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Breeding Columbian Plymouth Rock Color Pattern

By Mike Michael


First of all, I don’t feel myself to be an expert on breeding Columbian Color Pattern. I’m sure there are others with more years of experience raising Columbian Rocks than myself. I have raised Columbian Rocks Exclusively and will tell you what has to this point proved to give me the best color results.

With the color of the Ideal Show bird in mind, after we study and read our ABA and APA standard let’s keep this statement in our thoughts. There is a tendency to disregard indistinct contrast between Black and White sections of the plumage. “There should be no blending of the two Colors.” This statement comes directly from the ABA standard under the heading of color remarks. I keep this statement in mind while breeding for my ideal color patter.

I keep a different bird or birds in my breeding pen to help achieve the ideal color pattern we want in our show bird. I cull for color first and type or shape second. Mow before getting too shocked at this statement, I will try to explain. I want color and type, both being very important to me to have on my show bird. But, with two of my birds being equal in type in a class, I have seen that 1st place spot escape me because of a color pattern fault. As it should have been in that scenario We then give our judges more to look at and take into consideration in what I call a ‘marked variety” of bird over a “self colored bird”.

Let’s get back to the breeding pen and what works for me on breeding Columbian color pattern. First and foremost I select the best colored male possible from my line at all times. I believe genetically that color is produced from our male bird. He will implant the color in your line as long as you stay within your strain. I then select the best type or shaped females because I believe the female genetically produces the type.

I match my breeding pens together by the color of my females in three areas- Wing, Back (saddle) and hackle. Now keep in mind what I said, My male bird is the best proper colored bird possible from my strain, so I rely on his abilities to properly put the color on the hatch from the breeding females I have selected in the three color areas that I have mentioned above.

A) Wing-I’ve found with a richer color of black in the primary and secondary feather, with no blending of white, contributes to the rich black tail we desire in our females and the rich greenish black color we so desire in our males. I also feel rich black color of the wing tips contribute to the under color of our birds.

The next thing to watch for is if your male bird’s wing color is to black, lacking the white lacing along the lower edge of each primary feather and domination of black in the secondary. We have a tendency to produce a slight amount of black on the shoulder and front part of the wing. According to our Bantam Standard a little black is still acceptable in this area. However, I don’t like to see it so; I try to avoid it by keeping the male birds wing bay as ideal in color as possible in most of my breeding males. I will keep at least one male that has a wing bay of black, even lacking in the white lacing of the wing because I find this to enrich body under color where it may be weak especially in the back and saddle area of the bird.

B) Under Color – is described as being delicate slatey blue in all sections. And this is what makes our beautiful Columbian color. But, in the breeding pen if you only breed the ideal color that we want on our show birds, in time you will find you under color getting very light and you don’t want this to happen.

Now in your hatch you find a variance in under color from light in color to very dark in color. You may or may not want the very dark under color. This will be determined by what you are trying to achieve in you Columbian color pattern at this time. I prefer the under color to be a little richer than the ideal. I feel it enhances and sharpens the white back body color of the Columbian Rock. It also helps to keep you under color closer to ideal throughout the whole flock.

I’ve found you can get your under color to dark, then you are going to force your under color up through back and saddle areas. The standard allows 15% of dark spots or mossiness in the back, but with two birds being Ideal in every way, the sharp white colored backed bird is going to place over the other bird.

I have found that to rich a under color, especially in the back and saddle can take away from the white lacing on the top two feathers of the tail on the female bird.

To lighten the under color when I feel it’s getting to rich I will keep a female in my breeding pen with some white smutting n the primary wing section or a female with ideal standard color to tame down the strong genetic color that our Ideal male bird is producing.

If I wanted to richen my under color, I would use my male bird in two ways-1) I would cross my ideal color male bird with a rich in color female bird (remember color already locked in to female by your male bloodline). This I have found to richen under color where it is getting to light in color.

2) The second cross I would make to richen the under color I mentioned earlier in this article is that I keep at least one male breeder that is very black in color through his primaries and secondaries with very little white edging to the feather of the wing.

I would then cross this male to a female with as close to ideal under color as possible, or with the female we have noticed having the lighter under color in our breeding pen. These crosses should richen the under color in future hatches.

C) Hackle Color- Hackle color should be lustrous greenish black with a narrow lacing of silvery white on edge of each feather. With hackle feather fluff and shaft being black, with hackle color and front of neck being same on the male and female. Front of neck being White.

If the under color in our birds gets to rich this is where I feel our hackle color can get to dominate in black, that it takes away from the silvery white lacing along each feather. I feel we then start to lose the sharp, crisp, color combination that is so eye-catching of the Columbian hackle color. Also the domination of black in the hackle makes it harder to get the pure white colored head we desire, and also enhances the  black spot feathers in the breast area of our birds ( especially in our males). I fell the best way to achieve the proper hackle color is to try and maintain an acceptable under color through our your breeding pens.

In closing, I have given information as to what I do in my Breeding Program to try to maintain proper color in my flock.
As every breeders color situation will be different at the time of setting up your breeding pens, you will have to make your selections beneficial to your success in breeding the very important and very eye catching color of the Columbian Plymouth Rock.

I hope I have been helpful!


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