Hi folks, sorry to join this thread so late, it's just been crazy around Dark Horse Acres this spring.
I first got into chickens in March of 2010 with a mixed group of breeds and became instantly addicted. I joined a group of breeders interested in promoting the Iowa Blues. We ordered our chicks from two different hatcheries and obtained a collection of mostly black chicks which we divided among us. I found the color strange based on what I had learned about them in Storey's Guide to Chickens. I was also disappointed in size and performance. However, despite the fact they laid small, odd shaped, chalk colored eggs, their insanely active and curious personality kept me interested long enough to start breeding.
My communication with the hatcheries to identify some idea of what the breed was supposed to look like was met with silence and secrets. I finally decided Sandhill Preservation Center was the best place to get them, but was unable to obtain birds due to lack of availability. Still, I bred my 11 birds by rotating the males over the group of females. and began to discover some hidden color genes. There were a couple brown chicks mixed in with the black.
This variation, called birchen, was a later introduction by recent hatcheries, but the personality traits they were reported to have was consistent with the birds I was raising. They are fearless, adventurous birds, with a strong sense of survival. The day I watched in horror as one of the hens below met an attacking hawk with claws instead of terror convinced me they needed a strong advocate and with help of the members of the Iowa Blue Club I began directing my line toward the traditional type historian, Curtis Burroughs, describes.
The brown chicks, now referred to as Silver, became the model that best represented the historical hen color, though there is a more complex interaction than we originally thought.
One of my first Silver hens
Silver cockerel - fought a fox to a standstill until I got out there. Saved his hens, but died of his wounds.
Rex with his flock.Birchen rooster - only decent male to survive the Summer of the Fox.
I was happy to see he at least carried genes for Silver silver.
And then we got this, also buried behind the birchen genes.
Since they seemed a paler version of the Silvers we called them Smokeys. I was excited about them, because they looked like the fabled "chicks that looked like pheasants".
Smokey chick - wild type E locus.
**Note the autosomal red that mars the silver color. One of the many challenges for current breeders is cleaning this up
I love the challenge of improving color and type, and I feel it is appropriate to set a standard with the APA. I am a staunch supporter of representing Iowa Blues at the shows and champion the proposed Standard of the Iowa Blue Chicken Club. That being said, my birds are a working breed, and I'll chose performance over color every time. It may delay the APA challenge, but I feel it will put them back where they belong; in the farmyards and backyards.