Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sussex Size Boosters - Growing Up

It's been a busy and miserable Phoenix summer!

Not only were there the typical hot temps to contend with, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer back in March, causing a lot of concern over the last few months.  Her treatment ran from May through July. Thank God, her first scan post-radiation and chemo gave the all clear, so I finally feel OK enough to update this Blog.  In case you were wondering why so quiet lately.

I did hatch and raise about 80-100 chicks through the summer.  There were supposed to be more.  A lot more, actually!  I was expecting a final batch of Aloha chicks that didn't hatch as hoped, so instead of raising 100+ Alohas, it was more like 40 Alohas plus the other breeds.  Considering the rough time I was having with family issues, maybe this was actually a blessing in disguise.

The chicks that I've been raising were of several types.  First hatched - the Sussex crosses!  These will be used to improve size.  Size is good on all, and many either carry Mottling or show a little, but they are more for the improvement of body type.  The idea will be to cross them with my most colorful little Alohas.

The big Buff guy with one small Aloha, plus Speckled, Cinnamon Sussex, etc. hens.
Another shot of this Mixed Sussex breeder pen.
Next hatched - Turken crosses.  What??  Actually, it has nothing to do with the Naked Neck.  I found a lovely, big, yellow legged hen next door (who happened to have a Naked Neck as well) and tossed her in with a very colorful but too weedy Aloha.  It was her size and beautiful golden blonde buff color that interested me.

Loved this roo's color but he was too thin and light in build.
These Turken hens had great size and light color.
The result of this cross was MANY lovely darker buff Turken hens.  Only one inherited Mom's super pale buff color.  One shows mottling!  The rest are all a deeper medium buff with yellow legs and all show signs of being Mottled carriers.  Her baby girls will be laying in a couple of months, and when crossed with a colorful Aloha, many of the chicks will be spotted, and half will have "normal" necks.  The spotted, normal-neck chicks will be kept for the Aloha program.

This August pic of one of the Turken crosses displays Mille color.

August pic of the Turken / Aloha cross shows much lighter Buff color.
The nice side benefit of the NN addition, is it will be easy for me to keep track of those chick's parentage when I set up breeding pens!  I can easily tell who these sisters are.

Last hatched were "regular" Alohas.  Hatched in June, these newest babies won't be laying until November or December.  A few of the most colorful hens will be kept to cross with big roosters.  I will sell the "improved" Aloha chicks to new homes all Spring.

9/20/2014 - Aloha pics.  These girls won't be laying until November earliest.
Look at my yellow feets!!!
(Nope, this is not the same hen as pictured above.)
I have yellow toes, too!
Not the same Alohas as pictured above.  Pics show five different Aloha hens.
We've got a strong breed type in this group!
The Sussex crosses are most interesting.  These were offspring mostly from a Buff Sussex rooster that I managed to get my hands on in August 2013.  He came with two lovely hens.  Then, we added a Cinnamon Sussex hen and a few Meyer Speckled Sussex to fill out the breeder pen.  These are some of the resulting chicks!  A lovely blend of many types of Sussex.  All are large.

The three I picked up from California.
And, here are some of the resulting offspring from the California Sussex - at long last!

Buff Sussex hens should add size without darkening color on Alohas.
Another Buff Sussex hen already shows Mottling.
A Cinnamon Sussex hen w/ Buff Sussex rooster!
(Dun color on tail and neck, Buff on body.)
Some Buff Sussex hens already show hints of Mottling.
Dad was Buff Sussex over Speckled Sussex hens.
Look pretty much like SS but a touch lighter.
"Cinnamon Sussex" hen.  Tail and neck are "Dun" color.
These young pullets are just starting to lay.

Also from a different small breeder pen, were two nice Sussex hens with a part-Sussex Aloha roo who had yellow legs.  A couple of large hens, even some with yellow legs, were the result!  I would estimate these hens at 60% to 70% Sussex, with the remainder mostly Aloha.  Small pullet eggs are being found in the nest.  These hens, the first to be hatched, are most likely laying now.
Stunning hen.  Not sure parentage?  
Aloha x Sussex cross.  She has some size as well!
Left to right:  Buff /Speckled, Buff Sussex, and Sussex/Aloha cross
Aloha x Speckled Sussex cross hen.  (Yellow feet.)
I have been hatching small batches of Aloha chicks from my few remaining layers in the original pen.  Fourteen chicks have been hatched.  About 40 eggs are in the incubator now.  All of these chicks will be kept and raised to keep.  The oldest chicks already look fabulous.

Now I have collected about 40+ MORE eggs from both pens.  Until I get new breeder pens built, and can set up more controlled breeder pens, I'll keep the chicks hatched in the month of September and then start to sell chicks locally again this Fall.  Right now the chickens are free-range, running about having a great time, and any chicks hatched will be lovely but there will be no way of telling what rooster was with what hens!  These "mystery chicks" will be quite nice for local chicken keepers.  This year's chicks should show much size improvement over previous years, thanks to some monster-sized Sussex running about!

When the smaller sized but extremely colorful Alohas mature, the goal will be to cross the big, round Sussex types with the most colorful Alohas and try to finally wrap up this breeding program!

2015 could be a big year for Alohas.

Aloha rooster hiding in the bushes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Small Summer Flock

Recently, I re-homed almost the entire Aloha flock.  A small group of my best (Pumpkin roo and several nice hens) went to a close friend.  I can still get hatching eggs from that tiny group, if I wish.  The rest went to a lovely pet home that I inspected personally.  An acre of land with lots of shady trees to climb and play on.

There were six young hens that I couldn't bear to re-home, however, even though my new plan is to start "fresh" every year with an all-in, all-out management policy.  These hens just started laying in the last month or so.  These are the closest I've come to the project goals.  A couple were featured on the last Blog post.

Here are a bunch of the most recent photos with evaluation of their good/bad traits.  I'm happy to say on some of these hens, they are almost totally to project goals.

Above:  This hen is a Sussex X Aloha cross.  I'd like to see a little lighter base color, and golden yellow legs, not pink, but she has great size and gorgeous tail shape.

This part Swedish hen has incredible size, and the added Aloha bloodline has improved her spotting.  However, she has a tiny trace of a crest from her Swedish ancestry, and her tail does not have the nice "fan" shape, it's peaked a bit at the top.  I'd grade her color and height as perfect, but her body shape could use a few improvements.

I find the Swedish tend to be more "lanky" chickens than American Heritage breeds.  They grow a large frame first, and then eventually fill out.  However, it often takes a full year for Swedish to finish growing.  Their eggs also start small, but eventually become Jumbo sized in year two.  American breeds such as New Hampshire are typically finished growing by six or seven months, and all American breeds that I've raised tend to mature much faster.  I've had New Hampshire roosters breeding at 5 months while the pure Swedish boys were still totally clueless at 7 months old.

She will probably grow into her long neck and perhaps widen a bit over the coming months.  However, I still prefer the overall body shape and type of the half-Sussex hen.  This hen has better color and is taller, though, so for right now I'd grade the two as being equal.  Both need improvements, but are nice colorful, large hens.

Here is the hen that I highlighted in a previous post.  As she fills out, her long (Swedish) neck is beginning to look less awkward.  Overall, she is the closest to the Aloha goals.  I would like for her to not look quite so unbalanced, with a straighter, shorter back.  She has a "downhill" build and needs more height in front.  But her tail shape is good, she has great size, is deep through the chest, has a ton of white feathering.  She does not look like a Speckled Sussex, and neither does she look like a Swedish Flower.  She is something totally new, which is what I was hoping the Aloha breed could become.

I do believe she has the potential to create the "perfect" Aloha babies!  I can't wait to hatch out her chicks!

Next is that cute little baby hen that I took a photo of perched on the water dish last time.  She's still adorable!

Her overall color is the best, in terms of being the most unique.  In Swedish, you do see the "Mille" coloring which is a gold color with black and white spotting.  However, I have not seen this particular orange mottled color with black tail striping in any other breed.  It's very unique to the Aloha strain.  I call the color "Ginger".

Her body is OK.  It's compact and fairly wide, but could be deeper and more square in the keel.  The tail set is all right but not as "neat" as the half-Sussex hen's.  Feathers look a bit messy.  I'm trying for a neat, tidy fan shape in Alohas.  She is more balanced than the previous hen with all the white, without the "downhill" effect, but she is not nearly as large.  She still is a wonderful and really flashy hen, however.

And speaking of flashy, there is also this girl:

Her mom was my most favorite of the Ginger hens.  Mom Aloha had amazing spots and a gorgeous cinnamon orange color, but was small, gamey in type, with slate legs.  This hen has similar flaws but is a huge improvement over the mother in terms of type.  Yet she kept almost all of the good color traits I liked about the mother hen.

Her legs are slate but have an overlay of yellow, which means she carries the gene and her chicks may shed the last of the gray leg color.  This is an improvement over Mom who did not carry the yellow leg color.  Her body shape is thinner, and smaller, with a too-straight and too-long back.  However, she still has more heft and weight than a regular Game hen.  Here is a photo of a Game hen from the wonderful chicken breed site "" so you can compare the two.

Much of the Aloha coloration is from Mexican and American Game stock.  Games are very popular in Phoenix, both because fighting was legal until very recently, but also because Games are strong, tough, hardy chickens that handle heat extremely well.  They are not "fussy" chickens and live off very little while still being good layers of small eggs.  This makes them popular in neighborhoods like mine, where they can live in a semi-feral state.

You can see she still has many hints of her Game heritage, but is not nearly as slight or leggy in build.
She is also the most shy and wary of all the new hens.  I'd vote her "Most Likely to Survive" if a dog attack or illness invaded the flock!  So we're not totally there yet on this one, but she's still a wonderful little hen.

And then we have this white-tailed hen, who also shows a lot of Sussex influence, but mostly has Aloha showing through:
She has a ton of white and a lot of flashy color, but is not quite as deep bodied as the half-Sussex behind her.  Still another beautiful hen.  Great Aloha color and better type than the older, smaller hens.

For now, I have two Sussex-Swedish bloodline roosters running with them.  These boys could use more white and a lighter base color, but they are big with excellent body type and bright yellow legs.  They will help improve the size and type on their chicks.  My favorite in terms of color is this guy with the reddish neck:

Bright, bright yellow legs.  They show Swedish influence in addition to Sussex, and since the Swedish are slow to mature I expect him to get even bigger over the next few months.  His brother is darker, and shows more Sussex breeding.  I don't like all the black in his brother's coloration, but the brother is even wider and heavier in build.

My neighbor also has an enormous and very-spotty rooster, who right now is exactly the same size as her pure Rhode Island rooster.  (And here I thought the Rhode Island of hers was large!)  I may borrow him later this summer to try with the hens, but for now, this little group has a lot of potential.  I want to hatch out chicks from these while my Aloha babies mature.

I've hatched out and am raising about 100 baby Aloha chicks, but those will not be laying until November or December of 2014.  Here is a photo showing just a few of the new babies that will not be mature for months:

I'll post more about the babies later.  Right now many of them are going through too many changes.  Many of the youngest are still in baby fluff.  It's not until they are three or even four months old that I can start to tell if the chicks will work in my breeding program or not.

This little group of adults shown will be the only source of "new" chicks here at home.  But what a nice tiny flock it is!  I'm very excited to see what hatches from these.  Here's a few group shots of the Summer 2014 Aloha flock.
What a future Aloha flock will look like.  Yay, progress!!!
Two hens shown in this pic, the all white and all brown hens, will be re-homed soon.
The spotty hens are the "keepers".

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Peek Into the Future

I've had a few Alohas growing out from this past Fall.  Not a lot, just a handful of random chicks.

Most are really lovely, but typical Alohas.  Fantastic colors, but smaller in size.  Not Banty, but like a small Leghorn.  Here is one girl, who is just so darn adorable.  Perfect in every way.  Except size.

She's not ridiculously tiny, so I'm keeping her to try her with a larger rooster.

Here is another really pretty Ginger hen.  She shows slightly better size than the previous generation, and has yellow overlay on her slate legs.  She does show the lovely "tiger stripe" tail feathers that I love in the older Ginger hens.  Another who is beautiful, and colorful, and totally lacking in good body size.

That's been pretty typical of the past couple of years.  Many gorgeous hens who would be perfect, if just they were bigger!  The size issue has been such an obstacle.  It seems the second I get a hen to full size, the spots disappear.  I was beginning to think maybe it just wasn't possible?

But over the last few months, I've been waiting for this BIG baby girl to suddenly drop her color.  Here she is pictured on April 4th.  She clearly stands out next to her "normal" tiny Aloha siblings:

That monster-sized girl to the left.  Towering over the colorful little girls.  But, is she going to lose that color?

So, now 22 days have passed, and this is what I see today:

There she is now.  That's a full grown, pure Speckled Sussex behind her!  Another shot:

Pure Sussex behind and in front of her.  

Here she is again, with her itty-bitty and really pretty tiny Aloha sisters.

OK, now that we've established size, on with the photo spamming:

We are still not 100% there, but this is REALLY darn close to the final goal.  I'd like to see a little more depth and width to the body.

She has a looooong neck that doesn't show in the above pics but is more apparent in others:

And her tail set is a bit low.  Here is a photo of her SISTER who has other flaws (not quite as big as this girl, has pink legs) but sister is being kept for a breeding hen because she has a great tail and also shows wonderful extreme white coloring.

This is more of the tail set I'd like to see on the Alohas, a perfect boxy upright fan shape:
*NOT the same hen as above - her sister!
Note pink legs, heavier shading towards back, and fan-shaped tail.
Last, here is another wonderful hen growing out.  She is clearly half Speckled Sussex, but you will note, she is Sussex "with a twist"!  Much lighter color, a bit more pronounced spotting:

This hen is a perfect "in transition" hen.  She's not an Aloha yet, but halfway there.  I can see her chicks could possibly be wonderful Alohas.  Her size?  Exactly the same size as a regular Sussex.  Here she is shown with a hatchery New Hampshire Red, which are larger than Sussex:

I would eventually like to see the Alohas at the same size as a New Hampshire, which is why those NHR hens are in there!  I already have two half-Aloha, half NHR hens up at Stephen's house.  They were hatched in January, which means they are about four months old.  Both are large and show a stray white spot that indicates they carry the Mottling gene for spots.  So that big red hen?  Her daughters, are doing great, and her grand-chicks should be showing spots next year if all goes well!

This is a photo of the group of chicks back in January, that I raised and took the best of the group (three roos and about seven hens) up to Stephen's.  They are about four months now, and next month I'll really be able to see final size and pick out who to keep and who to sell.  Looks like only three or four hens will stay, and maybe one rooster?  Out of 30 chicks raised.  Such a lot of work to find those gems!

But it's all worth it when you do find a pretty one!