Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fall 2016 Update

It's always a scary time from May to September in Phoenix, for all living critters who have to suffer outside temps.  This year was no exception, with February already in the 90's and we hit 118 by early June.  The high temps did not let up, and we nearly matched 2013's record for "Most Days Above 110 Degrees" - almost a full month in excess of 110.  (That's not counting all the 108's, 109's, etc. - of which there were plenty!)

The heat has NOT let up either - with record highs in October.  Breeding shut down, as all roos were rendered sterile.  I had a request for chicks in August, and I tried to incubate eggs.  Only 3 chicks hatched, out of 42 eggs.  Gave more eggs to a friend in September, and she had same results.  Gave up on hatching chicks after that, and for a while all my relatives were getting lots of free eggs from me.  Everything went on complete hold from mid July until mid October.

Finally, things are on the rebound, and I've got about 150+ fertile eggs developing right now in the cabinet incubator.  While days are hot, nights are finally in the 70's again.

This past summer, I did lose three of my best hens, a devastating loss.  Strangely, it appears not to heat, but to egg binding, and I've made changes to the diet that I hope will help in the future.  It may also have been genetic, as two of the hens were sisters and the other loss was their daughter.  They were laying very strangely HUGE eggs, and we even got one that was the mythical "egg inside another egg" which is crazy but really happens, there is a Youtube video of someone else getting one.
"Regular" Aloha egg next to a strangely huge egg.
Anyway, the best BIG hens were lost, and as is the typical case with Alohas, those teeny tiny not-quite-bantam sized 3 pound hens shrugged the heat off as they always do and sailed through the summer while some of the big spotty girls did not make it.   It felt like I was going backwards, not forwards, as the days wore on.  Every attempt to increase Aloha size is thwarted by the fact the little gals handle the heat in Phoenix so well.  (I suspect if I could just get some breeders in cooler areas this could be overcome so much more easily.)  

Remember this guy?  Son of the "white" rooster, he survived!
Remember last year my best rooster last season was a dud - basically infertile - and so most of the eggs hatched by those best hens were "blanks" and did not hatch.  So going into 2015's fall hatching season, it all seemed simple enough - just breed this great big nice roo to these fantastic hens and keep the babies to raise - it did not work out so well in reality.  I had to use the best formed boy who was also the wrong color, white with dun tail, and search for the few that were spotted.  Or use the more colorful small boys and cross with the bigger hens, which dragged the size of the chicks back down.

Now to some good news.  I finally have a rooster that I feel is "worthy" of those good hens.  (Only one of the four best of 2015 remains, but it's better than nothing.)  Here he is:

(if he is infertile I'm going to scream)
He is BIG.  Bigger than any of the other boys I have raised this year!

And - he is SPOTTY.  Way more white than any other boys that I raised.

The best out of probably 40-50 boys that I started - he stuck out as a great prospect from early on.

Only fault:  He needs yellow legs.  Otherwise, we're good!

(This is the Aloha rooster goal for maximum amount of acceptable white.)

And more good news, I did get a few hens that are pretty darn close to the quality of some that I lost.

Here are those yellow legs you wanted!
Also good news, is this little boy, who is darker than my favorite rooster but he's also showing a TON of white!  After last year, I realized the importance of keeping a "back up" rooster so I'm thrilled there is another promising one who is still growing out.  I am guessing it will be 6 to 8 weeks before he is mature enough to handle his own pen of ladies?  Still growing, he lacks confidence and I had a tough time even getting these photos as he's very shy:

Back up boy - already nice size.

Very faintly yellow legs.  Better than nothing.
Surprises for this summer:

*The BIG Sussex girls - a mix of Buff Sussex, Speckled Sussex, and Cinnamon Sussex - actually SURVIVED the heat!  I'm floored as they are massive gals and they are I think approaching 3 years old?  Surviving one summer in Phoenix is a hard task, much less multiples.

Laying is slow on these ladies, and the egg shells are showing abnormalities as they age, but I think I can get a few more babies out of them, hopefully with these bigger and super colorful boys.  Previously the only option was to cross them with small colorful boys or bigger more plain boys, as this season is the *first time* we have seen a rooster with tons of white along with absolute decent sizing.  I did not lose a single one of these large ladies, so I'm very grateful!

Also it appears we have two of their daughters, one from my flock and one borrowed back from a neighbor:

BIG BIG girl with great spotting - Buff Sussex lines.
Another survivor is the "original" hatchery Buff Turken hen who started my Aloha Turken line a few years ago!  At the time I only had one super colorful rooster - who was also a bit spindly - but now we have a few more options.  Here she is with the skinny boy a few years ago:

OLD PHOTO - showing Buff Turken w/ yellow legs + spindly roo.
I want to breed her to this colorful boy who is kind of smaller, but has perfect Aloha body form and color, including yellow legs, a long upright flowing tail, great spotting and a good comb.  He just needs a bit more size and hopefully that hen can provide it?

Very handsome, but small-ish Aloha roo for NN program.
This will create a new related line of Aloha Naked Necks to work with in the future.

This boy has also been penned with the Big Sussex Hens as he's got the flash, form and yellow legs.

All he needs is size - and he's not tiny mind you.  No where near Bantam, he's about Welsummer size.

The Turken hen is now probably 4+ years so along with my big Sussex girls, I'm running out of time to hatch their chicks.  Both the Turken and Sussex lines, while lacking on spots, have good size and body form to improve the Aloha flock in the future.

So my immediate plan:  Pen the fabulous big spotty new rooster with my best hens, and get those eggs in the incubator to raise ASAP.  It's already done - he is being kept with some lovely ladies right now - but it will still be another month before his DNA is "set".

Getting acquainted with his lovelies!
I will specifically be looking for good roosters from these new chicks, to use this Spring as there is a narrow shot to hatch in December and get a rooster that is of breeding age by May/June and slip one more generation of progress in Spring 2017 before the heat arrives.

Fighting the heat and keeping everyone alive was a battle but we have a LOT of survivors with the flock very full, in fact I've had to sell a ton of hens because I kept so many extras "just in case".  Enjoy some of the pics, there are probably 40-50 hens and 8 or so boys in the flock at the moment.

Many of these hens are showing better size and type, and while not HUGE like the Buff Sussex lines, they are what I would call "standard" size - similar to Welsummer or smaller hatchery Sussex.  In fact, I'd ordered some pure Sussex eggs and sold the chicks as they were *smaller* than these chicks raised with them!  So the Alohas are getting larger overall, it's just slow going.

And I still could use the boost of a large rooster with tons of white, which I finally have - in the past I had to choose either a small colorful boy, or a bigger plainer boy.  Although I've got only *one* boy like that for now - and he can't handle all 50 of my hens - so it's urgent that I cross him with my best big girls to get more good roosters ASAP.  That's my first order of business this Fall!

Congrats, Ladies!  You survived 118 degrees!  :)