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 "Feathersite.com" 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".