Understanding the colors of your backyard chickens | Manna Pro

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Genetics can be difficult to understand. Here you will find some basic information for a better understanding of poultry colors which can be applied to your own flock.

Recessive Gene

A recessive gene can be masked by a dominate gene, therefore needing two copies present to express a recessive color like Lavender, White, Mottled, or Chocolate.

A chicken with black plumage has the color gene E (Extended Black), which is dominate to most other color genes and alleles (an alternative form of a gene which are caused by color mutations). Because the black gene (E) is dominate, black chickens are commonly used for breaking up color when bred to a chicken with two recessive genes.

When a chicken carries one copy of a recessive gene and one copy of a dominate gene, it is referred to as a “split” bird, even if it looks like it only has the dominate coloring. When breeding recessive colors, such as lavenders, to a black chicken ( a split) the lavender will then carry one copy of the gene. Once bred back to another chicken with one copy of that gene it will only give you 50% splits and 50% lavender.

Lavender X Lavender = 100% Lavender

Lavender X Black = 100% Black

Split X Lavender = 50% Lavender, 50% Splits

Split X Split = 25% Black, 25% Lavender ,50% Splits

Dilutes of Black

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Lavender and blue are diluting to the black color, although blue is dominate. Blue is an incomplete dominant and is Bl + black pigment. Breeding blue, black and splash (Bl/bl+) is fun because of all the variations which can result. Breeding blue to blue is my favorite which gives you all 3 colors. The results are beautiful.

Blue X Blue = 50% Blue, 25% Black, 25%Splash

Blue X Black = 50% Black,50% Blue

Black X Black = 100% Black

Black X Splash = 100% Blue

Splash X Splash = 100% Splash

Dominant White

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Dominant white is believed to prevent black from coming through in one or two copies of a gene (i+ plus colored feathers). One copy of the gene means one dominant white bred to a non-dominant white. It will however let red color through. Red is considered leakage, which is the presence of an undesired color.

Dominant white is also known to be a “leaky” color. Although most genetics may follow this rule, some do not, like paint silkies. Silkies and other chickens with paint color, although not fully understood genetically, produce three colors when bred. Paint color also genetically lose pigmentation in skin color when bred. Paint breeding, dominant white to black leaving white to either not fully cover black causing it to leak.

Dominant white is not like recessive white, you cannot make splits with dominant white. Breeding paints results in some highly enjoyable complex colors.

Dominant white to Black = Paints   

Silver Gene & Gold Gene

Silver (S) & gold (s+) gene is a base color for birds and can be used genetically for breeding to clean up gold coloring in hackle feathers and saddle feathers.

Sometimes sun bleaching can be mistaken for the gold gene, but a sure way to tell is at hatch. I like to mark my birds to watch them as they grow and see the differences between gold and silver.

Silver (and dark birds as well) can even have an effect of creating light coloring (silver shimmer to white). White, lavender, and some other lighter colored birds benefit silver base to keep them from turning gold, while dark birds benefit from gold base. Many birds can even carry both silver and gold genes!

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We hope you have enjoyed this short lesson on the captivating world of poultry genetics. Color is a fascinating aspect of breeding chickens that will keep you keep you wanting to know more!

Sherry Klaus

Sherry Klaus

Hi, my name is Sherry. I am a mother, wife, business owner and have a small farm in East Central Missouri. I have always had a passion for animals. I have horses, dogs, goats and chickens. I have a particular fondness for chickens. Chickens are entertaining, beautiful and I just find them to be all around wonderful creatures. I got into showing and breeding chickens shortly after rescuing my first rooster. I now breed and show both Silkies and Ameraucana (Paint, Self-Blue and Blue) chicken breeds. I now ship my birds all over the Country. My daughter shares my love of chickens and shows the Bantam Ameraucana breed. Other than my affinity for chickens, I also have many hobbies. I enjoy gardening, 4wheeling, fishing, horseback riding and playing with my adorable fainting goats. When I am not enjoying my animals I am helping my husband manage our Masonry business. It is a full life and it is just the way I like it.

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