Archive for April, 2010

Non-molting Fowl and Feather Texture – By David Rogers

April 1, 2010
When selecting for non-molting fowl, it’s important to select for feather texture. This is just as important as choosing for the quick growth in the adult feathering phase.

Breeders often place too much importance on quick growth of the juvenile feathers from a very early age. Phoenix and other breeds of molting long-tails often exhibit this trait. The trait of fast growing juvenile feathers is preferred in such molting breeds, because feathers that grow very fast while the bird is young often times reach a maximum length of two and a half to five feet and then stop growing.

When it comes to non-molters, juvenile feather growth speed means very little. It is no indication that the feathers will continue to grow. Usually, the opposite is true. Feathers that start out growing very rapidly often times will stop growing very early.

Even pure Onagadori are somewhat slow feathered while young. They may take over two years to completely develop and pick up speed with their feather growth.

Above: The hackle like body feathers of a rooster that, though not pure, shares many Onagadori characteristics. The hackle feathers shown just behind the thigh are growing from the side of the body rather than from the spinal pteryla as with roosters of most other breeds.
Click photo to enlarge.
The birds that take longer to mature are often the better birds, who’s tails will grow much longer than their distant relatives that start out growing much faster in both body and tail feathering.

The important trait to look for early on is not necessarily feather length, but rather feather texture. The tail feathers should be narrow and limp like ribbons. Likewise, the saddle feathers should nearly be as fine as hair; half the width or less as compared to most Phoenix.

Even the body feathering of both sexes should be light, wispy, soft, and even hackle-like on roosters. After one year of age, hackle may even begin to grow on roosters from just behind the thighs on the sides of the body well below the spinal pteryla, from which such feathers would typically grow.

Long feathers also grow from the brow just above the eye. I have seen some lines in which these feathers exist, but they point upwards to the comb. If that is the case, the bird is likely too coarse feathered. Such feathers from the brow should be so light and wispy that they curl and begin to fall over the brow in a manner as to require trimming if they do not stay out of the eyes.

This ultra-light and ultra-soft feathering over the entire body is typically indicative of non-molting fowl. This mutant feathering appears to remain growing for greater periods of time than does wider, more coarse feathering.

Hens that produce such sons often have similar traits themselves. All be it somewhat more subtle in appearance. Typically, the body will be soft feathered and the cushion will be light, fluffy, and mounded quite high. There may even be a mutant type of cushion feather present. It seems that the more mutant, extremely soft feathers in the cushion, the more non-molting saddles there should be on the sons.

Not all of the saddle feathers on some males will be non-molting. There may be two types of saddle hackle on one bird; ones that are near normal and molt and ones that are mutant, narrow, and non-molting. It is important to select for feather traits in both sexes, because often times good hens produce more non-molting sons than do non-molting roosters themselves.