Saturday, April 13, 2013

Little Yellow Legs Babies

Here are the chicks from the Little Yellow Legs pen.  So far, they have exceeded all my expectations.

I keep reminding myself that chicks will change a lot in color so I'm trying not to get too excited.  After all, we had the color completely drop from the feathers of the "Cheeto" chicks who likewise looked very promising at this age.  But it is so difficult not to do the happy dance when you see something like this in your flock:

There are two like this, and both appear to be hens.  (You can see the second chick behind this one.)  Both have yellow legs and both contain ZERO Swedish Flower bloodline.  (Good in terms of extending the gene pool in the U.S. while keeping the Swedish "look".)  I only wish that I had hatched more of whatever these are.

Some other promising chicks:

Not as much white on the above chick but she has fabulous light coloring.
This light brown chick has a large white chest and I wonder if she could color up later like a Sussex does?  Could this be a Sussex - without the dark Mahogany?  Also has the yellow legs I'm breeding for.

There is still much to learn about the Mottling gene.  Chicken color experts now say that the gene is the same whether it shows up in Sussex, Swedish, or Exchequer.  But here's the weird thing.  Sussex chicks start out solid dark brown on top, with white chests, and at four months the spots "spread" from the chest to the body, where they appear as tiny white dots on the feather tips.  Swedish chicks are born with tons of white all over, especially on the back.  But as they reach adulthood, a lot of the spotting just "falls off" the Swedish Flowers, and they are often left with just small white dots on some feathers.  And on Exchequer Leghorns, the babies start out looking like tiny penguins, with white undersides, black on the back.  The white spreads out around four months giving a 50/50 black and white "checkered" chicken.  The amount of white does not really change at all on Exchequers, it just kind of moves around on the body.

If this is all the same gene, why does it behave so differently?  Since my Alohas carry traces of all three of these breeds, plus an "unknown" Mottling factor from the Mexican stock, there is no way of telling how these chicks will eventually feather out.  The original Aloha stock, they would feather out with white on the back much like the Swedish Flower chicks.  However, unlike the Swedish, the foundation Alohas would not lose most of the color.  They would stay extremely spotted much like Exchequers.  It will be interesting, then, to see how this pen changes.  These chicks are mostly Aloha, but there is a bit of Sussex and a touch of Buff Rock from Cheeto's lines.  

And, while I told myself not to pick any roosters out from this batch, as they will surely be too small, of course there is the most adorable yellow-legged boy around.  Tons of white, and the most docile, friendly, and outgoing personality of all the chicks.  Zero aggression and pure curiosity.  I'm completely smitten with this little guy so far!

The last batch of chicks I raised, they dropped almost all their color at four months old.  So I will be watching this little rooster.  If he keeps a large amount of white to adulthood he may find a use here, despite his sure to be smaller size, by improving the amount of white spotting on chicks that are lacking color.  Not to mention the vibrant yellow legs he could help add to Sussex-bred hens.  Still much too early to tell.  But he sure is cute right now.

A lot of the chicks have a watercolor wash or "faded" look to them instead of clear distinct spotting.  Not a huge fan of that effect, so while lovely, I will cull any with that look.  I'm sure the hens will find nice homes with neighbors.

So that leaves about half of these as possible future members of the Aloha flock.  I see five or six that seem very promising, but we still have two more months to go before the final results are in.  Chicks will change dramatically between now and then.  Crossing my fingers that changes will be for the better.  I will continue to grow them out in this pen for two more weeks before culling anyone.