Here is an article that I wrote for the June edition of the IBCC Bulletin. I've been sharing this information with various breeders for the past couple of years and it's been unfortunate that this hasn't grabbed ahold with a firmer grasp. I've shared this information with Glenn and via Glenn to Phil Sponenberg (Glenn saved the breed in the early 1990's before outside blood was added in and Phil perfomed genetic testing on it to determine the genes involved). What was missing was the information regarding the melanizers. For far too long a common thought has been that the original Iowa Blue was over melanized (as per Ideal type birds, and a thought I've been firmly against) however it appears that they were originally undermanized birchens. Glenn and Phil both shared that it was in their opinion the breeders should place their focus on what is written below and Sandhill Preservation Center has spent the past three years working in locking this in and I've been active with Glenn in selecting his stock and lining up breeding from a genetic standpoint. Modifiers are still 'loose' but Glenn is getting closer.
At this point in time I believe that the original Iowa Blues were in fact what is described below and that the mottled and striped chicks were off types (albeit they grow up looking the same just as they did in the past) based on the fact of the overwhelming information of first hand accounts stating that the chestnut colored chicks were the "right chicks" and the ones selected for. Both the eb and e+ would be recessive to the BR so they would crop up without warning. I caution; black birchen colored birds are incorrect, undermelanized birchens are. When I first got started with the Iowa Blues Glenn said to me, "The key is the chestnut chicks, hatch them in mass and select for color at adulthood and you'll get the original Iowa Blue color back". One of the biggest struggles has been that we didn't have alot of chestnut chicks at first when we started our conservation work and all were at that time over melanized. Add to this the fact that Ideal had the birchen base right but the color 100% wrong, and you can quickly see how things spiraled out of control and caused our club years of confusion. However, now we're getting undermalnized birchens showing up and it is obvious that Glenn was pointing us in the right direction this entire time.
We are once again starting to see expressions of this happening in various flocks across the nation and my sincere hope is that the breeders will start to focus on these and give proper attention to this coloration. If we do, once again the Iowa Blue will "look blue but not have the blue gene" as our historical accounts so ardently declare. Hopefully by posting this here, it will generate the needed interest. More to come on this in the future.
Undermelanized Birchen Based Birds
For all you Iowa Blue genetic junkies out there, here is something I stumbled upon that I found intriguing. Before I start, I want to remind everyone that both the Birchen and Charcoal colored birds are built on the ER (Birchen gene).
The male on the left is a Birchen based Old English Game male (BR on the e-locus) with weak melanizers. This male does not possess the blue gene (Bl) even though he looks a slatey-blue color. Notice when the melanizers are reduced on this male, that his breast is lightened and has a blue effect on the ground color, also he has a fading in the secondaries which gives him the appearance of having a duckwing, but not quite. His tail lightens to a blueish ground color and he loses all black coloration in the hackle, shoulder, back, and saddles. Now, compare this to Herman on the right, there is a lightened ground color on his breast, body, as well as a slight lightened coloration on parts of his tail. His secondaries are lightened and he is nearly pure white on the hackle, shoulder, back, and saddle. Could it be possible that the Birchen based Iowa Blues (Birchen and Charcoal) were actually under-melanized as opposed to extra melanized?
Would it also be possible that some of the Iowa Blues developed with coloration like closer to the male on the left? In which case they would definitely look blue like W.C. Fenton claimed when he named the breed? They wouldn’t have had the blue gene, but would have looked blue due to the lack of melanizers?
The female on the left is the mate to the male in the left photo above. She too is an under-melanized Birchen (BR) based individual. The female on the right is one of the chicks Kent Whealy hatched out of Ransome Bolson’s eggs. The hen on the left sure looks like an eb based bird with Pg, but she is BR based. *** As a side note of interest, the male on the left and the female on the left were both hatched out a solid chestnut color. *** I found this all to be very interesting and thought I’d add it here as a note of genetic interest and to spur discussion.
Edited by IowaBlueCurt - 1/22/16 at 11:46am