Above: Key player: the photo doesn’t do him justice, but this blue cinnamon carrier Norwich cock is an important factor in developing the self cinnamon line All photos: Austin Middlemiss

 

Breeding birds is most absorbing when you’ve got more than one interesting project on the go. AUSTIN MIDDLEMISS introduces two of the varieties he is working with this year. Catch up with the progress of them and their stablemates, as 2019 unfolds

 

THIS month I thought I would introduce the birds that make up this year’s breeding programme. In C&AB, February 20, I briefly mentioned a blue, cinnamon carrier Norwich cock that Rob Lines kindly provided to me to advance my cinnamon Norwich programme. So let’s start with the Norwich and this bird in particular.

In truth, there are two elements to my programme’s aims: to advance and improve the cinnamon stud and, in conjunction with that, to progress to a family of self-coloured Norwich, whether cinnamon, green, blue or, for that matter, fawn. At present I have only the odd bird that is a complete self, so this self blue serves two purposes at once. Obviously, a cinnamon carrier paired to a cinnamon hen would give cinnamon cocks and hens, normal cocks split for cinnamon, and normal hens. Where the parents are both selfs, then the chances of the young being selfs – either green or cinnamon – are much increased. With the blue factor added in, there are four more options to add to the four possibilities already referred to above: these are fawn cocks and hens, blue cocks split for cinnamon, and blue hens.

The laws of mathematics rarely impinge on sex-linked colour pairing expectations, even on a straightforward carrier-to-cinnamon pairing, so the chances of producing all eight separate colours mentioned above, from just one pairing, are virtually nil. However, if I use the blue cock with three hens, my chances are much increased, and that’s what I intend to do. He is an over-year, proven bird, who (Rob tells me) showed excellent fertility last year, and my experience is that three hens with a bird who “knows the ropes” should prove no problem. In the past, Tony and I have run an exceptional Gloster cock with up to five hens in a season.

 

Meet the Norwich partners

His mates will all be 2018-bred cinnamon hens: a virtually self buff (light tail feathers only), a variegated buff and a three-parts-dark yellow hen. Although double buffing is not normally recommended, especially with Norwich, it is commonly used where a white is involved in the pairing, largely to avoid excess yellow showing up in the primaries of an otherwise white bird. This, of course, is not so much of a problem with me, as I shall be concentrating on the self or predominantly dark birds to take the line further. To an extent, then, the “buff or yellow partner” argument is not relevant in this first use of this outcross.

The other two important cocks are the self cinnamon buff cock that produced the young birds last year, and one of his young yellow sons – again, a bird with only a couple of light feathers showing in the tail. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the hens I have for these are not exactly ideal. I still have the flighted yellow cinnamon hen for the father, although she will be four years old this year. If successful, this pair will again produce 100 per cent cinnamons.

The other two hens I have for him are both whites, and I mean white not blue. Not exactly the ideal pairings to advance a stud of selfs, but I will just have to make the best of it. Expectations are cinnamon and fawn hens, together with carrier cocks either normal colour or white. Hopefully a good number will show at least a fair amount of variegation, but I’ll just have to select carefully to go forward.

The young yellow cock, again, has only a white hen to pair with, this being a lightly variegated flighted hen. Expectations are exactly the same as with the adult cinnamon cock, apart from the fact that yellow-feathered birds can be produced here. There is a clear yellow cock as a back-up, or perhaps to use in later rounds if the first rounds have gone exceptionally well (oh what an optimist!) And the final option is to use the young yellow cock with his half-sister buff cinnamon – neither of the other two hens being suitable, one being a full sister and the other involving a double yellow pairing, which is not an option, especially with the extra fineness of the cinnamon feather.

Only time will tell, but whatever the results I feel I need the introduction of some good self green stock next year to move forward.

 

Redpoll colours galore

Next species to introduce are the redpolls. The mealies are relatively straightforward: I have the adult pair from last year and a young hen I bred with a cock that came from my brother. Both are mutation colours, the adult pair consisting of an agate (silver) cock split for isabel x isabel hen, and the second pair an isabel cock x young agate hen.

The first pair will produce isabel cocks and hens, agate cocks split for isabel, and agate hens. The second pair will only produce agate cocks split for isabel and isabel hens.

Turning to the common (lesser) redpolls, there are two pairs to produce pieds. A new pair was brought in from the breeder of the pied cock I used last year. These consisted of another pied cock and a cobalt hen split for pied.

Pied in redpolls is a recessive mutation so, unlike the sex-linked mutations, both cocks and hens can be split. The normal pairing, to maintain size and type, is visual pied to pied carrier, irrespective of which partner is which sex. To make up unrelated pairs, the new cobalt hen will be paired to the original pied cock I bought last year, and the new cock will be paired to a young hen bred off last year’s cock, which is guaranteed to be split for pied.

Expectations for both pairs are virtually the same: pieds and carriers, although there could also be dark-factor (cobalt) pieds and carriers from Pair One, as this is a dominant factor.

The final “common” pairings are a trio, consisting of a normal and a cinnamon hen, paired to an isabel cock. The normal hen is of good type and was paired with the pied cock last year as a “possible” pied carrier. All five young were normal-coloured, however, so she was almost certainly not a pied carrier. The cinnamon hen last year produced the goldfinch redpoll hybrids, but I’m not repeating that pairing.

The isabel cock was sold as a hen at the Stafford sale. My mate Tom knew I was after an isabel, and bought this for me, thinking it was a hen I needed. Either way, I would have obtained something to form a pair, but the breeder had obviously plucked some of the breast feathers and colour-fed to try to establish the sex of the bird. Within two or three weeks of returning from Stafford, a bright pink patch came through on the bird, showing the characteristic half-moon-shaped colouring of a cock, so it worked out well in the end.

The expectations from these pairings are normal split isabel cocks and isabel hens from the normal hen, and cinnamon split isabel cocks and cinnamon hens from the second pair of the trio. Certainly a colourful batch of youngsters to look forward to, if all goes well.

For more features from Cage & Aviary Birds, click here