You know that saying, don't count your chickens before they hatch. So I've been trying to hatch chicks from this pen, before I announced that it exists. I have ONE chick hatched so far. He's about two weeks old at this point. Not much of a start, but it is a start. I've had the parents for over three months now. I guess it is time for the big reveal! I have Buff Sussex! And I have . . . something else.
I've been trying to find Buff Sussex for AGES now, to add to the Aloha flock. They were imported by Greenfire Farms from Australia back in 2010, but they are not sold by Greenfire any longer, and are hard to find from secondary sources.
Buff Sussex video:
I know their large size and light color would be the PERFECT addition to the flock. And as far as bringing in fresh bloodlines, you can't go any further than Australia! They are incredibly hard to come across, today.
Sometimes, I do a nationwide search on Craigslist, and doing this now and then, I have found stray Buff Sussex flocks in different places like Iowa and Washington state. Unfortunately, none of those folks shipped chicks or eggs, so they were all dead ends.
This past August, when after doing this random search one day, I found a pair advertised for sale on Craigslist in Southern CA! I thought surely the owner was mistaken, most likely it was a mis-labeled Buff Orpington. (The ad had no photos.) I tried not to get my hopes up. Imagine my surprise, when the owner sent pics, and yes, they were Buff Sussex!
Now, the plan was to find Buff Sussex, breed them to Speckled Sussex, and try to introduce the Mottled gene and basically create a Buff Speckled Sussex (or "Mille Sussex") and use that to improve size on the Alohas. Well, I looked at the photos, and it turns out, not only was this a Buff Sussex rooster - but someone had saved me the trouble and already ADDED spots!
Yep, the Mottling was faint, but it was there. A few speckles on the chest, a bit of white in the wing. We'd need a lot more, but at least the gene was present, which means, when crossed to Speckled Sussex hens, they should all show some degree of Mottling. Very few Buffs were imported, so no doubt the spots were from out-crossing to Speckled to expand the gene pool.
Okay, now here is where things get really, really, really weird.
The owner mentions, would I also be interested in a Red Sussex? At first I said no, because while Red Sussex are a very rare strain, if I'm going to use a red bird, the New Hampshire has the yellow legs that I'm looking for, instead of the pink legs of Sussex.
But later, when I talked to her on the phone, she mentioned the Red Sussex . . . was kind of strange. Like, strange how? She offered to send me a photo.
My heart stopped when she emailed me the photo.
Well, basically, strange as in . . . it's an Aloha.
|Big hen, yellow legs, tons of spots.|
Wait a second . . . I didn't make this!
I have never sent any Aloha chicks to the state where this hen's breeder lives. However, the breeder she got these from, has similar breeds to what I have been working with. Speckled Sussex, Swedish Flower, and more. The best I can figure, is that while trying to improve or expand bloodlines (Red Sussex, for example, have a very small gene pool in the US) this breeder used a similar cross to what I've been trying here, and in some strange, freaky happy accident, hatched out the "wrong" kind of chick, that has now found the PERFECT home.
It is possible that it is just a uniquely marked Swedish, perhaps. But it had a lot more white than any five month old Swedish hen I've come across. However it happened, whatever it is, someone created exactly the kind of chicken I'd been trying to make for years, and it landed back here in Arizona to join my flock. My Mom and I did a road trip, and the caring owners of this lovely trio met us half-way.
I hesitate to get my hopes up, because so far, due to a number of reasons, we've only managed to get ONE chick from this pen. First, when they arrived, the hens weren't quite old enough to lay, and the heat was still going strong. (It was 110 the week they arrived from CA.)
|This photo shows size, spotted hen smaller than Buff.|
Similar in size to Rhode Island or Speckled Sussex.
|Note size difference. Hen in front - a small gold-mottled Aloha.|
Behind her, the "mystery" hen who is full size.
To the right - a Dun Light Sussex hen, who is enormous.
I don't think it is the rooster's fault, because there is also a breeder pen of Silkies in the same budgie aviary. Two Silkie roos with several hens, and those eggs also had terrible fertility. I hatched two chicks (one Silkie, one from the Buff rooster) from three dozen eggs collected from the two pens. Therefore, the fertility issue has to be environmental, or I would have had better success with the Silkie eggs. It was not the incubator, because eggs from my own pen had a hatch rate of 80%. I am pretty sure the dim light in there is to blame.
So with trepidation, we have now moved the group to the outdoor pen, and I will anxiously be hoping for eggs to hatch. If this pen gets going, this could give us the final ingredient we've been needing for this program. We need a really HUGE rooster, with spots, who can overcome the size issue this breed has had from the very start.
|The NEW outdoor breeder pen. |
Three big Meyer Sussex, the Mystery Aloha.
One Buff Sussex, one Dun Light Sussex, one nice Aloha.
|It is possible for chicks from this cross to resemble the hen.|
The yellow legs color is recessive, so they would have pink legs.
My understanding of the Silver gene (that is the "white" color of the Light Sussex) is feeble at best. But I am hopeful that I could pull the Mottled colors back out in the next generation. A kind person on BYC was very helpful trying to better my knowledge of how to work with this color.
|This Dun Light Sussex rooster painfully illustrates my size issues.|
|Another shot of the Dun Light Sussex with tiny colorful Aloha hens.|
|I will move a few of the most colorful yellow-legged hens|
to the Dun Sussex pen, to make sure the chicks carry
the yellow leg color gene, even if it doesn't show.
(This hen is not laying yet.)
And if it does work, in one year, the Aloha Chicken Project could finally reach its goal of large, super-spotty chickens with yellow legs.
To be continued . . . .