Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dun Project Update - Part 3

It's now mid April, and the Dun Project chicks hatched 11/17/15 are now right at 5 months old.

To refresh:  Dad was a gorgeous Light Sussex cross (carrying Dun) with beautiful body shape, early to mature, but totally wrong color.  Hens were big and spotted.  Most chicks were wrong color (white with dun or black markings) but a small number were Mottled.

Here is a photo of Dad - who is a Light Sussex cross.  Hens were spotty Alohas:

Beautiful white boy and my best girls.
Out of 27 chicks, I kept a handful of Mottled babies and one white hen because I liked her stout body form. The rest of the chicks were sold.

This pen was done for one main goal:

Get a rooster as nice as Dad, in quality, but without the white color.

While the rest of the world is hatching in hopes of a big batch of hens, I was hoping for roosters.

Hopefully, a rooster with spots.  Though honestly even just a nice, big, solid color carrying the gene for spots would have been a step in the right direction!

Luckily, it actually worked out, and we have this guy now:

Not done growing - one month to full maturity.
Good points:  Big size, broad chest, not a trace of "gamey" look.  Early maturity.

Needs work:  More spots, bigger comb, longer tail, brighter yellow legs

He's not super spotted - fairly minimal - but more white than the Big Orange Roo.

Big Orange Roo - beautiful but terrible breeder.
You may notice they look kind of similar in form.  That's because this orange guy is a pure Sussex and my young guy shown is probably 3/4 Sussex as well.  (They are, basically, the same breed but in different colors.)

Here is another shot of the new guy from the front so you can see that he has more white spangles:

Slightly more white on the new guy.
He will be a terrific cross with the smaller, colorful, more Leghorn-type Aloha hens, who are small but great layers.  I am hoping that he will bring size and depth to the lighter bodied hens.  Hopefully some of those hens will lend their bright spotting and jaunty tails and larger comb size to the babies.

He is maturing early like his Dad - who was trying to mount hens at 4 months.  American breeds are often early to mature.  I had a hatchery New Hampshire Red rooster who was breeding at 5 months old.  By contrast, my pure Swedish Flower rooster was clueless at 6 months, and it was about 9 months before he really figured things out.  Swedish boys are gorgeous but continue to grow for up to one year so need patience.

Here are some more photos of this new rooster:

New boy at 5 months.  Not 100% mature.
Remember how I say the roosters always seem to lose their white right around this age?  Let me go through a progression backwards so you can see how he  matured:

Five months old.
Four months - not a good age for him
Two to Three months old.
One to Two months.
Isn't it amazing how much white he had as a chick?  To have so little today?

Here are his siblings, the other four that I kept:

Brother - Carries Dun but smaller in size.
Above:  His brother - and that's not Blue, it's Dun!  Looks much like a Blue Mottled Swedish, but this guy is zero Swedish Flower - and that's not the color Blue.  (See previous blog post on Dun.)

His sisters:
Gorgeous big girl.
Smaller hen, carries Dun.
Wrong color, but note yellow legs and width.
The sisters will be penned with one of these boys:

The above boys are very tall and gangly.  Big roosters both of them, but not as wide or deep bodied as the Sussex bloodlines.  They have terrific white spotting, yellow leg gene, and nice big combs that make it easier to pick out boy at a young age.  (Important if you are hatching your own chicks so you can determine gender at earlier age.)

Interesting note on the Dun chicks from this Nov. 17 hatch. With the dad carrying Dun, statistically half the babies will carry dun and half will not.  Strangely both the Dun rooster and hen both  turned out smaller, though that is purely random chance.  Because of smaller size this boy may be re-homed in favor of the larger brother:

May be re-homed.
The hen carrying Dun is also smaller and does not have a great tail set and may also be re-homed, as I have several more hens carrying Dun so I can use those instead.

Younger hen also carrying Dun + Mottling.  
Another young boy carrying Dun.  Nice legs!
I even have a rooster - who carries Dun through his Mom and not this white rooster - who is a Naked Neck and shows great promise.  So strangely this older Dun gene rooster, son of the white rooster, may be replaced with a Naked Neck counterpart who despite the Naked Neck is looking more true to Aloha type, as the NN chick shows brighter legs, and a larger comb, and much more white!  He's just a baby though so will have to wait for him to mature:

Yellow legs and incredible white on chest.
Note bigger comb from Turken parentage.
The Turken bloodline has some big roosters with very pronounced combs.  Leg color can vary on Turkens but many have vibrant yellow legs.  And despite the "love it or hate it" neck that some people think is creepy, the gene that causes it is actually super easy to remove.  This boy's chicks would be half normal neck, half naked neck.  The "normal" feathered chicks would be just normal chicks - and would never have this happen again.  In other words, you can remove this trait in only one generation, and once it is gone - it's GONE.

So weirdly, the best looking Aloha rooster with the Dun gene so far, is part Turken, and from a less related blood line.  Meaning I can breed this Dun NN to the above hens by the white rooster because this boy got the color through his Mom, not his Dad.

Dad to the Dun Naked Neck is this handsome half Sussex half Naked Neck Aloha rooter:

Dad to Dun Naked Neck baby rooster.
Mom is half Buff Sussex half Aloha.
So you can see these guys are distantly related - but not directly so - and this baby Turken rooster (despite his naked neck gene) could be the more helpful to keep if he matures to a good size and has good spotting.  Hopefully we will find out in a few months.

There are many more hens not shown here who carry Dun plus a few more roosters with Dun, so we will see how those grow out.   I simply haven't taken photos yet.

At this point from the Dun experiment, with the white rooster over nice large spotted hens, it looks like a whopping 2 chickens (out of the original 27 chicks) will make the final cut to the permanent breeding flock.  The impressive rooster and his big beautiful sister.  The others I may hatch a few chicks from and re home as backyard layers to make room, as sadly I don't have room to keep them all.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bielefelder Alohas?

Recently, one of my Facebook friends, (who also has a few Aloha hens that she picked from me last year) posted photos of a pair of gorgeous roosters she was looking to re-home.  The roosters were both half "Bielefelder" which is a rare German breed, unheard of in the U.S. until Greenfire Farms imported them.

Marketed as the "German Uber-Chicken" the Bielefelder chickens have sold very well here in the USA, with Greenfire selling newborn females for $29 and males for $19 each, currently, as baby chicks.  They are supposedly terrific for both food and eggs.  Since I'm looking to make Alohas good dual-purpose farm chickens, these traits are exactly what I need in Alohas as well.

One rooster is a mix between Bielefelder and Rhode Island Red.  What is good about that, for my program, is I know through tests that the red color picks up spots with no problem.  (Unlike solid buff with buff tail chickens which would not show spots no matter how hard I tried.)

The other rooster is - most likely - half Aloha!  How about that?

I put them in with a few hens with color that I love, but these girls really need a boost in size:

Now, the funny thing is, I've been avoiding Barred chickens, because I know that a Barred rooster can turn the whole flock Barred in one generation!  So it's not like I hate the color when Mottling is added, it's pretty, but it can "take over" a flock quickly, and soon that is the only color you will get, if you aren't careful.

I recently learned more about "auto sexing" breeds, however, and I think I know how to use these boys in the program effectively.  I will keep only the barred girls, who may or may not also have spots - it depends on which boy is the daddy, and whether he really is half Aloha and carries spotting?  Most likely the chicks will be solid red and barred, just like the Dads.

However, I have learned that if I keep only the Barred hens from this cross, and breed them to a rooster with no barring - let's say a Speckled Sussex rooster for example - the hens will not have barring, and the boys will all have barring.  At birth, the boys will have a light spot on the top of the heads and the girls will not.  In other words, if I keep the hens of this cross and pair them with the right boy, I could be able to sex the chicks at birth, and raise ONLY the hens!

Every hen from this next generation would have a 50/50 chance of being spotted if paired with a spotted Aloha rooster.  The result of that cross would be 1/4 Bielefelder hens, with spots.

The Bielefelder carries the gene for yellow legs, which makes them a great choice for pairing with the Aloha / Sussex crosses, to try and add the yellow leg gene.  The hens from this cross could go GREAT with roosters from "Big Orange Roo" or spotted sons from the Dun pen.

The size of these half Bielefelder boys?  HUGE.  I took my "Big Orange Rooster" over to their pen, to compare size.  I thought my Big Orange guy was big, but not compared to these new dudes.  These half Bielefelder boys are still at least two inches taller, and also carry more weight!

This guy has some serious drumsticks.
I have collected eggs, and unfortunately I'm short on breeder pens, so I loaned these guys to my neighbor.  So I'll only have a couple dozen eggs to hatch, right now, but all I need is about 4-6 hens from this cross.  Since I gave the boys to my neighbor, I should be able to borrow them back for future use.

I have only three breeder pens right now, which makes it difficult to work on all the projects that I need.  This was an unexpected diversion.  Eggs are sitting on my counter right now ready to go in the incubator.  Hopefully, we'll see how the chicks look in a few weeks?

The Bielefelder  breeder pen, February 2016.

Big Orange Roo

The rooster that I was MOST excited about this year, is this boy:

He's so big and beautiful!  Not an Aloha, he's actually a pure Sussex.  A mix of Buff Sussex and Speckled Sussex.  Technically, he is mottled.  He does have some spots.  However, they are very small dots of white.  Not the riot of crazy spots that I like to see on an Aloha!

What that means - genetically - is that if I put him with my spotted hens, every single chick of his will have spots.  Some will have less spotting, since Dad doesn't have a lot, but every chick will share some of his big size, so it's just a matter of hatching lots and lots and lots of chicks, looking for the biggest chicks with the most spots, and choosing those to keep.

It sounds so easy.

Unfortunately, my Big Orange Stud turned out to be a Big Orange Dud.  My rooster needs Viagra.  (So many jokes abound!)  After I took the Dun rooster out of the breeding pen, and replaced him with this big boy, the eggs slowly became . . . infertile.
Huge pile of infertile eggs, going into the trash.
The pen filled with my BEST girls!  All those eggs going to waste!

When you see the hens in there, you'll understand why I'm upset.  Here's a few:

Above and below:  Same hen.  Orange spotted.
This orange spotted hen is the best sized true Aloha to date.
Pure Sussex hen - Buff with Mottling.
Aren't they pretty girls?  I'd love to have about 10 of each!

All of these hens shown are FULL size.  Not the small-ish "banty" size of many Alohas.

Here's a comparison for you:

Above:  Aloha hen with a (BIG) Buff Sussex hen.

Large Aloha on left, with small "mini me" Aloha on right.
Different "full size" Aloha on right.  Small Aloha hen on left.
I only have a handful of these "full size" Aloha hens with the perfect combo of size and spots.

The majority of my flock is smaller.  Bigger than Bantam - more like Leghorn size.

Well, it hasn't been a total loss.  There are a few eggs that are fertile - maybe one in 6 - so he is doing something.  At least, once in a while?

Here are some chicks that were hatched from the Big Orange Roo breeder pen:

There are a few other ones in there, a Naked Neck Aloha, and a few stragglers that still have the Dun boy as their daddy.  (Previous rooster's DNA can stay stored in the hen for up to one month.)  I could tell because a few of the chicks had the Dun rooster's white body color and that can't come from the Big Orange Roo.  But I can already see the chicks changing. from the Dun boy to the Orange roo.

Most noticeable difference?  The chicks by the Dun rooster all had yellow legs, and every chick by the new rooster has pink legs.  The pink color is dominant, so that's normal.  The surprise was how strong the yellow leg gene was in the Dun boy, that rooster did a great job on adding yellow legs to his babies.  Also, lots of orange and peachy colors in these new chicks!

(Above and Below) This cute thing has both
yellow legs and Dun color - probably by Dun Roo.

This lovely chick could be by Dun roo.  Shows promise.
I have managed to hatch even more chicks from that Big Orange Roo pen - these younger chicks have some by him in here, but also some by the Dun rooster, still:

Still too early to tell colors, really?  A few show real promise.  A few are still by Dun rooster.

And then there is this batch, which also includes a lot of Naked Neck or Turken Alohas:

Plus, there are 25+ eggs that are still in development in the incubator, due on February 13th!

So it's not a complete disaster, just a minor setback.  The 25+ eggs should all be by Orange guy.

New plan:  Put this orange dude in with a FEW hens - small girls with lots of white - but keep the number to only 3 or 4 hens, tops.  Keep the hen chicks with the most white spotting.  Maybe the smaller hens will be less intimidating for him?

Put the big Dun rooster in with my biggest and best girls, and keep anything with spots.  In my test hatch, that was only about 1 in 5 chicks.  I'd pick my future boys from the Dun boy's pen - where my very few girls with both size AND color are kept.  That would give me the best odds of increasing size in the next generation.

I have a good amount of chicks to raise.  Will be exciting to see their colors!