Chickens come in a variety of colors and plumages. Blue is a less common color in chickens. In this blog post we’ll explore the genetics behind breeding blue chicks.
When breeding any animal, there are genetic rules that govern what will happen when you breed animal A to animal B. For example, if you breed a black Aberdeen Angus cow with a bull of the same breed and color, the offspring will also be black in color. This is because black Aberdeen Angus cattle have been black for generations and the breeding is said to be “true breeding.” With true breeding, the parents will produce offspring that carry the same phenotype. These cows breed true and if the genetic line is pure, they will produce the same color reliably.
Chickens with a “blue” feather coloring (usually a beautiful bluish-grey color) do not breed true for this color. You can breed a blue rooster with a blue hen and only about half of their offspring will have the blue plumage. About 25% of the offspring will actually be black (from the black gene present in “blue” chickens) and about 25% will be “splash” coloring. Splash coloring in chickens is when the offspring is light colored with “splashes” of darker coloring in the feathers.
Why Does this Happen?
The genes for blue in chickens are really ones that dilute the black feather color in the offspring. When a gene for black is diluted, it can produce a shade that is similar to blue. Black and black breeds true in chickens, so if you breed them they will produce black offspring.
Black Bred with Splash
It is interesting to note that black chickens bred with blue splash chicken will produce a color that is dilute enough to be called blue. The range of color depth is still not reliable, however. A blue chicken that comes from breeding black and splash can be a very light color, a lovely blue, or a dark color. Some of these colors are not as desirable as others. In addition, although the offspring may be labeled as blue, they will not breed blue reliably when bred to one another. It can still be useful to breed black with splash in order to produce more potential blues.
When breeding blue to blue, the diversity is increased. The results will include splash, black and blue. Blue chickens bred to splash chickens will also produce some blue, as much as 50%, but the color range may not be desirable.
Ordering Blue Chickens
For these reasons, an order of blue chickens will not include all blue-colored feather combinations. You should expect to receive some black, some splash and some blue. At Valley Hatchery we will send as many blues as possible with your order. Since blue does not breed true, however, we cannot guarantee that your order will be all blue. Primarily, we strive to send you healthy chicks that will improve your flock!