The extra toe gene: how does it work, exactly?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by Flock Leader, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. Flock Leader

    Flock Leader Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 3, 2012
    Hi everyone! Recently I've found out that an extra toe in chickens renders the kosher status of the chicken dubious (I posted about this in a separate thread), and so this means we don't want any polydactyly in our flock.

    I also know the gene is dominant, but how exactly does it work? Is it the simple principle of Mendelian genetics, or some other way?

    We recently got some Cochins, whom I really love, but yesterday, to my dismay, I discovered the female has an extra toe. Technically this makes her a mutt, although I know that since the gene is dominant, the five-toed ancestor may have been way back. I don't care so much about pure breeding, I wanted Cochins because they are friendly and fluffy and hopefully, to have a broody hen who would share with us the job of hatching eggs from our non-brooders.

    So... assuming the female has a recessive gene for a normal foot, and if we breed her with the Cochin roo (who has 4 toes), which part of their progeny would have normal feet? 25%? Or something else?

    Is it better to just give the female away and get a new one?
  2. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    The gene is not always present in crossed birds. I have noticed out of my polish x silkie crosses that more than 50% of them have 4 toes. [​IMG] Example - Polish x silkie. This one has 4 toes. How does an extra toe affect Kosher status? Maybe you should ask more than just one person about that, because I really think that doesn't make any sense at all. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken. Also, can you not sell any that will be born with 5 toes to someone who isn't concerned about kosher status, or is that not possible?
  3. Flock Leader

    Flock Leader Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 3, 2012
    Interesting! I would really love to know, if anyone has access to this information, how the gene functions. Is this called incomplete dominance?

    I asked several rabbinical authorities. From what I've learned, it is a genuine problem. We could sell five-toed progeny, but then we'd be selling it to other Jews (we live in Israel; just about the only non-Jews in the area are Arabs, and we don't deal with them) and putting a stumbling block in front of them, so to speak. But if you get over 50% 4-toed birds, that is nice. Perhaps we could get a couple of 4-toed pullets from the one we have, and then give her away to someone who would keep her as a pet.

    By the way, the chicken in the photo is SO cool! She looks like someone blow-dried her and had overdone it. :eek:)
  4. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    That's really interesting. Did they say that the toes is the reason they are considered non-kosher?

    I'm not quite sure what it is called. It's definitely not 100% with five toes. My boy above proves that. I do want them to have five toes, so I am working towards getting more with 5 toes.

    I celebrate when I get one right away. :p Would it also be non-kosher if they had two toes fused together? Would that count as one or two toes? Some of them are born with 4 toes with one fused to their last toe.

    I rarely get really nice feet in crosses. I may have one out of 10+ I've hatched this year.

    Also, there has to be people that are not affiliated with any religion.. There are non-religious people all over the world.
  5. Flock Leader

    Flock Leader Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 3, 2012
    Basically the reason was double: 1) Extra toe, and 2) exotic appearance. One rabbi told me, "if a silkie had 4 toes it would be OK", but another told me that very exotic-looking breeds should be avoided as a rule even if they have a normal number of toes.

    If I may ask, why would you want your birds to have 5 toes? I mean, if it weren't for the kosher issue I wouldn't mind 4 or 5 either way, as long as I get nice-looking toes.
    I honestly have no idea what the status of the bird would be if toes were fused together, it seems matters are complicated enough as it is! [​IMG]

    I really don't want to sound as though I'm starting a religious debate, because it doesn't belong to this forum, but basically there are Jews who consider themselves secular and unbound by any religious rules, but from *our* point of view a Jew is a Jew and is bound by the law of Moses.

    But of course, the Silkie and other extra-toed breeds aren't definitely "treif" (like birds of prey and other definitely non-kosher birds). They are just weird chickens who are a little suspicious so we are to avoid them, see what I mean? I guess that if there was a Jewish community somewhere out there (in China? LOL) where people would eat Silkies for ages, they would be "koshered" on basis of ongoing tradition, because it's part of the kosher status: there must be tradition of eating the bird. Then you could say (and rightly so) that every tradition must be started sometime, BUT, I think rabbis today are more conservative than in the past.
  6. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    I want them to have five toes because I am into showing poultry. Kind of like dog shoes. You get your name out there, and people pay to get birds from you. The boy I posted before is first generation sizzle. It should eventually look like a silkie in every way except have those curly feathers. It needs to have five toes, black skin, black eyes, be the same size, etc. In the standard of perfection silkies are to have 5 toes. However, so many hatcheries in the US sell silkies, and a lot of them have only four toes. Maybe it's best to get silkies that already have four toes. It definitely happens. They don't need to be mixed breed to have 4 toes. :) Oh and I don't know anyone in my area that would eat a silkie. Most use them as pets or breed them for profit. They do eat their eggs, but definitely not their meat. Something weird about eating a beautiful fluffy chicken.. :( [​IMG] Here's one of my little girls Edna. :love They make awesome pets, and I'm sure many would want to keep them as such in your area. You didn't say anything that was controversial at all. You were very polite with your religious beliefs. I am not affiliated with any religion, but feel spiritual. Hard to explain. I am interested in the aspects of many religions. I have never met an orthodox Jew :) I don't even think I've met a non-orthodox Jew. So it's nice to meet you :D
    1 person likes this.
  7. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    Not to argue, but do they realize that silkies are one of the oldest documented breeds in the world? They most likely originated in the Himalayan region of China, and are mentioned in literature at least as far back as Aristotle. In China and other Asian countries, silkies are regarded as health food and having medicinal properties. Are you concerned about meat or about eggs? It might make a difference? Also, if it concerned me, I would ask for some references to read and understand. Pretty sure Moses never encountered a silkie (wrong part of the world), although I do understand that kosher rules have evolved over time, not just what is written in Leviticus. I'd also be talking to some other rabbis; maybe even some that specialize if certifying that foods are kosher.

    I do recall that a few years ago another Israeli on BYC found and purchased a mottled silkie at a kibbutz. Not sure why a kibbutz would have silkies.[​IMG]

    Hutt provides a thorough explanation of polydactyly in Genetics of the Fowl. While polydactyly is dominant, it has a wide variety of expression; including not expressing under certain incubation conditions. Hutt- Genetics of the Fowl Discussion of Po begins on page 47.
  8. ramirezframing

    ramirezframing Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 2, 2011
    Knee Deep
    most my silkie or sultan crosses have come off with 5 toes. A few come off with 4 and even fewer come off with more than 5. But I had one odd ball cross that if I didn't know who her mom was, I would say she didn't have any silkie in her at all, she has 4 toes, no leg feathering, white skin instead of black, no crest at all, red earlobes, and a perfect single comb. Now one of her eggs accidentally got hatched, and the baby has black skin, a pea looking comb, and blue earlobes. Dad to the baby was a frizzled cochin. So you might get a good mix of toes or only 4 toes.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  9. aoxa

    aoxa Overrun With Chickens

    Sultans and silkies both have 5 toes anyway, so it would be harder to get them down to 4 toes if you wanted them to :)

    ETA: Whoops.. you said OR. Sorry :)
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  10. poularde

    poularde Hatching mode

    Feb 7, 2010
    Puyallup, Wa.
    Interesting about the five toes not being kosher. Means they have been missing out on one of the oldest meat birds of all time. The Dorking...

    I personally like the five toes. I love my Faverolles. They make excellent meat. Plus they are gorgeous.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012

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