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.