History of the Breed
Silverudd's Blue was created in the 1980s by Martin Silverudd, a Swedish pastor. To create the breed, he used a small adult productive New Hampshire and a small adult productive Rhode Island Red. He must have used at least two more breeds. Descendants of the Cream Legbar he imported in the late 1950s were included in the breed to include the gene for blue egg shell. That gene, along with the brown egg genes that NH and RIR brought, gave the Silverudd's Blue egg its characteristic green color.
There is nothing more noted about the origin, but from Martin Silverudd's remaining notes, it appears that he kept Australorps on his farm. It is likely that Australorp was the breed that gave Silverudd's Blue its characteristic blue color in the plumage. Silverudd's Blue was named at Martin Silverudd's swift passing - changed away from the Svensk Gronaggsvarpare (Swedish Green Egg Layer), which may be considered a working name. It has been mistakenly called Isbar, which is the name of a breed Silverudd created before the Silverudd's Blue. The name is set as a tribute to the breed's creator and refers to the gene for blue in plumage and the gene for blue shell color. The breed was most certainly not completely finished at Martin Silverudd's demise in 1986. It has since spread in large numbers, the genetic drive causing a relatively large variation in size, body shape, scale color, etc. Silverudd's Blue is characterized by the fact that it has black as the base color. The black is supressed on some Silverudd's Blues due to the gene for blue, which in single set gives a blue animal and in double set gives a spotted, or splash animal. The plumage is black, blue and splash, where above all the cocks can have elements of gold or silver in the neck and saddle feathers. Silverudd's blue is an active and lively breed.
Translated from the website of the Swedish Cultural Hen Association
History of the Name
For a few years there was a discussion about what proper name should be given to the "Blue Isbar." This is because Martin Silverudd never called it Isbar (Blue added the ability to distinguish it from the Isbar breed that Silverudd created in 1960). He had a working name on the breed - Swedish Green Egg Layer (Svensk Gronaggsvarpare) - but this name was chosen to avoid misunderstanding with the mixed breeds called green layers (gronvarpare).
However, it has felt very strange to call the breed Blue Isbar when it is now spreading internationally. Discussions have been made to explain why the breed bears the name Blue Isbar. "Bar" is included in a breed name to clarify that the breed is barred, but the Blue Isbar has never been barred. It is a confusion with another green-laying breed that Martin Silverudd produced. The explanation one has been able to give is "it had no finished name, but was rewritten in old papers found in the same handwritten piece as another barred bird and then it happened that they called it the same as the other." In 2016, the Swedish Cultural Hen Association (Svenska Kulturhönsföreningen) had an annual meeting and in the subsequent board meeting, together with coordinators, the decision was made once and for all to change to a correct breed name. Since March 2016, the breed has been called Silverudd's Blue - Silverudd's to honor the man who did so much for Hons Sweden and Blue to describe the color.
Translated from the website of the Swedish Cultural Hen Association
History of the Breed in the U.S.
Silverudd's Blues were first brought to the United States in 2011 by Paul Bradshaw of Greenfire Farms when he imported 22 "Isbars" (as Silverudd's Blues were then called) from Sweden. According to information on Greenfire's website, these were fertile and produced many offspring, but showed some signs of a suppressed immune system that could be linked to inbreeding depression. So in 2013, Greenfire imported hatching eggs from unrelated flocks in Sweden and Belgium, then imported additional hatching eggs in 2014, again from Sweden and Belgium. These were brought in to allow breeders to mitigate the effects of inbreeding in their flocks. We refer to birds (and their descendants) from the original flock imported in 2011 as "First Imports" and to birds (and their descendants) from the 2013/2014 imported hatching eggs as "Second Imports." The Second Imports did add more diversity to the American Silverudd's Blue gene pool. However, it has been noted that the birds from Greenfire after they brought in the Second Imports are more variable in size, color and other characteristics. Some of the characteristics are undesirable including light eyes, yellow or off-color legs, feathers on the legs, color leakage, mottling and washed out splashes, bulky and/or awkward body type (more like Marans), wrong combs (such as pea-type combs or misshapen combs), wrongly colored eggs, and a tendency to be flighty and stand-offish. Currently, all Silverudd's Blues in the U.S. originated from Greenfire Farms and are either First Imports only or a mix of First and Second Imports.
It is important to note that while the above-referenced issues feature prominently in Greenfire Farms' stock since the Second Import, some of the problems may crop up from time to time in First Import birds as well. The American Silverudd's Blue Association was founded in part to guide and assist breeders in their efforts to improve the breed, regardless of which import(s) were the foundation of their flock. As we go forward, we hope to put the greatest emphasis on breeding within the guidelines, for healthy, hardy, homozygous birds (two copies of the blue egg gene), high egg production (250+/year), large eggs (2 ounces), clean BBS coloring, correct single combs, and dark legs and eyes, and other characteristics.
What is Blue?
In fowl, blue plumage is caused by an autosomal, incompletely dominant modifying gene (“B”) that dilutes the black gene (“b”) to some shade of blue-gray. For basic plumage color, chickens inherit one gene from the sire, one from the dam. Offspring that are heterozygous Bb will be blue; offspring homozygous for the diluting gene (BB) will be splash; homozygous bb’s will be black. Click here for more in-depth information on blue fowl genetics.
Blue chicks may hatch out in one solid shade or have darker areas, especially through the head, neck, back and wings. Color can range from light misty blue to medium steel blue to a deep indigo. Some Blues have lovely lacing (feathers are darker blue or black at the edges, creating a pattern like lace). Hens may be solid-colored (which is preferred for hens of the breed) - either one shade all over or with darker shading about the head and neck; or they may have some birchen in the hackles (which is accepted for hens of the breed). Cocks may also be solid-colored (accepted), but most often will have some degree of birchen - metallic silver or, in rare cases, gold - in the hackles and saddle (preferred).
Blue hens (and a Splash)
Blacks hatch out mostly black with some white areas on the face, chest and wings. The white spots disappear as all-black feathers replace their fluff. Adults are raven-colored with varying degrees of shimmering teal iridescence. Hens should be solid black (preferred) or may have some birchen in the hackles (accepted). Cocks may be solid black (accepted), but are usually adorned in shining birchen hackle and saddle feathers (preferred).
Black cockerel and pullet
Splash chicks may hatch out pure white, creamy white or buttery white, however their splashing (white primary color with splashes of blue) begins to show within 1-2 weeks as they feather out. Hens are splash all over (preferred) or may have a bit of birchen (accepted). Cocks may have white and/or blue feathering in the hackles and saddle (accepted) or birchen (preferred).
Heritage Breed (Kulturhon)
Even though Silverudd's Blue was created relatively recently, it can still be considered a Heritage Breed chicken as it was bred in that tradition. The Swedes use a similar term "Kulturhons" which means "Culture Hens," and the Silverudd's Blue is among the breeds categorized as such. According to the Livestock Conservancy:
Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers - breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became mainstream. The animals were carefully selected and improved over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture.
Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites.
Heritage animals once roamed the pastures of America's [and, in this case, Sweden's] pastoral landscape, but today these breeds are in danger of extinction. Modern agriculture has changed, causing many of these breeds to fall out of favor. Heritage breeds store a wealth of genetic resources that are important for our future and the future of our agricultural food system.
Many breeds used in large scale agriculture have been specifically selected for intensive production including rapid growth, feed efficiency, continuous milk or egg production, or other targeted production characteristics. Heritage breeds have genetics that are more “well-rounded.” While breeders may select their animals for certain characteristics, they’re not selected so narrowly so as to lose other valuable and biologically important characteristics.
Martin Silverudd had a grand passion for creating chicken breeds with vigor and vitality, for meat and high production of unusually colored eggs, suited to the thrifty small-scale farmer as an alternative to hybrid chickens. In developing these new breeds, Silverudd used, among others, two laying legends - the White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red.
Silverudd felt it was of great importance to preserve our chicken breeds as a form of wealth to help secure the future. The American Silverudd's Blue Association owes a great debt of gratitude to Martin Silverudd. We will work together as a community to conserve Silverudd's Blue's unique and valuable qualities as we advance this beloved Swedish heritage breed.
Photo courtesy of the Swedish Cultural Hen Association