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Why People Fail With Rhode Island Reds in America
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Article I wrote and was published in the Rhode Island Red Club of Englands Year Book

Why Members Fail with Rhode Island Reds in America

by Robert Blosl

 

I have been asked to write an article for this year's Rhode Island Red Club Yearbook and I thought I would share a topic that has been very popular over the past five years with others in America and that is why people don't carry on  with Rhode Island Reds. What are they doing to muddle up the birds they originally purchased from Rhode Island Red breeders and what can new members learn  to avoid such unnecessary blunders so they won't  leave the breed? Below are three areas that I think are the major reasons most people fail with Rhode Island Reds and it's been going on for many  years.

The Wide Feather Dilemma:  If there was a defect that has caused more people to mess up their Rhode Island Reds over the last 30 years that I have observed is disobeying the American Standard of Perfection which states a Rhode Island Red should have a medium width of feather. Most people want a nice wide feather or they think more width is better. In our standard of perfection there is nothing that states a wide anything in the section of Rhode Island Reds.  Furthermore, the standard of perfection states moderate broad or  moderately  width only in its description with Rhode Island Reds . About 30 years ago when I got back into Rhode Island Reds,  I interviewed  about ten Master Breeders who grew up in the 1930s or the Golden Age of Rhode Island Reds in America. One such breeder was Robert Purves of Florida who was part of the New York Gang in the 1940s at Madison Square Garden Show and was a good a historian of the breed of anyone I ever read about or interviewed. He told me the original Rhode Island Red bantam was crossed by Perrin Johnson of New York in the 1920s by using large fowl Rhode Island Red Large Fowl pullets crossed onto Bantam Cochin and Old English males. Over the years Mr. Johnson fought the wide feather of the Cochin and the droopy wings of the Old English in his bantams. Mr. Purves wrote a bi-monthly column for Red Bantams for many years in the Rhode Island Red Chronicle and was harping all the time about the wide width of feather in the Red Bantams. It got so bad with his persistence  warning of wide feathers in bantams at one National Rhode Island Red meets in the 1960s is was addressed about his screaming about wide width of feathers. I guess there was enough old timers present  who knew better and did not have him removed as Editor of the Bantam Section.

 

Latter in a phone interview I interviewed Kenneth Bowles long time friend of Mr. Purves and agreed the Purves stirred   up a hornets' nest among  the membership, but he was correct in his opinion. Mr. Bowles told me in Rhode Island Red bantams if you put too much emphases in width of feather the cochin genes  rise to  the surface and in no time your Red Bantams would be short in the back section and have a  Reds  looking like a New Hampshire in type. Mr. Bowles  told me  that long time friend, Poultry Judge and Poultry  Artist Arthur Schilling, would preach to the Red Bantam breeders at the shows when he judged their Red Bantams   and said you fellows  are putting too much width of feather on your Red Bantams. Look he would say at the main tail feathers of your males. Their  tails are pointing down like a WISK broom. That was the day the Wisk broom tail term began and many skilled breeders watched this fault when selecting their breeders each year. Schilling went on to further say you Red Bantam Breeders   have to walk a tight rope as the Rhode Island Red is a breed made up of many crosses and you will have to watch your birds as you will end up with culls if you're not careful. His concern was the games or the Asiatic fowl used to make up the breed   and  these traits can come to the surface and haunt a breeder of Rhode Island Reds if the breeder is not careful.

 

Excess Black in the Female Hackle: The next area which causes so many people to have difficulty breeding for color is not having ticking in their female hackle ,but what Schilling called lacing or stripes of green feathers in the hackle of the female. Judge Schilling said what you want is a small amount of black or beetle green ticking on each female hackle feather like you would paint it with a small water color brush. George Underwood a famous Red Breeder from Illinois in the 1940s use to state you should be able to look at a Red female from the allies and hardly see her ticking in her neck. When you take her out of the show coop you can sit in a chair , put her on your lap and when you look at her from above it looks like she has a green necklace on her neck. Stripes or lacing in the neck feathers is a major fault and will block your color scheme of getting good black to the tail sections, and wings on your males as well as your females. One of our great writers of  breeding Rhode Island Reds for Color was Charlie Nagale in the 1950s he stated in one of his classic articles that the color make up of a Rhode Island Red was blue, red, yellow and black. He felt that the stripes of green or lacing  was like a road block for the color to run to the other sections of the bird. I have heard this also by others who I interviewed and they felt that this was the most important Law of Breeding Reds for color is to have ticking or no ticking at all. Of the great Rhode Island Red breeders I interviewed in person or on the phone they all agreed to this rule in the standard and said any one who disobeyed it would be doomed to failure in breeding Reds for color.

 

The Desire to Cross Strains:  When I first wanted Rhode Island Reds in the early 1960s as a boy I saw a Rhode Island Red Cockerel  that was Grand Champion of the show and a Pullet that was Reserve of breed who where owned by two different breeders. Neither one of these master breeders got their start from the same breeder and where as far apart from being related as possibly could be.  Talking to another Hall of Fame Rhode Island Red Breeder Cliff Terry from Nebraska who Judged this National Meet   I told Mr. Terry if you crossed that male and that female you would have champions next year. He put his hand on my shoulder and said Son it sounds logical ,but genetically you will have a nightmare of faults and defects. When you cross two different strain you are disturbing the genes pools perfected by the master breeders for maybe twenty or more years. You are money ahead to just get you a good male such as a brother of that male on Champion row, two hens that are his aunts or his mother and start your birds from just one breeder. Mr. Terry stated more people have got into Rhode Island Reds and have left than you can shake a stick at. The main reason they leave is crossing strains because they think they are going to hit the jackpot and get a winner. I told this story to Hall of Fame Bantam Breeder, R Paul Webb, a few years later when I visited his home in Oklahoma City Oklahoma. He said Cliff was right. I have made crosses to develop my Red Bantams, but it's a process of three to four generations before you introduce them into your line. If anyone crosses my strain of bantams with say some bantams from another strain they will be in for a rude awaking. It would take you 5 years to get back to where you started  after you pull out all the defects in color and type.

 

Conclusion: There you have it the top three reasons many fail with Rhode Island Reds in America. It has been going on for over 50 years and its worse than ever today then back then. Today our Red Bantams don't even look like Red Bantams ,but have Partridge Plymouth Rock type. The folks have breed the backs right off the little Red Bantams and the judges don't say a word about it. If you go to a show with 100 Rhode Island Red bantams and 80 are what I call Red Rocks and 20 are true to type brick shaped medium feathered  Rhode Island Red Bantams the odds are the top two bantams picked by the judge will be the ones with the wide feathers and the elevated top lines.

 I hope I may have shown you what I have seen happen here in America with our here today gone tomorrow Red Breeders  and maybe this article can avoid this happening in the United Kingdom or even in Europe. I have been lucky in my 30 years to have interviewed the top breeders who are  Hall of Fame Members to our Rhode Island Red Club.  These old time  members of the early days of Rhode Island Reds where thoughtful to share with me there secrets before they died and many of them shared their poultry literature. Thanks to these breeders  I procured    their  Rhode Island Red Journals from 1912 to 1944 and their Rhode Island Red Chronicles from 1944 to the present. If you read the Poultry Journals  and the articles you can learn allot about how to breed Rhode Island Reds for type and color. Breeding the Rhode Island Red is not a easy color pattern ,but if you obey the laws of breeding Red Color you will have success. I hope you all have a great year with your Rhode Island Reds and it has been a  privilege and a honor for me to share my thoughts in this year's Year Book with you.

Long live the Rhode Island Red Club of England . Long live the Rhode Island Red.

 

Mr. Blosl is the a Past President and Hall of Fame Member of the Rhode Island Red Club of America

He has been breeding Rhode Island Red bantams for 30 years in Silverhill, Alabama.

 

 

 

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