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Erminette - Page 2

post #11 of 68
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by mhemmer View Post


I am firmly in the camp that we should establish the Erminette as a breed.  I believe this represents the best opportunity to preserve these genetics for future generations.  In my opinion, just breeding for color patterns, allows these genetics to be spread thin – as they were once – and risk their disappearance.  It seems that breeders focusing on the color rather than type, is what took the Erminette to the brink of extinction in the first place.


At the same time, once we establish a breed and decent numbers, anyone can then transport the color pattern to other breeds and play as they wish.

Based upon what we have available to us today, I believe we should pattern our “breed” after the single comb, yellow legged, Rock type birds Hutt studied in the 1940’s.

Breeding plans/Goals:


Unless there is a strong group preference to another course of action, I plan to breed to the Hutt type.  I currently have two breeding pens and will begin some test hatching.  I have some appropriately marked pullets - four, and one hen.  My best cockerels are marked blue.  I have also kept some all-white birds.  My test hatching will determine the most color-productive combinations.  I will breed towards yellow legs whenever there is an option.  I plan to hatch 200+ chicks this spring.   It is my hope that this will yield some decent specimens, with the idea of finding enough quality breeders to begin to make some progress setting color and type.


I echo Anthea's comment regarding productivity. that will be in the forefront of my program.  They must be productive to be sustainable.  My group last year laid extremely well, this year's pullets are starting a little more slowly.



I am in complete agreement with you Matt on setting the Erminette up as a breed and working towards "Hutt's type".

post #12 of 68
Thread Starter 

Here are some pictures of my birds. You'll see some of the white ones in the background. The quality isn't the greatest, but you'll get the idea. Enjoy.


post #13 of 68
Thread Starter 

Here are a couple of pictures that I thought I'd share. Around thanksgiving time we butchered a few cockerels, I had one Erminette cockerel that was 6 months and 1 week old. He was solid white with white skin. Once he was dressed out he weighed 5lbs 7 oz. Last night my wife decided to cook him up so here's a picture of him on a 12 inch dinner plate. And yes, he is that big compared to the dinner plate. When my wife had him thawing out on the plate I said to thought, "I've got to get a picture of him on that plate, he's huge!"


And here is a picture of a piece of the breast with some mash potatoes and gravy. It was fantastic. I'm not a big chicken eater, but this one tasted more like turkey than chicken. Interesting, we'll have to see how the rest taste next year when we have more to butcher.

Edited by BurrOakHill - 12/31/15 at 5:42am
post #14 of 68

Good looking birds.  How tight are you culling?  I started with 25 chicks in July and culled down to two cockerels and six pullets.  Both both look very good, save for a very few red feathers on the head.  One of the pullets looks excellent, but the others are white or have very faint black/gray markings.


I had a friend caponize 3 of the boys and I am eager to see how big they have gotten.  I think she is going to harvest sometime this month.

post #15 of 68
Thread Starter 



Culling was outside of the norm for me this year. Of the 32 chicks I received, I only ended up with three pullets. So, I had no opportunity to cull on the pullets. The rest were males, but only two were colored properly and of those two, only the one obtained a size worth reproducing. So, at the moment it's just the four of them. I'm planning on hatching every egg from now till August and raising all of them to 4-6 months before I cull, so I should have a nice selection of young stock to work with. If I need to add some individuals, I live close to Glenn and we'll be trading eggs off and on so I'm not too concerned about culling deep.

post #16 of 68

I understand completely.  I gave two pair to a customer/friend.  These had orange/red spots on them and she is going to try to breed for that combination.  Any black spotted chicks she gets will be given back to me and any orange/red spotted chicks I hatch will be given to her.   I also gave a number of lesser cockerels and a couple of pullets to Anthea Herring who is responsible for getting me into the Erminette in the first place.


All of my retained birds (actually, the entire hatch) turned out to be good sized birds.  They dwarf my Icelandic and my bantam Cochin, of course.  The two cockerels I kept are stately and elegant looking birds.  They and the six pullets are docile enough that they feed out of my hand and let me stroke them on their backs a little.


Just wish they would start laying.  They were hatched June 29, 2015.





post #17 of 68
Thread Starter 

They should start laying soon. I've found these to start laying later than other breeds, but considering their size, that's not all uncommon. I've read in many of the old poultry books that in the older breeds the pullets that start laying from 6-7 months lay a larger egg than the pullets that start laying from 4-5 months. Now, these books were written long before the hybrids of today were produced so keep that in mind.

post #18 of 68

Thanks.  One I gave away laid about two weeks ago, but just the one egg so far.  I guess I am just getting impatient to start incubating my own.

post #19 of 68
Thread Starter 

I'm getting that itch too. I had the birds on layer feed gearing them up and one pullet started laying a month and a half ago, but then she started eating some of the saddle feathers on the cockerel, so I switched them back to a meat bird feed with higher protein and added a mixed grain.This took care of her pecking for feathers and they continued to grow at a quick pace, however, it stopped the eggs from coming.

Yesterday I added the layer feed and pulled the meat bird feed. So, eggs should be coming soon, and hopefully this time their growth has reached a point where she won't pick up her bad habit again.

post #20 of 68
Thread Starter 

I've been receiving some feedback lately about what to breed for when breeding the Erminette. I've included below some pointers to get people started in the right direction. These pointers are based on the historical accounts of the breed with some notes at the end concerning breeding challenges and some of my opinions about what should be expected by those who choose to breed these birds.


Breeding Erminettes

What To Breed For 

  • Yellow Skin

  • Suggested white to black ratio – 85% white, 15% black. Others may suggest 80% white, 20% black. This percentage will be settled once a formal Standard is put into place. The pattern should be similar to Exchequer in coloration (keep in mind the pattern is completely different genetically than an Exchequer)

  • White feathers should be solid white, black feathers are ideally solid black without traces of white markings such as spangles, streaks, etc.

  • Ideally legs should be solid yellow (genetically the birds are based on the E (extended black) e-locus so this may end up being an impossibility on the Erminette and the black colored individuals). If all things are equal between two individuals, then select the one with the least amount of black pigment on the legs.

  • Combs single, medium sized and straight. Historically combs were pea, then rose, then single. However only single remains today and seems the most desirable at the present

  • Size (For now breed them as big as you can. We don’t yet know the full potential for this breed on size. Currently, no person breeding these birds has a fully matured male or female. (Glenn lost his old birds). Glenn never weighed his old birds, so we don’t know what to expect from them once they hit mature size). Initially, I’m aiming for cockerels 9lbs, cocks 11lbs. I would like to see the pullets at 7lbs and hens at 8.5-9lbs. I don’t know if the females are capable of getting there or not, but let’s wait and see what comes after a couple years of breeding.

  • Shape – there is some variation here at the present, but numbers are still too small to gain a real ‘feel’ for type. This should be something worked out over the next 5-10 years as numbers are increased and a steady, recognizable type begins to be established.

  • Eye color bay


What to Breed Against

  • The blue gene. No blue color in the feathers. No solid blue birds - Blue is a disqualification

  • Red coloration in the feathers. No red should be present - Red is a disqualification (The Red 'version' or 'Gold Phase' that Glenn refers to in his catalog is actually a separate breed which looks the same as the Erminette only the feathers are red. Genetically these are COMPLETELY Different and should NOT be crossed! You will get a mess if you do so. These two types were crossed in the past and nearly caused the extinction of both breeds. It has taken years to try to segregate these apart. Some remnant remains of this cross - red and blue feathers for instance, and white skin).

  • White skin

  • Large combs

  • Combs that flop to one side, especially in the females

  • Small sized individuals

  • Too many black feathers (individuals which appear too close to Ancona in color should be culled out when given opportunity). 


  • Erminettes are currently mostly gold based birds. Individuals who wish to show their stock will need to keep their males out of the sun so that the white feathers stay white on the hackle and saddle. If they are allowed in the sun the white feathers in the hackle and saddle will gradually turn gold from being exposed to UV rays. Silver based birds will not do this. If there are silver based individuals in the Erminette I have not yet seen them. You can tell the gold/silver base by looking at the chick down. If the white down looks yellow in areas they are gold based. If the white down has no yellowing and is smokey gray in various parts, then they are silver based. Of course, regardless of base color, the black spots will still be visible in the young birds which possess the Erminette coloration. Black chicks will have black down and the gold/silver base is unable to be determined. Under no circumstances should a bird be shown that exhibits ANY gold or red leakage! This should be a disqualification once a formal standard is put in place.

  • Genetics

    • The genes which comprise the Erminette are as follows – Extended Black (E), Dominant White (I), and modifiers which allow for the leakage of black, thus creating solid black feathers.

    • The correct Erminette color is actually a heterozygous color with the birds being homozygous on the extended black and hetero on the dominant white – EE Ii. As a result when two Erminette colored birds are bred together the breeder will hatch out solid black chicks (EEii) which have no dominant white genes, solid white chicks (EE II) which have two dominant white genes, and Erminette colored chicks which have only one dominant white gene (EE Ii). When a solid black and solid white are bred together 100% of the offspring will hatch out Erminette colored.

  • Challenges when breeding Erminettes

    • There are three main challenges when breeding these birds

      • Getting the proper skin color and breeding out the unwanted genes. Skin color is challenging because white skin is sex link dominant and yellow skin is sex link recessive. So, in short, not only do the typical dominant/recessive rules apply, but adding the sex link feature means there is added force set against the yellow skin color.

      • When breeding two Erminette colored birds, half of the offspring will not possess the proper color. That doesn’t mean that the solid white and solid black can’t be used in a breeding program, however it means you have a lot less opportunity to get all the desired type, size and color genes on the same bird.

      • Modifiers. The Erminette is a breed which derives its unique coloration from the modifiers which allow the expression of black when only one dose of dominant white is present. These modifiers create ‘holes’ on the bird where the white is restricted and the under color is allowed to be seen.  Were as color genes and pattern genes are generally steady and very predictable, modifiers are very fluid and generally unpredictable in how they will express themselves. That is why it is advisable to breed two Erminette colored birds which have the appropriate white to black ration together as your odds of producing chicks with the same degree of color expression will be higher. While it’s possible to develop a strain that is consistent in producing stock with the proper color balance, there will always be individuals who will have too many black feathers or not enough black feathers. As mentioned earlier, one can breed a solid black to a solid white, however the modifiers will be all over the place and you’ll get a very wide range of black expression in the offspring.

    • To summarize, the lack of individuals with the proper size and color, combined with the production of off colored stock, combined with the precarious nature of the modifiers set the stage for the challenges which face any individual who decides to take on this breed. These challenges can make it much more difficult to produce consistent stock than someone who’s breeding a White Wyandotte for instance. There are already enough challenges in breeding stock which has been selected over 100 years to type and has a steady color such as the Wyandotte. So taking on something like the Erminette will take decades of steady breeding if not generations of men and women who steadily breed to type to get it to the point where it can compete with the Standard breeds. And all this has only touched the traits effecting color and type, we haven't even touched productivity yet. You can quickly see how the goal of productive, beautiful birds of good type can take many years to achieve.

    • The above comment is not meant to discourage individuals from taking this breed on, but is designed to hopefully give a clear vision of what is required of individuals who choose this breed. It is better for the breed to have people not choose this breed based on what is required to take this breed to the next level, than to have numerous individuals take stock, breed them for a couple of years without any serious improvements made, and then discard the stock. Many rare breeds experience this and it does more damage than good. It creates a lot of inferior stock and causes the public to form a negative view the breed. The negative view is then carried over to the fickle and (unfortunately) the serious breeder alike without discrimination.  This makes the uphill struggle of reaching APA acceptance all the more burdensome and the uphill terrain a steeper angle.

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