Posts Tagged ‘long tailed fowl’

A Living Relic from the Past – by David Rogers

December 2, 2010
It’s been some time since I’ve made a blog entry. All of the things that come with summer have occupied my time. Tending fowl, both adults and chicks, and caring for the garden all leave me with little time during the warmer seasons. I thought I may resume my entries with some news from the world of long tailed fowl.

Since 1984 one of the most beautiful color phases of non-molting fowl was thought by most to be extinct. There were occasional whispers from untraceable sources that there were still a small pocket flock here or there, but nothing was ever confirmed.

It was early in 2010 that I was notified by my dear friend Toni-Marie Astin that she had been contacted by some good friends living in her state that a family in Alabama was looking for a home for a pullet. She was described as being simply a red bird with a black tail. It was not clear until Toni-Marie herself first saw the pullet if she was red duckwing or something far more rare.

Above – Chou-Akane, photo courtesy of Toni-Marie Astin
When Toni-Marie picked up the pullet from her friends’ residence, she was quite shocked. She called me immediately after the pick up. I could not believe my ears. The pullet was a precious gift who had defied all odds against her in her yet young life. This pullet’s father had died after fertilization. Her mother had died while still setting on the egg. The incubation was carried out by the keeper of the fowl, Mrs. Nakamura. This pullet was the Nakamura’s last surviving bird, named Chou-Akane 蝶茜.

Not only is she a beautiful specimen of Japanese long-tailed fowl, but she is also of the shojo color phase; shojo tane 猩々種, the “orangutan variety”. It had been decades since most people had known of, much less seen, one of these fowl. Toni-Marie raised the pullet at her facility and conducted one breeding by her best non-molting rooster. After this, Chou-Akane traveled by vehicle from Georgia to Indiana by way of Will Lawrence and Micheal Aldridge. Due to their efforts, this rare fowl was not put at risk through the postal service.

I marveled at the iridescent orange-red of the shojo color. It is indeed a spectacular color in its clean state without flecks.

Above – Hakuraikou and myself in the last part of August, 2010. His longest feathers here were only a few inches shy of 7 Ft in length. The longer ones were one year older than the shorter ones. He did not obtain all of his adult feathers in the same year. Most were still in blood-feather. His tail was clipped for breeding in the days following this photo. Photo courtesy of Will Lawrence.

Chou-Akane was bred with Hakuraikou 白雷光, my white non-molting rooster. They have produced 25 offspring to date, three of which are shojo. It looks as though that thanks to the efforts of many, the shojo color phase of non-molting fowl will survive and hopefully overcome what was surely near extinction.

When something so dear seems lost and gone forever, never give up hope. Miracles can come seemingly from nowhere.

Below – A one month old cockerel of the shojo color phase, still with the juvenile pattern showing, from Chou-Akane and Hakuraikou.

So here’s to preservation and finding that which seems lost!

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.

Ohiki – “Little Chickens”; Possible Hypochondroplasia in Fowl – by David Rogers

December 1, 2009

Above: This fully grown Ohiki rooster easily fits in just one hand. His feet at the ends of his very short legs may be seen barely beneath his wing. Photo courtesy of Toni-Marie Astin of

I have chosen the Ohiki 尾曳 as the topic for this month’s article. The Ohiki is a true bantam; it has no large-fowl counter part as may be found in other breeds. It’s an interesting little breed that originated in Japan; specifically the Kochi Prefecture, the same region from which the Onagadori originated.

The two breeds seem to have a close kinship. They share the trait of narrow, ribbon-like feathers and quick feather growth. Some Ohiki have even been known to exhibit the non-molting trait to some degree.

Where the Ohiki differs from the Onagadori is that it has a dominant dwarfism trait that causes it to have a normal sized head, a stocky body, and small limbs – especially the legs, which are set quite far forward on the body. This is a dominant, autosomal trait. As such, the offspring only need to inherit the trait from one parent and, since the gene is not on a sex-link chromosome, either sex of progeny may express it.

This very well describes hypochondroplasia; a form of dwarfism that, unlike achondroplasia – a slightly more distorted dwarfism, results in disproportionate physical features. Since I am not a geneticist, I will refrain from claiming that is precisely what it has; I will only say that the dwarfism in the Ohiki appears to be identical to what is known as hypochondroplasia.

At first glance, it would seem that the little fowl have the same body type as the Chabo 矮鶏, Japanese Bantams. Upon closer inspection and review of breeding results, it becomes apparent that the two have different body types.

The Chabo produces long-legged fowl and short-legged fowl in each hatch. Many have a proportionately shaped body. The Chabo’s short legs are caused by a lethal gene. Offspring may obtain one short leg gene and one long leg gene from the parents. Offspring with such a genetic combination have nearly a 50/50 chance of having short or long legs. However, were an offspring to acquire two copies of the short leg gene, one from each parent, that combination is lethal and the chick dies in the shell on or about the 18th day of incubation. Many Chabo breeders breed a long-legged rooster to a short legged hen. This results in better fertility and fewer in-shell deaths resulting from the lethal genetic combination.

The Ohiki differs from this in that the short leg/dwarfism trait is dominant, they breed true to form, and produce no lethal genetic deaths. Unlike the Chabo, each Ohiki parent may be short legged with no lethal consequences to the offspring.

While they do breed true to form, like nearly any genetic trait, there are variations. Of the two lines from which the Ohiki in the US descend, the Wolfgang Vits line had slightly longer bodies, while the Knut Roeder line had shorter bodies. This demonstrates the diversity that can exist even within the same genetic trait.

In times gone by the Ohiki was known as the “Minohiki-Chabo” 蓑曳矮鶏. It was thought that it was a relative of both the Chabo and the Minohiki 蓑曳, a long-tailed, saddle dragging breed with a game fowl type carriage and head. It was however found to be a relative of neither breed. Instead, it is most closely related to the Onagadori 尾長鶏, Totenko 東天紅, and Shokoku 小国.

The rare little fowl were imported into the US in 2002 by Toni-Marie Astin of Marc King, of, took it upon himself to gather the stock from various areas of Europe and import them into Switzerland where he prepared the export of hatching eggs for over three years.

Since that time Toni-Marie Astin has been breeding the fowl at her facility, Onagadori South Feather Farm, in Georgia, USA. Mrs. Astin has been making careful selections to improve resistance to pathogens found in the US that differ from those it encountered and was mostly immune to in its previous homeland.

The breed seems to have a threshold with the degree of environmental changes that it will tolerate. At this time, severely cold weather and corn (maize) based feed appears to be where the physiology of the fowl draws the line with adaptations.

It certainly is not a breed for everyone, but for those who don’t mind sheltering it a bit, it makes a wonderful and unusual breed to care for.