(Never encourage a teacher - they will never be quiet after that!) This lesson will be in two parts, Part B will follow tonight and will be as a response to this posting. Lets start with a quick review from Lesson #1: Phenotype What the chicken looks like. Just keep in mind that looks can be deceiving! Genotype The specific DNA or gene instructions that go into the phenotype and some stuff that you might not see in appearance. Trait Usually thats one thing that you can see in the phenotype. Sometimes the trait might include several different things that happen together. Think cupcake. If a cupcake doesnt have frosting on it, is it a cupcake or just a muffin? Gene This is the DNA instructions that can create a trait. Dont worry too much about how it does it just remember what it does. Genes are usually double dose or in a pair except some genes will be single doses in female chickens (but doubles in males) Dominant These are the strongest genes and can cover up a lot of other genes in the same family of genes. Intermediate or Heterozygous These are genes that will mix together if affect when in pairs Think Red + Yellow = orange. (If one of those genes thats single dose in females, then they can only be one or the other not mixed.) Recessive These are the weaker genes and both of the pair in a double dose gene must be the same (recessive) for the trait to show. These are easily covered up by other genes in the same family of genes. Color Gene Families There are four basic color gene families that go into making the whole thing you see out in the coop: 1 Color Distribution or basic color family, 2 Uniform color or Body color family, 3 Color Restricting or black distribution family, 4 Color Pattern or feather color family. Ready? Before we move on to the 1st group - the Color Distribution or basic color family -there is an interesting fact to know. All of the colors of our chickens are really only shades of a couple of basic pigments particularly Blacks (eumelanin) and/or Reds (phenomelanin) and variations in them. Remember, all of the colors that we can see are just made of three pigments red, blue, yellow? Same thing except its just two pigments (There are a few more like white or Silver and Gold that well cover later, but mainly its just blacks and reds. Some folks also consider white as a separate color, but in many cases, that just the absence or the basic blacks or reds.) It sort of works like an old newspaper or old TV. Remember when you got real close to the TV or newspaper you found out that a picture were just a bunch of dots. The more dots the darker the color, the less dots the lighter the color in the picture. More dots = black, less dots=gray (what we call blue). More dots =red, less dots = yellow (what we call buff). Ok, lets look at that first family of genes the Color Distribution or Basic Color Family. These are sort of like a brand of car. There could Fords, Chevys, Chryslers, Cadillacs, etc. No matter what you do to a Ford it will never be a Caddy! The same is true for this family. There are fives different members of this family. Some, well see are dominant to others some will be recessive. They are all found in pairs in all chickens. Scientists can be kind of lazy sometimes, so they pick a short-hand or abbreviation for things genetics is famous for this. You could pick any letter you wanted, but if you talk to somebody else using the short-hand they wont know what youre talking about. Because we all need to on the same page, scientists have decided to use the exact same letter when theyre talking about the same trait or gene. If a gene has slightly different variations of the same set of DNA instructions it can look differently in trait or appearance think cookies. You could make chocolate chip cookies or you could make peanut butter chip cookies, or M&M. Its all the same recipe with small variations. Or think eye color in people. The different colors are all just variations of the eye color instructions or variations of the same gene. The little variations are called alleles different recipes for the same gene or trait. There are possible five alleles that make up this family. Some will be dominant to others and some will be recessive. The letter that they picked for this group is the letter e. To add a little tidbit to the short hand, Scientists use a CAPITOL letter if an allele is dominant and a lower case if recessive. So some of this group will be E and e. Wait a minute there are five so how can we use just E and e for the short hand? Well, we can/do just add in a second letter (or symbol). So for this family we have the following symbols: E = Extended Black (big time dominant brother and hides all the others) ER = Birchen (also dominant, but a little brother it doesnt hide E but does everybody else) e+ = Duckwing (a tough recessive like a tomboy sister tough, but not as strong as her (dominat) brothersthe + is used for wild type meaning that if you found the original chicken, it would look like this one) eb = Brown (a little sister recessive) eWh = Wheaten(the most recessive kind of like the baby sister) Theres always good news and bad. The bad news, is that some of these are pretty hard to tell apart for each other(until you have a good eye for it) in adult chickens. The good news is that this family also controls the color of the chick down in hatchlings. For those who hatch their own, its important to pay attention to what the hatchlings look like for this reason. In the next lesson Ill talk about what the adults generally look like and what the chick down looks like for each of this family. This one was kind of long and involved. Please, let me know if this is too much info at one time or too confusing. Also, if you need clarifications please ask.