Breeding Colored Birds

Breeding Colored Birds:
our observations
by Nikki Stetson
HatTrick Silkies
article © Hattrick Silkies

In my opinion, colored silkies are among the most beautiful birds in the poultry world. Their striking colors and beautiful patterns are a sight to behold. It is in the last few years that I have developed an appreciation for them and the challenge in breeding them.

My expectations in the beginning were quite high. I expected every bird I bought to be "show quality" and I expected perfect chicks every time. The reality is that just doesn't happen. It's "buying the line" of an established breeder or someone with a line of birds that fits what you're looking for, that can make all the difference. Sometimes what's on the outside isn't as important as what's on the inside.

Which brings me back to the term "buying the line". A few years ago I bought some birds from a well established breeder who's colored birds (in my opinion) were the best. During the course of our conversations, I jotted down everything he told me about his birds, how to breed, what to expect, how not to breed, etc. At the time I didn't pay much attention. Then as I began breeding and seeing for myself what was working and not working, I went back to my notes. I was amazed at how everything he had told me was true. I could finally see for myself what he was talking about, some of the mistakes I had made and I started to understand what it takes to breed colored birds.

I'd like to show some examples of our birds and you'll see what I'm talking about. Picture A is a 3yr. old Buff rooster. What I like about him is he's compact and typey. What I don't like is his comb, it's a little larger than I like. He has bluish black coloring in his tail, crest and beard. Picture B is his year old son. In one generation I can see a smaller, darker comb, clear crest and beard, clear tail and an all over evenness of color. I am thrilled with this cockerel. What this cockerel will produce is too soon to tell, the chicks are too young, but what his father produced is stunning, even though he's not "perfect" on the outside, he is worth his weight in gold (to me at least) for what offspring he has given me.

In closing I'd like to reiterate that breeding colored birds is a challenge, but a rewarding one. Pay attention to the advice each breeder gives you about their line, as all lines are different. And above all don't be too quick to judge a bird at a young age or not appreciate what a "less than perfect" bird can offer you.