Saturday, August 18, 2012

Boring . . . And Interesting.

My flock is looking a bit boring right now!

For one, I didn't keep up with my usual hatching schedule last year.  I keep only the best few from every batch of chicks.  So out of one group of 25 chicks last fall, as an example, only 2 hens made the final cut!  With those kind of statistics, I have to hatch a LOT of chicks to fill the coop.

In addition to traveling so much last year, I had eye surgery in May.  All these things got in the way of hatching.  Luckily, we have a new breeder (Stephen) up north, who is currently raising two May batches of chicks (about 50 babies total) that should hopefully net us a nice breeder pen to work with.  I haven't seen photos but Stephen says they are "very colorful" and look good.

Another breeder in the East Valley hatched out TONS of chicks.  Which was, unfortunately, followed by tons of predator losses.  I did manage to snag this survivor from his pen.  She's very, very small with zero improvement in size, but we did get the yellow legs on her, so that's still some forward progress!  (They are very pale, but they are yellow.)

This small size issue is why I had to breed some of my colorful girls with a big, solid color rooster (Cheeto) to try and get some more genes for big size and yellow legs in there.  Predictably, the hens show little to no color, but there are clues that the Mottled gene is lurking, ready to burst out into spots in future offspring!

Behind her is a pure Buff Rock hen that is slightly younger.

Note white-tipped wing feathers.

White feather tips in tail, white feather tip on wing.
This one hen is a beauty, and she clearly carries Mottling.  Unfortunately, she did not inherit her dad's yellow legs, but she has the depth of body and overall "farmyard chicken" body shape I'm breeding for.  If she stays healthy, I can see her being a valuable asset to the flock for years to come.  I can't wait to cross her to the Swedish Flower Rooster.  My hope is that the chicks will come out looking like Mille Swedish in color, some with the yellow legs of the Swedish dad, but that perhaps some will show the upright tail set of this hen.

From this cross, I will pick out any hens with yellow legs, upright fan-tails, and spots.

Add yellow legs - add more spots - and this body type would make a great Aloha.

Size of this hen means the babies should be "pretty much" as large as a regular Swedish when crossed to a Swedish rooster.  That photo of her with the purebred Buff Rock hen show that she's not tiny.  Buff Rocks are big, meaty chickens!

Note white wing feather, and YELLOW legs!
She's a little bigger, but still pretty small.
Do I cross her to Spotty who is also small?  
I also have other hens from the Cheeto cross, about three or four, that have yellow legs and are shades of buff in color.  Many show a tiny white feather here or there, a little clue that spots are lurking.  I'm not sure what to do with them yet?

I held back a dark mahogany and white rooster from this same batch, because he had a fabulous long tail and TONS of spots.  He's the most Spotty rooster I've seen here!  Also, while his "base color" is the same deep Mahogany color of the Speckled Sussex, he lacks the black markings.  In other words, Speckled Sussex feathers go "mahogany/black stripe/white tip" on their feathers.   I'd rather see a lighter base color, but he does have an absence of black and great big blobs of white.  Those traits do make him unique - and something beyond a run of the mill Sussex rooster.

Did I mention he was small?  And so are the hens!  They are a bit better than the last generation, but only the hen with the pink legs really picked up serious size improvement.

Okay, so what I'm going to do with Spotty here, is cross him with those two pure Buff Rock hens.  I'll be looking for chicks with yellow legs, and hopefully I'll be able to identify some improved tail sets on some of the hens.

You see, one of the features I'd like to keep if at all possible, is the upright "fan tail" of the original Aloha stock.  To see what I mean, here's the foundation hen, Kona:

Fan-tail on Kona, foundation Aloha hen.
 I do like a happy upright tail on the hens and a long flowing tail on a rooster.  I'm glad that a few of my hens still carry this trait, but it's in danger of being lost as I introduce more Buff Rock and New Hampshire Red bloodlines into the mix.

I have been so focused on color that in the process I've often neglected type.  So my chickens this year are looking a bit plain, while I try to see what I can do to fix this.  Unfortunately, my breeding experiments are showing that the small chickens have been very reluctant to increase in size.  At this point, I fear that I may end up having to go as high as 75% "outside" blood to only 25% "foundation Aloha" before the mix shows any real size improvement.

I wonder if I can keep the cute tails while increasing size and adding spots?

I do love the colors on my small girls!  Check out the newly molted Confetti hen.  Her tail is still growing back in.

Four Ginger girls were also kept.  They're tiny, and they have gray legs.  But boy do they have pretty colors!  I kept two of Cheeto's sons, both are beefy guys with yellow legs.  Will attempt to improve their body type and remove the gray legs.  (And hopefully keep color?)  I'll also try them with the pure Swedish rooster.  I love the Gingers!

Pardon me, I'm still molting

This Ginger hen is molting, too.

In total, I have about 10 small but very colorful "older generation" Alohas to work with this year.  I also have two nice Sussex X Aloha hens, two pure Buff Rocks, and about four daughters of Cheeto with slightly larger body size, some with yellow legs, that will hopefully improve type.  I only wish it wasn't such a challenge to get these gorgeous small Alohas up to full size chickens!

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