Help me pick cochin chicks to better my flock

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by k0r1nag, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. k0r1nag

    k0r1nag Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Kelso
    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.
     
  2. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

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    Sorry, I don't have Cochins, so don't know what you need them to be. I do know with the ducks that I don't cull until they are about 6 months old and I don't make my final selection for breeding stock until they are over a year old.

    They change so much from chicks to adult and they change again when they get their adult plumage. With Cochins, I know you can cull for toes when they are first hatched. With 2 of my breeds, I can cull for mismarks when they are a day old (if I wanted to, which I don't. I grow my culls out and eat them)

    I have not seen a huge correlation between down color and adult color with my blue birds. Lacing might show in juvenile plumage or might not show well until the adult plumage is in. My blue ducks are a lot darker as adults than they were as ducklings. The blue geese, on the other hand, tend to be lighter as adults. I am assuming you want blue lacing on your blue birds, but I don't know that for a fact.

    I only breed my best birds. I don't breed the birds who are almost as nice. I want to keep down the number of hatchlings that I get. feed is expensive and I want to have room and money to grow them all out to see what they are as adults.

    Feathering is so critical to type in Cochins, I can't see any way to select the keepers without seeing the adult plumage.
     
  3. Reyvaughn

    Reyvaughn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't cull until they are at least 5 months old. Even then they change. My LF cockerel didn't even get pointed hackles and saddle feathers until he was 4 months old. They are to young to make decisions now - unless you can tell already they have very little foot feathering or no feathers on their middle toes. Other than that, let them grow out.
     
  4. k0r1nag

    k0r1nag Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Kelso
    Thanks for the input, guys. We definitely plan to breed only from the best very soon, but as an aid to learning we thought hatching just a few of all the birds would help us learn about what to look for at the chick stage. We also have been raising Polish over the last several years and have now learned what to look for in a chick by raising good and a few not so good chicks side by side. Now we are trying to apply that to cochins. The breeder we got the very nice birds from doesn't sell chicks or cull until at least 5 months, and she said it would take even longer than that to really get an appreciation for the quality of their feathering. But with the BBS color group we have decided to keep only blues and splashes to grow out and then choose the best of those to keep for our flock. We can't keep them all, and feed is expensive as Oregon Blues noted.

    Thanks again!
    Korina
     
  5. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    Cochins take longer to mature than many other breeds, especially when evaluating the feathers. 6 months is not long enough. I would stop breeding the subpar birds though, you will waste time and resources on them that would be better spent on getting better birds.
     
  6. k0r1nag

    k0r1nag Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Kelso
    I have definitely noticed that cochins take much longer to come into their nice feathers. The breeder I bought my very nice birds from said minimally 8 mos to a year, which I noticed as I was growing out my chicks last year. And although I have only 2 pretty nice birds, the rest are certainly not awful specimens from what I can tell, and seem to fit the SOP. But I am still new to the breed and showing so I could be mistaken.

    I also forgot to mention in my original post that I am not culling as in killing, but trying to decide which birds to keep to grow out and which to sell as backyard layers or caponize. Since we have decided to try to raise blue and splash birds, we planned to keep only the best chicks of those colors, then grow them out and do another selection process at a few months old and finally keep the best we raise to show and see how we do.

    And I really am hatching a very small number of chicks in these test hatches - certainly no more than 15 total before I section off the best of the best in my current flock. I feel quite confident that these birds I choose not to keep will find a good homes as urban layers as they are such lovely docile birds and good winter layers (and almost no one in my area raises them).

    Plus I am still trying to find better birds to continue to add to my flock. But I have had some bad experiences with shipped hatching eggs and I simply don't have the money to ship in truly top notch birds right now. As I go to regional shows I talk to people and look for birds to buy, but at the last show there were only two LF cochin breeders and both did only black birds. So I am taking the learn and grow approach.

    Thanks for the info.
     
  7. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

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    More than likely, you can tell the difference between a really good chick and a very poor one. It's telling the difference between a good one and a maybe good one that is difficult when they are young.

    Last year I had a batch of hatchery ducklings and a batch of show ducklings of the same breed. On a daily basis we were commenting on how immense the difference was between the two batches. It was screaming out at you from day one. No prizes were offered for picking out the good birds. People who knew nothing about poultry could pick out the good ones. They literally looked like 2 different breeds.

    However, you get a couple of well bred birds, especially if they are closely related, and it isn't so easy. Because they grow through stages, perhaps one will look the best this week and the other will look the best next week. Maybe the one you have doubts about because he looks a little narrow, will fill out and be just right. If they are well bred, you just don't want to rush your decision.
     
  8. k0r1nag

    k0r1nag Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Kelso
    I totally agree that very poor versus good chicks are easy to differentiate in some breeds. We started with hatchery Polish before acquiring some show SQ chicks. Huge difference in body shape and crest indicators. But we are still learning about cochins and so haven't been able to observe good quality versus poor side by side.

    That is why I am doing test hatches within my flock. For instance, I have two very nice birds from last year's SQ hatching eggs. I showed the roo and he did well and the hen is the nicest I have. I have hatched just a few chicks from them and so far they all have lousy crests! I know that even the best birds do not always throw super progeny and I am watching it in action. This way I can move my breeding pairs around to see what combinations give me the higher percentage of nice chicks. That is my aim with the cochins as well.

    Which is why I was hoping to gain some useful insights about what to look for in the better quality chicks from the people here on BYC like you.

    Thanks!
     

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