We plan to have 55’s available for spring 2023! A follower on Facebook reached out and offered us a breeding pair. Unfortunately, before we picked them up the rooster had been killed by a predator. We have been setting her eggs aside in hopes a few may be fertilized and give us some babies. Yesterday [6/13/22] we popped them in the incubator and crossed our fingers.
9/22/22 update on the 55 Flowery Hens: 2023 change of breeding plans
The 55 Flowery Hens will be Legbar crossed this year given the tiny gene pool available in the US, then bred back to SOP next year. We purchased two dozen hatching eggs in early summer (as mentioned above in this original article published on 6/13/22) in order to provide a secondary line for long term breeding here on the farm, and none hatched.
That being the case, we only have one breeding line at this time. I’m not comfortable with breeding such a small group from an already rare breed that has proven difficult to source quality NPIP purebred stock from in the US.
The 55’s and the Legbar both originate from Leghorn breedings (see further information below), therefore make an excellent match for improving on the genetics without straying too far from the breed in order to cross back to true.
We purchased a 55 Flowery Hen pullet at the beginning of the summer, along with three big fat Bielefelder hens. They live on our second property up the road as a quarantine provision, as I purchased them as adults. They are nearly a year old now and all laying daily for quite some time, in fact, near the summer solstice the Bielefelder hens laid two eggs in a day twice! They are happy, healthy, and will be joining the barn when the weather turns.
When the 55 Flowery Hen hen moves to the barn she will be housed with a legbar rooster for two months for the first half of the winter for a targeted and easy to track first crossing. Following a successful hatch of a dozen chicks from that breeding, a second Legbar rooster from a second line will be swapped out, again for easy tracking purposes. Again, the pair will be housed together and in the second month (to insure sperm is from the correct rooster) eggs will be collected for another hatch of one dozen chicks.
As the resulting chicks from both crosses grow out, two cockerels with the best markings true to the 55 Flowery Breed will be kept from each of the two new lines from the winter breedings. As the first pullets molt to reveal tell-tale 55 Flowery Hen white tail feathers, which also lack the crest of the Legbar breed, will be kept for breeding back to true.
The blue Legbar eggs are a great indicator of when 55 Flowery Hen x Cream Crested Legbar crosses have reached a point of return to as much genetically true purebred as not only their marking match SOP, but as the blue color is bred out. Another primary indicator of course, will be breeding out the little tufted crest indicative of the presence of Legbar breed genetics. I’m not mush for ‘project breedings’ but given the limitations, I’m giving in and taking it very seriously.
About 55 Flowery Hen chickens
This autosexing chicken breed are prolific layers of large to extra large white eggs. These beautiful birds lay 250+ eggs a year.
55 Flowery Hens were created in 1955, hence the name, by Martin Silverudd, also the creator of the Isbar. The 55 Flowery Hen breed is derived from white and brown Leghorn chickens. If you have seen a Leghorn, you’ll note the 55 Flowery Hen breed resembles the body shape of the Leghorn, only a different color. Martin Silverrudd crossed White and Brown Leghorn to selectively tease out traits hidden by the dominant white.
All this work of crossing Leghorns resulted in easily sexed female chicks upon hatching. The females all have a dark chipmunk-like stripe down their backs.
The males have two smaller white stripes and tell-tale yellow spot atop their heads. As their true plumage comes in, 55 Flowery Hens intricate speckled plumage resembles that of Swedish flower hens, but with white flight feathers on the wing tips, and longest feathers on the tail.
The cock birds are mainly white as they mature, with yellow-to-brown freckles and faint barring on their white feathers.
Given our commitment to provide highly diverse poultry here at Wheaton Mountain Farm, we had been unable to source multiple lines of 55 Flowery Hen until a couple of weeks ago. Now with this girl, and thanks to a breeder in MI able to ship us 18 fertile hatching eggs [due to arrive [6/17/22] we can go back to our original plan of offering three autosexing breeds; Cream Crested Legbar, Bielefelder, and 55 Flowery Hen.
We also purchased three mature Bielefelder hens from the same farm as our mature 55 Flowery Hen, to keep her company. Where they had already been housed together it made the transition easy. They even gave us eggs the very next morning. Being the only mature hens on our farm, the 55 would have been very lonely, especially considering the isolated area the ultra-secure quarantine coop is located on our property.
I’m treating them as a completely separate biosecurity group, even though they came from an NPIP certified flock here in Maine. We have so much invested in just over a hundred newly-hatched chicks that the risk is too large to mess around with.