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#37063 - 10/25/02 02:09 PM Regaining Brown Egg Colour
Graciel Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 423
Loc: New York
I've read that this is difficult to do once it has been lost. Would the best way to go about it be as simple as breeding the darkest egg laying hen with a rooster offspring who hatched from a dark egg, or is there any other trait you can tell phenotypically that is related to egg colour? I'm guessing there isn't.

On a related note, if a breed that should lay darker eggs lays a lighter egg, is this proof that the birds are from mixed ancestry? My Barnevelders lay a medium brown egg, nothing special. Assuming that they aren't as pure as they could be, what other breed could be mixed in them? Partridge Rock? These nine hens that I have exhibit different levels of lacing. One is definitely "lacier" than the rest.

Jennifer

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#37064 - 10/25/02 10:51 PM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
Laurie Offline
Coop Cleaner

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 169
Loc: North Carolina
Hi Jennifer,

I have two Barnie pullets who lay "ordinary" brown eggs too, that is mostly because out of all the dark egg breeds, the Barnevelder is the one most often bred for show (eye candy) and when bred for show, the breeder is usually ONLY selecting for the traits the breeder knows the judges look for. Judges in the US do not judge dark egg breeds by their egg color.

One of mine is the correct double laced, one is triple laced. Both stunning girls, though! And no husband for them so far. So you and I are pretty much in the same boat about Barnevelders.

First thing I would do is try to find someone who has Barnevelders with good egg color (hard to do, but not impossible).

Then get a dark-egg cockerel from them at least.

A pullet or two if you can talk them out of any, or eggs in the spring. They may have a long waiting list, very few people have Barnevelders with good egg color in the US, but they DO exist.

I got three lines of Marans this summer, I consider it an investment, because with luck, one of them will make me at least as happy as my Fugates. It is cheaper to wait and pay above-average prices to get good stock to start with, than to take years (and lots of space and feed) to improve something that is pretty poor.

The way I breed to improve or maintain dark egg color is to only set the darkest eggs, and only use roosters hatched from the darkest eggs (with my famous luck, my darkest eggs of the year ALWAYS hatch cockerels!)

Roosters out of the darkest eggs have the best chance of carrying the most dark egg genes. If the male comes from a darker egged line than your hens, breed the pullets out of the darkest eggs back to their father, that should improve the second generation's egg color nicely.

I also choose my own breeding stock out of the last hatch of the season, because then I am also selecting for the birds that MAINTAINED the best egg color the longest. Some of my hens now lay eggs almost as dark in September as they do in March!

Dark egg color is polygenic, and roosters appear to carry at least 50% of the egg color. I am not at all convinced it is more than 50%, much less that it could be "all" up to the rooster as some claim, but I believe that by emphasizing the rooster's importance in breeding for egg color, more people will breed wisely (keeping track of egg color associated with BOTH parents) and more dark eggers will result.

In the dark egg breeds, outcrossing to another breed spoils the appearance of the birds (not to mention causing unexpected problems for people working with later generations), and also dilutes and disrupts the egg color genes much worse than you would expect.

You will be much better off to get a dark-egg cockerel and/or a pair or trio from someone whose Barnies have good egg color.

I had two Marans hens this summer that laid an "ordinary brown" egg and a cream egg (the third one laid eggs the same color as my midrange Welsummers, and my Welsummer eggs have very nice color, so hers were the only eggs I set, not many eggs and she had three husbands, very interesting results on looks alone).

The two with lighter eggs were also egg eaters (and the dratted things ate the Fugate hen's eggs as well as their own). When *they* didn't eat their eggs, *I* did. I was not willing to hatch Marans eggs that were not darker than my regular brown eggs, so they got used as eating eggs.

I would at the VERY least get a cockerel from a darker egged line and be very selective as to what eggs you set next year.

I would NOT outcross the birds.

And if possible, I would simply get as many eggs or chicks as I could from someone with better egg color, in the spring. The ladies you have are excellent eye candy, and will lay BIG nice eating eggs, if they are anything like mine.

As far as the effort involved in improving egg color to the extent that these would have to, it is cheaper in the long run to start in the middle and breed to improve, than to start at the very bottom, where every improvement would be so hard-won. You may have more time and money than I do, but starting as close to the top as I can makes the most sense to me.

You have to be willing to choose to not breed poor specimens if you want better birds. There's no magic bullet. Luckily, if they lay nice big eggs and lay often, they can earn their feed as layers of eating eggs.

Good luck! If you find a line of Barnies with good egg color, please let me know, and I will be glad to email you if I find any.
_________________________
Laurie

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#37065 - 10/26/02 09:44 AM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
R. Okimoto Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 1498
Loc: Arkansas
There seem to be dominant inhibitors of brown egg shell color in Leghorns. There could be more than one. Brown shell is considered a polygenic trait (many genes involved). Once you cross in a light shell animal it seems to be fairly difficult to breed the light shell out. This may be because people do not select logically and possibly due to the fact that many inhibitors of brown may come in with the cross and you have to work very hard to remove them all.

There seems to be two components to the very dark brown. In America we usually see red brown shell and this red brown is applied to the outer layer of the egg shell. The Welsummers that I had, had this red brown, but they also had a very dark brown pigment that was mostly in the cuticle. The cuticle is the carbohydrate layer laid down as a protective layer on the egg shell. It is like a screen that lets air in, but helps keep bacteria out. This dark brown pigment could be washed off the egg without much effort. The red brown seems to be part of the shell and is not easily washed off.

I don't know the genetics of these two types of shell color.

The best way to select for egg shell color is to progeny test your males and only breed from the males that produce daughters with the darkest brown egg shells. You can type the female breeders by the color of their shells, but you can't type the males unless you raise up their daughters and find out what kind of eggs that they lay. This means raising a lot more birds or keeping males for multiple generations.

The alternative is not as accurate. You simply make your best guess at what males may carry the genes that you want and breed them. The only thing that you can do is maintain a pedigree and only breed males that come from maternal lines that consistently produce the darkest brown egg shells. You will make mistakes that can set your whole breeding operation back a generation or so, but over the long haul you should make progress.

Essentially breed males from mothers with a heritage of dark brown shells and only breed from the the hens with the darkest brown shells. This isn't very efficient, but it is the best that you can do. It also leads to inbreeding. When companies select for such traits they have very large populations. You can expect your lines to begin to fail to reproduce due to inbreeding depression if your flock size is small. If you have to bring in new blood you should try to bring in hens that lay eggs as dark as your line or you will be going backwards and starting over again.

In small populations I'd suggest that if you ever find a male that is superior in fathering daughters with dark brown shells you may want to keep him and use him again if his sons don't do as well. You don't want to use him too often because of the dangers of inbreeding, but you can think of him as a genetic repository. If you have to bring in new blood that sets your line back you can use him as a gene bank to make sure that the genes that you want stay in your population. I've kept roosters that have maintained high fertility for around 9 years.

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#37066 - 10/27/02 05:31 AM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
Graciel Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 423
Loc: New York
Thanks for the replies. Laurie, I may not have made it clear but I'm not looking to outcross these birds---these hens have three brothers that I can start out with. (These came from eggbid.com this past spring from two different people.) I was only curious if the ones I have were likely or not to have been outcrossed to some other breed in the past to get these lighter shelled eggs. If the breed has darker eggs as a whole, why should breeding for "typey" birds create a lighter shelled laying strain? Is it just luck of the draw the the better looking birds had the lighter brown eggs?

Thanks for the tip about waiting until late in the year to check egg colour for breeding. I'd never have considered that. smile

Ron, is inbreeding depression something that always occurs with small numbers of animals in the program, or is it something that only *can* occur, but won't happen consistently? I understand that in a small program you get a higher percentage of genes from a small pool segregating out faster, but since they are not all undesirable genes, don't you also get a reasonable number of individuals with perfectly normal health? Is (bad)inbreeding caused by an unlucky choice of a key individual that has a high concentration of undesireable genes, but yet appears healthy? What am I missing about inbreeding if it is supposed to be consistently harmful to a population?

Thanks.

Jennifer

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#37067 - 10/27/02 07:29 AM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
Rob Offline
Ruler of the Roost

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 783
Loc: Pennsylvania
I do a lot of close limebreeding in all my livestock. But I know their background. Coming from eggbid, the chance of knowing what genetics you may have are slim. You have no idea of what lurks beneath the pretty feathers. Starting out a line with sib matings really leaves few options in a mating plan and concentrates genes @ the first mating, where will you go from there? If all your selection criteria is for color of feather and type, and no emphasis is put on egg color or rate of lay, in time, that will be what is lost. It would seem, to me, that if a breeds main character is dark eggs, that would be the most sought after quality. That would really be what defines the breed, more than type or feather.?? Just my own thoughts on this .

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#37068 - 10/27/02 07:55 AM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
R. Okimoto Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 1498
Loc: Arkansas
Inbreeding is the fastest way to change the genetic make up of your flock. It is the fastest means to getting a bird like you want, but you are very likely to fix bad genes by chance in your flock by inbreeding. Most people do not hatch enough chicks each generation to select against inbreeding depression.

Chickens have a very high genetic load. It is around 6. Humans have a genetic load of around 2.5. Genetic load is just a rough estimate of the number of recessive lethal and detrimental genes that each animal carries on average. Some carry more and some carry less. Each bird carries a different set. Around 17 out of 20 chicken lines started by single pair matings fail to produce a male and a female by the third or fourth generation of full-sib matings and the line dies out. The lines that eventually make it aren't that healthy either and often have hatchabilities of around 30%.

Full sib mating is the highest level of inbreeding that you can do and would be most likely to fix detrimental genes by accident. If you inbreed more slowly you have a better chance of selecting birds that are more viable.

Inbreeding is the fastest way to increase the color of the egg shell, but it is also the fastest means of breeding in unwanted genes into your flock.

Inbreeding isn't always harmful it just is harmful most of the time because there are so many detrimental genes in each individual and they are recessive so you can't select against them until you inbreed. There is no effective means of selection against recessives except test mating and family selection. This is why eugenics failed early this century. The methods to clense the human genome would have required family selection. Entire families and their relatives would have to be kept from reproducing to stop the chance of a recessive from being transmitted to the next generation. You don't know who else in the family is a carrier so you don't know who to let breed. No one would go for it because they all realized that everyone would be related to someone with a problem.

You can select against inbreeding depression but you have to increase the number of inbred matings and select to breed from only those matings that reproduce well. This is on top of selecting for the traits that you want, so it requires a lot of matings and a lot of birds.

Most backyard breeders can't do this and so they have to constantly go outside and bring in new birds to keep their lines going. The reason that this works is that just by chance the other line fixed different detrimentals and so the lines can compliment to a degree and make the recessive detrimental loci heterozygous so that your line improves until you make them homozygous again by inbreeding.

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#37069 - 10/27/02 10:59 AM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
Anonymous
Unregistered


Nansea, a (patent) attorney told me last year that cutting and pasting work authored by someone else is likely a violation of copyright law unless you have their permission. Making a link to it is a different matter.

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#37070 - 10/27/02 07:22 PM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
R. Okimoto Offline
Lord of the Fowl

Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 1498
Loc: Arkansas
Dark brown egg shell is just another trait that some people have a preference for. If all you want is healthy birds and a lot of eggs it is not a necessary trait. They do bring a premium price in some markets.

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#37071 - 10/27/02 08:13 PM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
CJR Online   content
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8483
Loc: Montana
Poultry Shows in England and Europe most often have classes for eggs as well as poultry, and the plates of uniform DARK BROWN eggs are a great attraction. Competition is also great! The same birds that win in Breed classes are most often from the same flocks that produce those dark brown eggs. Color of eggs is purely a matter of custom--Europe usually prefers Brown eggs--U.S., most places want pure White eggs, with a smaller demand for any Brown eggs. And there is a growing market for the Pink/Green/Blue eggs. But really, folks, an egg is an egg is an egg! (I don't like to eat Red, Blue or Green M&Ms, although they taste the same as Yellow and Brown--we all have quirks!) But I DO like eggs--anyway except raw~ CJR

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#37072 - 10/28/02 06:25 AM Re: Regaining Brown Egg Colour
Graciel Offline
Coop Keeper

Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 423
Loc: New York
Thanks again, Ron, and everyone, for the replies. I certainly understand inbreeding better now. I hadn't been considering the fact strong enough that genes are fixed or lost in that first generation because of the small population.

I read something interesting about Cheetahs some years ago, that they have few kittens in their litters and low fertility because they are thought to descend 10,000 years ago (forget exactly, but thousands of years) from a single pregant female. Apparently some disaster occurred that wiped the species out except for this one animal.

Crossman, no, there's nothing special about the brown eggs except fun. smile Also, to me, who has no interest in showing, for a breed to lose a characteristic simply because it doesn't show up on the show bench is annoying. I don't know if the originators of the breed created a dark egg laying breed on purpose or not, but since it started out that way, it ought to remain that way especially if there is an economic reason for it now. Any working breed of animal shouldn't lose those traits that make it useful just because you don't see them when you look at it.

Jennifer

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