Boys and Girls

I hatched some chicks this year, as I wanted to rear some replacement pullets and I had a few people needing cockerels, plus I had a couple of Sketching Chickens classes booked, and chicks are always fun to watch and draw. They remind me so much of little dinosaurs as they run around the garden in a pack with their huge feet and diminutive heads.

I only really like hatching eggs from stock I know will make a decent hybrid, as it’s easy to end up with a bit of a mixture which is fine if you’re just raising them for fun, but as I sell any birds I don’t need, I like them to be a good cross.

I have some pure Light Sussex but they are all “seconds”, and the rooster, Robert, is a bantam x large fowl so the offspring would all be a bit small in addition to potentially passing on their substandard genes. So, I chose my newest chickens to breed from. The hens are first crosses themselves: 2 Silver-laced Wyandotte x Rhode Island Red, and one Silver-laced Wyandotte x Light Sussex, and they are running with a purebred Rhode Island Red cockerel, called Ralph.

The pencilling is more pronounced on the RIRx than the LSx, and they also have a rose comb, unlike the single comb on the Light Sussex. I used 2 broodies to hatch the eggs – 3 in each batch. The first hatch produced 2 pale chicks and 1 dark, and the second, 1 pale and 2 dark.

Now, when you put a red rooster over a silver or white hen, the chicks are sex-linked, which means the males are pale and the females dark and stripy. This is different from auto-sexed chicks, where the males and females of the same breed look different (usually more or less spotty or darker/lighter), and a classic cross for sex-linking is a Rhode Island Red cockerel over Light Sussex hens, giving a brown hen similar to that of commercial fame: they are called Warrens and are a highly bred version of that cross.

So, I was interested to see if the Wyandotte had any effect as although that carries the silver gene, the RIR element in the hen might have skewed things. All the chicks have yellow legs of the Rhode Island, rather than the white of the Light Sussex.

So, here are the chicks. It’s interesting that only one of the chicks has a single comb; I’m guessing his mum is the Light Sussex cross:

I like the “splashy” colouration on the boys. The chick pictured below is particularly handsome, and I am looking forward to seeing how his plumage matures as he has beautiful rich brown flecks and beetle-green tail feathers and neck hackles. I think he is going to be a beautiful bird:

The hen from the first hatch is quite a uniform gingery-brown colour with very little black on her:

Here are the hens from the second hatch. They have some barring on their feathers – so not pencilling like the Wyandotte – and black on their necks. I hope they keep this colouring and it doesn’t moult out:

Here is the younger cockerel. He has a rose comb and more gold on him than his older brothers:

This is the first time I’ve crossed crossbreeds, and I am enjoying the variations. I have given some hatching eggs to a friend with a broody, so it will be good to see how hers turn out. They all have good temperaments although the hens are quite shy. I am allowing them to free-range most of the time so that they socialise with the other flocks – very important that they learn the hierarchy and how to behave with the other roosters and hens, and also develop “tin-training” so that they come to the rattle of corn in a old can. They are being fed growers pellets (as are the drakes, who are moulting prodigiously) or layers pellets when they are out with the older hens. The cockerels are going to be large; I would love to raise some for the table but I am still in need of some training in that regard…maybe next year…?

4 thoughts on “Boys and Girls

  1. Raise some for the table? Does that mean, um, eat? Love these birds… and you’re so right about the dinosaur thing… when I saw them a few weeks ago, that’s exactly what I thought. That, and the chicks and I share the same legs.

  2. Good for you Jen. I agree with you. A feast with bread sauce and stuffing and pure delight in every mouthful knowing how they have been reared and died!

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