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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.

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Changes for 2023

Every year I “tweak” the way things are run with chick hatching. Mostly that is getting some new breeds and getting rid of other breeds. In 2023, I am planning to cut back on the numbers of chicks I hatch for sale. Most of my flocks are smaller now and will produce fewer eggs than last year. I want to concentrate more on my genetics work to create new color varieties. For anyone wanting new and unique birds for their flocks, I will often have surplus chicks with great genetic variation.

Breeds that are new in 2023

In 2022, I added several new breeds of chickens, plus my first geese. After expanding my flocks, I should have these to sell in 2023:

  • Ayam cemani – these chickens are almost mythical. All black, and I mean completely black. Their blood is red and their eggs are normal (light brown), but everything else is jet black – eyes, skin,combs,wattles,flesh, even their bones. These are prized for their meat in some Asian cultures, but are really just pet chickens, IMO.
  • Ayam ketawa – the Laughing Chicken. These are close to wild jungle fowl in appearance and behavior. Rooster’s laugh is supposed to sound like laughter. Haven’t found that to be true in my flock yet.
  • True Blue Opal Legbars – Previous years, the Opal Legbar chicks could end up laying light brown eggs instead of blue. Because of breakthroughs in genetic blood tests, I hope to use only roosters with 2 copies of the blue egg gene, guaranteeing that their daughters will lay blue eggs.
  • Sexlinked Ameraucanas in black and lavender – These are the culmination of years of genetic work to overcome the greatest drawback of standard bred Ameraucanas – they are not sexable at hatch. These sexlinks are sexable, and they are pure Ameraucanas. Blacks are easily sexed, lavenders a bit harder, but still sexable at a much younger age than the Ameraucanas I used to sell as straight run only.
  • Sexlinked Olive Eggers – These were new in 2022. What is new this year is that I am using Copper Marans instead of lavender Marans for the black sexlinks. Hopefully that will produce darker green eggs.
  • Lavender Olive Egger project – Unique line of autosexing lavender birds that lay medium brown or olive colored eggs. Project is still not complete, but offering some of these for sale for the first time. They are Welsummers that contain genes for sexlinked barring (making them autosexing) and lavender, as well as some having a copy of the blue egg gene making their eggs dark green.
  • Jumbo Coturnix quail – 2 color varieties and a sexlinked hybrid of the 2 for those interested in raising all females for egg production
  • Shetland ducks – a lightweight egg layer breed that is calmer than the Campbells and Welsh Harlequins I have raised in past years. They are also super rare, so having more people keep flocks of these is a help in conserving them.
  • Hybrid laying ducks – I am taking hints from Metzer’s hatchery. They sell a hybrid duck called a Golden 300. They don’t say what they use to create the hybrid, but looking at the pictures, it seems pretty obvious that they are using Khaki Campbell drakes over Blue or Black Swedish hens. The Campbells are top-notch layers, but much too nervous for my taste. My flock of Shetland ducks are much calmer, more like the Swedish breed, but lighter in weight, and a result, probably better and more efficient layers, so why not use them instead of Swedish? I recently obtained some nice looking Khaki drakes and will be pairing them with some of the Shetland ducks. This will be a new cross, so no track record here, but if you are looking for locally bred laying ducks, I think these may be just the ticket. My goal with this hybrid are ducks that look like, and lay like, pure Khaki Campbells, but have a calmer disposition. Oh, and as a bonus, the ducklings are sex-linked, males will be black and females will be khaki (brown).
  • Pilgrim geese – Autosexing geese. These are medium sized and a very practical breed if you want to try adding geese to your flock. Goslings that are hand reared become deeply imprinted on humans. Geese are often used for protection of other birds. They are large and can be intimidating for the smaller predators.

Breeds that are being retired in 2023

This will be the last year I have these chicks available. I would love to find a local breeder to take over supplying these chicks. Contact me if you are interested.

  • Lavender Marans (keeping Copper Marans)
  • Lavender Cochin bantams (keeping mottled frizzles)
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Cabinet Incubators

I have experience with several makes and models of cabinet incubators.


Dickey Incubators

Cheapest to buy new. Sturdy, all wood construction. Excellent basic incubator, this is certainly the best value for the money.

GQF Manufacturing

These are the most commonly used in the US. Parts are readily available from multiple vendors. Often available used and used ones can be a great value if you are handy and can take them apart to clean and replace any parts that have failed. Middle of the road, this is a good choice for a first cabinet, as lots of people can help you with use, care and maintenance.


Imported from the UK, these are expensive to buy and parts are expensive, if you can even find them in the US. New, they come more complete than the others, including egg trays and spacers that are extra for the others. All that said, this is where I put my most valuable eggs, the ones that can be tricky to hatch (geese, peafowl, etc).

General Comments

  • Why do all the manufacturers insist on using cheap hardware? These are major investments that people intend to use for decades, so why not use stainless hardware to avoid the inevitable rust? It could not cost that much extra when building them and you would gain a reputation for quality just from that alone! It just makes sense.
  • Brinsea and R-COM are the top of the line in non-commercial incubators. If you have the money to invest, buy them instead of the cheaper domestic incubators, you will have better hatches. It is interesting to me that on the Strombergs page the Brinsea 580 is exactly twice the price of a GQF 1502, and the 580 holds exactly twice as many eggs. I see many cases where people get 2 or more 1502’s. If you planned to buy 2 1502’s, why not get the Brinsea 580 instead? If I were starting over buyng incubators, that is what I would do.


Follow these instructions to re-calibrate your Command Center 3258

  1. Set your LCD to (SET TEMP 100) degrees and give the incubator time to stabilize.
  2. Turn off the incubator 
  3. Press the Cooler and the Auto buttons at the same time and hold them down
  4. While holding these buttons down, turn power back on to incubator… hold buttons for (6) seconds
  5. After holding the two buttons for at least (6) seconds, release them.
  6. You will see “SET TEMP” and either a (+ or – number) (example: -1.0)  The factory default is -1.2
  7. Use the temperature up or down button to adjust the command center.  (Ex.  If you are 1 degree high (101), then you’ll need to use the cooler button to lower temp. – 1 degree) You can add or take away temperature until it matches the desired instrument (thermometer/hygrometer) you are using.
  8. Run the incubator until your thermometer and LCD are reading as close together as possible. —- Humidity—-
  9. While the incubator is still on, press and hold the cooler and warmer buttons for 5 seconds. When released, the humidity calibration screen will appear. Here you can adjust the humidity to your trusted hygrometer. TO EXIT THIS MODE: Either press and hold the cooler and warmer buttons for (5) seconds and release. Or you can turn off the incubator and then turn it back on again.

Dickey Incubator Instructions

GQF Incubator – replacing rusty screws

I am cleaning and refurbishing my 1502 cabinet incubators. I bought stainless steel hardware to replace the rusty ones that GQF uses. Why can’t they put stainless hardware on a $700 incubator? The environment inside an incubator is warm and humid, perfect for rust formation.

For future reference, or to help others doing the same, these are the specs for the hardware: #8-32 x 3/4 inch flat head machine screws #8-32 x 1 inch machine screws (only a few of these, but you could use them in place of the 3/4 inch ones) matching hex nuts #8 x 1/2 phillips hex head sheet metal screws

I will update this if I replace other fasteners.

Some of the screws were too rusted to extract. I used Duro Extend to treat the screws to delay further rusting. It would have been better to replace these with stainless before they got this bad, but sometimes you have to make do.

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How to make money hatching and selling chicks

If this was advice on how to “get rich quick” you can be sure I would be charging you money for the info, rather than publish it online for free. The only way to make a million dollars in the poultry business is to start with 2 million dollars. If you manage to break even you are doing well. And you will be working for free, or at least far less than the minimum wage, such are the economics of this hobby.

If you really think you have what it takes, or just want to try, here are the “secrets” I have discovered over the years:

  • Explore your local market – see who else is selling chicks and how much they are getting for them.
  • Invest in premium stock from reputable breeders. It takes as much feed and time to maintain a flock of Easter Eggers from a hatchery as a flock of standard bred Ameraucanas. I have had people drive many hours to get real Ameraucanas, then pay 5 times what TSC sells their EE’s for.
  • Pick breeds and hybrids that have some existing demand. A corallary here is that chicks that you can sex (autosexing or sexlinked) will sell much better than straight run. I have found that I sell at least 10 times more pullet chicks than straight run. Your market may differ, but will still be very small if all you offer are straigh run.
  • If you sell pullet chicks, figure out ahead of time what you will do with the cockerels. Don’t assume people will buy them, even if cheap or free.

What breeds sell best ?

Anything that is sexable and lays unusually colored eggs.

Sexable chicks

Sexable chicks have special genetics that make the sexes look different at hatch. This uses the special case of genes that reside on the sex chromosome. Males have 2 copies of these genes, whereas females have only 1 copy and the breeder takes advantage of that difference with carefully arranged matings.

Autosexing Breeds

These have become very popular since the introduction of Cream Legbars into this country. They remain the most popular of these breeds, for very good reasons. I keep flocks of these breeds because they are so easy to sex and lay a lot of eggs, making them my best sellers.

Sex-linked Hybrids

While the autosexing breeds all look somewhat similar in pattern (because they have the gene for sexlinked barring), sexlinked hybrids are typically solid colored pullets. Not all the crosses you can make with sexlinked genes are possible to sex at hatch. For example, the color dilution genes blue and lavender make the chicks much harder to sex by the presence/absence of the head spot.

There are 2 types of color sex-linked hybrids:

  • Black sexlinks – This uses breeds whose base color is black and where one breed has the gene for sex-linked barring and the other breed does not. Female barred rocks, for example, can create black sexlinks with a wide variety of breeds that are non-barred. Both parent breeds contribute qualities to the chicks, so if you use, for example, a black Ameraucana rooster with your barred rock hens, all the pure black chicks will lay light green eggs.
  • Gold/Silver sexlinks – The very common production sexlink is of this type, a white rock (actually silver in color, which looks white) hen and a Rhode Island Red cock (these have the gold sexlinked gene). Resulting chicks are gold/red if female and yellow/silver if male.

Straight run chicks

Selling chicks straight run has benefits for the seller – you can raise any breed, not just ones that are sexable at hatch, and you don’t have to dispose of the male chicks. However, you will certainly find the market to be much, much smaller. It can be hard to even give away straight run chicks at times. Go ahead and try it if you are really that sure you can sell the chicks, I hope I am wrong in your case.

If you want to sell unsexed chicks, keep your scale small and do your research about what breeds are truly in demand. Polish are an example of a breed that even hatcheries sell straight run, because the extra males are quite useless to everyone. If I bred polish, I could sell a few each year, probably 5 or 6, no more. But if you find out what breeds are in high demand (and this changes from time to time), you can do much better. These are the breeds that were in high demand in 2022 and will likely remain in demand for a few more years:

  • Ayam cemani – the all black chicken that even non-chicken people have heard of. Some breeders advertise high prices to give these an air of rarity, that it is a privilege to own these birds. That is an entirely artificial market restriction meant to maximize profit. The other end has novice breeders selling anything that hatches from an egg laid by a bird they bought as an AC. Many of the cheaper birds should be culled, or at least not sold as pure AC. If a chick has any white skin, even the tip of a toe, it should not be considered an AC. I think there is a market for good quality at a fair price ($99 per chick is not a fair price, that is absurd!).
  • Copper Marans – no other Marans are as popular and you can sell Copper Marans for a while even if the eggs they lay are not very dark, but eventually your market will slow as customers realize your chicks are just like they get from the major hatcheries. If you want to sell Marans, buy broodstock from the best breeders with a reputation for dark egg lines. You might think that you should buy eggs then, and that might work, but eggs are risk and Marans eggs are extra hard to hatch, even if not shipped. The prices you get per chick are less than the AC, but the market is broader and if you can learn to hatch the darker eggs effectively, you can make back the feed money on these birds. It is more effort to work with Copper Marans lines that lay dark eggs, you must constantly select for the darkest eggs, which tends to make productivity and hatchability suffer. There are lines of Copper Marans that have become legendary for very dark eggs, but these tend to die out from inbreeding or other problems. Keeping a line healthy, productive and still laying dark eggs, is a substantial challenge.

That’s the list, I don’t know of any other breeds/colors that will sell as straight run with any regularity.