Thursday, December 15, 2011

October Chicks Update - Six Weeks Old

Here are photos of four chicks that a hen snuck off and hatched all by herself in late October.  They look terrific.  Three look to be "Confetti" colored.  One is noticeably larger.  They are about six weeks old right now and fully feathered, but will probably still go through many color changes over the next few months.  Will update again later, hoping to see some size improvement. 

I probably can't say "for sure" that these are Cheeto's babies until they are fully grown - and if they are his, they should be MUCH bigger than a regular small Aloha hen.  They are very spirited, always moving, and hard to take good photos of.  But they are also extremely curious - running right up to the camera, then darting away!  These were the best photos I could manage, LOL.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Update on Thanksgiving Chicks

New photos of the chicks hatched week of Thanksgiving, 2011.  Many are starting to show color.  Many look like pure Sussex chicks, which makes sense because I had a pure Sussex rooster in one pen, and two pure Sussex hens in the other pen with Cheeto.  So a lot of these chicks are half Sussex. 

Two look like they will be Gold Confetti.

A few look to have brighter, more reddish tones.  And size is much bigger on many of the chicks!  Temperament is also more calm and relaxed than previous generations.  Will update again in a couple of weeks, when they reach one month old.  They should have their full baby feathers at that point.

Cheeto's New Pen

Now that the Sussex rooster is at Stephen's, it's freed up a small pen for me to use.  I'm going to put "Cheeto" my big orange rooster in with four of my very favorite hens.  All of these hens have great spotting, great body shape, and are wonderful examples of what I'm working for.  Only problem is they are still not big enough.

The pen will be set up for about one month before I will try hatching out eggs.  This way, I can be sure that ONLY "Cheeto" will be the father of the chicks.  Then, I'll see if any of these develop spotting.  It would be the only way to see for sure if Cheeto carries the gene for Mottling. 

But now I'm counting my chickens before they hatch!  Here's photos of Cheeto and the hens I'll be putting into this special pen.  I'll definately be keeping some of these chicks for next year's breeding program.

This is Cheeto:

This is a light brown mottled hen with lots and lots of white and great body shape plus yellow legs:

This hen is almost a Mille Fleur color:

This hen has even small white speckles on a light brown coat.  Very little black:

This is her a couple of months ago, as a pullet, she's kind of camera-shy:

This hen is either full Sussex or half-Sussex, but I think she's half.  HUGE white blobs on her feathers:

Above:  Taken a few weeks ago.
Below:  Dec. 2011

This pen should definately produce some top-notch chicks.  Even if they don't show spots, with moms like these, I can be sure they will carry nice genes for wonderful mottling.  Although I certainly will be thrilled if spots develop on any of the chicks!  Stay tuned for the results! 

Chicks will not actually hatch from this breeder pen until mid-February at the earliest.  Then we'd have to wait a while after that to see if any actually develop color.  I can't wait to see what happens.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Visit to Stephen's Farm

Stephen Fowler is a breeder of many fascinating exotic "heritage" livestock, and recently has taken an interest in the Aloha project.  I gave him two large batches of chicks to raise this summer.  I haven't visited since late July, so it's been a while since I've seen the babies.  It was fascinating seeing them all grown up.  It was time to pick the best and cull the rest, and cull them we did!

By the time we were done, I think we were left with a total of nine small colorful hens, and 14 culled hens.  Some of the culled hens were very pretty, and even a year ago they would have been used as breeders.

Above and below:  Lots of culled hens.

Also culled were a large batch of roosters.  I was hoping for another excellent rooster like "Flame" but no such luck!  These were the typical Aloha rooster types, nice but not anything really new:

The remaining hens were fascinating.  The first batch of chicks had hens of more modest color, speckled much like a Sussex in pattern, with small flecks of white:

Above and Below:  Hens that were from the first batch of chicks that I gave Stephen late May 2011

The second batch of chicks, which were hatched out, I believe six weeks later, had bolder patterning overall.  These were the "keepers" in that pen:

We kept two of the best typed hens with modest white, and a nice group of six of the flashier ones.  These little hens will now be crossed with much larger sized roosters. 

Now there will be three small breeder pens set up at Stephen's.  One will have a big yellow-orange rooster, Cheeto's full brother, who is probably just a "solid" chicken, genetically.  These chicks will probably be all solid light brown or gold, but thanks to the colorful moms, all would carry the genes for mottling.

The big Sussex rooster of mine was moved into another pen, where he'll also be kept with some incredibly colorful hens, in an attempt to improve size.  All of these chicks should actually show coloring.  We'll be picking out the most colorful babies from that pen, and be looking for secondary features we want, like yellow legs and single combs.

The third pen will feature some big hens with a lovely smaller sized Aloha rooster.

It is hoped by combining the offspring of all three pens next yer, we'll finally get much bigger, and colorful chickens.  It would make the offspring of all three pens about half "big chicken" and half "small colorful" chicken.

There will probably still need to be one more round of outcrossing before we're totally done increasing the size.  The half-Aloha, half-Sussex crosses I've raised are definately not "banty" sized.  Anyone would call them a regular chicken.  But I won't be happy until Alohas are at least the exact same size as a Sussex or New Hampshire Red.  That probably won't happen until the percentage of "big chicken" reaches 75% or more.  But, that will take even longer. 

Oh well, one step at a time!  Getting them even to the size of a regular Leghorn is at least a move in the right direction, and we should get to that point this coming year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Peeps!

Thanksgiving Day - and more little fuzzballs are popping out of their shells!  Looks like six already this morning.  This is in addition to over a dozen babies hatched out earlier this week. 

There are two breeder pens, one large pen with Cheeto and a mix of hens, from big full Sussex to smallest Confetti Aloha, in all shapes and sizes.  The second breeder pen had several larger, buff-colored hens, in with a pure Sussex rooster.  Here is the first batch of chicks:

Predictably, most of them either are bright yellow (like one rooster) or striped like a Sussex (the second rooster.)  Only time will tell if they all look similar as adults.  Or, will differences show up, as they grow?

This time, I'm trying a more scientific approach, and have tagged the legs of some with colored leg bands.

Buff Chick, tagged blue, left leg. 

Blue Left.

Striped chick, tagged red right leg.

Red Right.

Dark Buff or Tan chick, faint stripes, orange left.

Orange Left.

Buff Chick, tagged yellow, left leg.

Yellow Left.
I can for sure keep this up until early January; so we'll be able to track them up to six weeks. Beyond that I don't know, I'll be doing some traveling that month, and last thing I want is to be out of town when one of these bands starts to cut into a teeny leg!  (Chicks grow FAST.) 

So the bands may come off at that point, but I have sizes all the way to adulthood, so if there is a way to continue I'll try.  Will post growing pics as the feathers start to come in.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hen Highlights - Orpington Cross

Since I've showcased some of the roosters, I thought I'd do the same for a few hens.  I don't name many of my hens, so it's kind of hard to keep them straight.  I have it all in my head but it doesn't make it easy to identify them to others.  I suppose some sort of numbered leg bands need to be ordered!

Anyway, here's a very interesting hen, one of the oldest in the flock:

On the left, daughter of Vanilla.

Her story is, when I first started this project, I didn't have any adult "outside" breeds for improving size.  My friend Kathleen had these two GORGEOUS hens in her backyard.  They were sort of like Orpingtons, and had a lot of Buff Orp in them, but were actually "mutts" created from multiple generations of random-bred chickens in her yard.  They were prettier than any Orp I'd ever seen, deep dark gold with dashes of black on their feathers.  Absolutely stunning!

Vanilla, her dad. 
That's not her mom, that's a full EE'er hen, for size comparison.  Vanilla was not a small rooster.

At the time, my foundation rooster, Vanilla, was running about.  These two mutt Orp hens were crossed with him.  Unfortunately the hens arrived almost exactly when this massive illness of some kind nearly wiped out the entire project.  Both hens were lost, about a month later.

Thankfully, some of their eggs made it into the incubator.  This hen resulted.

So, this hen is half Aloha, granddaughter to the original tiny hen Oddball.  Despite this, she is HUGE.  Nearly as large as a full Speckled Sussex:

Half Aloha, but nearly as big as a Sussex.

She was bred to an Aloha roo last spring.  You'd think she'd give me spotted chicks.  Right???

She was bred to this colorful rooster last season.

Her babies were just big yellow hens.  No spots!

One daughter has dark brown eyes.  That's strange.  The other has orange eyes like most of the Aloha stock.  I'm hoping we'll finally get spots on the third generation.  Her daughters are in with a Speckled Sussex rooster right now. 

I don't know if they are laying yet.  I'm only getting one egg every couple of days.  Which means only one of these hens is laying right now:

Her brown-eyed daughter, with a pure Sussex roo.

Sometimes, genetics can be SO frustrating!  With all that color in her background, you'd think we would see some spots again soon?  Crossing my fingers . . . see what happens . . .

Meanwhile, the momma hen was in with the Sussex roo for a while, in a special pen with her, her two daughters, and another big yellow hen that is part Buff Rock.  (Sister of Cheeto.)  When I first put this pen together, she was the only hen laying in that pen, and I should have her eggs hatching out right now!  See, here she is in with him last month:

She's the hen on the bottom left.

But, she snuck out of the pen.  Somehow.  It's covered except for one tiny spot, so that was quite an accomplishment.  Now she's been running about, and I saw Flash jump on her, and then Cheeto.  My goodness.  Now, I'll still be hatching her eggs, of course, but who knows what I'll get?  And there will be no way to know who is the daddy.   So if I do get something nice, how will I know which rooster is the best one to cross her with to get more?  Argh!

Anyway, tonight I'm off, flashlight in hand, to sneak into the coop at night, catch her, and put her back in with this Sussex rooster!  Let's try this again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

More Confetti!

More Confetti photos, just for fun!

Two of my Confetti hens love to take care of chicks.

A baby Confetti rooster who now lives with my neighbor next door.

Proof that I'm not taking photos of the same chicken over and over.

I love the gold colors on her chest.

Silly Confetti Hens - front and back!

The Original Aloha Stock

The first Alohas were all chicks hatched out of eggs laid by this strange little banty hen, "Oddball". 

I don't really know who their rooster dad was; I had given the neighbor a half Speckled Sussex rooster, so that could have been the father.  Or, judging from the type, the rooster could have been some kind of Game that carried Mottling.  We'll never know.  After this inital rush of laying, all future eggs laid by Oddball were sterile.  I tried for a year, and not a single other egg of hers developed.

Oddball the Banty

Several chicks were hatched from this first cross.  I culled way too many.  Most looked to dark and I culled them early on.  I didn't count on Oddball being such an oddball and refusing the attention of every rooster she'd ever see in the future!

I kept only four.  One rooster was given away, Patchwork.  Another hen, Ginger, refused the attention of roosters as well.  Just like her mom!  Weirdos. Only two were left.   Almost all of my stock were chicks sired by a rooster named Vanilla and a hen named Kona.

Vanilla was a gorgeous rooster.

His brother Patch didn't turn out so shabby, either!

Mostly, Vanilla and Kona were the main source of my stock.

Kona, an amazing producer, was a prolific layer.
Crossed with Vanilla, these are mostly her chicks:

The reason I've pulled out so many colors out of basically, two chickens, is clear if you look at the Web site and past pictures.  I've hatched out TONS and TONS and TONS of chicks!  At best, one in 10 chicks hatched makes it into the program.  All others happily find non-breeding homes.

Fuzzballs by the bucket load!

Very few make it into the program, maybe one in ten.
The chick to the left, too dark, the middle one, too light, and the one on the right didn't pan out either!
The breeding stock, fall 2011. 
Two pure Sussex, and about 12 Alohas.
Most of the color and variety was created by selective breeding and culling.

Final breeding flock for the fall 2011 season.  Chicks hatching out now!

My new neighbor was the lucky recipient of the culled Alohas this season. 
He couldn't be more pleased.