Last spring was BRUTAL for the Aloha project. We had record rains during winter, which led to soggy wet (unsanitary) conditions in the coop during Dec-Jan. In a feeble attempt to raise the floor of the coop, I added a bale of straw, which became moldy when the rains just wouldn't stop.
Somewhere along this time, all of my new babies began to fall ill. The baby pen was in the lower area of the pen, which meant they were standing in mucky water up to 1/2 inch deep, yet I had no where else to put them at the time. Many of these youngsters were highlighted in previous pages. I am sad to say that only Cloudy, a blue mottled hen, and Cleo, an orange mottled hen, plus the original oddball Banty that started this all are left. (Karma and Mystic are doing fine, but both were added well after this mess occured.) I am not sure exactly what it was, and due to budget cuts to the Ag Dept. in AZ, a full autopsy to find out would have cost over $250. Ouch.
The good news is after extensive research, I found out that viral or bacterial disease is not passed on through the eggs, so with what remaining hens I had (At the time, Kona, Rosarita, Blanca, Cloudy and Cleo) I began to rebuild by hatching like MAD. And then vaccinating all chicks against Merek's, just to be safe, plus I added a couple of turkeys to the coop which is said to help prevent that.
Then, I dug out every last bit of the nasty moldy soggy mess, and replaced the coop floor with sand, which also raised the floor level, too.
I also have been raising the new chicks in a large cage, off the ground, until they are eight weeks old. Also the chickens have all had much more "free-range" time in the grass - they were contained for a while when my boyfriend bought a Lab puppy who was showing a lot of interest, but now she's older and so far (crosses fingers!) has been leaving the poultry alone. Here's hoping our dog training worked!
There have been no updates during this time because I wanted to truly make sure everything was OK. It is with great relief that I am able to share these new photos with you. The oldest hens are now about five months old, and none have fallen ill. My flock will remain "closed" which means from here on out no new adult birds will be introduced, just newly hatched (and therefore, safe) baby chicks.
As you can see, things are now going great! The above photo does NOT even show all the flock, which currently numbers a little over 30, which inculdes four roos . . . and the rest HENS! Yay! Finally, some real progress may be made this fall when the gals start laying! On to the details.
First of all, when you see these photos, I want you to understand that unlike the past photos, you are not seeing photos of one or two or even three different hens. As of this writing, I have about ONE DOZEN of these fabulous flowery hens! They look so much alike, that even I have a hard time telling them apart. This is great because with the uniformity of color and type, this is actually looking like an actual BREED of chicken, wow! Clearly, multi-color leg bands will be in order later this fall.
Progress is more than even I had hoped for. Because losses were so heavy, I kept every last hen chick that I hatched in May/June. I was fully prepared to lose a few; but I'm thrilled to say that I haven't lost even one of these colorful chicks who are now four to five month old pullets. Yay!
Look at the photos above and below, I love the look of both these hens! (Yes, they are different ones, check out how the above one has black tail tips and the below has white tail feathers.) The rooster shown is currently the only adult roo on the property, although three more roos are now about 3 months old so I'll have more breeding options in December. I am so pleased with the progress here, if I can just get these hens to a nice, full size this is exactly what I'm going for!
This hen above looks remarkably like the original oddball banty, her grandmother. Size is larger but still rather small. In the group shot below you'll see my current roo with a bevy of light-mottled hens. These will produce a slew of heavily mottled smaller-size "base stock" for new members to work with this fall - I hope!
Check out this trio below! All three are fabulous and exacly what I've been breeding for, not too much black, very colorful. Cute, alert, and very healthy!
Remember, I have about a dozen of these little hens! Not all are shown here. These are just the oldest group, the ones closest to breeding age. There are more, but the younger ones lower in the pecking order are still hiding away from the main flock.
ABOVE: Cleo and Latte!
In addition to the mostly-white mottled chicks, I also have five mostly-dark hens that show small white mottling. (Or are starting to.) First is Cleo, featured on previous pages. She started out as a nice solid orange hen, but developed mottling as she aged. Her sister Latte has followed in her footsteps and is now of breeding age. Both look remarkably similar, except Latte's color is a light brown whereas Cleo's basic color is a brighter orange. See the above photo where I managed to get the two next to each other to see the subtle color difference.
Avove: Latte (more brown)
Below: Cleo (more orange.)
The funny thing about these hens is that they can start out pretty boring in color. That's why I'm excited about Caramel, the hen below. She's younger (and being lower in the pecking order makes her even more reclusive, so it's hard to get good photos - check out her tattered tailfeathers, no wonder she's so shy) but she is a lighter brown than Latte, but not as orange as Cleo, and already is showing a lot of white mottling and very, very little black. A keeper for sure! I'm guessing she is probably stil two months away from laying. See photos of her below.
The below hen is still in evaluation, aside from the one bright white dot on her tail, she's not showing a lot of mottling yet. However, Cleo was also a "late bloomer" and this gal is still young. She may end up with a little too much black for my program, but we'll see how she develops?
Below are photos of another hen that I'm almost as excited about as Caramel. She is the shyest of the shy, and most of these photos are blurry because she's in the process of zipping away from me! She hangs out with another younger group of mostly-mottled hens. Note the group photo of the barred mottled hens? She's in the top left corner.
What is interesting about her is the BLUE tail feathers. Very neat! Makes it easy to pick her out of the crowd. And while she currently is just showing a little mottling, she still has two months at least before she starts laying, so there is plenty of time to develop still. I'll update with more photos later.
These mostly-solid hens add variety, and my goal is for (eventually) a breed that shows a lot of variety in color within the same little flock. The mostly-white mottled color is more "in your face" but these mostly-solid hens add variety and interest with their intricate mottled patterns.
Look at the photo below. Do you see the two GIANT yellow hens on the TOP LEFT corner, behind the red and white mottled rooster? Those are purebred Buff Rock hens, and I'm hoping that the cross between those hens and the red mottled rooster will get me a nice, BIG new rooster, light in color, with very little black, that I can use to improve size in the next generation. Mating has already occured with these hens and the rooster, but with the heat so bad they aren't laying (still up to 109 degrees last week) and it will probably be October before I have eggs to hatch out from them. And if they're hatched in October or even November, it will be next May before we'd see the results from this cross.
In the BOTTOM RIGHT corner, there is a mostly-white roo with red mottling. I crossed Karma and Mystic with a big, beefy purebred New Hampshire Red rooster, which resulted in some what appear to be just solid brown stock - but all of those "brown" youngsters carry the gene for mottling. I am hoping to cross those (totally unrelated to below chickens) brown hens with this heavily mottled Aloha roo when they are old enough. The result should (hopefully??) be some red and white mottled stock, with outside blood from Karma/Mystic and the NHR roo, that will be used to improve size and increase genetic diversity. But these brown NHR crosses were hatched in June, which means no eggs from those until December at best. Most likely, we won't know the result of this cross until next spring.
I have to admit, I'm getting tired of typing out "mostly-white mottled" or "ultra-mottled" or whatever terms I can think of to try and describe this color? Technically, I believe it would be called "Golden Cuckoo Mottled" or "Crele Mottled" but even that seems cumbersome and not too fun.
Since I've now managed to reproduce this color not just once but over and over and over and over again, I think it's time it gets a fun and easy-to-remember name! So from here on out, this color in Aloha chickens will be called "Confetti". Best I can think of, and it certainly fits!