Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Animal and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Anthony Pescatore


There is a growing market for specialty poultry production using alternative genotypes and management systems. However, producers interested in specialty poultry production face several challenges. One challenge is that little published data exists regarding the growth and production parameters for alternative genotypes like slow-growing meat strains and heritage breeds. To address this challenge, research at the University of Kentucky examined the effect of feed strategies, alternative feedstuffs, and dietary enzymes on the growth and performance of heritage breeds of chicken used for either egg- or meat-production. The first trial documented the growth and nutrient intake of pullets from three heritage breeds (Rhode Island Red, Barred Plymouth Rock, and Black Australorp) and three egg-laying strains (Red Star, Black Star, and ISA Brown) on a self-selection feeding program through nineteen weeks of age. The second trial documented the growth and nutrient intake of males from those same three heritage breeds, a slow-growing meat-type strain (Red Ranger), and males and females from a fast-growing meat-type strain (Cornish Cross). Birds used a self-selection feeding program and were grown to a common weight of 2300 grams. Carcass characteristics of these birds were evaluated in the third trial. The fourth trial evaluated the partial replacement of corn and soybean meal with alternative feedstuffs (field peas, buckwheat, and flax seed) and dietary enzymes on the performance of straight-run commercial broilers and two alternative breeds of chickens: males from a Black Sex-Link cross and straight-run Rhode Island Reds. The fifth trial examined the use of sorghum and field peas to completely replace corn and soybean meal in formulated diets for two heritage breeds (Rhode Island Red and Barred Plymouth Rock). Results of these trials showed that heritage breed pullets had similar growth parameters and nutrient intake as commercial egg-laying strains. Heritage breed cockerels grew significantly slower and exhibited poorer feed efficiency than meat-type birds, but seemed to tolerate low nutrient density diets better. Overall, the findings of these studies could help producers interested in raising slow-growing meat-type chickens and heritage breeds create accurate business plans and determine if they can profitably produce meat and/or eggs for niche markets.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)