Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Update on the Fall 2011 Chicks

I've only managed to hatch out about 24 Alohas this fall, way less than my "normal" hatching schedule.  (Been traveling a lot!)  Four chicks were hatched out naturally when a hen took over and I didn't have the heart to break up her nest.  The other 20 or so chicks were hatched in an incubator, around Thanksgiving.

First up, the four October chicks!  Here's two of them shown at a month old:

Two of the four October chicks, at one month old.  
The chick in the background has since completely lost his spots.
He now appears solid buff!  
The other chick appears below.
The only one of the four October chicks that I'll be keeping to grow out.
He does have Barring, but his buff mottled color is very unique.

One of the buff mottled chicks has now actually lost his spots - very strange!  He now looks orange with one white wing feather.  He will be culled.  The most promising chick looked very bright red/white mottled, and was very large, but also shows lots of barring and puffy cheeks.  Not helpful.  The hen developed leg issues and was culled.

Which leaves this one baby rooster to grow out for a while.  He too shows barring, but the buff/white pattern has been hard to get:

Getting a nice Buff Mottled chicken has been very tricky.  I wonder why?

Next up - November chicks!  Some were by Cheeto, who was running in the "big pen" with Flame and two other roosters with mostly small Aloha hens, but also I added two large purebred Sussex hens.  So it was a big old mess in there, and I don't know who was with who, exactly.

In the small breeder pen was a HUGE pure Sussex rooster with several big buff hens:

Some of these big yellow hens should have also carried the Mottling genes.  Overall, MANY of these chicks hatched were half Sussex - either their dad was this big Sussex rooster, or their moms were one of the two pure Sussex hens in the main pen.

What is surprising is how much many of these chicks resemble purebred Sussex!  I can't even tell the difference right now.  Can you?

Above and below - NOT pure Speckled Sussex.  Only half.  
But they look like "regular" Sussex to me???
Three are hens and will be kept.  I'm hoping some fun colors are hiding behind that boring brown-ness:
Check out the huge "Sussex" rooster on the bottom right.  He's half Aloha.

I may even keep one of the biggest flashiest Sussex-y roosters, just as a test.  There were absolutely NO Sussex-to-Sussex breedings in this pen!  All of these are only HALF Sussex.  What sort of colors are lurking behind the sea of dark mahogany?  Will all sorts of colors pop out next time?  Or is the Sussex mahogany color just that strong?

For those of you working with your own Aloha programs - this is why you need to introduce other breeds into the mix.  Sussex color is very dominant, so try to mix in some New Hampshire Red or Buff chickens to break this color up.  I have been reluctant to introduce a lot of Sussex blood into the program.  It needs to be added as a "dash" or else you end up with what looks like a really lousy flock of purebred Sussex.

Of the seven Buff chicks (probably sired by Cheeto) in the November hatch, several showed mottling at first, but like the previous October buff chick, the delicate mottling is simply fading away.  These buff roosters were re-homed.  Three of the chicks did show buff/white - but WAY too much white!  Those were also rehomed.

Too much white, or not a enough white, what a mess!  Nine buff and white chicks total.  Only the one guy shown HERE had the perfect mix of yellow and white:

Buff Mottled - only this fellow is the perfect blend.  
Everyone else was culled, too much white, or not enough.
Buff Mottled is proving to be a "tricky"color so far!

Many other chicks showed too much barring, all over.  Nice, but you have to watch the Barring gene, it can become dominant in a jiffy.  Use it sparingly!  Ha ha.  These will also be culled.

Beautiful!  Yet barred.  Lots and lots of Barred chicks in this group.
Another barred beauty that will be culled.  

Which leaves me with a few hens that look exactly like Sussex hens (but are really only half Sussex - so hopefully they will give me some new colors when bred to the right roosters.)  And one rooster who is a good mix of Buff and White, but sadly has the barring.  (I may cross him with the half Sussex hens?)  But he's the only decent yellow/white so far.  Besides the barring on the buff/white guy, he's also kind of small.

And last, there is this rooster:

The best rooster prospect so far.  Light brown, decent white, no barring so far.  
Good size.  Will see how he grows out.

This guy has gorgeous light brown color and white flecks.  Looks very promising!  Best of all, he looks NOTHING like a Speckled Sussex.  Ha ha!  It's pretty tough to make it into the Aloha program here!  If they're lucky - six chicks might make it into the breeding pen for next season.  Will update on the remaining roos and the few hens as they grow out.

More chicks in the brooder . . . more eggs in the incubator . . . here we go again!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Let's Get Hatching! (Again)

After a long delay, it's time to gear up for lots of hatching this spring!

I went out of town for the first three weeks of January, which meant I had to hold off on hatching out new chicks during that time.  Lucky for me, a friend of mine and fellow Aloha member, kept hatching in my place!  Larissa managed to get about 30 Aloha chicks.  They were partly from some of my eggs, plus some from her own Aloha breeding pen.  Yay!  So there are many New Year's chicks hatched and growing at Larissa's.  Will update with photos as hers develop.

Then she set two dozen eggs of mine, that I'd saved from a "special" breeding pen featuring Cheeto and a select group of four awesome girls.  The goal:  to scientifically determine once and for all, does Cheeto carry the recessive Mottling gene?

Above:  Fabulous Cheeto: 1/2 Buff Rock, 1/4 NHR, 1/4 Confetti Aloha.
But does he carry Mottling?

Well, the darn guy ended up only covering HALF the girls; because only 14 of the 24 eggs were fertile.  Ten were sterile and tossed out.  GRRRRR.  (A rooster should be able to handle up to 8 hens at a time, so covering only four hens should not have been an issue.)  This means my experiment isn't complete yet, as I don't know whose eggs developed and who was left out?  But it's a start.

The result was 13 healthy chicks in various shades of buff and gold.  All of these are "for sure" carriers of bright colors - just look at the moms!  So even if these baby chicks don't show mottling when grown, I can safely keep any of the hens, knowing they will carry some fabulous color genes.  Even if they appear solid when grown.

The new chicks!  All of these are Cheeto's babies.  Some hens will be kept for the program.

Remember - Sussex-type Mottling is recessive.  It can disappear easily when you breed Mottled to Solid, but it should come back later when bred to another mottled carrier.

According to "theory" - if Cheeto is a mottled carrier, because these hens all show color, the babies should be half Mottled, half Solid in color.  About half would show visible spots on their chest, wings, or tail, though the number of spots or the size of those spots may vary.

If he does not carry Mottling, the chicks will all grow up to be solid in color.  (Though there may be a stray white feather tip or random single white feather that is a "tell" that the gene is there, in hiding.)

Either way, the hens from this cross should be bigger in size, light in color, and good layers, and great for the breeding program.  All hens will CARRY the genes for spots, even if they don't show it.

I'm bummed that the eggs were not ALL fertile, because I don't know if this batch includes the offspring from my two favorite hens!  All four of these hens are fabulous, but I especially like these two:

Hen with bold spangles - 1/2 Sussex 1/2 Aloha

Hen with light "mille" pattern - 1/4 Sussex, 1/4 NHR, 1/2 Aloha.

The other two hens are also lovely, but I have to see if I can get Cheeto's lighter base color onto these Sussex/Mille color patterns.  One of my goals is to get a true, gold/black/white Mille on a big chicken.  (Similar to a Mille D'Uccle Bantam.)  The two other hens are also great in color and body shape, but they are red and white - not the Mille "tri color" pattern, so I'll put them back in the main pen for a bit:

A third hen in Cheeto's pen - yellow legs, and red/white mottled color.  Only black is in her tail.

So my next step will be removing the two red/white hens, waiting for these remaining tri-color hens to lay a few eggs, and taking those eggs to Larissa to see if they end up "blanks".  (Though I have no idea what I'll do if they are blanks?  Play romantic music in the coop?  Rose petals on the coop floor?)

Will update with progress on the new batch of fuzzy yellow puffballs!  Wish I knew exactly which of these hens are the moms?  Crossing my fingers and HOPING for SPOTS!