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.

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