Silkie color genetics
Back story: several years ago I had a light gray color showing up in my white males. It was decided it was the double silver gene since only the males could carry two copies of the gene. The peeps that hatch are very gray and always male.
What appears to be happening as time goes on is that the color is becoming more intense, covering the body of the bird. The breeding parents are always white birds. Here is a pic of one of the boys with his sister. So what the heck is going on? He is not lavender, I have lavenders. In the sun his color is more mauve, in artificial light its a dove gray.
I put my neck out here, as my experience is mostly with birds and genes from another continent. There are differences, and so I hope to learn from this discussion, too. Contact the breed club for Silkies and see what other breeders say!
Here’s a go:
Do you know the white they carry? I guess recessive white, silver based? You have recessive melanizers at play (as would be expected with the fibromelanosis of Silkies, which needs Id to express it). It really depends on the kind of white. I have seen buff x eb black birds a mixture of pinkish/grayish -- oddly enough, it was a Silkie.
Keep such a grey cock for test breedings. By not culling against this trait, you have quasi selected for it. Breeding a hen to this bird and seeing if the offspring bear this trait, you can select hens that are free of this trait. Breed only birds that test clear; cull hard. (Or, you could segregate the two varieties and see where your gray birds go.)
Or you could outcross to a clean line. Unless you have established a sound line and are happy with your type, I would focus on weeding out the undesirable trait.
That's where the proposal came from that it was the double silver gene expressing itself. Although I will admit that was before this breeding that intensified the color.
I do have one of those boys in with a Black to see what happens. I also have one from a new line that I have one of the boys with. Yes, I have three of them this color.
I don't remember silver working that way, but I am no expert. For me it is the white your Silkies have -- recessive white was the most common. The silver would clean it up, but I think it is the recessive white working with melanizers that is the fault. Certainly, the Silkie is a source of fm and Id in strong doses.
I am one of those people that need to "see" the explanation. From what I understand a recessive white gene in a Silkie would turn off color. If that statement is true then it can't be recessive because it is turning on some type of color.
The first pic is what the boys look like at hatch. Those gray chicks are out of white parents.
In the second pic of the older bird you can just barely see the gray in the tail. This is why they thought it was the double silver gene expressing itself.
Recessive white does not turn off colour, but interacts with the chemicals that produce colours. Recessive white behaves differently depending on the other genes a bird has for patterning as well as colour. That is part of the problem with it in explaining the situation with your birds.
Recessive white can help clear black -- but there is more than one black, too, unfortunately. Test matting can be the only means to be sure what exact genes you are dealing with.
Silver acts to enhance recessive white’s ability to clear black. Nevertheless, as I have said, the interaction of recessive white (in buff colored birds) bred to black birds (E or ER) can make birds as you describe.
It is hard to explain how all genes work all of the time, because recessive and dominant are not absolute, and the terms themselves are sort of misleading. Based on nearness to positions of other genes, one gene can interact with another in an incomplete fashion.
Test breed your birds and select against the gray. Do not breed a bird exhibiting the trait otherwise; keep track of sire and dam, and you can soon breed this trait out.
I have sent you a private message that will be a source of genetic information far better than I can provide.
I wish you the best of luck, robin!
White is the result of no color. think of it more like an incomplete shutting off of color.
So this is more than likely way before the birds came to me and combining the genes in these pairings is turning on whatever color was used in the past by others. Am I getting that straight?
Why is it only the males? Are they carrying two copies of whatever the mystery colors were?
Do I sound as lost as I obviously am? I do have records so I know which birds it started with, so at least I can take care of it.
If it is clear whites you want, why even mess with these? White Silkies are very common, so yours could be replaced with some that don't have the coloring defects. On the other hand, if you want to figure out what is causing the off-color, why not try a genetics board? If your birds are recessive whites there is obviously some leakage. If they are dominant white, you must have a mutation (perhaps smokey?) at the I allele, but that doesn't explain why the off color is only showing up in males. As far as the double silver, that is exactly what you want for good whites; it isn't by itself causing the problem. Good luck.
Last edited by MKG; 04-11-2010 at 11:35 PM.
Richard recommended the coop, I forgot I was a member. I did get an answer from George Mahalick. He said it is the smokey gene. If he's not off traveling the world I'll give him a call some time this week and discuss this with him.
Thanks to all those with the helpful replies.
It could be that only the males are getting the gene because only your females carry it. I am not sure if that applies in this specific case but it does in some. There are genes that the females passes only to the male offspring and the male passes only to the female offspring. That is the only thing I have ever heard that would explain the male only thing. But I am far from having a complete education on chicken genetics.