds.
Around 1950, INRA and NAAS have the desire to develop French Gallus genetics. This is the beginning of the activity of the Centre Magneraud which will handle the development of breeding programs, and advise private breeders. In the late 60s, 6% of broilers in France came from a French selection.

The bantam revolution

In the late 1950s, a revolution happened. A team of the INRA at Jouy en Josas discovered abnormally small chickens, dwarves. Scientists from INRA quickly demonstrated that it is a known mutation and described by an American researcher. Who says bantams, says less food needs. The original idea is to introduce the gene of dwarfism in chickens intended for the production of broilers. The cross between a dwarf hen and a normal size rooster gives a normal sized chicken!

First Label Rouge

Alongside the development of standard production in the late 60s, breeders created the first Poultry Label Rouge guaranteeing consumers a higher quality of poultry originating from strains of slow-growing chickens. Quickly, hatcheries in the southwest worried about the Anglo-American hegemony over the provision of genetic Gallus gallus. Thus was born the SASSO project, dedicated to the selection of traditional colored lines: red chickens, naked-neck yellow skin, red with white skin, naked-neck black feathers.

SASSO selects a dwarf hen

To increase its male lines, thanks to the discoveries of INRA, the SASSO developed also a red dwarf chicken (SA51) for the Label Rouge market. Economical in terms of food consumption, it transmits to its offspring phenotypic characteristics of the rooster. If the rooster has white skin, the chicken will have white skin. If the rooster has a naked neck, the chicken’s neck is naked.

Updated 05/09/2014

SASSO, more than colour...