Ask the Expert: Odd Breeds

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What Breed Is This?

What Breed of Chicken
Photo courtesy of Kate Churchill

About six months ago, I picked up a hen with five others. They were advertised as Silkies. I do not usually purchase mixed breed chickens but when we got there to pick them up, we found them and about 50 other chickens cramped into a tiny, dusty coop. We chose to take the six birds we called for out of there, and with good care, they now are very healthy.

We were able to determine approximately what the breeding of the others was, but Sheila (as we call her) has us stumped. Could you tell me anything about what her breeding may be? She has five toes and feather feet. Her feathers are the type of normal chickens, not Silkies. I am quite sure she is at least a quarter Sultan, but I don’t know. Any ideas?

Kate Churchill


Hi Kate,

Sheila is such a beautiful chicken! The lacing on her feathers is great! To answer your question about her breed, it looks like she’s a Silkie/Cochin mix. The dark skin comes from being a Silkie. And her feathering comes from her Cochin side. I hope this solves the mystery. Have fun with Sheila!


Strange Chickens

I own 13 chickens. Five are older, and eight are new layers. There are three particular chickens I am confused about. I have two White Leghorns and one beautiful Light Brahma. The Leghorns are what’s known as a Mediterranean breed, which usually means that they don’t take to humans well. But my duo of Leghorns are extremely friendly!

And that’s not the end of it. Brahmas are large breed, and those are supposed to be friendly, right? Bock O’Brahma (that’s the Brahma’s name) hates us and won’t stand to be within 10 feet of any humans. We raised them from one day old. Why are the usually-intolerant Leghorns friendly, and the usually-friendly Brahma mean?

Will Geddes


Hi Will,

As with people, we’ve found that each chicken has a distinct personality no matter its breed. We’ve also found this to be true no matter if two chickens are raised together and in the same way. For instance, Pam Freeman has two Buff Orpington hens, and writes: “They are supposed to be a friendly breed. One is just that — she’s very friendly and loves to be petted. The other is awful. She pecks at people and never gets petted. But I do have to say, that I have had White Leghorns, and like you, I find their personality to be wonderful. My white leghorns were some of my friendliest chickens. I even had one that would lay upside down in my hand and fall asleep.”

We hope this sheds some light on your chickens and their personalities. Have a great day!


Unidentified Bird

Here are some photos of a bird that I have raised on my property. I have raised four of these birds in the past 25 years. This bird hatched out of a guinea egg. It has some characteristics of a guinea. At the time this bird was hatched I had a Blue Andalusian rooster running with my guineas. It has blue feet similar to my Blue rooster. I would like to know exactly what I have if you know.

Dennis Holden, Tennessee


Hi Dennis,

Though chicken/guinea fowl hybrids are rare, they do happen. A quick Google search shows some interesting crosses! And they can have shorter lifespans, as well, though most reports from guin-hen owners say that, the more the hybrid resembles the guinea fowl parent, the longer it tends to live. The appearance has been described as “atavistic,” or possessing characteristics of ancestors, and your hybrid looks a lot like a wild, buzzard-like creature.

Thanks for sharing with us!

Marissa Ames


Raising Dutch Chickens

Are Dutch chickens hard to raise from babies?



Hi Loretta,

It’s hard to know what you mean by Dutch chickens. There are Dutch chicken breeds, including a bantam, that originated from that locality. Perhaps the best way to answer your question is to say that all chickens need the basics when being hand-raised — warmth, food, water, and cleanliness.


Rare Ameraucanas

I had a few questions I was hoping you might answer for me. I recently purchased 26 chicks at an auction. We had 17 Rhode Island Reds and nine Ameraucanas. The plan was to keep the pullets for eggs and butcher the cockerels when they got big enough.

Now they are getting old enough to take on permanent color and for us to tell male from female. We ended up with two solid white female Ameraucana pullets and a solid white Ameraucana cockerel. My wife says these are rare and would like to separate them for breeding.

My first question is will all of her chicks end up solid white?

My second question is if solid white Ameraucanas are rare, is there a market for them?

I would appreciate your feedback. Thank you for your time.

Chad Johnston, Phoenix Farms


Hi Chad,

We don’t have all the answers, but hopefully, we can help. First, it’s not certain how rare white Ameraucanas are.  They are one of the eight recognized varieties by the American Poultry Association (APA), so that helps for exhibition. There are two groups of breeders online that may have more information about the relative “rareness” of different varieties. The two different groups have differences of opinions on some matters – hence, two separate groups.

There’s not a perfect answer for the question about white coloring breeding true.  It’s fairly certain they will produce white chicks, but not 100% certain, because of the following explanation.

There are two different genes that cause white coloring in chickens. One is called recessive white and has been traditionally common in white varieties of Dorkings, Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Orpingtons, etc. If this gene is causing the white color in your birds, then they should continue to breed true and produce all white chicks.

There is another gene called dominant white, which has been historically found in Leghorns, games, etc. This gene inhibits pigmentation, but isn’t completely dominant, so heterozygotes (those with one copy of the dominant white gene), they often have black flecks and/or a fair amount of red color. So you would notice these if your chickens were heterozygotes. It is possible, however, that they are heterozygotes, and in that case, they could produce some colored chicks.

Whether your chickens carry recessive white, dominant white, or both, likely depends on what breed was crossed in to produce the white variety of Ameraucanas.

So, if these chickens meet most of the breed characteristics outlined in the APA Standard of Perfection, they could be somewhat valuable to produce chicks.

Hope this helps with your decision!


Are They True Button Quail?

I enjoyed seeing the article on Button quail (Backyard Poultry, April/May 2016), which I raised in the bottom of Australian Grass Parakeets cages while living in Arizona.

I’ve one correction/exception/question though. Button quail are not true quail. They are Turnicidae, and related to the rail rather than Phasianidae, and related to the quail. Chinese Painted quail, on the other hand, are then referred to differently. The photos you published of both Button and Chinese Painted are identical. Any clarification?


Always enjoy receiving your magazine.

Sue Torre


Hi Sue,

We consulted our Button quail experts, and this is what they had to say: “In a nutshell, Button quail in the U.S. are Chinese Painted quail. The true Button quail are not quail at all; nor are they available; nor are they kept in aviculture in the U.S. Aviculturists in the United States have always referred to the Chinese Painted quail as the ‘Button quail.” In other countries such as Australia, this same bird is called the ‘King quail.’

“Button quail in the U.S. are true quail but they are not true Button quail.

“The true Button quail, as he indicates, are in the family Turnicidae and they are not even quail, but they are also not kept and bred in captivity other than by a very few zoos.

“Those birds in the picture are indeed known in the U.S. as ‘Button quail’ and are proudly kept by thousands of people. Do not confuse U.S. ‘Button quail’ with true Button quail, as they are totally different birds. Unfortunately, the name Button quail is here to stay in the United States, regardless of how you might view it. It is our common names for the Chinese Painted quail, like it or not.”


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