We have been very disappointed to find that some of our chicks have genetic defects. I am not sure if they are technically a deformity, or a defect, or what, but the fact is that they cannot be added to our breeding stock as we had hoped.
First, our Salmon Faverolle pullet has both a deformed beak and split wing. Depending on how severe her beak gets (it is getting worse as she grows), she might not be able to eat properly. She will likely have to be culled. 😦
Second, two of the Dark Brahmas have split wing. One is the cockerel, one is a pullet. This cockerel was our hope to be our breeding cockerel next year. That’s not going to happen. The first two pics are the split wings, the third pic is of a normal wing.
That means that 4 birds out of the 11 we bought have split wing. That is really terrible statistics. I called the feed store we ordered through and asked what hatchery they use. I’m not one to slam a business over the internet, but seriously these are ridiculous numbers, not to mention it is in THREE different breeds. How is that even possible? Seems to me they have some pretty bad breeding stock creating this.
Granted, these birds are sold to be laying hens. And no, split wing does not affect their ability to lay eggs. I get that. These birds were in NO WAY marketed or promised as good breeding stock. They are sold as layers. But it seems to me that even though they are breeding just for laying hens they should still be trying to select against the obvious genetic defects within at least their breeding stock. But maybe that is just me. Which brings us to the fact that this is one reason why we want to breed our own birds and not depend on the hatcheries anymore; because we believe that even if a bird is just supposed to be laying eggs, it still should be built well and free from genetic defects, such as split wing, bent toe, crooked keel, etc. (By the way, I do realize that some of these things can also be caused by injuries, but I am speaking specifically about when it is genetic).
The feed store has said they will either trade us out chicks or refund our money for the 4 birds that are showing the trait. I appreciate that kind of customer service. I would like to keep being a loyal customer to a place with that kind of customer service. But if they buy from a hatchery with this bad of statistics of split wing then I have no use for their chicks and will just take the refund.
The other Dark Brahma chicks we have, the ones not showing split wing, can be carriers of the gene if they are siblings of the other chicks. That means if we use them in our program the split wing gene will enter our program and keep coming through. So every chick we bought could be considered to not be a candidate for our breeding program. Which is why we bought them in the first place – to get the Dark Brahma characteristics into our breeding program.
However, since it is a recessive gene, with very careful records and culling we might be able to breed it out. But that would be quite a bit of work and I’m not sure it will be worth it unless these birds are great in most other aspects we are selecting for.
I will fully admit that this was our own fault. If we are wanting to breed away from what hatcheries create then we made a mistake by trying to buy our breeding stock from a hatchery. That being said, we have found about 8 pullets out of the 27 we got from a hatchery back in January to be good enough to be our starter breeders and have planned to, through careful selection, work towards better and better breeding stock. Of those 27 only 2 had clearly obvious genetic defects, though 3 others had what might be a form of split wing, with a very short feather instead of an absent feather. So we made this decision because we figured that out of these 8 birds we got we would be able to find a few that would be good additions to the program. We did not think there was a chance that half would have clear genetic defects. And there is a chance that at least one is not a carrier of the split wing gene. But I still feel like this was a pretty big bummer of a deal.
So we will likely be giving the 4 split wing (and deformed beak) chicks back for a refund next week. I want to talk to the person in charge of chick ordering first and she wont be in until Monday.
We continue to learn as we go with this homesteading dream. There are successes and failures and we learn from both.
To end this somewhat of a bummer post on a good note, I’ll leave you with pictures of cute chicks. 🙂
2 Week-Old Dark Brahmas
3 Week-Old Partridge Cochin Mixed Breed (the one we hatched)