Breeding Projects

Isabel Welbars and Olive Eggers

(aka Isabel Crele Welsummers) – This is adding the lavender gene into my Gold Welbars. I am planning to eventually branch this into a “pure” line that lays dark brown eggs, and an Olive Egger line that lays dark green. Both will be autosexing of course. Currently, I am preserving the blue egg gene in each generation but setting only the darkest green eggs. This is the breeding plan I am following to darken the egg color:

  • Initial cross – Male Gold Welbar x Female Opal Legbar
  • Blue eggs produce f1 hybrids that are gold crele in color, but are all heterozygous for the lavender gene. These are 100% autosexing like pure Welbars and Legbars.
  • f1 x f1 – olive eggs set to produce the f2 generation. 25% of the f2 chicks are homozygous for lavender (isabel phenotype like an Opal Legbar). These can be easily seen at hatch and are autosexing.
  • Male Gold Welbar x Female isabel f2 – olive eggs set to produce the f3 generation that are gold crele in color, but are all heterozygous for the lavender gene. These look similar to the f1 birds, but tending more toward the Welbar phenotype.
  • f3 x f3 – olive eggs set to produce the f4 generation. 25% of the f4 chicks are homozygous for lavender (isabel phenotype like an Opal Legbar). These can be easily seen at hatch and are autosexing.
  • Male Gold Welbar x Female isabel f4 – olive eggs set to produce the f5 generation that are gold crele in color, but are all heterozygous for the lavender gene. These look similar to the f3 birds, but tending even more toward the Welbar phenotype.
  • f5 x f5 – olive eggs set to produce the f6 generation. 25% of the f6 chicks are homozygous for lavender (isabel phenotype like an Opal Legbar). These can be easily seen at hatch and are autosexing. These are the chicks that will be hatching in 2024.

Opal Legbars

(aka Isabel Legbars) The Opal Legbars I have had for years have a number of genetic issues I am working on improving.

  • Egg color – Ever since the original Opals were released, all the lines have been plagued with the presence of a recessive white egg gene. This is quite hard to eliminate as the test matings are not verifiable until a large number of pullet offspring have started to lay. Fortunately, there is a DNA test from a lab in FL that can determine the status of the blue egg gene (0, 1 or 2 copies of the allele for blue eggs). I did this for a portion of my flock in 2023, kept only offspring from the birds tested as homozygous for the blue egg gene, so that now my entire flock of Opals are homozygous for blue eggs!
  • Crests – The next issue, which I hope to fix in 2024 are the poor or non-existant crest on some Opals. It was easy to cull any cockerels without nice crests, and I am working a multi-pen strategy to provide 3 “grades” of Opal chicks in 2024.
  • Docility – The Opal cockerels are MUCH more aggressive towards people than the cockerels from my line of Cream Legbars. I kept a lot of cockerels in 2023 so I can eliminate any that are particularly aggressive. I do not think that mere selection is going to make fast enough progress with this. I am counting on the continual use of outcrosses to the Creams to reduce cockerel aggression as well as improve the crests.

Opal chicks for 2024 grading system – I want to provide low cost chicks for local flocks, as well as higher grade chicks for breeders. Since about half the chicks are cockerels, I plan to keep cockerels only from the highest grade pen.

  • Pen 1 – These are the “utility grade” pullets with cockerels that all have excellent crests. Pullet chicks from this pen are $10 each (same as last year when the pullets were not homozygous for blue eggs). Cockerels will not be kept at all.
  • Pen 2 – All these pullets (and cockerels) have superior crests. Breeders will want to get pullet chicks from this pen to give the best chances of nice crests. Pullet chicks from pen 2 will be $15 each. Cockerel chicks will not be kept unless they they show great crest potential, or I am not able to produce enough from pen 3.
  • Pen 3 – These are F1 breeders from a cross of a homozygous Opal cockerel and Cream Legbar pullets. All these have a cream phenotype, but are heterozygous for the lavender gene. Only about 25% of these chicks will be Opals, the others sold as non-breeder Cream Legbars (since they are likely “contaminated” with the lavender gene).
    Pullet chicks and any exceptional looking cockerels will be held back for 2025 breeders. Cockerels from this pen will be ideal to pair with pullets from pen 2, as they are 50% unrelated bloodlines (from the Cream Legbar grandmothers). These cockerels are $20 each.

I am giving first priority with the higher grade chicks to people who intend to breed Opals. If there are more grade 2 pullets than I have breeder committments for, then they will be made available to people who just want the best chance of getting a great looking pullet. Remember, their eggs and feather color are all the same between grades, only the cresting is in question.

For people looking to breed Opals, getting the best possible stock to start with will make your efforts much easier. My recommendation for breeders is:

  • 1 or 2 grade 3 cockerels
  • 2 or more grade 2 pullets
  • 1 or more Cream Legbar pullets to make your own backcross chicks

Lavender Gene Test

This project came out of my work with a genetic testing lab in FL. They were testing their lavender gene genetic test, so I sent samples from all my breeds that were lavender or known heterozygous for lavender. The results were unexpected.
All of the lavender large fowl (Ameraucanas, Marans, Opal Legbars) tested negative for the lavender gene! These were birds that were obviously lavender from their phenotype and their genes proven to be single gene recessives (a cross to non-lavender resulted in all non-lavender chicks, but the F2’s produced 25% lavender phenotypes).
All of the lavender bantams (Ameraucanas and Cochins) tested positive for the lavender gene, as expected. To determine if there are in fact 2 separate lavenders (genes or alleles), I crossed a (male) lavender cochin and a (female) opal legbar. The resulting chicks were all lavender phenotypes. If there were 2 separate genes involved (as the testing lab concluded), then all should have been black phenotypes. There are 2 possibilities to explain this (that I have thought of):

  1. There are 2 separate genes, but the effect of the non-black alleles are additive, so that if at least 2 of the 4 alleles involved with the 2 genes are non-black, then the phenotype is non-black (lavender).
  2. There is only 1 gene involved, but 3 possible alleles, instead of the 2 previously known. One of the alleles is “black” (no dilution) and is dominant over both other alleles, which are distinct in their base pair sequences, but have the same dilution effect, so that either of these alleles can produce a lavender phenotype, as long as no black allele is present in the gene.

Trying to figure out which of these is correct is the goal of my 2024 hatches. If some percentage of the F2’s are black, then the first condition is correct. If every chicks has a lavender phenotype, I plan to send some of their DNA to be tested. If there are any phenotypic differences in the lavender F2’s, I plan to note that and compare that with the genotype results from the testing.
The more technical breakdown is that if there are 2 separate genes, then the progeny should break down as a dihybrid cross, heterogygotes on 2 different locii. That gives 9 of 16 (56%) outcomes as having at least 2 of the diluting alleles, so 44% of the chicks should be black. If there are 3 alleles of the same gene, then 100% of the F2 will have a lavender phenotype, as neither of the original parents have any non-diluting alleles.

Finished Projects

It is hard for me to declare a project “finished”, but this is a historical list of breeds/colors that I consider to be completed. No line is ever perfect and all could be improved, but these are far enough along that I am no longer planning a breeding strategy for them.

  • Welbars, Gold and Silver – Technically, you could call these Crele Welsummers. Started this in, well I have to go look that up. Anyway, they are all that I need them to be for now.
  • Lavender Frizzled Cochin Bantams – I started with hatchery stock from Ideal (self-blue cochin bantams) and a single black frizzle rooster from a friend. The type of these is much improved from what Ideal sells, and now about half the chicks are frizzles. The frizzles look like dirty feather dusters to me, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. They certainly make great pets.
  • Black Mottled Frizzled Cochin Bantams – I started with a single Mottled rooster that came directly from Jamie Matts, as part of a “know your breed” project in a local 4-H club. The straight run chicks they got gave the 4-H members a surplus of roosters, and I scooped up this guy and a splash frizzle rooster. Breeding him to frizzled blacks from my lavender project, I created this line and they are now my favorite color in the cochin bantams.
  • Cuckoo / Lavender Cuckoo Ameraucanas – I started with a single lavender cuckoo rooster. He was only single barred, so only half his progeny were barred at all, but after several breeding seasons, I had a nice flock of these. I dispersed this flock in 2023.

Future Projects

These are not started, just “under consideration”. I’m not looking for votes, per se, but if anyone wants to work with me on these, it might move them to the front burner.

  • Isabel Welsummers – remove the gene for sexlinked barring from my Isabel Crele Welsummers. Roosters will be gorgeous.
  • Isabel Rose Comb Leghorns – made from the Opal Legbars, cross to a rose comb brown leghorn. Rose combs are less subject to frostbite than the single combs, especially for the roosters. Secondary project would be to get the rose comb into the Legbar gene pool.
  • Overberg Bantam ducks – I am hoping to recreate these from my current lines of Aztec and Miniature Silver Appleyard ducks. Secondary projects would be to reinvigorate the MSA and Aztec lines.