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Blue Egg Genetics in Legbars

It is not a secret that most of the breeders of Opal Legbars are struggling to have all blue eggs. This is especially problematic because the gene for white eggs in recessive, so it hides easily in a flock. It does not help that the roosters never lay any eggs, blue or white. The only way to ensure you have eliminated the white egg gene is to have the bird genetically tested. That gets expensive, fast. My flock coming into 2023 was all sired by a male that was known to have no white egg genes, but the mothers could have 1 or 2 copies and still lay blue eggs. Statistically, at least half will test as having 2 copies.

I started by testing the 5 cockerels, 3 were found to be heterozygous and were removed. The remaining 2 have sired all the Opal chicks since 2/15. The pullets are all laying blue eggs, but could have just 1 copy, so at least half should have 2 copies of the blue egg gene. That means up to half could have 1 white egg gene. For a breeder to buy and test these chicks is costly. Tests are $20 to $25 each and you will likely find half the results are not the genetics you are looking for, making each “good bird” you find cost about $50 in testing alone. That is the financial basis for charging $50 per pair for the chicks from the “tested as true blue” flock.

But there is a cheaper alternative for breeders to be able to offer Opal chicks in spring 2024 (and beyond) that they know will lay blue eggs. This describes how to do this as economically as possible.

  • Purchase the desired number of Opal pullets for $10 each. These will have 1 or 2 copies of blue egg gene, but it does not matter, as you will get that from the cockerels.
  • For every 8 to 12 pullets, purchase a “true blue” Opal cockerel for $25. These are the key to making sure all the chicks you sell will lay blue eggs. One cockerel can father dozens, even hundreds, of chicks over the season, making this very economical.
  • If you want to also offer non-opal legbars, purchase some Cream legbar pullets as well. They will live with your flock of Opals and be mated to the same Opal cockerels. You will not be able to tell their eggs apart, but the chicks are easily differentiated, so you can sell both colors from a single pen.
  • To plan your replacement flock (producing chicks in 2025), keep some of the non-opal chicks from the Creams you added, male and female. These are true blue as their cream mothers also had 2 copies of the blue egg gene. When you breed the F2 generation from these, all chicks are true blue and always will be in future generations.
  • Only about 25% of the F2 generation will be Opals, so save some of them and build your future flock of Opals from the F2’s. You can also save some of the non-Opal siblings so in 2026 and onward you can still produce both colors from a single pen, all homozygous for the blue egg gene.

This plan will allow you to build your own flock of true breeding Opals, while producing salable chicks each year to pay for the feed. The alternative is to wait and buy true blue chicks in 2024. They will be much cheaper then because my entire flock of Opals will be producing them. But you will miss the entire spring 2024 sales season, which will more than pay for the costs of buying some pricier cockerels in 2023.