Walli Johnson was a sort of Godmother of Silverudd's Blue in America. Her knowledge, experience, penchant for deep, careful thought, and inclusive manner made her a guiding light for many here in the U.S. who are working to improve the breed and perhaps even complete the work left unfinished by the illustrious Martin Silverudd upon his death. We were saddened to lose Walli in November of 2018, but we've compiled some of her wise words on this page which we believe will continue her valuable legacy.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU JUMP IN
There are a lot of new people joining this page and starting with Silverudd’s Blues. Many are looking for direction in breeding. Unlike an established SOP breed, this is still a subjective subject. And some are experiencing problems that they don’t expect. I think our members here need to understand what getting into this breed actually involves. For me, it is a passion. I love this breed and believe it is worth the effort to help preserve it, but it has more than its share of issues.
This breed was not finished when Martin Silverudd died. We do not know what his final goal was or how close he was to that goal. There are still many characteristics that need to be refined. Add to that that Silverudd not only did not breed toward an SOP, he was against breeding for an SOP. So we are starting out with stock that is more variable than a typical breed with several recessive characteristics still present in the population. Even in an established and refined SOP breed, most experienced breeders will tell you that only 1 in 100 chicks will go on to become breeding material. In other words, if you want a quad of “perfect” breeders, plan to get 400 chicks and grow them all up before you choose your breeders. And, in the case of the Silverudd’s Blue, plan to test breed a good portion of those that make the initial cut. I recently saw a post from a well respected show breeder who was raising 5000 juveniles looking for the next generation of breeders. A bit overwhelming, wouldn’t you agree? Most of us do not have the luxury of being able to raise so many birds to choose from, so we use what we have and slowly work at refining it toward the goal.
One goal we do know is that the breed is to lay a large amount of large green eggs. Egg color, size and production are paramount in this breed. Getting the entire population homogeneous for the blue egg gene (carrying 2 copies, one from each parent – O/O) is something we all need to be working on. We are not there yet with this breed and brown egg layers will show up from time to time. They need to be culled. Let me give you an example of how easily this can hide in a flock. I have a project going with my Silverudd's Blues. I KNOW that the 2 hens that are the basis of the whole program were heterozygous (carrying only one copy – O/o+) for the blue egg gene. I KNOW that at least two of the cockerels that were used in further generations were heterozygous. I suspect some of the mixed import hens used in this project were heterozygous because I know their cockerel hatchmate was. And yet, four generations into the project I have yet to hatch a pullet that laid a brown egg - all have lain green. I am not naïve enough to believe that I have miraculously ended up with all O/O birds; brown eggs will show up eventually and I will deal with it when they do. At this point, the only way to identify which birds are O/O is through extensive test breeding. This is a long and resource hogging endeavor and is not feasible for most breeders. And though not mentioned often, balancing the brown egg genes should be another goal so that the eggs are a definite green and the blue is not overpowered by the brown producing khaki, taupe or ecru eggs. And there have to be enough brown genes so that the eggs are not blue. This issue alone is can take many generations to correct.
We are dealing with 2 different imports, or populations, so far, each with their own set of issues to deal with. The 1st import is more uniform in appearance than the second import and IMO is closer to what Silverudd was working with when he died. However, the 1st import suffered terribly from an extremely small gene pool and the many problems that continuous inbreeding cause. Many breeders gave up on the breed because of these issues. Those of us that have been working with the 1st import have been making progress on making the stock heartier and more viable. While relatively uncommon, brown egg layers still do show up. I have seen instances of mildly malformed toes in my own stock. It does not affect the health or production capability of the birds, but I am working to remove it from further generations. I am not there yet. I have also had feathered legs show up from one of my original hens. She has been removed from the breeding program, though I am starting to think about putting her back in as she lays such beautiful large eggs. Her offspring also lay gorgeous saturated green eggs and only some of them have feathered legs. The offspring with feathered legs would have to be removed from the breeding population, but the others could be valuable to improve egg color and size. She is also an excellent layer. Still thinking this over, though. I have also seen an occasional comb sprig show up. As the gene pool of the first import is so small, I imagine other 1st import breeders have these and other issues they are still working on. As more people obtain and breed the 1st import stock back to 1st import stock from other breeders, more of these recessive traits are likely to show up. That is the nature of recessive genes and can take many years to eliminate from a breeding population.
The 2nd import added much needed diversity to the breeding population and does not suffer from many of the severe inbreeding issues that the 1st import does. There is much more 2nd import stock available than 1st. However, the 2nd import is much more variable in not only appearance, but also in its genetic make-up. From my observations, there is a much greater chance of brown eggs from the second import. To me, some of the 2nd import stock shows influences from Marans and Araucanas, neither of which were used in their creation. Some of the undesirable issues that have show up are more red in the hackles and saddles, mottling, increased size and stockier body type, odd peacomb-like combs and small or absent wattles, and leg feathering, just to name a few. IMO, you need to be very picky about who you buy your 2nd import stock from. They must have good stock to begin with and also know what they are breeding toward, as well as know what characteristics they need to breed out. The latter two are the real kickers now. Up until a couple of years ago, there was very little information available about the Silverudd’s Blue - basically just what was found on GFF's website. There is no SOP for the Silverudd’s Blue, either here or in Sweden. Many who bought 2nd import Silverudd’s Blue just assumed what they got were good examples of the breed and set about breeding and selling them.
About 2 years ago, I got in touch with a few individuals from Sweden who are involved in the preservation program over there. They joined my Silverudd’s Blue USA FB page and the true information about the Silverudd’s Blue has been flowing in a steady stream thanks to their help. We are learning what the Silverudd’s Blue is supposed to be and what characteristics are not desirable. But many Silverudd’s Blue breeders are not yet aware of the information that is available here and still breed blindly. Because there is no official SOP, even many that are aware of the information have not read all that is here and made use of it.
Can you make a good breeding program from just the 2nd import stock? I believe you can, but it will be a long road requiring a lot of research and diligent culling on your part. The 1st import stock will still require much research to know how to breed well and judicious culling, but the road to good breeding stock will probably be a little shorter. Either way, you are going to want to obtain stock from at least 2, preferably 3, different sources to ensure good diversity. I would suggest at least one of those sources has good percentage of the 1st import stock.
This is JMHO. Other breeders may have different opinions. If you are looking for suggestions on where to go in your breeding program, I suggest taking the time to read through the posts in the [Facebook] group Silverudd's Blue USA. There is a wealth of information there.