How are the various colors in one breed developed?

Ari_m

In the Brooder
May 3, 2020
27
24
49
I haven’t been able to find any articles about this- not even sure how to search for it. All that comes up are egg colors.... I love how there are so many varieties in colors within a breed. I know that people usually introduce another breed and keep breeding, culling, and selecting for the right colors until that flock breeds true to color. But I cannot find any in depth information. Do people follow a specific breeding program to get the colors consistent? Like line breeding? Or is it just whatever works for them? I know it can take a very long time/many generations.
I ask because I am looking at potentially starting a lemon cuckoo color project- I didn’t realize this would be the color my crossbred chicks could turn out to be, and I’d like to breed a consistent flock for my own usage. But I’m not sure of how I should go about breeding them. I’d like to hear from anyone who has done this themselves as well. I’ve been loving getting into genetics and learning so much! Any knowledge is greatly appreciated!
 

NatJ

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Mar 20, 2017
12,076
27,788
916
USA
I know that people usually introduce another breed and keep breeding, culling, and selecting for the right colors until that flock breeds true to color. But I cannot find any in depth information. Do people follow a specific breeding program to get the colors consistent? Like line breeding? Or is it just whatever works for them?

I expect it depends on which color they are introducing, and which color they already have.

For example, if the breed already exists in black and someone wants cuckoo, they only need one new gene, and it is a dominant gene. So they could cross in one cuckoo bird, cross a cuckoo offspring to a black of the orginal breed, cross a cuckoo offspring back to a black of the original breed.... I've seen this called "recurrent backcrossing" (repeatedly cross back to the original breed.)

But if they want a color that requires many genes, they are more likely to use a combination of crossing and inbreeding. Maybe cross the two breeds, breed brother x sister among the offspring and hatch many chicks to select the best, then cross that chick back to the desired breed and again inbreed the offspring.

The exact details change depending on which chickens are available at the time. It is possible to breed the perfect color but lose some other trait (the chickens are too big or too small or have the wrong comb type), so trying to keep all the right genes present can be difficult. Hatching large numbers of chicks can definitely help, because that gives you a better chance of getting many of the traits you want in one bird, instead of having this one with some of the right genes for color, that one with some other color genes you need, and the one over there really has the best size & conformation.
 

The Moonshiner

The taller the truck the closer to God. 🛸 🏴‍☠️
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Nov 17, 2016
16,471
112,193
1,231
Missouri
I haven’t been able to find any articles about this- not even sure how to search for it. All that comes up are egg colors.... I love how there are so many varieties in colors within a breed. I know that people usually introduce another breed and keep breeding, culling, and selecting for the right colors until that flock breeds true to color. But I cannot find any in depth information. Do people follow a specific breeding program to get the colors consistent? Like line breeding? Or is it just whatever works for them? I know it can take a very long time/many generations.
I ask because I am looking at potentially starting a lemon cuckoo color project- I didn’t realize this would be the color my crossbred chicks could turn out to be, and I’d like to breed a consistent flock for my own usage. But I’m not sure of how I should go about breeding them. I’d like to hear from anyone who has done this themselves as well. I’ve been loving getting into genetics and learning so much! Any knowledge is greatly appreciated!
I have an ongoing thread about making new colors/varieties of Leghorns.
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/the-moonshiners-leghorns.1257688/
 

Feathercrazie

Chirping
Jun 3, 2021
60
103
56
I expect it depends on which color they are introducing, and which color they already have.

For example, if the breed already exists in black and someone wants cuckoo, they only need one new gene, and it is a dominant gene. So they could cross in one cuckoo bird, cross a cuckoo offspring to a black of the orginal breed, cross a cuckoo offspring back to a black of the original breed.... I've seen this called "recurrent backcrossing" (repeatedly cross back to the original breed.)

But if they want a color that requires many genes, they are more likely to use a combination of crossing and inbreeding. Maybe cross the two breeds, breed brother x sister among the offspring and hatch many chicks to select the best, then cross that chick back to the desired breed and again inbreed the offspring.

The exact details change depending on which chickens are available at the time. It is possible to breed the perfect color but lose some other trait (the chickens are too big or too small or have the wrong comb type), so trying to keep all the right genes present can be difficult. Hatching large numbers of chicks can definitely help, because that gives you a better chance of getting many of the traits you want in one bird, instead of having this one with some of the right genes for color, that one with some other color genes you need, and the one over there really has the best size & conformation.
Cuckoo is barred without the gene for slow feathering and lies on the male chromosome. So to produce cuckoo offspring you would need a male cuckoo over a black hen. Otherwise you would require a couple of extra years just to get a female with cuckoo. Breeding brother and sister can be tricky. You may wind up with a recessive trait coming to the front that would be very hard to get rid of. It is far better to make two matings of unrelated birds ,then use the offspring from the two matings to breed for generation two. You may need to breed back to your target breed more than once to achieve the correct conformation.

I always use my best cock over my young pullets and my best young cockerel over one or two of my old hens. I pool all the chicks from both pens, then cull hard. If I see some undesirable trait becoming prominent, I cull very hard for this. I will even do some experimental breeding to find where it is coming from. Second year both cocks go into the pool. the best one goes over the pullets from both pens. Then my best young cockerel goes over the best one or two of all the hens. Repeat endlessly with possibly an input of an unrelated bird from time to time, usually a hen. I find this works very well, but requires careful selection and cull, cull, cull.
 

The Kooky Kiwi

Crowing
Dec 23, 2017
760
2,198
286
New Zealand, Golden Bay
Any new project starts with an idea - What do you want your final birds to look like? Think about size, body features, colors, patterns, egg colors etc.

Next step is to research and understand the genetics that are influential and necessary for those traits. This is quite important because it will influence your breeding decisions as you go along.

I suggest it is helpful to write down, on paper, what your "ideal" genetic build is. And that is the "template bird" that you are going to work towards. Make observations, a diary if you like, as you go, so that you can record your successes and failures, and keep track of your progress (easier to refer back to later!!). Also, in this diary, you can store your notes and resources you have found, hints and tips that will help you with your project.

Then you need to formulate a plan on how you are going to get to that bird.
Most people start with a bird that is closest to the template as possible, then work from there.

Breed Crossing to a completely different breed is useful if you need to introduce a new trait.
<Example> if you have started with a non crested breed and you want crests, you will need to breed to some crested birds to introduce those genetics.

Line-Breeding and In-Breeding are forms of breeding a bird back to it's relatives. This is useful for when you have a small pool of birds that carry your desired traits, and you wish to refine those traits.
<Example> you might have several birds that each carry one recessive gene (let's say lavender), and which have the correct body shape you like. Breeding them together gives you a greater chance of creating a bird with your desired body shape AND combining the recessive (lavender) genes to get a visual lavender expression.

Out Crossing to a similar breed but not related to your birds is useful for maintaining vigor and genetic diversity in your stock. Repeated in-breeding or line-breeding has the "potential" to create genetically weaker birds so it is recommended you use this option whenever reasonably available.

The particular breeding program you choose, the combination of Breed Crossing, Out Crossing and Line or In-Breeding, will very much depend on the birds you start with, the birds you need to breed with to introduce new traits, and the number of chicks you get that are suitable for continuation in the program.

I would suggest that it is GREATLY helpful if you can, at an early stage, source reliable birds for outcrossing with. When I was breeding parrots I went into a partnership of sorts with another breeder. I gave him some of my earlier chicks which he then worked with independently. (In exchange I took on some of his project chicks and bred them as he asked within my aviaries). And so later we were able to swap birds that were relatively unrelated but still useful for our respective projects.

IN SUMMARY:
What i've described above is a typical process for someone who knows what they want to achieve and who are willing to stick to that plan.

The other option is to have a mixed flock of birds that, between them, contain the traits you like and let them simply co-mingle and breed as they like. This creates something of a lottery with your results, but actually that can be quite fun, to see what random results will occur, so isn't to be discounted as a method!! In fact the genetic diversity you can get with this method is often considered beneficial! Think of the way people say mutt breeds are less prone to problems than pedigree breeds.
 
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