SHOW-ME Silkies & Stuff

                 Description of Breeds                                                                                

 

 

Silkie Bantam

Silkies are unique in the poultry world. The Silkie is a loving little chicken. Their kind nature and inability to fly makes them the perfect backyard pet, one that will not only entertain you but provide you breakfast.

Some of the characteristics that make them stand apart from other chickens are first and foremost the feathering, which appears much like fur due to the lack of barbicels. Barbicels cause most feathers to hold together along the shaft. They have 5 toes where most chickens have only four. Silkies have crests, black skin and bones as well as feathered legs and feet. The comb on a Silkie is different and referred to as a walnut comb. The comb is black to deep mulberry in color. Eyes are dark brown to black. Silkies also come in bearded and non-bearded types.

The Silkie has a very long history. They where first seen in China by Marco Polo in the 1500's on his expeditions there. The Chinese are given credit for developing the Silkie to please past emperors. The Chinese believe that ground up bones have special healing powers and are still used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed that the Silkie has managed to survive since ancient times because of their determination to hatch and raise anything that comes in egg. They are frequently broody and loyal mothers. Male Silkies have been known to be excellent with raising young as well. The Chinese used them to hatch pheasant eggs and to raise chicks of other types of poultry. Silkies are one of the oldest breeds known; even though they are very different from the ones Marco Polo saw in China. Our Silkies now have bigger crests, leg feathering, and they now come in different colors other than white. One theory has it that white was the original color with black following as a mutation.

Our Silkies now have bigger crests, leg feathering, and they now come in different colors. The colors recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) and the American Bantam Association (ABA) are white, partridge, gray, splash, black, blue, and buff.  Silkies are shown in the feather legged class in shows. Their dark walnut combs should be small and well formed. The beak is pewter blue in color, short and substantial. The face of the Silkie is fine and smooth. Their body should be somewhat ball shaped, broad and well rounded in the breast and body. The crest is to be rounded and full.

The standard for Silkies differs by color. Those wishing further details should refer to the American Silkie Bantam Club (ASBC) for information on standards.

 

 SHOWGIRLS

 

SHOWGIRLS are a designer hybrid of cross breeding a Silkie with a Turken, otherwise known as a Transylvanian naked neck, to create these awkward yet beautiful Silkie looking chickens with a naked neck or partial naked neck.  

There are few serious breeders of SHOWGIRLS here in the USA. To “build” your own takes a lot of time and trying. You will not get an ideal SHOWGIRL with dark skin, 5 toes, proper feet feathering to the middle toe, and comb until the 9th or 10th generation.

The SHOWGIRLS that have the double gene (homozygous) have no feathers at all on the neck where as the SHOWGIRLS that have a single gene (heterozygous)  have what is called a 'bow tie' or a patch of feathers on the front of the throat.

A homozygous bred to another homozygous will have all naked neck SHOWGIRLS. A heterozygous bred to another heterozygous will produce mostly SHOWGIRLS with a bow tie and the possibility of a few that are naked neck.

Breeding a necked neck to a pure bred Silkie will produce heterozygous chicks that will be sporting a bow tie. All offspring from a SHOWGIRL will carry this dominate naked neck gene.

I currently have a white homozygous SHOWGIRL rooster being bred to pure Silkie hens. Offspring have vaulted skull w/ huge top knot, correct toes, comb and skin color, acceptable toe spacing and plump bodied. Fabulous SHOWGIRLS with a bow tie!

 

Araucana Bantam

The Araucana bantam is a curious and funny sort of fowl. They are quite personable and come in a rainbow of colors. They are rumpless and have tufts of feathers protruding from each side of the neck.  Bred primarily for its novel characteristic of blue eggs, the Araucana is, nevertheless, a dual purpose fowl that carries a plump and meaty body. The hens are good layers of medium sized eggs.

Araucanas have a rich and arguable history. Little is known of the origin of the Araucana except that some came from South America and they have the distinction of laying a blue or turquoise shelled egg. The first written evidence of the existence of blue eggs in Chile was in 1883. The characteristic for blue egg color is dominant and will occur in the offspring when this fowl is crossed with another breed of domestic chickens: hence, cross-breeds which lay blue or tinted eggs are often mistaken for Araucanas. Having originated in a remote area of Chile ruled by fierce Araucana Indians who resisted European domination until the 1880’s.

The distinctive traits of blue egg, tufts and rumplessness originally were found in two distinct breeds from this region. The first breed, named “Collonocas”, laid blue eggs and was rumpless. There is circumstantial evidence that the blue egg color came from crosses of chickens with pheasants. While most hybrids are sterile, a small percentage is not. And the motive for crossing the two was the belief that the offspring made superior game fighting stock. The novelty of a blue egg meant that these rare fertile hens were used for breeding. The Persian Rumpless, a rumpless breed, was introduced by the Dutch during the colonial period and became widespread. The Araucana Indians preferred this trait since they believed that lack of tail feathers made it harder for predators to catch them.

The second breed, called “Quetros”, had unusual tufts, but was tailed and laid brown eggs. The tufts gene is the most mysterious of all. Presumably there was a mutation in a gene that resulted in these ornamental tufts. Left to natural selection the trait would soon die out because of its negative affects on the developing embryo. The gene mutation is lethal if two copies are present, and the embryo dies in shell. Even one copy of the gene is associated with about 20% mortality. Therefore, the Araucana Indians must have decided that it was a desirable trait and consciously propagated it.

The development of the modern Araucana breed begins with the great Chilean breeder, Dr. Ruben Bustros. As a young man in the Chilean army, he encountered the Araucana Indians in remote areas and observed their unique types of chickens during the 1880’s. He returned later and obtained some of the Quetros and Collonocas stock. Crossing these two breeds, over many years he developed tufted, rumpless birds that laid blue eggs, the first Araucanas. He was visited in 1914 by Professor Salvador Castello Carreras of Spain, who introduced them at the World Poultry Congress in 1918. Attempts to import Araucana stock into the United States over the years met with great difficulties. They were first imported into the United States in the early 1930's. However, there was no common goal among these few dedicated breeders until the 1960’s when Red Cox started an Araucana breeders group. His untimely death set things back, and it wasn’t until the late 1970’s that the Araucana was recognized as an official breed.

 


Cream Brabanter

This age old standard Chicken, with it's pointy comb resembling horns, bluish tinted legs and beak is extremely rare and critically endangered. Paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries show chickens that resemble the Brabanters. A very old Dutch breed that became extinct around 1900 and was re-created again in 1920. Brabanter chickens are more intelligent than many chickens. They are good foragers. They are good at flying and climbing. Hens lay 150 large eggs a year and occasionally hens will go broody. They lay more eggs in the winter than most chickens. They are a good dual purpose breed for meat and eggs.

Very rare in the US, though there are some here, in Cream and Gold varieties. The Gold and Cream plumage color both have black, half moon spangle on each feather. Its narrow, flattened crest, The crest points forward like women used to wear in the Appenzellerland of the Netherlands. Thus sometimes Brabanters are called Appenzellers. Three cornered beard and its peculiar V-shaped comb with 2 small rounded spikes (also called horns). Their beak is large with deep nostrils and a fleshy knob at the front of the beak. The wattles are fine and long. The ear lobes are white and oval shaped. This "new" Brabanter is not as large as the original seems to have been, but it surely is a most attractive fowl.



 

Guinea fowl

Clown faced birds that seem to never shut up is what most people think of after being around Guineas. In France, Guineas are very popular. Guinea meat is offered in their food markets. Here in the US, it has been claimed that Guinea is sometimes served in fine restaurants, but offered as pheasant. The cooked guinea fowl resembles chicken in texture, with a flavor much like pheasant (somewhere between chicken and turkey). 

Guinea fowl have a long history of domestication. The young are called keets and very small at birth and easy to raise. Hens are not the best of mothers as they are always on the move and expect the keets to keep up. They are ground nesting birds who will find the most remote area to lay a clutch of eggs which is sometimes raided by predators. Guineas eat lice, worms, ants, spiders, weeds, seeds, and ticks while on range or they can also eat chicken layer crumbles.  With their featherless heads, males and females have a distinctive black crest. Most species of guinea fowl have a dark gray or blackish plumage with dense white spots. Most notably Guineas are quick to sound their alarm, being very vocal. Guinea fowl are so alert that they can help keep away hawks, fox, coyote and snakes. 

 

 

Georgia Giant & Butler's Bobwhite Quail

The name "bobwhite" derives from its characteristic whistling call. A a ground-dwelling bird native to North America and northern Central America and the Caribbean. The Bobwhite Quail is a popular and economically important gamebird, particularly in the southern United States. It is the official game bird of the U.S. states of Tennessee, Georgia, and Washington. Habitat degradation threatens wild populations, so it is propagated in captivity in large numbers for release on hunting preserves or natural areas as required by US wildlife agencies. It is moderately resilient to hunting pressure, and locally can disappear entirely from over hunting. It is also found in many aviaries and is on display in some zoos.

Georgia Giants weigh about a pound at maturity. This all purpose strain has for 30 years been selectively bred for Size (big, meatier bird) Flight Ability (wing and tail feathers longer) High Productivity that produces a large number of eggs, disease resistance which makes them easier to raise. Will mix and interbreed readily with regular Bobwhite.

Butler's are the largest of the Bobwhite quail and they are easy to raise. They grow at a much faster rate. Butlers will weight 10-12 ounces at around six weeks; when mature 16-22 ounces. Butler's and been known to weigh as much as 2 pounds, they get very large.

Bobwhites are especially flighty birds and are easily upset. Avoid loud or unusual noises. Caged birds and VERY tame unless raised almost without human interaction in large flight pens. A good ratio when breeding is 1 male per three females. During the breeding season, typically beginning in mid-April, eggs are laid at a rate of about 1 per day, and they hatch after 23 days. Eggs are normally white in color with a more pointed end than normal chicken eggs. Both males and females can incubate nests, with most nests predominantly incubated by females. If the first clutch of eggs is unsuccessful will attempt to lay, incubate, and hatch additional clutches. If the clutch is successful, chicks are covered with down and capable of moving about when hatched. Chicks will leave the nest approximately 24 hours following hatching. The breeding season continues until mid-October, and successful nesters (females) can potentially lay, incubate, and hatch up to 3 clutches.

Quail is a very tender, sweet and delicate game meat. This is especially true of farm-raised quail because they are never subjected to the rigors associated with a life in the wild. Although they are raised in a natural setting, they are assured a daily ration of food and water free of harassment from predators. This insures that the birds mature steadily and naturally resulting in very tender and deliciously delicate meat. Bobwhite Quail are big eaters and must be given a feed with a high content of protein and calcium added. When caged, they enjoy treats such as cut grass, seeds, vegetable and/or vegetable scraps, apple, wheat bread. They will eat nearly anything!  Quail Eggs are considered a Gourmet  treat; Delicious little eggs with a richer flavor and more delicate texture, Uncountable ways to enjoy these wonderful eggs, Use in baked items to make them richer and more moist, kids & adults love these little eggs... especially a few hard boiled in a packed lunch, also people like them pickled.

 

 

Ring-necked x Afghan Whitewing Pheasant 

Curious and active birds are quite friendly when raised by human and do not associate human contact with danger.

The Common Pheasant is native to Asia and has been widely introduced elsewhere as a game bird. In parts of its range, namely in places where none of its relatives occur such as in Europe (where it is naturalized), it is simply known as the "pheasant". "Ring-necked Pheasant" is a collective name for a number of subspecies and their crossbreeds.

It is a well-known gamebird, among those of more than regional importance perhaps the most widespread and ancient one in the whole world. The Common Pheasant is one of the world's most hunted birds; it has been introduced for that purpose to many regions, and is also common on game farms where it is commercially bred. Ring-necked Pheasants in particular are commonly bred and were introduced to many parts of the world; the game farm stock, though no distinct breeds have been developed yet, can be considered semi-domesticated. The Ring-necked Pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota, one of only three US state birds that is not a species native to the United States.

Common Pheasants feed solely on the ground but roost in sheltered trees at night. They eat a wide variety of animal and vegetable type-food, like fruit, seeds and leaves as well as a wide range of invertebrates, with small vertebrates like snakes, lizards, small mammals and birds occasionally taken. Pheasants nest on the ground, producing a clutch of around ten eggs over a two-three week period in April to June. The incubation period is about 23–26 days. The chicks stay near the hen for several weeks after hatching but grow quickly, resembling adults by only 15 weeks of age.

Common Pheasants are gregarious birds and outside the breeding season form loose flocks. Wherever they are hunted they are always timid once they associate humans with danger, and will quickly retreat for safety after hearing the arrival of hunting parties in the area. While Common Pheasants are able short-distance fliers, they prefer to run. If startled however, they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed, with a distinctive "whirring" wing sound and often giving kok kok kok calls to alert others. Their flight speed is only 27 to 38 mph when cruising but when chased they can fly up to 60 mph.

The Afghan Whitewing, a small flighty black-necked pheasant, was originally imported by avian scientists from Afghanistan as a potential replacement for the Ringneck in the arid Southwest U.S. This pheasant has has no white neck ring. The Afghan's survival skills is that is due to its innate wildness and its preference to roost in trees or brush, has shown great promise in restoring pheasant populations in the areas devoid of Ringnecks and other ground nesting / roosting game birds., so it is less vulnerable to four legged predators. Due to their genetic profile, they reproduce later in the spring and will be available after mid-June until mid-July.

When interbreed with the Ringneck they yield a smaller "ringed" progeny. Afghans are about 2/3 the size of a Ringneck, with the cocks weighing about 2-1/2 lbs. and the hens at 1-3/4 lbs and has a distinctively elegant flavor that cannot be matched. Consistency of flavor, meat texture and size is very difficult to achieve.

 

 

Mandarin duck

The Mandarin Duck is a medium-sized perching duck, closely related to the North American Wood Duck. The species was once widespread in eastern Asia, but large-scale exports and the destruction of its forest habitat have reduced populations in eastern Russia and in China to below 1,000 pairs in each country; Japan, however, is thought to still hold some 5,000 pairs. Mandarins may form small flocks in winter, but rarely associate with other ducks.

Despite their exotic appearance Mandarins are easy to care for and hardy. Fresh drinking water and clean water for swimming are utmost important. Mandarins are fairly social species of waterfowl but can be aggressive towards smaller birds. Mandarin ducks should be housed in pens at least 6 feet in height with access to enough water to bathe and swim in. There are different methods used to house them. I prefer to raise mine in an enclosed aviary, which is 6 feet in height allowing them to fly up to perch and on ground level where their pond, drinking water, and feed is located. The ground is covered with gravel for drainage and a variety of flat rock is securely stacked for them to sit upon. I suggest using a rabbit wire (1/4" x 1/4") if you have or plan on having duckings because the small ducklings can easily get through what most of us know as chicken wire, plus it keeps predators and creepy crawlies out. Lastly, be sure your housing has a roof and coverage from sun, wind, rain and snow.

The adult male, drake, is a striking and unmistakable bird. It has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and reddish face and "whiskers". The breast is purple with two vertical white bars, and the flanks ruddy, with two orange "sails" at the back. The drake usually have more yellow feet and legs in comparison to the hen. The female, hen, is a warm gray brown with a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye, but is paler below, has a small white flank stripe, and a pale tip to its bill. The feet and legs of the female tend to be darker than the drake. The female Mandarins make excellent mothers and in some flocks the males will also help watch after the ducklings. 

They feed by dabbling or walking on land. In captivity they will eat crumble, pellet feed, a gamebird or duck grower is suitable. An important reminder to ONLY feed them Non-Medicated feed! Increase protein during the breeding season and egg shells are a nice additive to their diet during this time.  Mandarins enjoy the treats of bread, wheat, rolled oats along with plants, greens, grasses and seeds, especially beechmast. Mine get feed and fresh greens daily, usually twice a day. They feed mainly near dawn or dusk, perching on tree limbs, atop rocks or on the ground during the day.

Mandarin Ducks, which are referred to by the Chinese as Yuan-yang , are frequently featured in Oriental art and are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity. A Chinese proverb for loving couples uses the Mandarin Duck as a metaphor: "Two mandarin ducks playing in water" . The Mandarin Duck symbol is also used in Chinese weddings, because in traditional Chinese lore they symbolize wedded bliss and fidelity.