Beginner’s Guide to American Paint Silkies

20190501_143205-1                                                                          Two months ago I was given a young one week old paint silkie chick from someone that could no longer keep it. At one week, it had neon yellow down with small patches of black here and there, mostly on its neck, back and tail.  Even at one week its personality was saying “rooster” to me. What was I going to do with this chick? I really didn’t have space for another color pen in my coops but I was very curious as to how this little chick would feather out.  Needless to say, I kept the little guy because I wanted to learn more about paint silkies.

Paint silkies have been recently added to the ABA (American Bantam Association) approved list of silkie varieties for showing. There is a written standard for their variety.  There have been paint silkies in Europe for some time.  Judy Lee of Nashville, TN is credited with discovering and developing the first American Paint silkies.  She found a young white chick with black spots in her backyard flock and spent many years of breeding to be able to successfully reproduce the spotted chicks.  Others have worked hard to get it accepted as a variety of silkie.

What is the spotted paint gene and how does it work?  Why do some chicks have many spots and others just a few?  Paint silkies have been compared to the genetics found in Appaloosa horses. The spotted paint gene is not easily understood and does not always follow a set of prescribed rules.  The black feathers are not painted on top, but are black all the way to the shaft of the feather.  Larger black spots are more desirable than small ones.

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Paints may look similar to splashes but their spots are larger.  Splash is blue based. Paints are black based with a white background.  You would not want to breed your blue splashes into your paints. What would result would not follow the standards set for American Paints.

Go back to what you remember about Mendel’s first law. It states that pairs of hereditary genes for a specific trait separate so that offspring receive one factor from each parent. One gene from the mother and one gene from the father.  The dominant gene will show or be expressed or if it receives two recessive genes, these will show. Paints are basically a black chicken that carries one dominant white gene.  This one dominant white gene does not always cover up all of the black. Some of this black will “leak through” the white. It is like a white sheet is covering the black chicken, but the white sheet has some holes cut in it and the black shows through in those spots. This is what produces a paint.  If a black bird carries two dominant white genes, the black is completely covered and you wind up with a completely white bird. It is not a paint but a dominant white.

There is another gene that can cause a bird to be white.  It is the recessive white gene.  Paints are not recessive white.  Most white silkies have the recessive white gene instead of the dominant white gene.

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Most people who have paints for the first time will breed a paint to a true dark black silkie.  This will result in blacks that are split to paint.  They then breed the black ( split to paints) to the original paints.

“Split” means that they carry one copy.  A bird that is split to paint means it has one copy of paint and one of usually black. Split is simply “bird talk” for a chick that is carrying a hidden trait.  You can carry one copy of the paint but the gene is not “showing” and so the bird looks black

34f4a33196868d2a1d3ae477aa62320f                                  If you want to keep a true black pen, you would need to keep careful records so as not to breed black splits into it.  Black splits will interfere with the genetics of your true black pen. True Blacks have that beautiful beetle green sheen to the tail and wing feathers.

 

Many people like to breed their black splits back to their original paints to improve their paints.  Paints have problems with skin pigment holes in their feet and eyes. It causes feet to not be totally black, but to have light patches on the bottom of them. It can cause eyes to look yellow instead of black.

This is just an introduction to all of the genetics involved with breeding paints.  I do not pretend to be any kind of expert in the breeding of paints.  I am excited about the possibility of breeding them and may be setting up some paint and black breeding pens in the near future.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

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How to get Beetle Green Sheen in Black Chickens

 

The green sheen on a black chicken is something very much desired.  You find it in the tail feathers, wings, saddle and hackles of solid, deep black feathered birds.  The purple sheen is not a desired trait and some will even say that it is a nutritional deficiency that causes it.

Microraptor was a very small, four winged dinosaur that lived 130 million years ago. Its feathers have been fossilized and they show black and blue hues similar to a crow.  It is the earliest evidence of iridescent feather color.  Microraptor was completely black with a glossy, iridescent blue sheen.

Feather color is produced in birds by arrays of pigment bearing organelles called melanosomes.  Iridescence happens when the melanosomes are organized in stacked layers.  This iridescence is widespread in modern birds and is frequently used in courtship displays.

In chickens, the green sheen on black is very much sought after and appears to be in part produced by the structure of the feathers and in part by the condition of the pigment in them.  It is found only in chickens with good black color and in the absence of any purple barring.  It can also be found in any chicken that has some black feathers such as partridge silkies.

The quality of the feather is a very important issue.  A black chicken with a strong green sheen will have a much smoother feather feel to it.  You should almost be able to feel how soft and conditioned that green sheen feather is when compared to duller feathers.

The amount of green sheen varies from bird to bird.  Some have a lot of sheen and others don’t.  Mostly it is found in roosters, but hens can have it too.  I have seen some beautiful sheen on the wings and body of very dark hens.  Sheen is more apparent in the sun where light can reflex off of the feathers.

Keratin is a crucial protein in bird’s feathers. The way it is structured allows light to twist and turn and separate.  It allows feathers to act like a prism by scattering the longer wavelengths of light and reflecting shorter ones to give us the gorgeous blues, purples and greens.

The preen gland is a gland that is located at the base of the tail. This secreted oil helps to keep keratin flexible.  This makes feathers appear more saturated with color.  Most birds preen by rubbing their beak and head over the preen gland pore and then rubbing the accumulated oil over the feathers on its body.

The green color you see is due to the effect of light scattering and reflecting off the feather structure.  This is called the Tyndall Effect and it creates the illusion of certain colors.

There are four basic types of feather luster.  There is green, red/purple, blue and matte- the absence of any sheen.  Feather sheen is a matter partly of genes and partly of feather condition.

Gold based blacks are easier to get the correct green sheen and eliminate purple sheen.  Green sheen is good and purple sheen is not among chicken breeders in the United States. A dilute black will not give you the same sheen display as a pure black color. Here is an article on my adult black silkie pen and what it is like to work with the black color.  That super black color is especially useful if you are working with varieties such as Paint Silkies.

If you want to breed towards improving green sheen you must selectively breed for those desired traits.  Breed green to green and remove birds with the purple/red sheen from your breeding program.  Have a separate coop to keep your breeding pair in; that way you can be sure of the parentage.  Keep track of your breeding pens and keep careful written records of parents and the quality of their offspring.  For more information check out “How to Keep a Flock History“.

The degree of iridescence seen on all feathers is a matter of condition.  A healthy bird on a good diet has more vibrant colors.  Excellent food and clean, safe conditions in the coop will go a long way towards bringing out the color in your birds.  Good health will improve the sheen of the feathers so they better reflect the light.

Feather Fixer is a supplement feed that people often use to improve a chicken’s feathers.  Any higher protein feed will help to condition feathers.  Adding vitamins and electrolytes to your bird’s water will also improve its overall health as well as probiotics and Rooster Booster.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

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