Author Topic: Wheaten woes  (Read 526 times)

Jessica Rodgers

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 10
Wheaten woes
« on: May 19, 2024, 12:19:14 AM »
I was reluctant to post this as I don’t care to have my issues all over the internet but I wish more people would post their issues so we can all learn from them so here I go… I apologize in advance for the length of this post…


I’m having difficulty with fertility/eggs developing. The ones that do develop I get about 1/2 to hatch. The ones that die in shell are about day 18+ and are usually not positioned correctly. I see movement in the egg when I set them in the hatching tray.
I usually set some Wheaten Olive Eggers as well and they are nearly 90% success rate for development and hatch-ability. They pop out like popcorn! I monitor my parameters in the incubator closely and I can see on a graph any fluctuations.

Flock stats:
Wheaten/Blue Wheaten flock started from one cock and 2 hens 6yrs ago. It was unknown at the time how related the cock was to the hens. I started by breeding siblings from my original trio (eggs from the 2 hens were separated) then I created a third family with one of the families so 2 family groups are closely related. Then I started rotating the males.
Females age range from 1-5yrs old
Males are 1yr and 4yrs old.

Pens are made up of one male over 3-5 females, one pen does have an additional 8 strictly layers on top of 5 Wheaten hens. Surprisingly that pen has the best fertility but also has a 1yr old male over them. Fertility still isn’t that great but workable. Everyone eats Natural Farm Feed “broiler” feed and I recently started adding Fertrell breeder supplement again + beef tallow as the oil. They always have access to oyster shell and grit. Everyone has access to pasture either with a movable fenced area off the main coops or they are in a movable tractor.

So the big question is did I do something wrong? I try my hardest to keep vigorous birds. Everything gets wing banded and I take notes and don’t keep birds that show weakness or get sick. I know adding new blood is a possible quick fix, I have a few birds from an unrelated side project that I can use but I was keeping them separate for now and I’d like to keep my current line going. I’ve heard a number of Wheaten breeders over the years have had similar issues with their line. Possibly Silvers too?

So, another question arises: Does the Wheaten variety in particular tolerate a closed flock/no outside blood added like some other varieties and breeds?
I’ve seen comments here and there over the years about other breeds not tolerating closed flocks and I’m  wondering if Wheatens fit into that category?

I know the subject of adding new blood or not can be a hot topic so let’s keep the discussion respectful please 🩵
 

Mike Gilbert

  • Lifetime Member
  • Ameraucana Guru
  • *****
  • Posts: 1926
Re: Wheaten woes
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2024, 10:29:11 AM »
Unless there is some subclinical disease in your flock that affects hatchability, it sounds like you have been doing everything you need to do to.   The best answer in that case is to import hatching eggs or chicks from another source.   LF Wheatens and Blue Wheatens all go back to one original source as far as I know, that of the late Wayne Meredith.  So the chances are pretty good you would not be doing that drastic of an outcross.   Substandard fertility and/or hatchability, along with reduced production, are some of the first signs of inbreeding depression.  To avoid that for long periods of time a person needs to keep about three different lines going in order to maintain a closed flock. 
Mike Gilbert
1st John 5:11-13

Tailfeathers

  • College
  • ****
  • Posts: 415
  • Breeder & Exhibitor of WBS Ameraucanas since 2008
Re: Wheaten woes
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2024, 07:08:32 PM »
I'll simply say that I maintained a closed-flock of WBS for 15yrs without ever experiencing that problem.  Then the HPAI hit and all my birds were put down.  I don't wanna go into detail here but I was able to salvage my bloodline so it wasn't lost.  I'm about to set my first eggs from a Quad.  They're not the quality I had before all my birds were put down.  I'd say 2-3yrs behind where I was but it's a start.

My Am's have always hate the worst of my hatch rates but that's primarily been because of porous eggs that develop bloodrings.  Don't recall any real problem with quitters and definitely don't recall any kind of positioning problem.  I've actually not heard of that before with any Wheatens but I haven't been keeping up with what others are doing near as much as I used to.  Pretty much not at all.

Have you been able to identify whether the quitters are coming from a particular hen?  I think that'd be one of the first things I'd look into.

Sorry I can't be of more help.
God Bless,

R. E. Van Blaricome
Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God, and all His Righteousness
- then these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33)

Jessica Rodgers

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 10
Re: Wheaten woes
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2024, 02:16:15 AM »
Unless there is some subclinical disease in your flock that affects hatchability, it sounds like you have been doing everything you need to do to.   The best answer in that case is to import hatching eggs or chicks from another source.   LF Wheatens and Blue Wheatens all go back to one original source as far as I know, that of the late Wayne Meredith.  So the chances are pretty good you would not be doing that drastic of an outcross.   Substandard fertility and/or hatchability, along with reduced production, are some of the first signs of inbreeding depression.  To avoid that for long periods of time a person needs to keep about three different lines going in order to maintain a closed flock.

They likely came from the same original source is some food for thought…

Just for clarification about keeping 3 lines separate, you mean acquiring birds from 3 different breeders and maintaining them separately, and crossing them in as needed or setting up 3 pens from 3 different breeders and rotate the males from the different pens?

My birds have been healthy and lay pretty good despite most of them being 3+yrs old. I’m definitely not complaining there. And they are super peaceful with each other.

I'll simply say that I maintained a closed-flock of WBS for 15yrs without ever experiencing that problem.  Then the HPAI hit and all my birds were put down.  I don't wanna go into detail here but I was able to salvage my bloodline so it wasn't lost.  I'm about to set my first eggs from a Quad.  They're not the quality I had before all my birds were put down.  I'd say 2-3yrs behind where I was but it's a start.

My Am's have always hate the worst of my hatch rates but that's primarily been because of porous eggs that develop bloodrings.  Don't recall any real problem with quitters and definitely don't recall any kind of positioning problem.  I've actually not heard of that before with any Wheatens but I haven't been keeping up with what others are doing near as much as I used to.  Pretty much not at all.

Have you been able to identify whether the quitters are coming from a particular hen?  I think that'd be one of the first things I'd look into.

Sorry I can't be of more help.

I don’t remember the porous egg issue when I had your stock. I definitely had issues with them not  developing. I didn’t have that issue with my current stock at first. After posting this, I went down a rabbit hole on feed and nutrition may be a factor with the positioning issues. The supplement I started adding a month ago should close any gaps. Hopefully this last batch I set will show some improvement. So maybe it was 2 separate issues?

I’m having fertility issues in all pens so it can’t be just one female family or single hen. My last batch I candled was even worse so I switched all my males out and put my outcross line over the hens. They've been separate so far other then the original cross with some of my hens over the hens. If fertility jumps, I guess I’ll have my answer.

Mike Gilbert

  • Lifetime Member
  • Ameraucana Guru
  • *****
  • Posts: 1926
Re: Wheaten woes
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2024, 08:32:37 AM »
 Quote:  "Just for clarification about keeping 3 lines separate, you mean acquiring birds from 3 different breeders and maintaining them separately, and crossing them in as needed or setting up 3 pens from 3 different breeders and rotate the males from the different pens?"

That would be one way to go about it.  But you could also branch out into different lines from one or two sources.  It would require good record keeping and identification of chicks when they are hatched.   Lets call the three lines A, B, and C.   Each year you would take young male(s) produced from A and put them over the B females.  You would take males from B, and put them over C females.  And males from C you would put over A.   In that manner you should be able to keep a closed flock almost indefinitely.  Of course you need to start with good, viable stock.
Mike Gilbert
1st John 5:11-13

John W Blehm

  • Lifetime Member
  • Ameraucana Guru
  • *****
  • Posts: 2199
Re: Wheaten woes
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2024, 09:03:00 AM »
This quote is from page 100 of my Ameraucana Chickens book and expands a bit on Mike's last reply...

Quote
Within each line, practice inbreeding to set desired characteristics, at the risk of inbred depression. Line-crossing between your own sublines of each Ameraucana variety is where you'll see most of the benefits. There are different ways to go about it, but (and I know I’m repeating myself) the most important part is to maintain two or more sublines of each variety.
At one time, I had four of my bantam condos set up with four sublines of buff bantams. I don’t recall, but let’s call them A, B, C & D. The best pullets would be kept as breeders the following year and go into the coops they came from. The best cockerels that were kept as breeders would go over the pullets in the next coop to their right of where they came from. So a cockerel hatched from eggs in coop A would be used over the pullets in coop B. Cockerels from B would go over pullets from C and so on, with cockerels from D over pullets from A. The chicks coming from any of those four sublines represented my line of bantam Buff Ameraucanas. This is one method of linebreeding.