The phrases are not exactly self–explanatory; don’t expect these terms are going to be a representation of what happens in practice. Many Wyandotte exhibitors and breeders use these terms - so it helps to have an idea of what they mean. The inheritance of blue, silver and gold surprises many new breeders.
Double Mating. All this means is, in order to produce exhibition quality cockerels and pullets in certain varieties one has to have two separate strains; one which breeds exhibition males and the other exhibition females. In the case of Laced, Black and Partridge Wyandottes the two strains are really completely different varieties, The strains are given the names cock breeders and pullet breeders. A correct exhibition trio is all smoke and mirrors...a male from the cock breeder strain and females from the pullets breeder strain ...their would offspring would be rubbish - neither one thing nor another. Contrary to some people’s expectation both strains produce the normal quantities of male and female offspring but only one sex from each is of any use for showing.
Pullet Breeders or Cock Breeders? The two strains of Partridge Wyandottes are examples of the difference between cock breeders and pullet breeders. For the exhibition pullets to have the required distinct fine pencilling they are homozygous for the pattern gene. Pullet breeding cockerels display this gene by having a breast flecked with red – this makes them unsuitable for exhibition. The exhibition male, has to have a absolutely solid black breast – the cock breeding females that produce this characteristic show no pencilling. Another feature of the exhibition Partridge male is lemon yellow hackles; this is produced by the strain carrying a single dose of the recessive white gene. The Silver Pencilled Wyandottes are also bred from two strains like the Partridge, in order to get the solid breast on males and fine pencilling on the females.
Sex Linked Gold and Silver. Males have a pair of identical sex chromosomes, which are called Z - so they have ZZ, and the female has a dissimilar pair, Z and W. The genes that are located on the male chromosomes (Z) are called sex-linked. This effect of this is that a sex linked gene, which is only located on the Z gene, such as silver, can be passed by a cockerel to both female and male offspring. Pullets can only pass the sex-linked gene on to their male offspring. Sex-linked colours (silver and gold) in pullets is totally controlled by the cockerel. Impure silver cockerels have one silver gene and one gold gene so are able to sire both (silver) pencilled and (gold) partridge pullets. Barring is also sex-linked.
Blue. The colour blue in chickens does not breed true. (Unless it is a different blue which is called lavender). This means if two Blue Partridges (or self blue, blue laced, or blue Columbian for that matter) are mated, not all the offspring will be blue, in fact only half are blue, a quarter are standard Partridge and a quarter have Splash white (white with irregular blue and black areas) replacing the black (or blue) markings of both sexes (the white marked version is a "non-standard" colour). These White Pencilled Partridges will breed true if mated together, if mated back to a standard Partridge all the offspring will be Blue Partridge. In order to avoid having to keep or breed non-standard coloured offspring, the best mating to produce Blue Partridges is a Blue Partridge mated to a Partridge; half the offspring are Blue Partridge and the other half are Partridge.
Inheritance of Blue
article from Fancy Fowl
The Blue gene dilutes black to blue, but only has a slightly lightening effect on the gold and red colours. The exact shade of blue is fairly unpredictable and can range from very pale to slate grey. As yet the cause is not understood.
In Wyandottes, (or any other breed) self or patterned, blue is always inherited in the same way. It is a surprise to most people to find that if you mate two blues together the best you are likely to get is only half of the offspring coming out blue, the remainder will be quarter black and a quarter blue-splashed white, often just called splash. (Splash is essentially a pure white bird but with a few blue markings). The reason for this is that the Blue gene, Bl, is semi dominant and doesn’t breed true. Just a single blue gene – i.e. Blbl dilutes the black of normal colouring, blbl, to blue. When there are two blue genes, BlBl, the effect of the dilution is doubled to (blue-splashed) white. This effect is seen in the white lacing of Buff Laced Wyandottes (and is why some of the white lacing is a bit blue in places, as it is the residue of the blue splashes).
On any variety of Wyandotte, laced, partridge, self, etc:
When there is no blue gene present any black markings will be normally coloured (i.e. black)
When there is one blue gene present any black on the bird will be diluted to blue.
When there are two blue genes present any black will be diluted to (blue splashed) white.
An example of the full range of the behaviour of the blue gene is shown when two blue birds are mated. This is because every chick takes one gene from each parent, so every chick has a chance of inheriting a blue gene, Bl, or a normal colour gene bl from each parent. The potential outcome is illustrated below:
Bl bl x Bl bl
bl bl Bl bl Bl bl Bl Bl
* Black x Black mating can never
produce Blue, i.e. Blue cannot be carried by black chickens (even if they
had Blue parentage). ** The only mating guaranteed always to breed blue is
to mate a Black with a Splash.*** Splash x Splash mating can only produce
Splash, and can never produce either Black or Blue (even if they had Blue
Much of the charm of Wyandottes is the wide selection of colours and patterns. It is “blue Wyandottes” which, for me, have been the source of many mixed up, cross-purpose conversations. Typically, someone rings me to ask if I have any “blues” for sale. After discussion it turns out that I thought they were asking about self blues but in fact they were after blue laced or blue partridge – and did’t even know of the other varieties’ existence. Subtle colours and precise patterns are particularly attractive displayed on the curvy proportions of a Wyandotte, so it is easy to understand why the various “blue” Wyandottes are becoming increasingly popular. As there is so much interest in the colour I thought it would be useful to go into the blue Wyandottes in a little more detail. Inheritance of the colour is a second front on which the subject of blue Wyandottes causes confusion. For breeders new to the colour I will attempt to clarify how blues are bred.
This is a blue self; pullets are a soft, but lively, shade of blue all over, it is often called pigeon blue, though no one said which part of which pigeon! The cockerels have darker hackles and top. Faults include black markings, dark edges to feathers and unevenness of colour. It is certainly not an easy colour to breed and produce to perfection, but good specimens look lovely and the colour really seems to suit Wyandottes. Quality large and bantam Blue Wyandottes are around but neither are common.
Blue Laced Wyandottes
This is a handsome but very unnatural-looking colour; each feather is a rich reddish brown edged with pale blue, the hackles are blue edged with gold and the fluff is blue. The contrast between background and the lacing makes the blue look electric. It’s such an extraordinary colour it’s hard to believe it’s possible. Blue Laced Wyandottes are quite common in bantam and large, both are bred to a good standard. Faults include, incorrect background colour, lemon edged or solid blue hackles.
Blue Laced Wyandottes are currently single mated (exhibition males and females are produced from the same mating) and are essentially “pullet breeder’’ type, i.e. the pullets are correctly patterned but the cockerels are marked more like pullet breeding cockerels than exhibition males.
A variation on Blue Laced is the uncommon but pretty Blue Silver Laced Wyandotte. It is an attractive contrast of blue and white. Each feather is white edged with blue. Currently seen in bantams, but could easily be produced in large.
Blue Partridge Wyandotte
Nothing is ever totally simple with partridge Wyandottes and blue partridges are no exception. As with the usual coloured partridges there are two types of blue partridge: ‘cock breeders’ and ‘pullet breeders’. Both are attractive, the black markings of standard partridges are replaced with blue and the background colours are slightly lightened.
Cock breeders: the exhibition male has a solid unmarked blue breast and the cock breeding wives have blue stippling on a biscuit background.
Pullet breeders: the females have blue pencilling and fluff on a light gold background, their males differ from the exhibition males by having their breast flecked with gold.
Another extremely attractive variety which is are probably the most truly silver in appearance of any breed is the Blue Silver Pencilled. These are beginning to appear at shows. They are a silver version of the Blue Partridge and currently only bred in bantams. There are cock-breeder and pullet-breeder versions, both are similar to the blue partridges except the background is white instead of gold.
Other Blue Wyandottes
Any colour can potentially have a blue version; black markings become blue and any gold is slightly brightened. Some could be very interesting - I can’t help but wonder what blue salmon would look like. Has anyone got a picture or even seen one?
Blue Columbian and Blue Buff Columbian, both are seen on the Continent (is anyone breeding them in the UK?), have blue replacing the usual black neck and tail markings on backgrounds that are, respectively, white and a slightly paler than usual buff. Black mottled have been around for a while, a Blue Mottled simply has blue replacing the black, so the end result is a blue bird with white spots. I am hoping that some of my blue chicks are going to become mottled – but can’t count one’s chickens before they’re fully feathered.
Only Blue (self), Blue Laced, Blue Partridge Wyandottes have classes at shows, other colours have to compete in the Any Other Colour classes. Blue Silver Pencilled will probably start to see classes in the near future.
Lavender is a similar colour especially on the females and can be mistaken for blue. Lavender is caused by a completely different gene to blue and is inherited differently too. Bantam Lavender Wyandottes are seen on the continent. In Holland the colour is called parelgrijs, which translates as pearl grey and describes the colour well. Lavender is a lighter colour than blue and also has a strong effect on gold , which it dilutes it to a pale straw colour. It would be possible have lavender versions of all the varieties seen in blue.
Breeding Blue Wyandottes – laced, partridge, self, etc.
Examples of black (normally coloured), blue and splash (white) varieties of Wyandotte:
*not recognised varieties
Article from the Laced Wyandotte Club
As everyone knows we have four standard (laced) colours: Silver Laced, Gold Laced. Blue Laced and Buff Laced.
Look carefully at the names. Let’s imagine you are a complete newcomer to laced Wyandottes. So I will explain what a Silver Laced looks like. It is a pure white bird with a black edge to its feathers, which gives a sort of black scalloped pattern all over the body of the bird. Got that? I’m sure you can now work out what a gold laced bird looks like for yourself! That’s right it’s a gold bird with a black edge to its feathers, which gives a black scalloped pattern all over the body of the bird. …..and? No, just because a silver laced has a white body, gold laced isn’t always gold bodied! Newcomers! Why do they always think like that, what’s up with them? Daft? No imagination? Or what? Why don’t they get it without being told, that it’s only the males that have a gold body; the females have to have a dark reddish mahogany brown (often so dark that the black lacing doesn’t show in the light of exhibition halls) body otherwise they’d be shafty.
Now we’ve got gold and silver laced worked there’s no chance you’ll know what a blue laced looks like. Well, you might think if gold and silver laced have bodies of those colours then blue must have a blue body with a black edge; sounds very pretty. Wrong. …Again. Ok, now you’ve seen there is no logic in the system have a go at buff laced…..
I am not usually one for looking at what is done on the continent and thinking it’s better than what we do here, but in this instance it is. 1) they give colours a name which tells you the colour of the feather edge and body. From one variety you can (more or less) work out what any of the other colours will look like. 2) They recognise the colours’ genetic make up and put on classes accordingly – for males and females.
Time for a change?
I think we can probably carry on muddling by, for a while, on the names, the confusion comes out in the wash, sort of, even if we actually aren’t all agreed on the colours of buff and blue laced with the consequence of gnashing of teeth after the judging.
Underlying the colours of laced Wyandottes are a few well known colour genes. Gold and its converse, Silver; Blue and its homozygote (blue splashed) White; Dominant White and the one is used, liked but never spoken of, Mahogany.
Quick explanation for how the genes work for anyone new to the subject
Gold is the normal colour of a chicken, Silver is a mutation which causes gold to be removed, which leaves no colour, i.e. white, instead. Blue, comes from a gene called Blue, that distorts black pigment granules which makes them look blue. But blue is really only the halfway house effect of the gene because when you get a double dose (homozygous) of the blue gene any black on the bird is nearly completely removed and results in the black areas being white with odd splodges of grey and black (commonly know as splash when talking about the whole bird. Dominant White, wipes out black at a singe stroke leaving those areas white and it reduces the intensity of gold or red, a double dose of Dominant White still gets rid of black but makes gold and red even paler.. Mahogany is (generally agreed to be) the gene that puts the red into Rhode Island Reds.
These are the colours we actually have:
* Sometimes birds have white edges to their feathers produced by the dominant white gene, this has more effect on the red or gold – the latter actually becomes a shade of buff (yippee! At last the elusive buff!) the white laced gold really could be called a white laced buff.
There is the possibility some of the birds called citroen. Lavender Laced Golds and Silvers are probably on someone’s breeding horizon. So there is plenty of scope for a bit of fun in a non-standard class
The current status quo of classes and colours seems to have come about by accident rather than design, it isn’t logical, it’s fantastically misleading, it even confuses judges and exhibitors alike, it’s out of step with most of the rest of the world and takes no account of the increased knowledge we have about breeding and colour genetics. So let’s apply some common sense to the whole thing and call the birds the colours they really are and put on classes accordingly.
From the Laced Wyandotte Newsletter
After exhibiting a blue silver laced pullet in the non standard classes at the 2002 National I have been asked by many people how the bird was bred. She was actually an expected by-product of trying to improve my blues, golds and buffs by using a silver in the line. Sod’s law meant that the best one I bred came out as a non-standard! But now it’s there I am quite sold on the colour scheme and it’s attracted a lot of interest from others who have bred it previously or seen it. There are many routes to blue silver. If you have blues or buffs and silvers it is easy to get there in a few generations. The colour intensification caused by the Mahogany gene, which is seen in gold (pullet breeders), some buff and most blue laced, is the main problem because, if present, it causes reddening of the silver. Obviously if the colour becomes accepted and popular, blue silver laced will follow the same standard as the current silvers with distinctly different cock-breeder and pullet-breeder strains.
I have drawn up this table as I thought it may help anyone contemplating crossing different colours to know which genes are involved in the make up of the different laced varieties or it may provoke thought regarding the names of the colours we show, especially now that we are trying out the new blue silver colour.
It would be helpful if we had a system for naming our laced birds that describes the colours they really are. The current naming of colours doesn’t reflect the colour or the genetics of some birds, but rather inconsistently can be describing either the ground or the lace colour, so discussions about developing new colours and subsequently naming them is not straightforward. On the continent the varieties of laced Wyandottes are named systematically, if a little unimaginatively, describing both the lace colour and the background. They clearly differentiate between gold and red, unlike us in the UK where we pretend that gold and red are both gold! See the table below for the difference between gold laced pullet–breeders and cock-breeders.
*C/B = Cock Breeder, P/B = Pullet Breeder D/M Double mated i.e. exhibition males and females are bred from separate strains. S/M= Single Mated (at the current time) N/S Non standard. Potential other
laced colours: lavender and chocolate in silver, gold and red varieties, white or gold laced black which are not truly laced but genetically similar to Silver Sussex.
This was a very tongue in cheek letter to the editor of Fancy Fowl - circa 1999:
As a newcomer to keeping poultry and owner of various patterned Wyandottes I have questions concerning colour.
Firstly: how is one meant to show decent looking trios of partridge or gold-laced Wyandottes when the colours of exhibition hens and cocks don’t match? They don’t even ‘go’ – they clash! In other breeds males and females are either the same colour but a few shades of the apart or they are sexually dimorphic but basically both are made up of the same colours, just arranged differently – either way the effects are delightful.
The exhibition cockerel in the Gold Laced Wyandottes is a rich golden bay, a bright top and relatively light breast contrasting with its black lacing – the overall colour gives an impression of orange; the exhibition females seem to have to be intensely dark, almost maroon, to have a chance of prizes. Placed next to each other they appear to have no relationship whatsoever (which is indeed the case as they are always bred from different pens) and as a trio, however good the individual birds look unattractively ill matched. Orange and maroon didn’t work in the sixties either! Exhibition Partridge Wyandottes suffer a similar problem, the females of soft partridge brown and the cockerels with lemon hackles look totally at odds as a colour scheme. Conversely the opposite sexed breeders of exhibition birds ‘go’ with their partners’ colouring nicely – so this isn’t just a sex (dimorphism) thing.
Showing trios is satisfying and a very good advertisement for a breed, those who win trio classes should be held in high esteem. How can this be done with Gold Laced and Partridge Wyandottes? Compromise is not on the cards. I happily accept that standards can require males and females that need to be double mated (and actually be different breeds) but cannot understand how a standard can permit birds of opposite sexes to look like different breeds and not even look nice together. Were the exhibitors who set the standards colour-blind, or were the standards arrived at to suit the diverse shades of the exhibitors’ birds at the time?
My next question is about Blue and Buff Laced Wyandottes: what colour is the ground colour meant to be? Should the sexes be different as in Golds? In which case the shade of blue would also be different, or should they be the same and make a mockery of the current Golds on the bench? Can someone, please, say which colour we should commit to before I decide which birds to breed from next year. There seems to be plenty of sense in the background colour of all these breeds being the same rather than polarising them. This way you can have the fun of showing all three different varieties from a single family and as a breed means the gene pool will be three times as big as if all the three had to be bred separately.
My third query relates to the naming of the colours of chickens, which owes more to the fall of the Tower of Babel than to logic. I’m sure there are reasonable explanations for how the names of the different breeds came about but not why they are still used - other than to mystify poultry keeping. The complex and illogical naming of varieties/breeds is just like the secret languages that school children invent so others can’t understand them!
I’ll start with the quirkiness in the naming of the Gold Laced Wyandotte. If those lovely bright bay cockerels are gold, which I wouldn’t disagree with, then those incredibly dark pullets are not gold, they are not the sexually dimorphic version of the other, they are different colours pure and simple – so why give them the same name? I level the same criticism at the Partridge Wyandotte I referred to earlier. This leads onto the question of why is the silver version of Partridge Wyandottes called Silver Pencilled? (Actually I also have a problem understanding how the Pencilled/Partridges don’t have the name Laced because their pattern really is lacy – the Laced is more of a edged, scalloped or fish scaled pattern – but I think these names are probably too deeply engrained to change – how do these patterns translate in other languages?) But Pencilled does describe this delicate tracery quite well, so how is the Hamburg with autosomal (non sex-linked) barring (precise stripes that circle the body) with a clear neck also called Pencilled?
If the Wyandotte with black breast and white hackles etc. is Silver Pencilled how come the Brahma of the same pattern is Dark? The Dutch, a Silver Partridge and the Game a Silver Duckwing? If the Dorking is called Silver Grey and the females have a pink breast why is the Game not also Silver Grey? The non-Silver birds are no better; Partridge in one place and Black Red in another for no apparent reason.
The area of spotted chickens couldn’t be better designed to confuse the non-expert. White spotting is apparently caused by the mottled gene and when on a black background, the pattern can is called mottled as in Pekins, Wyandottes and Old English Game, but when in the Sussex the white spots are on a mahogany background flecked with black it is speckled. The spangled OEG is virtually the same as the speckled Sussex – but you wouldn’t know that from the name. Then not a lot different in colour, are the delightfully named mille fleur, but this name tends to be saved for the Dutch and Belgian breeds – I am sure the OEG wouldn’t want to find themselves saddled with a colour sounding as girlie as mille fleur, but it would help the novice if the names indicated that all these colours are very similar. If a mille fleur is on a lavender background it is called porcelain (another name that doesn’t tell you the birds have white spots), but has anyone thought what we would call a blue, lavender or even a chocolate based speckled or spangled?
Just as you thought you had mottling/speckling/spangling worked out you find that the spangled Hamburg is a strikingly marked creature with huge penny-sized black spots on a white or tan background, the patterns look different and are according to the experts genetically totally different, why do they have with same name? Before we finish on the mottled gene the Fancy has one more trick up it’s sleeve, the white spots of most strains with this gene get whiter by having bigger spots every year and some can become really quite blotchy but they are still mottled –a pied Leghorn has the mottled genes but is a bit “gayer” than a mottled – where does one end and the other begin?
How is anyone meant to know that what is Light in a Brahma is Columbian in a Rock?
Buff to most people is a soft pale beige, in poultry it is a self, in breeds such as Orpington and Wyandotte it is a glistening clear bright orange, in Rocks, a gene changes the colour to a soft pastel hue, sort of creamy peach, but despite being genetically and visually different and it, too, is called buff. Buff laced is the colour of a Wyandotte where the edges of the feathers are white, in the UK there is often a strong blue-grey tinge on the white part of feathers especially near the head, and the body of the feather is reddish-brown giving the impression of a reddish-brown, white and grey bird; not buff at all!
As stated, a white edge to a brown feather (it is the same colour brown as the gold of the male exhibition gold laced Wyandotte) is buff laced – this pattern on a Poland is chamois, a chamois Friesian has a chestnut body with white tail in the males and lemon and white stripes on the female; so say chamois to anyone and they will know just what you mean – it’s a mountain goat!
The Poland, Andalusian and the Sebright are laced right to the tips of their tails, the laced Wyandotte has a black tail, is this by accident or design? These two patterns are different enough to warrant names that denote the difference; having the same name indicates that they will look the same, so a novice believing one type to be correct must assume the other has an obvious fault. If the Andalusian is blue laced is the Wyandotte blue laced? And if someone was shown a blue-laced Wyandotte what is the chance they would be able to work out what a gold laced looked like?
Here’s another naming system that effectively disguises its genetic similarity; sex-linked striping of black and white is called barring, unless the markings are fuzzy when it is called Cuckoo. Pekins have both barred and cuckoo varieties. Who would guess that a Crele is simply a multi coloured barred bird?
Back to Pencilled Hamburgs, again they seem to be double mated, the exhibition males look like and often actually are black tailed reds or whites, just like the colours of the dear little Japanese (which certainly aren’t pencilled) – a name for colour that makes you expect the sexes to look different would be helpful – and if the males shown are double mated and actually are black tailed reds why aren’t there female black tailed red Hamburgs on the bench?
Surely it is time for the Fancy to produce a standardisation in the naming of colours that reflects the physical appearance and the genotypes of colours and patterns – it should be predictable, so that you can deduce the name of one variety by knowing another! By all means, keep the old names for those who need them but give the rest of us a new language that is English and reflects the standards; so that poultry keepers, expert and novice alike, of all varieties, can converse.
Alternatively the Fancy could use a different name for colours dependant on variety, for example: no two buff breeds would be called buff – unless they were a different colour, in which case it would be preferable for the name buff to be applied to as many different colours as possible…. Sorry, I’ve just been told that is already standard policy.