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.

The Return of Ginger

My original flock of Alohas was very, very small.  "Oddball" the banty hatched out a handful of chicks for me; but after that, she refused every rooster that I put her with.  I kept four of those chicks by Oddball, two hens, Kona and Ginger, and two roosters, Patch and Vanilla. 

That's the basis of all the Aloha stock around today.  No really.  That's it.  Four chickens.

Two of the original four Alohas - Ginger and Patchwork.

My favorite hen by far was Ginger.  This is Ginger, as a youngster, sitting with a young Patch.

This was Ginger.

She was always kind of gamey in type, and small.  But her color was more and more vibrant as she grew.  Unfortunately, there was one BAD thing Ginger inherited from her mom, "Oddball".  SHE HATED ROOSTERS.  She was hard to find in the yard, because there she would be, off in a corner by herself.  Away from the rooster.

I'd go out and collect the eggs, and there would often be two - one from Ginger, one from Kona.  But as time went on, only half the eggs were fertile.  The lighter eggs were always sterile.  Guess who laid the lighter eggs?  Yep.  Ginger.

I figured someday perhaps Ginger would "fall in love" with the right guy.  In the meantime, she was a total slacker.  I don't know if any of her eggs were ever fertile.  A few I wonder about.  One ended up with Laree and we have our suspicions, she has a resemblence to Ginger.  None of the others grew up to look remotely like her, however.

Sassafrass, a gift to Laree.  Was this Ginger's daughter?

But tragically, Ginger was lost fairly early in the program.  I was dosing the hens as a precaution; one hen had a swollen eye.  It could be simply something got into her eye and irritated it.  However, a swollen eye sometimes is a sign of a certain illness.  She showed no other sypmptoms, but I thought it would be a good idea to treat all the hens in with her.  Three hens, including Ginger, were isolated in a "sick pen".  Even though she had no signs of illness, I thought since they had been exposed, it would be best. 

I did the proper dosing, but it was a very hot day.  Maybe the hens drank too much of the medicated water, and overdosed.  I'd treated just the one with the same batch of medicine only a week before with no ill effects,but the temps had since climbed to 105 degrees.  This is the best theory I could come up with.  By the late afternoon, all three hens in that pen, including Ginger, were dead.  One had only that swollen eye, but otherwise was alert and healthy. The other two appeared perfectly healthy earlier that morning.

Thank goodness I had tons of chicks growing out to replace these hens.  But not a single one looked like Ginger.  Not until this spring, when I had a great surprise.  First one hen, then another, and then another!  Three little carbon-copies of Ginger!  What a wonderful thing to see. 

I am not really sure where they came from, and why I never saw any quite like Ginger until just this year.  There is one little suspicion . . . remember, at the top of this post, I showed you Ginger, with her brother Patch?

This is Ginger's brother Patch, all grown up.

Laree owned Patch.  Patch had a chick.  This chick wasn't much to look at, but because she came from a  slightly different bloodline, and I'd never used any of Patch's offspring in the program before, I put her in a breeding pen over here last spring, anyway:

Patch's daughter - this hen's mom is unknown Aloha stock.

She's the hen on the bottom right corner of this photo.

Small, gamey, plain, she wasn't much to look at.  But are these her chicks?  I wonder if this these hens are Patch's grandkids?  Related to Ginger, though her brother.  It would explain why I never saw something like Ginger until this last year, when I brought in two of Patch's daughters to use for breeding. Until affordable chicken DNA tests come out I'll never know, ha ha.  It's just a theory.

(PS - I have never used that medication again . . . )

The Sussex Influence

As I've been breeding my Aloha flock, in the first generations, I did almost everything I could in order to NOT bring in Speckled Sussex bloodlines.  Why not?  Bringing in Sussex seems OBVIOUS.  They have spots.  Alohas have spots.  Cross them together, and there you go.  Right???

Well, there was some Sussex in the first cross to Oddball, and some "other stuff" in there too, but the problem is, if you bring in too much of any one breed, it will simply begin to take over.

This is a purebred Speckled Sussex hen.

Trust me on this - if you breed one dog (like a poodle) to another dog (like a doberman) the first generation will look pretty much like a confused mess.  However, take those babies and cross them back to either side - a poodle OR a doberman - and very quickly, the next generation will look like one side of the family or another.  Do that another time and most likely, you won't be able to tell the pups from purebreds except for an occasional odd trait popping up - your only clue that something else is hidden back there.   

So, it's important that when I create Alohas, for every "dash of Sussex" that I add an equal "dash of New Hampshire Red" or whatnot.  Otherwise, what you'll get (if you use too much Sussex) is pretty much, what looks like a poorly-bred flock of Speckled Sussex!  Which is totally NOT the point, ha ha. 

This last season was the first time we saw a dash of Sussex brought back into the program.  The hen used was this one, who is 50% Speckled Sussex, and looks pretty much like a "pure" Sussex.  Except, something is kind of "off" about her?  It's like you can't quite put your finger on it . . . . but it's there.

Half Sussex hen, owned by Laree.  Loaned to me last season for breeding.

Okay, so her mom was a Sussex, and her dad was a "first generation" Aloha, which makes her  pretty special.  That's right, this hen's grandma is none other than Oddball the Banty.  Her dad is Patch, Oddball's own son, pictured here.

Of course I was super excited to see the result.  NOW - take everything I say from here on out with a grain of salt, because there is no chicken DNA testing available to me.  However, I had a theory.  The theory was, if I took this half Aloha hen, Patch's half-Sussex daughter, and I bred her to something NOT SUSSEX, then the result would be a baby radically different from a Sussex.  I think these are her daughters.  You tell me if you think it worked, ha ha:

What a difference a generation makes!  Only 1/4 Sussex, now.

If I'm right, this would be the breeding pen, showing the dad, a half Aloha, half New Hampshire Red. 

These young hens do not have the "chipmunk cheek" feathering of some Aloha hens, the faces look more like a NHR or Sussex.  The spots are more evenly arranged, like a Sussex, and not as "messy" in placement as a pure Aloha.

Note this hen has the even spots of a Sussex, but the yellow legs of a NHR.  The NHR/Aloha roo was the only rooster in my pen last year to have yellow legs.  No other roosters or Aloha hens in my pens had yellow legs last year.

In short, this young hen looks nothing like a purebred Speckled Sussex.  Which is exactly what I want!

Now for the exciting stuff - what will happen this year?  Check out this new hen, she also is supected to be only half Speckled Sussex.  Like the half Sussex hen of Laree's, the differences between this hen and a pure Sussex are subtle.  Her color a bit brighter, her spots a bit more vibrant, and unfortunately, her size is a bit smaller. 

Almost a Sussex - but not quite?  Note lighter color from pure Sussex on top of post.

Right now, she is in with Cheeto.  As she crosses with other roosters, we'll see how the chicks turn out.  Hopefully, they will be a radical departure from Sussex in each generation, and we'll cross back and forth.

(Slightly redder base color, small size, big spangles - but pretty much looks Sussex.)

As long as I keep them 50% Sussex or less, and keep plenty of NHR, Buff Rock, and Aloha in there, hopefully we'll get the size up, and create new and radically different colors.  What we don't want is to end up creating something that just looks like a poorly-bred mongrel Speckled Sussex.  LOL!!!!
Left:  Hen that is suspected to be only half Sussex.  Right:  Pure Sussex hen.

This year, I will have two purebred Speckled Sussex hens in the flock.  Right now they are with Cheeto, but they will later be rotated in with Butterscotch and Cinnamon as well.  Some of their babies will probably look pretty much like purebred Sussex, but these 50% Sussex hens will be kept and be used to increase size in the next generation.  It is hoped that in the next generation, I'll be able to pull out more radically different colors.