There is, sadly, very little progress to speak of at this moment, but there are a couple of bright spots!
Originally, I started trying to cross Speckled Sussex to other breeds. None of them seemed to really show the coloration of the Speckled Sussex. At least, not in the first generation, and I pretty much gave up on that and began to focus on experimenting with the Exchequer crosses.
I did cross a Speckled Sussex to an Exchequer Leghorn, and the result was a rooster who is much larger than an Exchequer, with a deeper body type, but does show characteristics of the Exchequer color:
Since these photos were taken, he shows more white in the tail. He does look slightly different from his father (see Sussex rooster "Cogburn" below.) Also very different from the Exchequer roosters shown on Feathersite.com (see link below.)
The first generation 50/50 Exchequer and Sussex crosses did have some splashing of color, but all of them were uniformly a dark black-brown and white color. Not exactly a "rainbow", ha ha. Nothing to new and exciting there. Clearly this was not going to be as easy as I thought.
I'd pretty much given up on the concept, realizing exactly how many generations it would take to build a breed like this, splashed with all kinds of different colors, but working only with the Exchequers. Until I was doing yard work out back alongside my neighbor's chicken pen in January 2009. That's when I spotted this hen and a half-grown chick that were very interesting, to say the least:
Hen (above) and young rooster (below)
Unfortunately, while both these chickens show fabulous color, they are also very small - large Bantam size. However, they do not show the upright body of many Serams, do not have fuzzy legs like Cochins or Millies', and look like "regular" chickens in every way . . . except their size. Bummer. And the Exchequers I have to cross them with are fairly small "standards" to start. But they sure are pretty little "mutts".
Well, one step forward, two steps back, as they say. At least this is a nice start - if I can just get these ones BIGGER, they would be much like the "Swedish Flower Hens" that I originally thought looked so cool. They are nifty in every other way, and the hen is a reliable layer so far, even if her eggs are tiny.
I offered two of my Easter Egger laying hens to the neighbors in exchange for these, and they gladly accepted them in trade, baffled as to why I'd give two nice layers in trade. "But the eggs are very small " they tried to warn me.
The neighbor said he got these from someone on the other side of town. What kind of mix they are will remain a mystery, because like all good stories, strange events have occured since. In the last month, the neighbors have removed all their animals from the property, stripped the pens and coop down, even carted off the A/C unit from atop the house and disappeared.
If I ventured to guess, I'd say their house is about to be foreclosed on, but no notices taped to the door, and no real estate sign is up yet. I have seen one person stopping by there, now and then, but have been too shy to impose and ask exactly what is going on . . . . right now the lights are out, and there haven't been cars in the drive for ages, although the porch light was on the night I saw the gentleman outside, so electricity hasn't been disconnected, apparently.
Ironically, when I tried my first Sussex roo X Exchequer hen experiment, I'd held back two of the most colorful chicks, which both happened to be boys. One was kept, and is shown at the top of the page and below, the other was given to these same neighbors as a half-grown youngster. So it was my own chicken that I'd originally bred, who had been running with this colorful but tiny hen. Hmmm. That's not to say other boys weren't involved with her, but it was possible for these to be 1/4 Exchequer babies.
Above: Exchequer hens with 1/2 Speckled Sussex, 1/2 Exchequer Leghorn rooster.
I saved every single egg the colorful little hen laid over the next weeks, and hatched them out in my incubator with great success. The first two appeared to have some kind of mottling. This is the first batch, which also includes some of the 3/4 Exchequer crosses I'm now getting.
Below are more photos showing a couple of the chicks out of the colorful small hen, as well as my 3/4 Exchequer, 1/4 Speckled Sussex crossbreds:
The buff and white spotted chick is out of the small hen, and does have some black speckling near the tail that you can't see here. Very pretty "peach" color, but perhaps a bit too much white. The black and white in the forefront - it has more white than the other chicks, and may also be out of the small hen, or it may be an unusually marked 3/4 Exchequer cross. They were hatched at the same time so it's hard to tell which came from what egg there.
Shown above, the chicks with the darker backs are the 3/4 Exchequer crosses. ALL of the chicks hatched out of my Exchequer hens and the Sussex cross roo look like these, absolutely no color variance.
The chick on the bottom right is also out of the small colorful hen. It appeared to be gray with white spotting as a newborn, but as it has grown, it is showing blue barring, and the base color is so light I can't yet tell if it is spotted or not anymore? I will let it grow out to see what happens. The barring would be a bad thing as far as lessening the impact of the checkered color, but the recessive blue could be helpful for someone wanting to start a blue/white flock.
The solid gray chick on the back right (and below left) is an Easter Egger hen crossed with the big rooster, which makes it 1/2 EE, 1/4 Speckled Sussex, and 1/4 Exchequer. It is solid blue and shows no signs of mottling. If it is hen, I will keep it for a while, and will cross it back to a 3/4 Exchequer rooster, to see if the mottling is recessive and if colored and white chicks result.
If they are mottled, than that could produce genetically a 1/2 Exchequer cross, possily carrying the gene for blue. (The last blue one I tried to keep from this EE cross turned out to be a rooster, unfortunately, so hoping for a blue hen this time around.)
Two other chicks were hatched from this first batch out of the little hen, but did not appear to have mottling. I can't keep them all, unfortunately, so I sold those to a nice home. The gal said she'd send me a photo of them all grown up - hope she does!
Another shot of the babies at about six weeks old.
Batch #2 and #3:
Several promising babies from this batch, but most are too young to tell how they will develop. Two are dark brown-black, much like the Exchequer chicks - a bummer for adding color, but a possible bonus for creating new bloodlines if crossed with other larger breeds, perhaps?
There is one chick from this group, the most promising so far:
It is very evenly mottled with light brown, buff, and black against white.
Most encouraging of all is the size of this chick. Shown here with a 3/4 Exchequer from the same batch for comparison, it appears to be the same size.
In the foreground are two chicks from the small speckled hen, that both show signs of what may be mottling. They are both primarily dark, (no new or exciting colors, LOL) and at this point may or may not be mottled, but I'll be hanging onto them for a while to see how they develop. (They are younger than the two behind them, which is why there is a size difference.)
When I brought the new little hen to my yard, my own Sussex/Exchequer rooster, while dominant, did not show any interest in mating with her. However, the "lowest in the pecking order" EE X Buff Laced Polish rooster, "Phoenix" courted her and soon the two were inseperable. I tried hatching out some of the chicks, even though they would be of little use towards developing what I'm trying to get, just to see what they looked like. So far, no signs of speckling, but they're still in fluff.
Big meanie that I am, I found "Phoenix" a great pet home last week, with his own "women" to court, and now the only mature rooster in the backyard is the Sussex/Exchequer roo. At this point he is still showing zero interest in the colorful little gal, so I suspect her eggs will be sterile from here on out, at least until the smaller but equally colorful rooster from her original yard is old enough to breed in a few months. Maybe he will eventually show some interest in her, especially if I pen them up together.
While crossing those two (the colorful but small speckled pair) won't result in bigger chickens, if I can get several more hens as colorful as she is to add size to, it will really move things along. So I'll try crossing the pair when he's mature. Hurry up and grow, little fellow!
Above: Smaller but colorful rooster as of April 2009, still to small for breeding . . . . maybe ready in June.