THE GENES OF COLOR
As reported by Jeffrey in BANTAM CHICKENS 1979 Published by ABA.Saiga Publishing Company, Limited
Pub. Date: January 1977.
All chickens have black and red (gold). These are the only colors in chickens. All the different patterns and colors depend on either restricting or enhancing these two colors.
THE DOWN GENES
E--extended black. dominate Chicks are hatched as black. In adult hood they are black with red (gold) or white (silver) in the hackles and saddles. (polecats, furriness) My Mottles have E.
e Wh -- dominate wheaten. Chicks hatch out as whitish. adults are: males: red hackle and saddle without stripping. Breast, tail, and wing bows black. Females: Wheat colored to reddish. Black restricted to the wings and tail. Example Wheaten. My Mille Fleurs have e wh.
e+ --wild. Chicks are brown like chipmunks when hatched, with striped head and back. In adult hood males: Much like the wheaten males above, but the red is not quite so bright. Females: Brownish with very fine black penciling on body. Breast is salmon Example Black Breasted Red/ Silver Ducklings.
e b --dark brown. Chicks striped back with a blurred head. Adults males: as above. Females as above but have a red/brown breast instead of salmon.
e bc -- buttercup. Chicks as chicks above but the yellowish white stripe is wider. Head stripe is broken and irregular. Adults as above.
e y --recessive wheaten. chicks are white. Adults are like above but the red is darker and both sexes have striping in the saddle and hackle.
These are the foundation that the other genes work with to give us the colors and patterns that we enjoy in chickens. Extended black is the only dominate gene in this group. The others are incomplete dominate. A chick with 2 different down genes will show traits of each.
ENHANCERS OF BLACK
mi -- Melanotic. recessive This gene allows for the normally red areas of chickens to be black. (Melanotic plus E = a black bird).
DILUTERS OF BLACK
Bl --Andalusin blue. One gene to a black bird will be blue. Two genes will be splash. See blue gene. One of my favorite genes. Without it I would only have Mottled and Mille Fleur. It changes a Mille Fleur to a Blue Mille Fleur of Golden Neck depending on the number of genes present. It also changes a Mottled to a Blue Mottled.
Co --Columbian dominate. Removes black to the hackle and tail. Makes for the male to have a white or buff breast. Males and females have same color instead of being different. This changes a Wheaten bird to a Buff Columbian
Db --Dark Brown. dominate Reported by Moore and Smyth (1972) makes a male into a black tailed white or buff or red while not removing all the stripping from the body of the female. A gene I'm not familiar with.
Ii -- Dominate white. effective in changing black to white but not so good on red e.g. creaminess on whites. Birds with Ii will have some black spots on breast. Used for Red Pyle Old English Game.
Er -- Erminette -- dominate. Reported by Hutt (1964) A heterozygous pattern Most feathers are white with the rest being black. Double dose birds are all white. Not a gene that I'm familiar with.
pi --Pied -- recessive Black and white are evenly marked. Best known example is Exchequer Leghorn. Another gene that I'm not familiar with.
Sd -- Sex Link Dilution. Reported by Munro (1946) Closely associated with Sex Linked Barring (B) Sd males are barred, Sd Sd males are white. Sd females are bluish ghost barred, sd females are barred. Another gene that I'm not familiar with.
RESTRICTORS OF BLACK AND RED
B -- Sex Link Barring-- dominate. "puts" white bars on the feather. Best example Barred Plymouth Rocks. Males can have 1 or 2 genes. Hence dark and light barred males. Females only 1. Males pass trait to sons and daughters. Females pass trait on to sons. Also effects red by having white bars on red feather. Best example Creel Old English Game.
mo -- Mottled --recessive. Makes a black bar with white spot below, at end of feather. Another one of my favorites. Without it I would only have Black and Buff Columbian (changes a black bird to a Mottled and a Buff Columbian bird to a Mille Fleur) .
DILUTERS OF BLACK AND GOLD
cc -- Recessive white --Changes both black and red to white. Working with recessive white can be tricky as it "white washes" a bird. It may have the phenotype of a totally different color or even a nonstandard color underneath the white. The only way to determine what the white is hiding is to mate it to a black bird. You can get barred, polecats, etc.
lav -- lavender.-- recessive. Black becomes gray and red feathers become cream.
rs -- red-splashed white. recessive Reported by Quinn (1934) A bird with 2 genes is reported to be white with splashes of red and black. Know nothing about this one either.
SEX LINK GOLD
G- --This is the second basic color of chickens (Black is the first) This makes for a buff colored bird (along with another gene) or causes the red in the red areas of the red and black bird.
ENHANCES OF GOLD
ar -- Autosomal Red. -- Reported by Hutt (1949) In theory only. Independent of Sex Link Gold (red) as Silver doesn't effect it. Suggested that this makes for the Golden Duckwing Group. Personally know nothing about it. But suspect that Mh (mahogany) might do the same trick.
Mh --Mahogany. -- dominate. Makes for a dark red bird. Best known example : Rhode Island Red.
RESTRICTORS OF GOLD
S -- Sex Link Silver Incomplete dominate. Opposite of Sex Linked Gold. Changes gold to silver. Females have one gene. Males have 2 (or can have 1 of each). If a male has 1 for gold and one for silver his saddle and hackle is creamish. Changes a Black Breasted Red to Silver Duckwing or a Golden Sebright to a Silver Sebright.
DILUTERS OF GOLD
ig -- cream recessive. Reported by Punnett (1948) Described as introducing a rich cream to gold or a pale silver to silver. Know nothing about this one.
Di -- Dilute-- dominate Reported by Brumbaugh and Hollander Makes a red/gold bird into a buff. Another one that I haven't worked with.
cb -- champagne blond -- recessive. Also reported by Brumbaugh and Hollander. Reported to do the same as above. I tend to support this for Buffs from some breeding/crossing that I have done with Buff Plymouth Rocks, that there is a recessive gene that dilutes gold to a warm buff.
However some authors -- Somes and Smyth (1965) report that buffs carry a suppresser of red.
Ab -- autosomal barring. Another gene I know nothing about.
Lg -- lacing. dominate gives the Partridge Plymouth Rock females the lacing pattern. Same for Silver Penciled Plymouth Rocks.
Sp -- spangling. dominate. Jeffery call this trait a pattern. I think of it as black restrictor. It removes black from all of the feather except the very end making a black inverted V. Best known examples Silver Spangled Hamburg and Golden Spangled Hamburg.
OK SO NOW LETS "BUILD" A MILLE FLEUR
e wh -- wheaten down color. Wheaten/whitish colored female. Male Red/Silver hackle and saddle, with a black breast.
s -- sex link gold, we want a red bird, not a white/silver one. Now we have a Gold Wheaten instead of a Silver Wheaten.
Co -- columbian Removes the black from the breast of the male. Now we have a Buff Columbian. Makes males and females the same color.
mo -- mottled. recessive 2 genes required. This adds the black bar and white dot. to the end of the feather. Now we have a Mille Fleur!!!
If we add one gene of Bl we will have a Blue Mille Fleur. If we add 2 genes we will have a Golden Neck.
Take the same Mile Fleur that we just built. If lav -- lavender is added in 2 doses (it's recessive) we will have a Porcelain.
TO "BUILD" A MOTTLED BIRD
E -- extended black down. Black male and female with red/silver in hackles and saddle
s -- sex link gold Mine have sex link gold, but silver would work.
mi -- melanotic. This covers the normally red/silver areas of chickens black. Now we have a black bird.
mo -- Mottled recessive so 2 genes are required. This adds the black bar (not seen on a black bird) and white spot at the end of the feather. A mottled bird is built.
If we take the Black bird designed above add Bl --Blue we will have a blue bird.
If we take the same Black bird designed above and add lav-- lavender ( 2 genes required as it is recessive) we would have a self blue.
If we take again the same Black bird designed above and add c -- recessive white( again 2 genes required as it is recessive) we would have a white bird.
If we take the mottled bird "built" above and add Bl --blue we will have a blue mottled.
So for any known color/variety of chickens it starts on the down color for the foundation. Then by adding different genes to enhance or restrict the red and black of the down color, we end up with the variety that we have.
I hope this simple and quick lesson in the genetics of the different colors/varieties of chickens has been helpful. If you have any questions please feel free to e mail me.
The Bantam Roost