Last year my husband and I acquired 7 large fowl cochins: 5 from a breeder who bought a flock that was supposed to be show quality (and aren't) and two from a reputable breeder who has shown and won many awards with her birds. We are new to large fowl cochins and very new to showing so thought that by having birds of good quality and poorer quality side by side we could really get a feel for what to look for in terms of confirmation. We have also spent a good deal of time looking at photos of winning birds as well as reading up on the Cochin thred on this site and the Cochin Intl breeders site. We even took one of our non SQ pullets to a show this Fall - where she placed last out of three - just so we could compare to better birds (that's how you learn, right?). Armed with this information we decided to breed our cochins to start learning what to look for in chicks, so we clipped everyone's vent feathers and began collecting hatching eggs. And this is where I am hoping to get some feedback.... We currently have 5 chicks that hatched last weekend. 3 blue and two black. In looking them over thoroughly, it looks like some have slightly wider brows than others. The reputable breeder told me to look for wider brows and avoid "pin headed" (my words, not hers) birds. Big birds need big proportional heads, right? So I should keep the chicks that have wider heads and more prominent brows, right? I also noticed that some of the chicks seem to be longer bodied than others. One of my roos is too leggy and has a longer back than the nicer boy who is very compact. Should I keep the chicks that seem to have this short bodied characteristic? Will these grow up to be shorter bodied birds? I've also noticed that these birds seem to have slightly shorter beaks. Is this a good characteristic? All the chicks have nice heavy down all along their legs and toes. A few have a bit of down on the inner toes. In my older version of the SOP I can't find that this is a defect or disqualification. Should I keep these chicks or stick with the chicks that have no down on these toes? I forgot to mention that we are really interested in raising blue and splash birds as they are our favorite colors. In my flock the SQ birds are black from a breeder who has been trying to breed out anything other than black in her flock. The other birds are two blue hens, 1 black roo and 2 black hens. One of the black hens isn't too bad as is one of the blue hens. The others are too leggy with not enough cushion, narrower heads, etc. The nice blue hen also has better blue coloring - darker areas with good lacing - the other is just an overall washed out dingy blue. In the chicks I have noticed that one of the blue chicks has more of a darker blue tinge to the down across its back and head. Will this chick grow up to have the nicer, darker blue coloration? Can you tell at this age? Those are the items I've observed at this point. I would love some input as to what other confirmation points I should be looking for in the chicks in the hopes of keeping the best chicks to retain for my flock. For instance, can you determine leg color from chicks? The black chicks have more yellowy legs and feet. Would a good blue chick have legs that are as dark a yellow? Is this something that is a "culling" point at the chick stage? All the beaks are pinky orange at this stage. The breeder told me to avoid adult birds with too much black on the beak. When can you tell if the beak will be horn versus black? Any other characteristics I should be looking for at this point? I hope to purchase some additional chicks from reputable breeders this Spring and so knowing what to look for in a possibly SQ chick would help in this regard, as well. Currently we are letting the entire flock hatch a few eggs to test our incubator and the fertility of the flock, but as soon as we get some warm weather so our other chicken pasture dries out, we will be separating out the very best breeders and hatching a few eggs from just those so we can compare chicks and try to learn even more. Thanks in advance for all the help! ps- I live rurally and have VERY slow dial up (24 k) with no access to satellite (we'll have to put up a 100 ft pole to stick the satellite on) or cable so it is extremely difficult to upload photos. I will do my best to get a few shots so you can see what I am working from and post them when I can.