Wild Chickens: Feathered legs and toes - an advantage or disadvantage?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by phasianidae, Dec 21, 2011.

  1. phasianidae

    phasianidae Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 9, 2010
    So I have a a project going on that is basically to breed a chicken that is capable of feral survival here in Minnesota and like environments, I would like input on whether you think feathering on the legs and toes would be an advantage (such as protecting the feet from the snow, etc.) or a disadvantage. The ringneck pheasant is a common bird around here and they lack any kind of feathering on their feet, but then there are the willow ptarmigans in Alaska that have a sort of hair-like feathering on there legs and feet.

    Advice on other aspects of the fowl would be greatly appreciated as well, there are so many decisions yet to make. This will be a very long project.

    All and any advice is welcome, if there is anyone out there that is working on or contemplating a similar project, I would especially like to hear from you.

    Thanks and Merry Christmas!

  2. acy0029

    acy0029 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 9, 2011
    I think most wild birds are better than chickens at self grooming. It's not natural for chickens to have feathered legs. If leg feathers get muddy all insulating factors would be lost and I doubt they would know how to take care of them so it would become a detriment to them. Like (contrary to popular belief) a beard on a man in extreme cold is a hindrance.
  3. Illia

    Illia Crazy for Colors

    Oct 19, 2009
    Forks, WA

    Out here, that is [​IMG] I'm personally planning on breeding OUT all the feathers in my "mutt" projects because over time I just run into too many troubles. Again, that is, with my climate (never warm enough except those rare summer days, ALWAYS humid, almost always rainy, half the time mucky)

    I've had chicks who pick at their newly growing feathers on the toes til they bleed, I've had weird ingrown feathers or just odd stub-like projections that look kinda irritating or painful, I've had feather picking in adults, and plus the rain, mud, frost - Doesn't do well with feathers.

    Although I will admit, heavy feathering without vulture hocks are better than light or moderate feathering. I have much less cases of irritation, bleeding, dirtiness, etc. Believe it or not. Brahmas are a great example of feathering that works better. Marans are a terrible example.

    To me, hardiness is in the bodily feathers. You want clean feet and shanks though. Now, the body, if you're gonna tough it and want strong chicks too, best to go with a type like English-based Sussex, English-based Orpingtons, or even American based (no hatchery stock, way too tight feathering and too skinny of a bird) Orpingtons.
  4. code2142

    code2142 New Egg

    Dec 23, 2011
    The only Chicken that I can think of in which the feathered feet might be an advantage would be the Pavloskaya/Pavloskaja chicken. They are very rare outside of Russia (although Greenfire farms has recently imported them). Their feathered feet are similar to that of a grouse with the feathers tending to stick very close to the skin and act as a decent insulator while not getting caught on debris and gathering dirt, twigs, etc. They actually would be an excellent choice for your "feral" chicken because they can fly very well and are excellent foragers, as well as being extremely cold hardy.
    Here is a link to a Russian forum thread that has a number of pictures

    another site with more info- It is in Russian so I suggest using the Google Translator Addon for your browser
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2011
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Unless feathering on legs is tight like with the ptarmigans, feathers will also hamper running speed. This be especially important when wet. Another consideration is during summer months when feathering of legs would inhibit dumping of heat thus promoting heat stress. I think the legs and feet of ground dwelling birds are extremely important for dumping heat when it needs to b e dumped.

    I hope you project is using old English or old English looking games as part of founding stock. Many not only have physical ability but also mental ability for powered flight. Many other breeds that can still fly well do not have smarts to land well out of predators reach.

    Comb type is also going to be an important consideration in respect to cold tolerance.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  6. gallorojo

    gallorojo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 15, 2009
    I can no longer find the link, but, there used to be on another forum one man's attempt to recreate the hypothetical Gallus giganteus. His belief was that the original G G had crests, beard, and muff, plus feathered feet, BUT, all that was combined with hard feathering plus some feather modifiers, to create very subdued feathered feet, similar to a ptarmigan. I know cornish and malay were used to do some of the experimental crosses. I think the feathered feet could be fine if you could get them nice and short and tight. Typical long feet feathers are for sure a survival disadvantage, none of my feral barnyard bantams have feathered feet any longer, after no efforts by me to breed it out, and only 4-5 generations from founding stock which almost all had heavily feathered feet.
  7. TomNY

    TomNY Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 12, 2010
    Quote:Friznecker. The last I heard of him his email got hacked. I got an email from his address saying he had been robbed at gun-point in London and could I send him enough money for plane fare home. He had bought some of my cull Malay bantams for his project once. Tom
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Quote:I think the Gallus giganteus has more in common with bigfoot than with actual ancestry of the heavy boned oriental game. The speed at which backcrosses of aseel x American game regains the American game / old English body type suggest to me only a very small number of genes are responsible for the megaloid look of the oriental. If only a few mutant genes, then ancestry of such still strongly roosted in the extant jungle fowls already considered probable.
  9. phasianidae

    phasianidae Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 9, 2010
    Thanks for the replies, I found the thread on the guy who is/was trying to recreate the hypothetical Gallus Giganteus - here it is for anyone interested: http://www.ganoi.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=13372&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=25 there are pictures of the birds on some of the pages.

    The birds I am working on will be combless. I think I will make them heterozgous for the various leg feathering alleles when they are released, that way I should find out the answer to my question.


    Interesting how the leg feathering was bred out of the feral bantams. What colors are they? Do any curtain colors seem to do best?

    While various traits will benefit them in certain ways, I think the most important traits will be the instincts to survive in the wild, and the ability to fly.

  10. Yessur Ebob

    Yessur Ebob Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 23, 2010
    The feathers on a ptarmigan's feet don't give it any insulation, they help it to walk on top of the snow without falling through, thus enabling the birds to walk quickly and efficiently in (or rather on top of) deep snow, something like snowshoes.

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