Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Breeds

This article appears in the 2016 APA Yearbook:
Getting a breed or variety recognized in the Standard is deliberately difficult. The APA confers recognition on a breed or variety only after thoughtful consideration and convincing evidence that birds breed true and that it has a significant following.
The process is described in the Standard:
Breed clubs organize their member breeders to advocate for their breed or variety. Breeders must have been APA members for at least five years. Those advocating for the breed’s recognition must submit a written account of the breed’s history and the proposed standard description. They must produce affidavits from at least five breeders who have raised the breed for at least five years, affirming that 50 percent or more of the offspring grow up close to type.
Birds of the breed applying for recognition must be shown at APA shows at least twice each year for two years. At least four hens, four pullets, four cocks and four cockerels must be shown.
Judges then submit their opinions of the breed and a qualifying meet is held. No fewer than 50 birds must be shown at the meet. Judges expect the birds to resemble each other closely, to establish the breed type. Birds should come from at least those five breeders who champion the breed.
Walt Leonard, chairman of the APA’s Standard Revision Committee, talked with me about breeds and varieties that have achieved recognition recently, and others that are working on being recognized in the future.

“The first 40 pages of the Standard are extremely valuable,” he said. “Read it more than once.  Read the glossary. See how the chicken is built.”

Go beyond the individual breed’s Standard description. The Standard explains the basics of breeds and exhibition. The APA includes the economic qualities of the breeds, whether they are known as layers, meat birds, both, or not so much.

“It’s not just a bag of pretty feathers,” he said. “That’s why we [judges] handle the birds. When I have that bird in my hands, I feel literally every part of it. We really do care about the purpose of the bird.”

Mr. Leonard and the other members of the Standard Revision Committee: Dave Anderson; John Monaco; Donald Barger; and Pat Malone; work year-round with APA members to improve their birds and help them meet the Standard.

 “Ninety percent of what the Standard committee does is tell people that we are not going to change the standard to match the birds they have in their backyards,” Mr. Leonard said.
New breeds
Breeds that have recently succeeded in being added to the APA Standard include the Black Copper, Wheaten and White varieties of Marans; the Blue Wheaten variety of Old English Game Bantam; the Splash variety of Cochin; Ginger Red variety of Modern Game; Self Blue variety of Bearded Silkie; the American Serama; the Ko Shamo; and the Nankin.

Although not previously recognized in the U.S., the Marans, Serama, Ko Shamo and Nankin have standards in other countries.
“We try to use the Standard of the country of origin as often as possible,” he said.

Black Copper Marans were recognized in April, 2011. Both the breed and the color variety are new to the Standard. The Wheaten variety was recognized later, in October 2011. The White variety was recognized in 2014.
Bev Davis' lovely rooster
The preliminary shows and the qualifying meet are not rubber stamps. They are opportunities for APA judges to work with breeders on the points that need improvement so that the breed or variety can be recognized. Being recognized is a process.

“We don’t want them to fail,” Mr. Leonard said.  “The Standard committee wants them to get in. But sometimes people get mad at us.”

White Marans were acceptable on their first try, but the more difficult Black Copper and Wheaten color varieties took a couple of meets each.

“We saw enough to make some adjustments in the color,” he said.

The Self Blue variety of Bearded Silkies was recognized in 2010. The lavender color has been contentious. The APA uses Self Blue as the designation for the color others call lavender. The APA has decided to continue to use Self Blue as the name for that color pattern, to avoid confusion with long-standing practice. It’s an even, light slaty blue color, as compared with the laced blue of the Blue color pattern.
Brenda Gillat's Silkie at the ABA
The Splash variety of bantam Cochins was recognized in 2014. The Splash color variety is slaty blue and white, in irregular blobs. The main tail feathers and primary wing feathers have more white than the rest of the body.
Feathersite's photo of a Splash Cochin
The Ginger Red color pattern of Modern Games was recognized, after a qualifying meet at the 2010 show in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the same show as the Self Blue Silkie qualifying meet. It’s a bright color pattern, a variation on Brown Red and Black Breasted Red.
Ginger Red Modern Game from the Modern Game Promotional Society
The Blue Wheaten variety of Old English Game was recognized in 2014. The difficult blue color is breeding unusually true in this variety of OEG females.

“These Blue Wheaten females are consistent and they are winning,” he said.  “I don’t know why they are coming out so good, but the females are winning.”

Nankins were recognized in 2012. They are another old breed that was neglected and are now getting attention for their many fine qualities. The chicks start dusting themselves early, and the females are excellent brooders and mothers. The females’ bright chestnut color compares favorably with Mr. Leonard’s New Hampshires.
A Nankin rooster from the Livestock Conservancy
“They’re active little bantams that fly like a pigeon,” he said.

Colonial Williamsburg has been influential in breeding Nankins and bringing them to public notice.

The Ko Shamo, a true bantam, was recognized in 2014, in the Wheaten color variety. Although it’s an ancient breed in Japan, it’s a newcomer to the U.S. poultry scene. It’s gained popularity in the past decade.

“The qualifying meet for Ko Shamos was the best by far,” Mr. Leonard said. “They showed 114 birds and they were all good.”
A pair of Wheaten Ko Shamos from Backyard Chickens
The Standard description for Ko Shamos requires that they have a split wing, missing a feather between the primary and secondary wing feathers. That’s a disqualification in any other breeds, but a requirement for these.

The chrysanthemum comb is another unique requirement new to the APA Standard. It starts out looking like a perfect pea comb, then grows into a chrysanthemum.

The Ko Shamo shares a pugnacious nature with other Oriental breeds.  Males dislike other males, so they must be kept in separate pens. Females can be cantankerous, too. Although they are small, they hold their ground with larger birds.

“I usually tell people that they are not a beginner’s breed,” he said.  

Mr. Leonard, who raises Ko Shamos himself, stayed out of the Standard discussions to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. This little bird has captured his heart.

 “They are cocky little birds that have a lot of personality,” he said. “They love people and will interact with you. I’m pretty jaded. Not too many birds get me excited. But these Ko Shamos are just fun to watch.”

The males engage in ritual behavior. They have an upright stance, with solid muscular bodies.

“One of their selling points is that they feel like a brick,” he said. “They are solid, like a Cornish. When I want somebody to like them, I say: Here, hold this bird. They don’t expect it weigh that much and be that hard.”

The hens are good layers of eggs that are bigger than would be expected from a 28-ounce bird. They are good brooders and mothers.

“The strain we have in California reproduce real well,” he said. “They are like mice. I could have a million of them here if I wanted.”

Ko Shamo chicks are tiny fluffs of energy. Mr. Leonard describes them as looking like bumblebees. He beds his birds on straw, which dwarfs them.

“The straw looks like telephone poles compared to the chicks,” he said. “Literally, it looks like they are crawling over logs.”

Ko Shamos have succeeded across the country. Even cold climates don’t bother them. When they first arrived from their warm Asian home, they suffered in cold temperatures. As a breed, they have hardened up.

 “The proof is in the pudding,” he said. “They are out there at shows knocking Cornish out. To go out and give the established birds a hard time is unusual.”

The American Serama was recognized in 2012 in the White color pattern. This new breed is the smallest bantam, a tiny handful of feathers. They are gaining popularity as pets. Their tabletop shows, although not APA certified, are attracting new participants to poultry.
Jerry Schexnayder's Seramas
“It’s a different spin on poultry shows,” Mr. Leonard said. “Anything that brings new people into the poultry world is positive.”

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