Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rooster Review

I still don't have one "perfect" Aloha rooster.  The good news, is I finally feel like I have the right ingredients to make one, down the road.

Aloha rooster.
The closest to perfect that I've reached is this guy:

Note the extreme white on head and chest.
He has a nice upright comb, yellow legs, and great flashy color.  He is very tall.  Long, gorgeous flowing tail.  His main fault is he is a bit gangly or weedy, and lacks the depth and roundness I'd like to see.  If he had a deeper, robust body, he would be the perfect Aloha rooster.

This season, I have hatched out two more along the same type, though the colors vary somewhat.  (Which is good, I want color variety within the breed, so they do not all look like "clones".)  Here are boys who also have great color, but are lacking in build.  Keep in mind, both these boys are still young, and will continue to fill out for many months.  Neither are at their prime yet:

Brilliant orange and white Aloha.
Almost 6 months old, still filling out.
Only four months.  Still growing! 
I have kept all of these colorful guys as potential mates for the large and heavy-bodied Sussex hens.  While the first rooster pictured will probably be nicer than both of these youngsters, I don't want the gene pool to get too concentrated, so it's important I give a few other boys a chance.  These were the best I could find in terms of color and size combined.

However, I am really excited about the body types on the next two roosters.  These roosters are basically Sussex, not Aloha.  Sussex is a breed of chicken that comes in many colors.  The size of Sussex varies on the color.  Often, Speckled Sussex from a hatchery are the smallest.  Privately bred "show" type Speckled Sussex are larger.  Buff Sussex tend to be even larger than Speckled.  Largest of all are Light Sussex.  Light Sussex are HUGE chickens.

Mostly Sussex Rooster for size improvement.

Tail and neck feathers are "Dun" color.
The first rooster is from Light Sussex lines.  He is from the bloodlines of Paul's Rare Poultry "Cinnamon Sussex".  He shows the rare Dun color on his neck and tail.  Dun turns areas that are normally black on a chicken into a grayish brown color similar to "Blue".  However, he has been mixed with other stock, including Buff Sussex and Aloha.  His legs were very yellow as a chick, though they have since faded.  He may or may not carry Mottling.

As a chick, he grew much faster than his siblings, towering over them from the very start.

Shown next to an Aloha rooster - same age!
His yellow legs were visible as a chick.
He only became more massive as he grew.
Still showing yellow legs.
Currently, he is penned with some of my very BEST large Aloha hens to find out if he does carry Mottling.  I am wondering what his offspring may look like as adults?  If they are promising, this boy will be kept.  If they are not the right color, a few of the best hens from these chicks will be kept, and I will try to bring the color out in the next generation.  (While hoping his size and type carries through.)

Here is the breeding pen showing him with some of my best LARGE girls:

Six of my largest and best spotted hens are with him now.
These hens are all of good size. 
While he is a nice rooster, I would like to see a slightly larger comb, and longer tail.  His body color is totally wrong of course!   The fact he carries yellow legs is a nice bonus, as he is primarily Sussex breeding, and Sussex have the dominant pink/white legs.  The yellow legs were a pleasant surprise!

So, what is up with the "Dun" gene and why does that matter?  Well, if you look at the hens with black on them, imagine them with the black replaced with grayish brown.  You would have a tri color effect, with either red or gold, plus this brownish gray.  In fact, one chick was already born in this color!  She lives down the street with a batch of chicks that I gave a neighbor:

Neck feathers show Dun coloration.
Why is that interesting?  Right now, there is no large chicken that shows Dun and Mottling.  It would be a color unique to Alohas, and help make them different from Swedish.  The Aloha chicks with Dun may show a softer, more "pastel" coloration.

Another boy I'm really excited about is this guy:

Buff x Speckled Sussex Cross.
Probably 100% Sussex?  (No Aloha.) 
I am pretty sure he is 100% Sussex, and not Aloha at all.  However, that is good for keeping the bloodline "fresh".  He is a mix of Buff Sussex and Speckled Sussex.  He does show some mottling, so he is technically a "Mille Fleur" Sussex, though not a very flashy one.  That does mean his chicks will show spots.  We just don't know how much spotting?

I love his depth of body, weight, and overall quality.  He needs more spots, a bigger comb, and a longer tail.  I plan on penning him with some of my smaller super-spotty Aloha hens.

Aloha hen in front, Speckled Sussex in back.
This is one of the hens I'd like to breed him to.
It is my hope that if I pen the flashy (but small) Aloha roosters with the larger, more plain hens, and the flashy hens with the larger roosters, that when the two lines combine in the future, the right blend of traits will start to appear in one chicken.

I've already had a small number of hens that finally are what I've been breeding for.  Now it's time to make more, and start working on fine-tuning and "locking in" the right traits.

Eggs from the first pen - the big beefy white rooster of some of the best Aloha hens - are going in the incubator right now.  I can't wait to see how they develop.  Going to be a real mystery on what his "kids" look like?

The second pen that will include the large "Mille Sussex" rooster over smaller Aloha hens will come next, with chicks from that hopefully by late November or possibly December.

Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall Review

Thank goodness, summer is over at last!  It was a long, hot, tough summer in Phoenix.  Many chickens were lost throughout the Valley of the Sun.  I read many discouraging posts on Facebook from my chicken owning friends. June was especially brutal, because the heat rose so fast, the chickens did not have a chance to acclimate.  When temps shot from 95 to 115 in only one week, the poor chickens had a difficult time coping.

The smaller Alohas did fine in the heat.
Larger hens, like Buff Sussex, had a tough time.
As predicted, my largest chickens were hit hardest.  The small Alohas shrug off the heat, but the larger ones that I have brought in to improve size have a bigger body mass that seems to make them overheat more easily.  I lost two Buff Sussex.  I also lost a couple of Buff Sussex crosses.  Saddest of all, was my very special blue-eyed hen, the only hen I've ever seen with blue eyes.  She came from Swedish Flower lines.

My beautiful blue eyed hen.  RIP lovely girl!
My only comfort, is that I still have her son (I know this for sure because I penned only her in a cage with a rooster and hatched him from those eggs) and I also have a couple of hens that I believe are her daughters.  In addition to her blue eyes, the hen had a lot of white spotting, lanky build, and she had an unusually long neck, traits which her daughter also shows.

I believe this is her daughter.  (No blue eyes.)
I have her two daughters in with a totally unrelated rooster right now, and the son is heading the main flock this year.  Hopefully when the two lines cross back, we may see another like her someday?

After the loss of the blue-eyed hen our first brutally hot week, misters were installed, and I'm happy to say there were very few losses after that.  (I think only two?)  I believe the overall tally for the summer was a loss of five hens and one or two chicks, out of a flock of about 50 adults and over 100 chicks.  That's not a bad rate, but the few adult hens lost were really nice, and will be missed.

Lots of the chicks were raised to replace older hens, and I've kept about 15 new hens.  Some are shown below.

This pullet is 4 months and not yet laying.
Several more pullets, not yet laying.
This beauty is new to the flock, laying now.
Breeding is just starting up again now.  Late this year, because the heat wave continued into fall.  In August, we had 117 degrees, and October had another record of 106.  Temperatures would drop a little bit, only to spike back up again.  The high temperatures have resulted in few eggs.  What eggs are laid, have mostly been infertile, as when temps reach above 100 it can cause infertility in the boys.

I did a test hatch in July, and out of 84 eggs, only 30 were fertile.  Just 15 of those actually hatched.  15 chicks from 84 eggs was too much waste, so this summer my family was gifted with dozens of Aloha eggs for eating.  Considering the price of eggs at the store right now, this made me very popular at family gatherings!

Now it's time to regroup, and get going once again!  Blessedly, most of the Aloha flock survived, and I look forward to setting up new people with Aloha chicks again, probably starting sometime in November.

Two survivors of 117 degree temperatures.