Why Some Blue Feathered Chicken Breeds May Not Always Look Blue
One of the most enjoyable things about keeping chickens is the vast range of different colors and patterns that the chicken breeds can display, allowing us all to have a beautiful flock. But in a few breeds, the chick you receive in your flock may grow up to not resemble the breed’s photo on our website. Here’s an explanation of why the blue chicken breeds will also have black and splash chicks as possible color variations you may receive.
Genotype is the term referring to the genetic makeup of any organism. Mendel’s law of inheritance states that for any genetic trait, each chick receives a gene from each parent. The blue coloring is made from two different genes, black (BB) and splash (bb). By “mixing” these two colors, we are able to achieve blue chicks. If we breed a black (BB) parent to a splash (bb) parent, 100% of the chicks should come out blue (Bb). The chick receives a gene from each parent, a dominant black (B) and a recessive splash (b), which genetically is a blue chick.
When the breeding flock consists of blue birds (Bb), the resulting offspring will contain approximately 25% black (BB) chicks, 50% blue (Bb) chicks and 25% splash (bb) chicks.
Phenotype refers to the actual feather colors and patterns caused by the genotype. Since the color blue is a dilute color caused by the black and splash combination, there can be a wide variety of blue displayed in the resulting chicks. Blues can range from a faint light coloring to an almost black-blue color. Some of the genetically blue (Bb) chicks can actually look very dark, almost to the point of looking like a black chick.
What is Self Blue?
Self Blue is the term used to describe a blue color in poultry that does genetically breed true. Usually, when a breed is genetically self-blue, it will be described as a lavender-colored breed. As an example, consider the Lavender Orpington versus the Blue Orpington, similar-looking birds but genetically the former will breed true while the latter will not. Self Blue parents will produce 100% blue (lavender) chicks without the dominant black and recessive splash color variations. You can almost always assume that if any breed is called just “blue” without the “self blue” designation, it may produce the black and splash offspring in addition to the blue. Producing a self-blue breed takes many generations of selective breeding to develop the pure genotype and the resulting strong phenotype expected in a self-blue breed.
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In your article, you say (quote) “without the dominant black and recessive splash color variations.” I’ve never heard it put that way, and I disagree with that description. First, (Andalusian) Blue, itself, has co-Dominant effect (Blue X Black = 50/50 offspring spit). As such, wouldn’t a better description be ‘Normal’ Black? And second, the Splash color/pattern is certainly not recessive. Splash is actually ‘Pure Blue’ in terms of its effect on the offspring, proven with Splash X Splash = 100% Splash chicks. As such, there is nothing recessive about Splash, it is the double-dilution action on Black, just as Blue is a single dilute of Black.
Thank you for reading our blog, Dennis. For the vast majority of chicken owners looking for blue, black or splash chickens from those few breeds that can produce them, talking about incomplete dominance and dilutions is definitely a deeper dive into poultry genetics than most people want! To call a splash a “pure blue” would be very confusing to most. Thank you for your input.