Strands of DNA© WestEnd61/REX/Shutterstock

An appeal has been launched to help preserve the genetics of some of the rarest breeds of poultry.

Some are so rare the only remaining examples have been housed at the National Poultry Collection to preserve them.

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At various times in the past few year years, the entire known breeding stock of the Brussbar, Modern Langshan and genuine Burmese Bantam have been maintained at the National Poultry Collection.

Andrew Sheppy, director of the Cobthorn Trust – which oversees the National Poultry Collection – said the task of maintaining breeding stocks across a large number of breeds and species was huge.

Increasing demand

There was an ever-increasing demand for the collection to house extra breeds and endangered bloodlines, he added.

“It costs about £500 a year for each breed population to be fed and correctly managed with the attendant record-keeping and there is no state funding for the work in this country.”

Writing in the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Winter 2016 Ark newsletter, Mr Sheppy said, to mark its 30th anniversary, the trust was launching an appeal to fund the further development of the National Poultry Collection and to ensure its future.

“Without the work of the National Poultry Collection, the support of the Cobthorn Trust and the dedicated efforts of the trust’s staff, the [Brussbar, Modern Langshan and genuine Burmese Bantam] would certainly be extinct.

“Maintaining a well-documented nucleus breeding stock of breeds is justification enough for the National Poultry Collection,” he added.

Few breeders

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) said it was concerned many poultry breeds were supported by very small numbers of breeders.

The Poultry Breeds at Risk List, which covers chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, contains 74 breeds with 45 of these highlighted by the RBST Poultry Working Group to be breeds of particular priority.

One of the aims of the group is to encourage a larger pool of breeders.

Over the coming year, the group plans to strengthen its activities and look at some long-term options, including developing opportunities with leading academics  in the UK and further afield.