In my previous post I described some of the common faults in my current generation of hens. Hens are bred to the Standard, for sure, but when you read the Standard one paragraph is dedicated to the hens. A full page is dedicated to selecting the right roosters. The rooster contributes half of the genes to every bird in your flock. 8-10 hens in a flock can have varying faults, and each will throw different chicks, but the rooster's genes are present in every chick produced. Much attention has to be paid to the selection of the rooster, and one in ten will make my final cuts at about a year old.
Have you ever noticed how most people hope for the most girls they can get in a batch of straight run chicks? I'm the opposite, in each batch of chicks I hatch for myself I'm hoping they are at least 50% roosters. Roosters are scored on so many different points that hatching the perfect rooster is impossible. Some can be dismissed as soon as they start feathering out at 6-8 weeks, but some important traits take months, even a year, to fully display themselves. Aside from birds that meet the Standard, there is also libido and fertility to consider. See the beautiful blue rooster on my home page? He is the sweetest boy, and a beautiful bird, but his days are numbered on the farm. The eggs from his pen are fertile at a rate around 50%. He's not an infertile rooster, but he isn't assertive with the girls, and has two or three that make things easy for him. Infertile eggs waste time and space in the incubator, so his potential replacements are being grown out right now.
So, with all of that being said, here are some of the traits that I look for in my roosters. I will include pictures with this post, because seeing is easier than describing. First, let me post a picture of the rooster I bought from Craigslist. This bird is not representative in any way of the BCM we breed now, but he strongly displays faults that are easily describable.
Now if you are a breeder, then it's obvious that this is a horrible example of a BCM, but at the time I didn't know. I just wanted dark eggs.
Let's just start at the top and work our way down. His comb is way too tall, way too thick, and attached at the nape. BCM combs don't attach to the head at the rear like that, the lobe of the comb extends well beyond the attachment point. This flock at some point had been crossed with Penedesencas, another dark egg laying breed. Why, I don't know. Penes' eggs are not as dark as BCM, but I didn't know any of this at the time.
Now for the hackles. See the yellowish colored feathers in a ring around the base? This is what is meant by the term "halo", and straw colored feathers are not tolerable at all in a breeding program.
This bird had several other faults. His back was too short, breast too shallow, hips too narrow, eyes too dark, tail too erect and not compact, on and on. Some of the chicks he threw even had greenish/yellow feet, another result of the Pene cross. It would have taken years and years to cull out those chicks to try and minimize those faults. This is the picture that brought the comment "Buy an axe"
I got rid of all of those birds and started over with the Davis chicks. The differences were amazing, even in the 2 day old chicks I got in the mail. They were the "penguin chicks" that BCM are known for, the other chicks were almost totally black. As they grew, I started seeing for the first time what a BCM rooster should really look like.
Gone were the straw colored hackles, the green feet, the oddly shaped combs. They were replaced by birds with the proper copper hackles, the copper saddles, and the deep red shoulders that a proper BCM should have.
Color is important, and I kept my first rooster based on his color, but he was a taller, thinner bird than what we breed for now. I once had a breeder tell me "You have to build the barn before you can paint it", and that statement is very true. If colors on your birds are close to the standard, minor faults can be acceptable in favor of a bird with a better body type. The long back and full deep breast are very important in the bodies of the roosters. Tail set is also important, it's one of those things that is easy to recognize if it's incorrect. Personally, I think roosters with an upright tail are very pretty, but that is not what the standard calls for, it calls for a tail carried at no more than a 45 degree angle. This is something I am working on with my current generation, my main breeding roosters still have higher tail sets, so they are paired with girls that carry their tails lower.
The rooster below is our best of last year, and is the lead of Pen 2 if you have ordered our eggs.
Many of the traits you try to breed for can be looked at as simple mathematics. A-B=C. Breeding a bird with too much color with a bird that is too dark can produce more desirable color in the offspring.
Breeding two birds with the same faults together can be looked at like multiplication. AxB=AB. Breeding two birds that are over colored, or two birds that are too dark can multiply the problem. That's why I say it takes years to improve a flock, but a good flock can be ruined in just a few seasons. People posing as "breeders" that keep and mate everything they hatch are not doing any favors for the breed. BCM are relatively new to the US, and have deviated from the original French imports. Many breeders work hard to maintain and improve the breed, many have been doing it for years longer than I have, but I still feel a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the breed. If you are reading this blog, or buying from me or another breeder, then chances are you are interested in maintaining the breed as well. There are good birds to be found on websites like CL, I still advertise there from time to time, but know what you are looking for.
Believe me, it's hard to hear "Buy an axe"...