By Harry Parr, November 1977
Interest in the breeding of game fowl strains has always run high even though the knowledge thereof seldom has any practical application. I have been asked many times to set forth the breeding of the McLean Hatch and their offshoot, the Blue Face family. This I have done briefly in letters and countless times orally. It is amazing how twisted these accounts become. So, since this subject appears still to hold the interest of many, I have decided to write down the facts for one and all.
Although Ted McLean has been out of the “chicken business” since December of 1954 at which time he gave me all his fowl, he is still very much with us. I mention this only because I have seen too many “histories” come out when it is too late for the facts to be verified by the principles involved. Further, the following is being written with my notes and breeding records before me and this paper will be limited to first hand information. Finally, lest anyone think there is an ulterior motive involved, my chickens are my hobby. I keep only enough for my purposes and have never, nor do I ever contemplate selling them.
In the early thirties, Mr. E.S. Hatch and Mr. E.T. Mclean were on the floor of the stock exchange. That Mr. Hatch gave Ted Mclean fowl is the testimony enough of their friendship, as it is well known that Mr. Hatch did not let many go. At the time, Mr. Hatch’s fowl consisted of four basic bloodlines. These were the Kearney fowl made up of the two strains Mike Kearney brought from Ireland, namely (1) the “beasy” Breasted Light Reds (Whitehackles) and (2) the Brown Breasted Reds, plus (3) the Herman Duryea fowl (commonly called Boston Roundheads) which he added when he worked for Mr. Duryea. With these bloodlines Mr. Hatch incorporated (4) the green leg Thomson (Jim Thomson) fowl. I might say here that from then till now, the strain made up of these four bloodlines is what Ted and I call the “straight stuff”.
In those days virtually all the fighting in the North East was done in inch and a quarter, heavy, slow heels, which is not surprising considering the cockers prime requisite, was gameness. It followed the toughness and power was high priorities and the Hatch fowl had all these in abundance. While they surely did not compile a great winning record, they were admired by name for these attributes. Fortunately, Ted Mclean kept this set of priorities or the “straight stuff’ would have long since gone by the boards. For in addition to these attributes, the Mclean Hatch are poor cutters, low headed dumb fighters, that usually take two or three shots before unleashing one of their patented hay makers. Obviously as the heels got faster their ability to win lessened, so they are useless now if fought pure. Their value then, is only as an ingredient to produce battle cocks.
Ted Mclean bought “Gamecock Farm” in Maryland and built one of the best all around chicken plants I have ever seen. He gave me a trio of his Hatch fowl in 1948 and shortly thereafter I bought a farm within a short distance from his. I suppose I was at Gamecock Farm a couple of times a week and everyday during fighting season, because we fought a heavy schedule and chickens were almost always in the cock house for conditioning. At least one experimental cross was tried each year and many produced superior battle cocks, but as soon as one quit, all chickens containing that blood, came under the axe. I saw an awful lot of chickens killed and when he retired from the game in 1954 and only the “straight stuff” remained. All of these fowl were given to me.