Monday, February 23, 2015

Turken Alohas!

It's been a long time since I've posted.  

Everything is going well here in Aloha World!  However, the breeder pens are still not done, though they are partially built.  We have demolished the old rickety original coop to make room for new pens that still need to be painted.

Without breeder pens, however, the Alohas and Sussex have been living (comfortably) in one huge mishmash of a flock, which has made it impossible for me to break up chickens into sub-groups to try for specific traits.

However, thanks to their unique single dominant gene, I have been able to track one breeder line - the Turken Alohas!  I have kept several Turken Alohas to raise - not because they are any "better" than any other group - but simply because their distinctive naked necks allow me to keep track of which bloodline they came from.  

Success!  Turkens with spots - added on one short year.
Why aren't other breeding projects this easy?!??
So, here's the story on these:

Last year, I noticed my neighbor had a few nice HUGE hens, that were that elusive pale butter-yellow Buff Columbian color I've been looking for.  Size - huge.  Legs - yellow.  Everything that I'd been looking for in outcross stock for the Alohas to improve size without ruining the colors.  I'd overlooked these hens previously, because of one distracting feature:  Their creepy vulture-like naked necks!

However, I read up on the Naked Neck gene, and it's a simple Dominant gene.  That means it can be easy to control, and easy to breed out, if I wanted to.  Nothing to be afraid of, in theory?  So, I set up a breeder pen to see if it would work.  I put a small, weedy, too-thin but beautifully colored Aloha rooster with these two big robust Turken hens.

Step #1 :  Take big buff hens, cross with skinny (but colorful) Aloha boy.
The result - about 8 Turken chicks.  All were buffy colored (good) and most were hens (even better.)

Step #2 :  Hatch out chicks, and keep the lightest Buff girls.
Spots go into hiding on first generation Solid x Mottled cross.
I sold the darkest colored hens and kept the lightest golden hens.  One hen even had small spots!

There was also a rooster who, also surprisingly, showed spotting!  Too nice to cull, I gave him to my friend Deb in Tucson, where he will be kept with Aloha hens.  The first generation Mottled to Solid cross chickens are not supposed to show spots - the Mottled gene is recessive.  Which says one of the Buff Turken hens I borrowed, may have been a carrier.

Too nice to cull - Mille Turken rooster "Robin" lives in Tucson now.
The Turken / Aloha cross hens were set loose in the pen with all the various roosters.  Two roosters were Buff Sussex / Aloha crosses, and two roosters were Buff Sussex / Speckled Sussex roosters that looked just like extremely LARGE Speckled Sussex, with small spots.  There were also Aloha roosters, spotty but small.  These smaller Aloha boys are lower ranking roosters, however, so the larger roosters would try their best to keep them away from hens.

F1 (first generation) Turken x Aloha cross.
Sister to above rooster "Robin".  The only F1 hen with spotting.
So the various Turkens were being crossed with various roosters, and being as they were all in the same pen, lots of possible crosses arise.  I kept seven Turkens from this F2 (second generation) cross.  Four showed spots, and three showed little to none.

Step #3:  Cross Buff hens that carry spotting back to spotted rooster.
Look for spots to return on some of the babies.  Keep those.

F2 (Second Generation) 3/4 Aloha (or Sussex) and 1/4 Turken chicks.
Spotty ones were kept, solid colors were re-homed.
I kept the spotty ones, and here are some photos.  I didn't write down an exact hatch date (arrrgh!) but I believe they were born around December 1st, which makes them almost 3 months old right now?  Size is excellent for "teenagers".  Which was kind of the whole point of adding the Turken - a size boost with light color and bonus yellow leg gene, that the Sussex, while large, can't give me.  Gotta get that yellow leg gene from somewhere.  Even though these kids have pink legs, I know they carry the yellow leg gene, which is currently in hiding in these babies, because it's recessive.
Photo taken a few weeks ago of the Sussex bred Aloha x Turken.
Hard to photograph because he's so friendly, always right in the camera lens.
That friendly Turken's daddy, a huge Speckled Sussex / Buff Sussex
Sadly, Dad hurt his leg and had to be put down.
The dark rooster is particularly impressive, because his Dad was the MASSIVE Buff Sussex / Speckled Sussex cross rooster.  I recently lost this rooster because of his huge size.  He perched in the barn rafters and broke his leg leaping down from that height.  The Alohas are light and good fliers, and can handle a drop of 15 feet, but that big guy was too heavy.

That makes this Turken roo especially valuable, as he is already huge like Dad.  And I know he carries the gene for yellow legs, and he has lighter color and big size from his pale Buff Turken grandmother.  He is much more valuable for the Aloha program than his dad was.  I hope I can keep him alive and well until June, when he will be old enough to breed.
Bloodline:  1/2 Sussex (Buff and Speckled)
1/4 Aloha, and 1/4 Turken
Basically, young rooster boy is 3/4 "big chicken" (Sussex and Turken) and only 1/4th "little Aloha chicken" (from that one skinny Aloha rooster) and while he does show a lot of black feathering from his Speckled Sussex daddy, there is enough light colored chickens in his background that I don't think the black will be too dominant.  He could be a great rooster not just for making Turkens, but for improving size and keeping spotty color on Alohas, too.

His siblings are also gorgeous.  I have two lovely hens and another rooster who has better color than the darker boy, but is not nearly as large.  They are a fabulous lot of chicks.

Now, don't get the wrong idea here - these chicks are NOT the only ones!  Yay!  It turns out there are a BUNCH more just like these babies.  I've been hatching out tons of Aloha chicks, and in every batch of 60-80 babies that I hatch, I'll scoop the the ones with distinctive naked necks out, and set them aside.  I sent maybe a dozen to Deb in Tucson, and gave my neighbor (who loaned me the "original" Naked Neck hen) about six Aloha x Turken chicks, as well.

The results from the babies that I kept were just too encouraging to not raise more!  Also, it's generally a good idea with any stock that is looking this nice, to spread them around, in case something happens to chickens at one location.  (Illness, dog attacks, etc, can wipe out a flock in record time.)

Above:  Various pics showing three of the four spotted Naked Neck x Aloha chicks that I kept.
In fact, this experiment worked so well, I am going to repeat the original F1 Turken to Aloha cross again this year.  Using the neighbor's big buff Turken hen, and a fresh new Aloha rooster.  Now that I have one that has good color, but ALSO decent size!  The big pale hen that started this line is still alive and well in the neighbor's yard.  I would like to pen her with this new Aloha rooster here:

He is colored much like the original small, thin, weedy rooster that I crossed with the Turken hen before, but he has much better overall body size than the first rooster.  So I've made improvements there, and while he's certainly not enormous like that giant Sussex who was so massive he hurt himself with his own weight, this Aloha rooster is a vast improvement over many previous boys.  He is a perfectly respectable size, and is still maturing and filling out, so he will probably get even bigger yet.

I believe he was hatched in September, and he has started to show interest in girls, though it will be another month before he is fully mature.  I think he may continue to grow and fill out for another three months, as he appears to have heavy Swedish bloodlines, and Swedish are slower to mature than many American heritage breeds.  Roosters in that breed do not seem to really fill out until 8 or even 9 months of age.
New Aloha rooster, of good size.  Swedish Flower bloodlines.
I think this second round of cross-breeding the larger Aloha rooster, with the Turken hen will get us an even better group of Aloha/Turken crosses to use next season!  If things go as planned, I would love to create some new girls and cross them with the darker colored Sussex/Turken big-bodied dark colored rooster that is turning out so nice.  It might take a little linebreeding to lock in the Turken yellow legs and buttery yellow base color.

Considering how fragile chickens are, however, it's hard to make any future plans.  As they say - don't count your chickens, and all that!

The Turken project has been fun, and to date, has worked beautifully and exactly as hoped.  Very encouraged by the process.  I wish other breeding experiments had worked so wonderfully.  The resulting babies are kind of creepy with their feather-less necks, but are super friendly happy, and healthy.  Now teenagers, they come running for treats and allow themselves to be held.  They are great chickens!  Friendly, happy, healthy and sweet.  Glad I took this little "detour" with the Naked Necks, as it is working out great so far.

I had trouble taking photos of this little roo, because he is so friendly!