What is genetic hackle?

Genetic hackle can be several things for a chicken grower.  Generally genetic hackle is related to the fly tying business. It has been this way for many years that the common chicken’s feathers was manipulated by genetics to meet the needs of fly tiers.

Most recently genetic hackle growers have been over whelmed by the fashion industry. In particular Steve Tyler of Aerosmith in a talent show wearing a genetic hackle in his hair. Almost overnight the genetic hackle industry was transformed. Much of this a hassle for fly tiers who were the core users of genetic hackle by raising prices and limiting supplies.

Either way the primary draw to genetic hackle is the extreme lengths attained by selecting for very long saddle hackles. This genetic selection goal is only one of the needs of a fly tier.

In my honest opinion genetic hackle is all about selection of your breeding stock to change the feather traits of your chickens. Not all genetic hackle breeders have the same goals.

Most genetic hackle breeders focus on what we call dry fly hackle. These breeders focus on very small and long feathers to float fly fishing flies on the surface of water. It all started because chicken feathers do not naturally grow this way without selection pressure to guide the chickens feather traits in this direction.

Today genetic hackle could mean several things.

Some will follow the traditional route of selecting for dry fly qualities. Some will breed for the ornamental value of having some roosters running around with long saddle feathers for eye candy.

Chicken traits with time and planning can be manipulated very easy.

Lets see what we all can do to meet the needs of who wants to breed genetic hackle.


Tallow Hill Farms

4 thoughts on “What is genetic hackle?

  1. I raise numerous birds, Mardarin ducks, many type of pheasant, Heritage turkeys, and yes chickens. I raise my birds for the beauty they have to offer. Genetics is not my speciality however when i saw pictures of the genetic hackle birds i thought i would try and breed a few. Three years into the project and I have achieved satisfactory results but nowhere near where i would like to be. The saddle feathers have the nm gene giving me the length but barbule counts are low. I would not suggest anyone taking on this type of project as it is cheaper to purchase the saddles. If you love birds again i do not recommend as culling has to be heavy. I have concentrated on Golden phoenix with the nm gene to a show quailty Bantam barred rock hens and culling very heavy. In another 10 years i may have the right combo. Having access to a few eggs would help however since the hair extension craze nobody is selling.

  2. Hi Jeff

    nice to hear from you

    I totally agree raising these birds for cheaper alternatives to genetic hackle is not the way to go.

    I started my project over 10 years ago working with Ameraucana’s for their soft hackle. I do this because I love breeding animals and watching how the genetics guides the next breeding’s.

    We would love to see some pictures of your Golden Phoenix, please send some pictures we all would love to see what how your project is doing.

    By setting up this website and blog I hope to encourage others to share their knowledge and breeding stock.

    Ken Tutalo of http://www.beaverkillvalleyhackle.com has been generous to make available genetic hackle eggs to strengthen your genetic hackle project. Go to his site and give him a call.

    Ken lives in the same community of where much of the beginnings of genetic hackle started. His birds are bred and grown in New York’s Catskill Mountains, The “Birthplace of American Fly Fishing. I don’t think you will be disappointed with his stock.
    Here is a picture of one of his birds.

    Ginger Genetic Hackle Chicken

    Get a hold of him, I am sure his stock will be a great addition to your project

    Tallow Hill Farms

  3. Can you make a video about what makes a good feather and what does not? That is the area I am most confused about. You mention that in say the schlappen you might not get many good feathers and that you need to spend time searching through them. I would love to see a video that goes into detail about how to pick the good feathers in the pack. Thanks, love your site!!

  4. I’ve added new images here to illustrate the fact that saddle hackle length and tail feather length are independant genetic factors and must be breed for specifically.

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