Heritage Poultry Breeders Association of America believes that poultry genetics is a very important part of owning & breeding poultry. Yes, it can be confusing. It can also be fun. HPBAA strives with this page to just put the genetic world into a basic clear understanding for both beginners and long time breeders. We do not claim to be genetic experts by no means. We only claim to know what we have learned and learn what we do not know. We will start this page out with two very important, yet basic words and their definitions. Learns these first, and the rest will fall into place. If you have any questions, we do encourage you to go to our Contact Page and ask. We will do our best to get you an answer in a timely matter.
Phenotype: The word Phenotype is derived from two Greek words. Those words are "phainein" which means to display or show or to bring to light, and "typos" which means to dent, to impress, to mark, a figure or original form.
While it is important to have a bird that looks correct to it's standard, it is even more important, if not crucial, to know what the birds genetic make-up is. HPBAA is determined to work hard on this site to inform it's breeders, visitors, and beginners of the genetic make-up of the birds they purchase or advertise. HPBAA will not tolerate the unknown.
Genotype: Derived from the word gene, it means what the birds genetic make-up is. This is the part that is unseen but important to know when breeding poultry.
Colors & Patterns:
(In Alphabetical Order)
The autosexing gene is where you can tell male from female chicks at hatch. It differs from the sex-link gene mentioned on further down the page in that when crossing a birds with the autosexing genes together you will always be able to sex the chicks at hatch. This is not always the case with sex-linked genes. Autosexing genes always show up with the barred gene in poultry.
Genetic Code: B = Autosexing
Breed Examples: Hampbars, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
This is a recessive red that will vary in shades that appear almost buff. Both males and females are complimented with either black or red wing and tail tips. Autosomal Red offspring will appear in many shades of red with yellow undercarriges, wing tips & eye trim.
Genetic Code: Ar+ = Autosomal Red
Breed Examples: New Hampshires, Bourban Red Turkey, & Campbell Ducks
Barred is a pattern where the white on one feather runs along side the white on the feather beside of it as well as will the other color run beside its color on another feather. It is referred to as the starting & stopping of color. Barred females carry one barring gene while Barred males carry two. This gives the male a light color than the female due to the display of more barring in the male. Barred is a sex-link gene in that you can usually tell them apart at hatch. Black & white Barred is actually the silver gene where silver expresses itself in white. Barred offspring will have a pale yellow/white dot on their head, pale yellow white undercarriage, & wing tips. Male chicks will have more pale yellow on them and the dot on the head will be less circular and stretched down the back of the neck.
Genetic Code: B = Barred
Breed Examples: Plymouth Barred Rock, Chukar Partridge, & No known waterfowl
Birchen is referred to as silver expressed on black in the hackle feathers. The silver appears as silvery gray rather than white. The Birchen color will possibly express more silver color on other locations of the bird, especially the males. The females of a Birchen pattern can express themselves in silver penciling which is discussed on further down. Birchen offspring are black with pale yellow/white undercarriages, wing tips, and eye trim.
Genetic Code: ER = Birchen
Breed Examples: Dark Brahma, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
There is a dominant black and there is a recessive black. Dominant black is referred to as extended black and does not hide any other genes. Recessive black is referred to as an extender of black and will hide other colors such as gold or silver. A recessive black bird will exhibit the color that is hidden by black somewhere in its development. Most black offspring, recessive or dominant, are born with some yellow/white down on their undercarriage or wing tips.
Genetic Code: E = Dominant Black/rb = Recessive Black
Breed Examples: Black Sumatra, Black Spanish Turkey, & Black Cayuga Duck
Blue genetics is a diluter of black. Blue in poultry is a grayish hue. In one dose of the blue genetic, it will turn black to blue. In two doses of the blue genetic, it will turn blue to splash, which is discussed on further down the page. The blue will vary from dark to light in both the males and females. There are two sorts of blue. There is laced blue by which the blue is laced with black edging on the feathers. Then there is self blue which is unlaced. Blue offspring express themselves with a grayish hue and yellow undercarriges, wing tips, & eye trim.
Genetic Code: Bl = Blue
Breed Examples: Blue Andalusian, Slate Turkey, & Blue Swedish Ducks
Breeding Poultry With the Blue Genetic:
Black x Blue = 50% Black & 50% Blue
Blue x Blue = 50% Blue, 25% Black, & 25% Splash
Blue x Splash = 50% Blue & 50% Splash
Splash x Splash = 100% Splash
Brown Red is the gold gene expressing itself on black. In the males, a proper Brown Red pattern can be seen in the hackles, wing base, & saddle feathers. You will not see the gold in the flight feathers. In the female, the gold gene is expressed properly in the hacle feathers only. This gene is sometimes referred to as the gold birchen. Brown Red offspring are black with a dark red hue and sometimes pale yellow/white undercarriages & wing tips.
Genetic Code: ER = Birchen on E = Dominant Black
Breed Examples: Black Copper Marans, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
The Buff gene is the gold gene in very dominant appearance on both the male and female fowl. This gene is sometimes referred to as champagne blond. The Buff Offspring will be solid golden yellow.
Genetic Code: Cb = Buff
Breed Examples: Buff Orpington, Buff Turkey, & American Buff Goose
Chocolate alters the appearance of black by inhibiting an enzyme present in the tissue of fowl turning the black to a chocolate color. It is also referred to as the dun gene. This inhibit enzyme can even turn the eyes, legs, & beaks of the fowl to a chocolate color based upon how much this enzyme appears in any one bird. Most males carrying the chocolate gene will still exhibit some black feathers at maturity. Chocolate is considered a recessive sex-link gene. Chocolate offspring are cocoa colored with pale yellow/white undercarrige, wing tips, & eye trim.
Genetic Code: choc = Chocolate
Breed Examples: Chocolate Wyandottes, No known gamebirds, & Chocolate Muscovy Ducks
Breeding Poultry With the Chocolate Genetic:
Dominant Black x Chocolate = 100% Black carrying 50% Chocolate genes
Black carrying Chocolate genes x Chocolate = 50% Black & 50% Chocolate
Chocolate x Chocolate = 100% Chocolate
The Columbian gene is a black hackle, wing tips, & tail tips expressed on a solid colored bird. The two typical colors that this pattern appears on is the buff or gold gene & the silver gene. In white birds with the Columbian pattern, the white is actually silver expressed in white. Both the males and females of this color will express the Columbian pattern complimented in black. Columbian Offspring will be golden yellow to pale yellow in appearance.
Genetic Code: eb/eb S/S Co/Co = Columbian
Breed Examples: Light Sussex, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Crele is the barring gene expressed in both silver and gold on the same bird. Males will display more color than females while the male carries two barring genes and the female carries one. It is the stopping & starting of color expressed in black on white (silver) & white (silver) on gold. Crele Offspring are black with a golden hue. They have pale yellow dots on their heads, pale yellow wing tips & undercarriages.
Genetic Code: B/ER/eb = Crele
Breed Examples: Crele Old English Game, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Cuckoo is a pattern where the white on one feather lays beside the opposite color on the feather beside of it. It is also referred to as the starting & stopping of color. Cuckoo is the same as Barred in that it is a sex-link gene meaning that you can usually tell male from female at hatch. The females carry one Cuckoo gene, & the males carry two, making the males light in color than the females.. However, cuckoo is not as clean as Barred in appearance. Black & white cuckoo is actually the silver gene where silver expresses itself in white. Cuckoo offspring will have pale yellow/white dots on their head, pale yellow/white undercarriage, & wing tips. The male chicks will display more pale yellow with the dot on their head being less distinct and stretching down his neck.
Genetic Code: B = Cuckoo
Breed Examples: Cuckoo Marans, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Isabella genetics is where Lavender has diluted gold to yellow, mahogany to chocolate, & black to lavender. The pattern is yellow hackles, chocolate wing base, & lavender undercarriage. Females will have chocolate breasts varying in shades of darkness. Isabella Offspring are Lavender with yellow undercarriage, wing tips, eye trim, & most importantly, chipmunk stripes on their back.
Genetic Code: lav = Isabella
Breed Examples: Isabella Leghorns, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Laced is a genetic code where the feathers of the bird are trimmed in another color. It will vary from black, blue, & even white, which is the absence of color. Male laced birds will have solid colored hackle, wing base, tail, & saddle feathers. Females typically express all lacing based upon how clean of a laced pattern that the bird carries. When lacing becomes more fine tuned, it is referred to as penciling. Penciling is describe on further down the page. In Silver Laced birds, the pattern is actually black lacing on silver expressed as white. Laced Offspring in silver will be silverery gray with black stripes and golden trim on back and head. Laced in other color pattern may express blue, gold, or even yellow.
Genetic Code: eb/eb Db/Db Pg/Pg MI/MI = Laced
Breed Examples: Buff Laced Polish, Royal Palm Turkey, & No known waterfowl
Lavender genes are the diluter of all other colors. Lavender is basically self blue and will reproduce 100% Lavender. Black is sometimes crossed into Lavender for genetic diversity & then Lavender is pulled back out by crossing the offspring from the cross back to each other or the pure Lavender. Lavender Offspring are grayish blue with pale yellow undercarriage, wing tips, & eye trim.
Genetic Code: lav = Lavender
Breed Examples: Lavender Orpington, Lavender Slate Turkey, No known waterfowl
Mahogany is the extender of intinsifier of red. It is a strong red that appears almost black. It dominates the entire body of both the male and female and is usually complimented by black wing & tail tips. Mahogany Offspring are dark red with yellow undercarriges, wing tips, & eye trim.
Genetic Code: Mh = Mahogany
Breed Examples: Rhode Island Red, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Mille Fleur is the gold gene with the feather starting in black, expressing the gold, back to the black, & then the absence of color, which is recessive white. A very unique gene and pretty to look at. Male Mille Fluer genes do display more gold in the hackles and black in the tails than do females. The paculiar thing about the Mille Fluer gene is that the recessive white will appear more with each molt as the bird ages. Mille Fluer Offspring will vary in color, but are usually golden hue with some black and yellow stripes on their back.
Genetic Code: mo/mo
Breed Example: Tolbunts, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Mottled is the absence of color on the wing tip expressing itself in white. It expresses itself in a polka dot appearance. Mottled can express itself in very clear pin pointed dots to random overwhelming white. Mottled offspring have pale yellow/white undercarriage & wing tips with great detail of the same colors around the eye.
Genetic Code: mo = Mottled
Breed Examples: Ancona, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Partridge is also referred to as golden duckwing. Partridge genetics is very similiar to Wheaten in the males. However, it is expressed in darker color patterns in the females that range from penciled to dark red on gold with black highlights. The partridge male will have gold flight feathers that are triangle shape when folded to his side. The difference between this male and the wheaten male is that the partridge will express black shafts in the hackle and saddle feathers. In most cases, a breeder cannot tell the males a part when adult. The best time to distinguish a partridge male from a wheaten male is at hatch. Partridge offspring are red/gold with very disticnt dark red and black chipmunk stripes on their back.
Genetic Code: e+ = Partridge
Breed Examples: Welsummers, Pharoah Quail, & Mallard Ducks
The pencilling gene is autosomal barring. Some refer to it as a finer lacing pattern, but it is truthfully in the barring gene family. However, males with the lacing gene are identical to males with the pencilling gene, thus the confusion. You must look at the females of this gene to see the almost barring pattern. Penciling in the start and stop of color in a more defined almost penciled on appearance, giving you its name. This gene is typically displayed on both the gold & the silver gene. Pencilling Offspring of the silver gene are silvery gray with mahogany & black stripes on the back. Pencilling Offspring of the gold gene are mohogany red with black and gold stripes on the back.
Genetic Code: eb/eb Pg/Pg = Pencilling
Breed Example: Silver Penciled Wyandottes, Ringneck Pheasants, Dutch Hookbill Ducks
Pyle Genetics is silver expressing itself & enhanced with autosomal red. This red appears on the shoulders and the undercarriage of both the male and females. Pyle Offsping are silvery yellow with a red hue to the back and top of head.
Genetic Code: S/Ar+ = Pyle
Breed Expamples: Red Shouldered Yokohama, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
The sex-link gene is a gene that allows you to tell males from females at hatch. The two most popular genes that the sex-link gene works with is Dominant White on Mahogany and Barred on any other genes. In the barring sex-link, you get black females displaying gold in the hackle feathers because crossing the barred bird with another bird cancels out the only barring gene in the female and takes the double barred male down to one barring gene. This male will be dark barred. In the Dominant White gene with Mahogany, the Dominant White wins out in the male birds and displays a mostly white male with autosomal red flecking and an all red (autosomal) female with white underfluff. Many hatcheries do this cross to increase egg production in breeds. They will name them many things, but they are simply called Black Sex-Links or Red Sex-Links. Black Sex-Linked Offspring males will be black with pale yellow undercarriages, wing tips, & a pale yellow dot on his head. The females will be solid black with a dark red hue. Red Sex-Linked males will be golden yellow with a red hue while the females will be red with golden yellow undercarriages and wing tips.
Genetic Code: Black Sex-Link Male = B/rb Black Sex-Link Female = rb/eb
Red Sex-Link Male = c/Ar+ Red Sex-Link Female = Ar+/c
Breed Examples: Black Sex Links, No Known Gamebirds, & Shetland Geese
The spangled gene is the absence of color (appearing as white which is silver) ending with the presence of black at the tip of the feather in the silver gene. It is the presence of color ending with the presence of black at the tip of the feather in the gold gene. These two gene are the only ones that spangled presents itself on. This gene is one of the most complex in that the black tends to express itself more in the females than in the males. Spangled Offspring one the most colorful of all chicks. They are pale yellow with black and gold racing stripes on their backs and nice pencil striping around the head and eyes in the silver. The offspring and the same in the gold except the pale yellow is replaced with golden yellow.
Genetic Code: ER/ER Pg/Pg Db/Db MI/MI = Spangled
Breed Examples: Golden Spangled Hamburg, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Splash is considered a throw back from breeding with the blue genetics. Although it is liked by many, birds expressing splash and considered as culls from the breeding flock. Splash will vary from white with blue & black specks to solid white. It may also express any other gene that has been introduced to the blue breeding such as gold in the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. Splash Offspring will vary from pale yellow to grayish white & even other colors depending upon the color gene introduced.
Genetic Code: Bl = Blue
Breed Examples: Splash Orpingtons, Slate Turkey, & Splash Muscovy Ducks
Breeding Poultry With the Splash Genetic:
Blue x Blue = 50% Blue, 25% Black, & 25% Splash
Blue x Splash = 50% Blue & 50% Splash
Splash x Splash = 100% Splash
Wheaten is the gold gene expressing itself in an array of many recessive patterns. However, there is a dominant Wheaten gene and there is a recessive wheaten gene. If it difficult to distingquish the two except in breeding the birds. The females with this gene will vary from a pale wheat almost white color to a golden when with reddish wheat hackle feather. Black is expressed in the wing tips and tail tips of the female. Wheaten males will have a lighter underfluff, a distinctive gold triangle pattern in the flight feathers when folded to his side, & a very shiny golden base to his hackle feathers. The Wheaten pattern varies from the golden duckwing & the partridge pattern in that the hackle feathers of a Wheaten patterned male will have no black shafting in the hackle and the saddle feathers. Wheaten offspring are golden yellow with males expressing black in the wing tips almost at hatch.
Genetic Code: eWh = Wheaten
Breed Examples: Salmon Faverolle, AuburnTurkey, & Egyptian Goose
There is a dominant white and there is a recessive white. White is referred to as the absence of color. There is absolutely no way to tell the two apart at hatch. You must wait to breed the birds to reveal recessive or dominant white. A dominant white genetic will overpower and remain white whereas the recessive gene will sometime reveal another color. White offspring are born pale yellow to white and sometimes with a smoky gray tint.
Genetic Code: I = Dominant White/c = Recessive White
Breed Examples: White Leghorn, Texas A & M Quail, &White Chinese Geese
Feathers & Features:
There are four basic feather gene types. In males, the feathering is always more colorful. The four basic feather genes are:
Smooth: Where feathers lay tight against the body of the bird.
Breed Example: Leghorns, Quail, & African Geese
Loose: Where feathers lay rather loose on the body of the bird.
Breed Examples: Orpingtons, Guineas, & Sebastopol Geese
Frizzled: Where feathers curl up on each end all over the birds body. This gene can be introduced into most every breed.
Breed Examples: Frizzled Cochins, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Silk: Where the feather appears more like hair than feathers on the bird.
Breed Example: Silkie Chickens, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
There are five basic skin color genetics and they all will depend on the breed of the bird or the genetics that it carries. The five basic skin colors are:
White: Black Australorp, Turkeys, & Muscovy Ducks
Pink: Sussex, Guineas, White Swans
Yellow: Plymouth Rocks, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
Black: Silkies, No known gamebirds, Black Mute Swans
Blue: Bresse, No known gamebirds or waterfowl
The eye color of poultry consist of a few various colors. Eye color is just as important when breeding a bird to it's standard as the rest of the body and is the most often left out part of meeting the standard for breeding a particular breed. The eye colors consist of the following colors with breeds that exhibit this eye color afterwards:
Black: Jersey Giants
Amber: Plymouth Rocks
Legs & Feet:
There are five basic leg colors in poultry & gamebirds. In waterfowl, there are four. We will give you the list of poultry and gamebirds first. Keep in mind that in poultry and gamebirds, the male will hide leg color genetics but the female will display them. This means that a male may show yellow legs but throw offspring with a different leg color even if he is mated with a yellow legged female. In the female, the leg color she shows is the leg color gene she will throw. You will always want to look at the legs of the ladies when breeding for proper leg color. There is also the feather legged gene that is only displayed in poultry & gamebirds. There is one breed of poultry with both the feather legged gene and the fifth toe gene rather than four toes. That is theFaverolle. Here are the five basic leg colors in poultry & gamebirds:
Pearl: Sussex & Royal Palm Turkey
Green: Sicilian Buttercup & Emu
Yellow: Leghorns & Beltsville White Turkey
Black: Australorp & Black Spanish Turkey
Blue: Polish & Slate Turkey
Orange: White Pekin Ducks & Chinese Geese
Black: Welsh Harlequin Ducks & Canadian Geese
Pink: No Known Ducks & Roman Geese
Spotted: Black/Orange: Swedish Ducks & No known Geese
Beaks & Bills:
The beaks in poultry and gamebirds will always match the leg color of the birds. This is the same theaory in waterfowl. However, when genetically crossing different birds, you will see a varition of two seperate colors displayed in legs, beaks, & bills of birds. You should always check the standard for the breed you are working with through the American Poultry Association if you want to breed the bird for correct color type in legs, beaks, & bills.
There are two color earlobes in poultry. Mediterainian breeds or white egg layers, typically have white earlobes that vary in size depending upon the breed. In the Asiatic class or American class, the earlobes will appear red or the same as the feather coloring. These birds typically lay a brown or other color of egg. Egg color and ear color are not always correctly associated. Please see The Incredible Egg Page for more detail.
Top Knots or Crests:
A top knot or crest is a gene where the skull on the head has a uprise growth. The feathers that grow on that crest of top know will vay in heaviness based upon the breed of the bird and it's genetic make-up. A crested or top knot gene is a dominant gene in that it will show up in most of the offsping if not all. Both chickens and waterfowl are known to have top knots or crests.
Muff & Tufts:
Tufts are an extension of the ear that stick out and curve upward on the birds. Males usually have fuller tufts than females and this gene is dominant in that it will show up in the offspring when crossed with a non tufted bird. The Araucana is an example of a tufted bird. Muffs are beards that grow under the wattles of the bird. Beards range in heaviness depending upon the breed. Muffs are dominant in that this gene too will show up in the offspring when crossed with a non muffed bird. An example of a muffed bird would be the Faverolle.
Combs & Wattles:
Wattles is the meaty red growth under the chin of both the male and the female chicken. Wattles serve the purpose of cooling the bird down during the hot weather. There are basically different size wattles depending upon the breed. Male birds always have larger wattles than females. Combs are the meaty red flesh on the top of the head of the birds that also serve the purpose of cooling the bird down. Surprisingly enough, combs do play a role in fertility although it is not quite sure how. Straight combed birds are more fertile than any of the other comb types. Hatcheries cross straight combed birds into other comb types to increase fertility often. When crossing birds with two different comb types, it is typical to get a dominant comb type. The comb types are listed below in the order of their dominance in genetic type. The first being the most dominant & the last being less. These comb types are:
Cushion: Sicilian Buttercups