Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bielefelder Alohas?

Recently, one of my Facebook friends, (who also has a few Aloha hens that she picked from me last year) posted photos of a pair of gorgeous roosters she was looking to re-home.  The roosters were both half "Bielefelder" which is a rare German breed, unheard of in the U.S. until Greenfire Farms imported them.

Marketed as the "German Uber-Chicken" the Bielefelder chickens have sold very well here in the USA, with Greenfire selling newborn females for $29 and males for $19 each, currently, as baby chicks.  They are supposedly terrific for both food and eggs.  Since I'm looking to make Alohas good dual-purpose farm chickens, these traits are exactly what I need in Alohas as well.

One rooster is a mix between Bielefelder and Rhode Island Red.  What is good about that, for my program, is I know through tests that the red color picks up spots with no problem.  (Unlike solid buff with buff tail chickens which would not show spots no matter how hard I tried.)

The other rooster is - most likely - half Aloha!  How about that?

I put them in with a few hens with color that I love, but these girls really need a boost in size:

Now, the funny thing is, I've been avoiding Barred chickens, because I know that a Barred rooster can turn the whole flock Barred in one generation!  So it's not like I hate the color when Mottling is added, it's pretty, but it can "take over" a flock quickly, and soon that is the only color you will get, if you aren't careful.

I recently learned more about "auto sexing" breeds, however, and I think I know how to use these boys in the program effectively.  I will keep only the barred girls, who may or may not also have spots - it depends on which boy is the daddy, and whether he really is half Aloha and carries spotting?  Most likely the chicks will be solid red and barred, just like the Dads.

However, I have learned that if I keep only the Barred hens from this cross, and breed them to a rooster with no barring - let's say a Speckled Sussex rooster for example - the hens will not have barring, and the boys will all have barring.  At birth, the boys will have a light spot on the top of the heads and the girls will not.  In other words, if I keep the hens of this cross and pair them with the right boy, I could be able to sex the chicks at birth, and raise ONLY the hens!

Every hen from this next generation would have a 50/50 chance of being spotted if paired with a spotted Aloha rooster.  The result of that cross would be 1/4 Bielefelder hens, with spots.

The Bielefelder carries the gene for yellow legs, which makes them a great choice for pairing with the Aloha / Sussex crosses, to try and add the yellow leg gene.  The hens from this cross could go GREAT with roosters from "Big Orange Roo" or spotted sons from the Dun pen.

The size of these half Bielefelder boys?  HUGE.  I took my "Big Orange Rooster" over to their pen, to compare size.  I thought my Big Orange guy was big, but not compared to these new dudes.  These half Bielefelder boys are still at least two inches taller, and also carry more weight!

This guy has some serious drumsticks.
I have collected eggs, and unfortunately I'm short on breeder pens, so I loaned these guys to my neighbor.  So I'll only have a couple dozen eggs to hatch, right now, but all I need is about 4-6 hens from this cross.  Since I gave the boys to my neighbor, I should be able to borrow them back for future use.

I have only three breeder pens right now, which makes it difficult to work on all the projects that I need.  This was an unexpected diversion.  Eggs are sitting on my counter right now ready to go in the incubator.  Hopefully, we'll see how the chicks look in a few weeks?

The Bielefelder  breeder pen, February 2016.

Big Orange Roo

The rooster that I was MOST excited about this year, is this boy:

He's so big and beautiful!  Not an Aloha, he's actually a pure Sussex.  A mix of Buff Sussex and Speckled Sussex.  Technically, he is mottled.  He does have some spots.  However, they are very small dots of white.  Not the riot of crazy spots that I like to see on an Aloha!

What that means - genetically - is that if I put him with my spotted hens, every single chick of his will have spots.  Some will have less spotting, since Dad doesn't have a lot, but every chick will share some of his big size, so it's just a matter of hatching lots and lots and lots of chicks, looking for the biggest chicks with the most spots, and choosing those to keep.

It sounds so easy.

Unfortunately, my Big Orange Stud turned out to be a Big Orange Dud.  My rooster needs Viagra.  (So many jokes abound!)  After I took the Dun rooster out of the breeding pen, and replaced him with this big boy, the eggs slowly became . . . infertile.
Huge pile of infertile eggs, going into the trash.
The pen filled with my BEST girls!  All those eggs going to waste!

When you see the hens in there, you'll understand why I'm upset.  Here's a few:

Above and below:  Same hen.  Orange spotted.
This orange spotted hen is the best sized true Aloha to date.
Pure Sussex hen - Buff with Mottling.
Aren't they pretty girls?  I'd love to have about 10 of each!

All of these hens shown are FULL size.  Not the small-ish "banty" size of many Alohas.

Here's a comparison for you:

Above:  Aloha hen with a (BIG) Buff Sussex hen.

Large Aloha on left, with small "mini me" Aloha on right.
Different "full size" Aloha on right.  Small Aloha hen on left.
I only have a handful of these "full size" Aloha hens with the perfect combo of size and spots.

The majority of my flock is smaller.  Bigger than Bantam - more like Leghorn size.

Well, it hasn't been a total loss.  There are a few eggs that are fertile - maybe one in 6 - so he is doing something.  At least, once in a while?

Here are some chicks that were hatched from the Big Orange Roo breeder pen:

There are a few other ones in there, a Naked Neck Aloha, and a few stragglers that still have the Dun boy as their daddy.  (Previous rooster's DNA can stay stored in the hen for up to one month.)  I could tell because a few of the chicks had the Dun rooster's white body color and that can't come from the Big Orange Roo.  But I can already see the chicks changing. from the Dun boy to the Orange roo.

Most noticeable difference?  The chicks by the Dun rooster all had yellow legs, and every chick by the new rooster has pink legs.  The pink color is dominant, so that's normal.  The surprise was how strong the yellow leg gene was in the Dun boy, that rooster did a great job on adding yellow legs to his babies.  Also, lots of orange and peachy colors in these new chicks!

(Above and Below) This cute thing has both
yellow legs and Dun color - probably by Dun Roo.

This lovely chick could be by Dun roo.  Shows promise.
I have managed to hatch even more chicks from that Big Orange Roo pen - these younger chicks have some by him in here, but also some by the Dun rooster, still:

Still too early to tell colors, really?  A few show real promise.  A few are still by Dun rooster.

And then there is this batch, which also includes a lot of Naked Neck or Turken Alohas:

Plus, there are 25+ eggs that are still in development in the incubator, due on February 13th!

So it's not a complete disaster, just a minor setback.  The 25+ eggs should all be by Orange guy.

New plan:  Put this orange dude in with a FEW hens - small girls with lots of white - but keep the number to only 3 or 4 hens, tops.  Keep the hen chicks with the most white spotting.  Maybe the smaller hens will be less intimidating for him?

Put the big Dun rooster in with my biggest and best girls, and keep anything with spots.  In my test hatch, that was only about 1 in 5 chicks.  I'd pick my future boys from the Dun boy's pen - where my very few girls with both size AND color are kept.  That would give me the best odds of increasing size in the next generation.

I have a good amount of chicks to raise.  Will be exciting to see their colors!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dun Project Update - Part 2

It's been a month since I updated with new photos of the Dun project.

To refresh, I took a huge, fast-growing Light Sussex / Aloha cross rooster, who carries Dun, and I put him in a breeder pen with 6 of my biggest and best Aloha hens.  Rooster's color was totally wrong.  It was hoped that I could "pull" out the recessive spots.

The dad to this group.  Right body, wrong color.
October 2015:  Breeder pen.  Above rooster with large colorful hens.
It worked, and out of 21 chicks, 4 were spotted.

Here was one of the boys last month:

And here he is now!
SON of the big White/Dun Rooster
Here is his brother:

Slightly smaller, but still large.  Dun carrier.
Most of the not-spotted chicks were re-homed.  However, I kept three light brown roosters with Dun tail feathers to grow out, just in case:

Growing the boys out - just in case.
Tiny white spots can be seen here, plus Dun.
I also kept one of the chicks that was colored more like Dad - for no good reason really?  She was just adorable.  If I don't keep her, I know of a friend who would love to have this chick in her flock!

About half of the 21 chicks were this color.
I'm VERY impressed with these chicks.  It really is a lot of work to hatch and raise 21 chicks, just to pick out a few spotted ones.  However, all of the chicks have been FAST growing - like the Dad - with yellow legs.

I am so glad I took a risk and kept the father of this batch, who showed totally wrong color but had traits like fast growth and terrific size, that I wanted to pass onto my flock.

Right now, the biggest male chick, is almost as big as my smallest full grown Aloha hens!  And he was hatched November 17th, which means he's not even a full 3 months old!  He will continue to grow at least until 5 months of age.

Largest mottled rooster from hatch.
What has been even more amazing is their personalities.  They are curious, and friendly, climbing all over my shoes when I go in to feed.  If I crouch down to take photos, one hen loves to perch on my shoulder.  They are cuddly, friendly, adorable, fast growing, and colorful - all the traits I was hoping to get in this breed.

The shoulder-perching chick
Orange-motted hen on ground didn't care to move!
Fearless towards humans, so friendly!
Meanwhile, I "broke up" this pen, after I hatched this group, so I could try my next cross.  I put the Big Orange Rooster in with the hens, but the orange rooster had fertility issues, (next post will be about that) so it looks like the Dun boy will go back in with my favorite hens.  We are going to repeat this project.  It will take a LOT of work to raise these chicks only to pick out the spotted ones.

However, the chicks that have been re-homed that were simply the wrong color have been a hit with their new owners!  I guess a good chicken is never a bad color.  Now that I've seen the results, I can sell the "solid color" chicks to new homes, confident the owners will get great chicks, even if they aren't spotted.

Very excited to get my Dun boy in the pen again.  It will take about 3 weeks to get his DNA back into the hens, and three more weeks to incubate those eggs - so we are talking mid March before we see new chicks hatching from this cross again?  That will still give me about two months to hatch lots of his "kids" and raise them, trying to pick out only the spotted ones, before the summer heat kicks in.

By May, the roos from this Nov. 17th hatch will be old enough to breed, and Dad will be replaced by the sons.  I'll be able to eeek out one last group of chicks by late May into early June, who can be raised over the summer and we'll try to "lock in" the wonderful traits I'm getting in this new strain.

Roo in front - Turken hens behind are adults!
Tremendous size for under 3 months old. 
I feel like FINALLY the Aloha chicken project is coming to a close - and now it will be a matter of standardizing the "project" into a finalized breed.