While everyone’s been stockpiling random items from the supermarket, I guess you could say I’ve been stockpiling chickens. I’ve had young cockerels to butcher, between the age of 11-13 weeks. You may remember the discovery of red feathers on the blue Frodo cockerel, in the previous lot of youngsters and how I had then determined to get rid of all subsequent Frodo cockerels. But one of the first cockerels to go was the blue son of Duchess, who, although pretty, was the weakest one of the hatch and just wasn’t thriving like the others. But everything got thrown out of whack when I went to butcher him and discovered, to my horror, that he had red feathers coming through. Oh no. What had I done?!
A full investigation was launched as I trawled through my chicken records and realised, with great annoyance to myself, that I had been assuming that Darrington was the father of Chippee Hackee, Duchess and Ribby, when I had noted, and subsequently forgotten, that there was a possibility that Thomas (son of Frodo, culled soon thereafter), or (less likely) that Andrew (son of Annie) could be the father of one or more of them. How did I forget that?! Well, at least I wrote it down…
There are three main possibilities for why a son of Duchess, one of my ‘best’ black hens, and Chippee Hackee (former blue rooster and father of the current youngsters) could have a red-feathered mutiny:
- Duchess’s breeding was compromised by Thomas being her father instead of Darrington.
- Chippee Hackee was compromised by Thomas being his father instead of Darrington.
- Both were accidentally fathered by Thomas.
See now, the trouble is I’ve been breeding a little too fast and furiously in order to get results faster with my small flock. It is time to slow down a little now and wait for offspring to grow a bit more before making decisions. And keep up-and-coming cockerels out of the way of breeding time. Had I stuffed up everything? Were most of my chickens now useless? That’s what I thought at first, but as I calmed down and went through my records I realised things weren’t so bad, with the uncompromised hens of Tiggywinkle, Jemima, Morpheus, Trinity and Link. The last three were definitely fathered by Andrew. Phew! I didn’t stuff up the Annie/Andrew line. The four younger point-of-lay Frodo girls were also fathered by Andrew. Of them I want to keep the blue one, named Jenny Cheeply, and one black one, Helen Cluck. They are part of Operation De-redden The Frodo Line. The main problems here are:
- Duchess and Ribby are potentially compromised by Thomas. I was planning to sell Ribby. Duchess’ offspring must now be analysed or Duchess be sold as a layer.
- The current youngsters were fathered by Chippee Hackee, so potentially compromised from him via Thomas. Frodo’s and Duchess’ ones were potentially compromised from both sides, so they’ve all been culled.
It is very hard to know whether it is Duchess or Chippee Hackee (or both) who is compromised. My gut says Duchess was probably compromised by Thomas. It is harder to distinguish who the parent of a chicken of the opposite sex is. Chippee Hackee had physical similarities to Darrington and none of the other young ones have shown up with red feathers yet. But I will be watching them closely. Well, those that are left. I chose to keep just Tiggywinkle’s three offspring: a blue girl (the only girl), a black boy (the alpha) and a blue boy; getting rid of the youngsters who were grey areas from both parents.
But wait, there’s more!
This brings us to the current hatching scenario. This Duchess cockerel red-feathered discovery occurred just after I had set the third back-to-back lot of eggs to incubate. Of course. But it’s ok! Because Mr Anderson is definitely the father of these ones. I waited, at least seven weeks after Chippee was gone. Mr Anderson is the son of Andrew. All good. Green light. Phew! Except for… potentially the eggs from Duchess. Of course, if any of them grow up to have red feathers I will know Duchess is compromised. The other eggs are from Tiggywinkle (all legit) and Frodo (already consigned to watching them carefully). Now I’m really glad I’m hatching some of Mr Anderson’s eggs after his recent demise. Tiggywinkle boys from this hatch are the most desirable for future breeding roosters. I want boys. And I’m likely to get more boys than girls once again due to the high temperatures.
It’s helpful to be able to learn from mistakes. Instead of remaining annoyed at myself or giving up I am resorting to my usual determination. I am kind of eager to tackle this investigation and challenge myself to try and breed out the red feather genetics, at least from Frodo’s offspring, because her qualities make it worth pursuing. Unknown issues from a second side are another matter and time will tell the fate of some of the chickens that are grey areas. I’m glad I found out about my breeding bungle now.
Right, to the eggs we go! These eggs are the only chance of offspring from Mr Anderson.
Batch #1 started off with 14 eggs and got down to five after candling. Some were infertile and some were early deaths, attributable to the heat of summer. But I’ll take whatever I can get, especially now. They were in the incubator and the chicks have now hatched. First to hatch were the two Duchess chicks, which was exceedingly helpful, so they could be tagged with full certainty. Two of the three Tiggywinkle chicks hatched and the last one just didn’t hatch. The chicks are all black. The Tiggywinkle chicks are very important to me since both their parents are/were green lights.
Batch #2 and Batch #3 are on a rocky road. Batch #2 was incubated under a broody hen. Guess who? Paris. I know, I said I wasn’t going to let nutty Paris hatch eggs again, but she went broody so nicely, just at the right time and stayed broody when I moved her into the Big Cage. She is such a good broody with eggs, very quiet and dedicated, it’s just after they hatch that she gets a bit nutty. I thought I would give her another shot. She was doing a great job until she had an unfortunate run-in with mites and got off the eggs.
The Batch #3 eggs had to be put under Paris as well, after being labelled in a different colour, because the incubator ones were going into lockdown. Paris was sitting on a lot of eggs for a few days, which was a stretch, especially at this time of year in the crazy heat. As soon as the incubator chicks hatched, I cleaned the incubator and put the Batch #3 eggs in it. Unfortunately, due to Paris’ fidgetyness because of the mites, which are being dealt with, plus infertility in the later-hatched eggs, we are down to the small hope of only one or two hatching. Ah well, I am grateful for the little fluffballs we do have.