I just received a email from a fellow who belongs to a group of Heritage Poultry Fowl Enthusiasts asking the question how the Mohawk line of Single Comb Rhode Island Red Large Fowl got started. It began in Canada by a breeder whose name was Maurice Wallace of Iroquois Canada. He crossed many strains of large fowl Reds on to his line in the early 1900s and started a line called 6 Nation Reds. The names of the Six Nations that Mr. Wallace used where from Indianan tribes like the Mohawks, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Tuscarora Indian nations. In the process of picking great looking Rhode Island Red Large Fowl he started to develop a strain of fantastic type and colored Rhode Island Reds as good as anyone in North America.
In or about 1928 Mr. Wallace showed a Rhode Island Red Cockerel named Mohawk V. at the Poultry Show in Ottawa Canada. The great Poultry Artist and Judge Arthur Schilling judged this great male and made him Champion American Class and of course best Rhode Island Red in the show. Later that night in a hotel room Judge Schilling was rooming with senior judge a Mr. Johnson and he said I guess that Rhode Island Red Cockerel will be the Grand Champion of the show and Mr. Johnson fired back the Hell he will be the Light Brahma Cockerel is going to be Champion of the show. Schilling was shocked to be hearing this in his ears. He has never seen or Photographed such a Rhode Island Red in his life and the bird is not worthy of being champion of a show and will lose to a light Brahma. Latter the next day the Light Brahma was crowned by Judge Johnson and Schilling Grand Champion of the show and Mohawk V. was Reserve Champion of the show. The famous Mohawk V. was of course second runner up, but the most interesting thing I can tell you about this story is that it’s a dream of a life time for a breeder to raise and breed one great bird, but at this show the Light Brahma which was the finest specimen Judge Johnson ever saw in his life was breed by Maurice Wallace. Imagine raising two magnificent large fowl in one year and showing them in impeccable condition at one of Canada’s major Poultry Shows.
Mohawk V. Sold: Later about a year later I am sure after Mr. Wallace used this great bird on many of his females he sold this Mohawk VS. Red Male to Mrs. Donaldson of Decatur Georgia for $150.. Mrs. Donaldson was one of the great breeders who started with her Rhode Island Reds in 1912 with a start from Owen Farms of Massachusetts. She later had two lines of her Reds and she called on line her lines the Mohawk line even in breed pamphlets in the 1940s. I thought the line came from the Mohawk country of New York from a famous Red Breeder who had a high egg production line but it was this male from Mr. Wallace sold to Mrs. Donaldson.
I. WE. Reese Jr.: Mrs. Donaldson died in the late 1960s and Mr. Reese along with a friend Buddy Day purchased all of her large fowl. Thought the years both breeders produced outstanding Rhode Island Reds and Mr. Reese shared most of his large fowl each year by selling 25 baby chicks and sending them to his customers. One such breeder was Dennis Meyers who was from Ohio and breed them and won so many shows with his large fowl. I don’t know of any one else who got their start from Mr. Reese other than Dennis who had such success and kept the strain going for so many years.
My visit to Mr. Reese’s Farm: I went to see Mr. Reese in March of 1989 when I attended the spring show in Thompson Georgia . We went to this show and to visited many Rhode Island Red breeders from the south and we became good friends with the owners of Dry Creek Farms of Fairhope Alabama who have been buying Single Comb Rhode Island Reds from Mr. Reese for at least five years. At the farm Mr. Reese showed me all of his large fowl and his mating then he took me to a pen where one fantastic pullet was matted to a unbelievable male. I told Mr. Reese that this is the best Rhode Island Red Cockerel I ever saw. I reached down and picked him up and he said Robert that’s a six year old cock bird. I said there is no way this bird is that old. Mr. Reese said look at his spurs? Man the spurs on this male where at least six inches long. I said how did you get such a great male? Mr. Reese told me about six years ago I raised six wonderful pullets from one of my mating and I got this one great cockerel and that’s the only one but he was special. This great cockerel has looked wonderful every year since. I asked Mr. Reese do you have any of these old hens left sisters to this male. He replied, I sold all of them over the years I have no idea where they are now.
Trip to Dry Creek Farms: Latter the following fall I took a job working in Mobile Alabama and lived in a small city called Silverhill Alabama which was about 15 miles from Dry Creek Farm. Nancy Fitz Morris and Anna Pearson owners of Dry Creek from told me they would give me a pair of Large Fowl as a gift to help me get started. Where do you want to start first looking bob? I said show me your old hens. I was taken to some pens that where only about four feet tall off the ground and looked into the pens and saw a female that really caught my eye. I crawled on my belly and caught her and came out and I told Nancy this is the best looking pullet I have seen in years. Nancy said Bob that’s a old six year old hen. I said Nancy there is no way this is a old hen she looks like a pullet. Then I said did you buy this hen from Mr. Reese.? She said about five years ago. She has won us a lot of awards over the years. She is the mother of the male you liked that you called War Eagle. So we put her in a box and went looking for War Eagle. I found War Eagle out in the field with a couple of Red Females I named him War Eagle because he could see hawks and buzzards high up in the air and yell out a scream to tell the other birds in the yards to run for cover he was like a leader and fit the law that I believed in called the Fit of the Fittest Principle . Then Anna came with a female and said Bob this will make a good breeder she has the best type you ever saw but we can show her as she lost her eye to fowl pox and a mosquito bite. I saidto myself she looked a lot like the pullet Mr. Reese had in that breeding pen with that six year old cock bird. I said I will take her. Then I needed another male. I saw a male that caught my eye and I said to the girls who are that male bird. OF that’s whodunit. Why did you call him that? He always finds a way to get out of a pen. You cannot keep in a cage. Then I said he sounds like he has a great sense to survive and has great Red Type. So he was my second free male to start my strain with. I latter found out the two males where related and came out of a mating were the six year old hen was in. So I said to myself, maybe the two males where the old hens son that’s exciting thing to hope for down the road as I breed my new strain.
Finding the lost genes: As I mated the two females to the two males I realized I had a feather quality problem, My new I WE Reese strain with the young off spring after my first year of hatching showed the feather quality from one female was very poor and stringy. The one eye pullet had the poor feather quietly as a pullet, but great type and worth breeding from. I also saw her sisters in a pen one day that I helped take care of when the two girls went to a chicken show. I noticed when I was feeding these pen sisters there tops of their backs where shredded feathers no tight webs could be found just nice dark feathers on these Red Pullets. This latter proved to me that many who breed Rhode Island Reds put too much emphasis on color instead of type and feather quality. So over the period of five years I picked chicks that feathered the fastest and would carry the fast feathering egg laying gene. This method of choosing fast feathering gene was a method founded by Walter Hogan in a book I read called The Call of the Hen that he wrote in 1914. As I did this I started seeing my pullets with tighter feathering on their backs like you see in hens and as I did this I started to see type on my birds that you dream of having. Then one year I raised a cockerel named number 68. I sent him to the 1998 Ohio National Show and he did not place. Matt Lamont kept him one more month and showed him at the Connersville Indiana show and he would best Rhode Island Red. Matt sent him back to me and from this male I developed what I called the Mohawk line of my Rhode Island Red Large Fowl.
Greg Calmness Line: The only person I know who has my old strain of Mohawk large fowl and breed them pure is Greg Calmness from Knoxville Illinois. Greg got 10 Started chicks from me and bought 8 birds I sold to a fellow from Kentucky who I sold as chicks about 10 years ago. Also, he purchased two males I sold a 4-H youth from Texarkana Texas and at about five years of age crossed these old males onto some of my old hens that where 7 to 9 years old. Greg had great results with this cross. Today Greg has the only pure line that he has line breed for over ten years in the County.
Sharing the Line: Greg has been sharing this Mohawk line of large fowl with others and it is my hope and dream that these people will breed them pure as this line of Rhode Island Reds go back to 1912 with the original Owens Farms Cross as well as the Mohawk V. male Mrs. Donaldson crossed into her line in the 1920s. To my knowledge this is the oldest line of Rhode Island Red large fowl alive in the world. May this story help others get this stain of large fowl Reds and try to search for the lost gene of the famous Mohawk V.
Long live the majestic Rhode Island Red Large Fowl.
Blosls Rhode Island Reds
The Secrets in the Dam
By Robert Blosl
Two days ago I typed an article written by our new Plymouth Rock Club District Director for District 4 Mike Michael on how he breeds his excellent strain of Columbian Plymouth Rock Bantams. I was the first person to every read this excellent article which will in douptly go down as one of the best articles every written on the subject. I then reread it again yesterday and then wondered what kind of set up would mike send me if I wanted to get started in Columbian Plymouth Rock bantams How many birds would he send me and how would he instruct me on mating them next year and then say three to five years down the road. I thought about it a lot today then around four this afternoon Mike Michael called me up on the phone to tell me of a new meet he set up and I asked him the question.
He said Bob I would send you four birds. Three females one from each of my three families and one male to breed to all three of them. You would then have each female in a 4x4 pen and rotate the male to each pen every day then mark and toe punch each egg and chick each year. Then you would pick each year the top female from each mating placing her back into the pen that her egg came out of and then take the best male from pen three and put in pen one. The best male from pen one would be placed in pen two. The best male from pen two would be placed in pen three. You could go on and do this method placing the best typed female each year back into her pen for about 12 years without needing new blood if you even then needed it.
In the article that you wrote for our Next Newsletter on Columbian Plymonth Rock Bantams I asked Mike you really felt that the female had the most power to provide type for the strain. He stated that I truly be leave this as I also see this in breeding my rabbits. The influence on the female is so paramount you are truly wasting your time with none or defective type females. Then I went on to say, if the current Rhode Island Red females are without backs have elevated top lines high tails like a New Hampshire the fellow that uses such a bird in the breeding pen is just stamping this same trait in his line year in and year out. He said that is exaxactly what is happening. I asked him did you read my article in the Poultry Press under Plymouth Rock News about how the White Plymouth rocks are getting higher top lines. He said I did and I even saw females in the Poultry Press that where between 15% and 20% higher than the standard calls for. Just as you where trying to allude to in your article. I said Mike if these breeders or exhibitors of these high elevated Plymouth Rock bantams continue to use such birds the males will have top lines like a Lang shag. He said that mostly likely that’s what will happen.
The Secrets in the DAM: I have written a lot of articles on how to breed Rhode Island Reds for color, how to get started with Red Bantams, How to Line Breed your Rhode Island Reds, but I think this article will be the most IMPROTANT article I have ever written. I am not writing this article for today’s breeders. I am writing this article for the beginners who want to become master breeders in ten to twenty years from now who are going to pick up the pieces that we have destroyed over the last 15 years of breeding inferior females in our breeding pens. Maybe after you read all the articles that I have written you can come up with a game plan and maybe in ten years have the Rhode Island Red Bantams back on track and quite possible the White Plymouth Rocks bantams as well. Maybe if I write a booklet on the Secrets of Breeding Rhode Island Reds, this will be the final chapter. Reader, the secret to breeding fancy fowl in my first20 years is in the female. You cannot have a nice male with good type mated to a female loaded with defects that would score ten to fifteen points to the perfect bird as described in our standard of perfection. All you are going to get is more of her as Like will beget Like. This is a breeding principle which goes on with the other breeding law Fit of the Fittest Principle. These two laws in breeding are the two most important that I have ever witnessed in my twenty years of breeding and interviewing master breeders.
Mr. E W Reese Jr. in March of 1989 at his home answered this question for me and it was at that time and still today the most profound answer I ever got from an interview from a Master Breeder. I was sitting in Mr. Reese’s study out in his garage surrounded with old Rhode Island Red Chronicles and Red Journals and then I looked up to my right and saw this book case full of books and year books on Jersey Dairy cattle. Out of nowhere I got this inspiration to ask this question and it is still today the best question I ever asked a master breeder. Mr. Reese, after all the years of breeding prize Jersey Dairy Cattle and Rhode Island Red Chickens what have you learned from breeding these two great breeds of animals that can be singled out in one statement. He said to me, that’s easy. THE SECRETS IN THE DAM. The female in the breeding pen has more influence on the outcome of her off spring than the male. Don’t get me wrong the male is still 50% of the breeding pen or the breeding of a calf, but the female stamps more influence of greatness on the off spring. I have seen this happen for over 40 years of breeding chickens and dairy cows and my friends who breed dairy cattle stand behind me on this statement. I was speechless. I did not know what else to ask after my two hours of visiting his poultry plant, but to this day and as I write this article twenty years later I am convinced beyond a doubt this is the secret to Breeding Fancy Poultry and Rhode Island Reds.
The Family Matting’s: I set down under my big Oak tree tonight looking at my 2009 crop of Grey Call Ducks. My problem last year and this year was my star pair produces 90 % drakes and 10% females. How can I develop a power house strain that I have in my head on my ducks when I get more drakes each year than hens. This Spring I sent my two best Call Drakes from last year to a friend in Oregon who crossed them on his two best Gray Call hens who are from the same strain as mine. From this cross he got about 25 young ducks and my friend is going to send me two of the best type pullets back to me. I then will put one pullet in pen one, one pullet in pen two and one of my pullets hatched in April here on my place in pen three. I then will take her father of my pullet and mate her in pen three. I will take one of the top drakes from this year and put him in pen one (Oregon Pullet) and the other drake in pen two (Oregon Pullet). Then I will toe punch each baby to his or her pen and start a Rotational Line breeding program as I described in the beginning of this article. I have for 15 years shrunk down my large fowl Rhode Island Reds to bantams and three years ago started producing really nice looking males but the females just did not have the type like my old large fowl females use to have 15 and 20 years ago. Finally, last year I picked six pullets and mated those two pullets to a pen and mated them to one outstanding male. He is the best male I ever raised and looked to me like my old Mohawk line of Large Fowl ten years ago. Out of this mating one pullet held her type and looked so much like her pen brother from a year ago. I have already four pullets from this mating of six that look like the hen this year. Finely after 20 years I have three females that are equal to the best male I own and their grandfather. If I had to score them they would score about 92 to 93 points. They are not perfect in color or head points, but they have that oblong brick shape type that I have been striving for in a bantam for 20 years. My plan will be to put the old hen in pen one and mate her to her father. Take the best pullet and mate her to her uncle the second best male of 2008 season. Then the next best pullet will be mated to her father who I used this year in all the matings. I will then have each female in a 4x4 pen mark each egg and hatch each egg from all three matting’s in a hatchery where there is no chance of cross contamination of who is who from what mating. Then each year the best male from pen one will be rotated to pen two, and the other males will be rotated to the right as described with the gray call ducks.
I will be working on my third year with white leghorn bantams and all ready this year I have a star pullet that has type like you dream for. She will go into pen one, her mother will go into pen two her pen sister or cousin will go into pen three. I will then get a male from a friend who gave me my original start and mate this male single mating to these females and next year precede on to a line breeding system as discussed with the R I Red Bantams and the Grey Call ducks. Do you get the picture that I am trying to paint her for you? Do you see how easy it can be if conditions are ideal, feed and water is perfect and hatching is done correctly and using a brooder with separate dividers so the chicks can be identified each year. Hatching the chicks from March 1stto April 15th each year to keep the size in check and only keeping the very best birds that can score somewhere between 92 to 95 points in the breeding pen using the standard of perfection old fashion judging system.
Conclusion: I have just given you what I think is the secrets to success to breeding Rhode Island Reds bantams for type. As Mike Michael explained in his article on breeding the Columbian Plymouth Rock Bantam which is on this web site and the statement from Mr. E. W. Reese Jr. in my visit twenty years ago should nail the lid on the box for you on how to be a successful breeder of Red Bantams. If you have a great female line of Reds or Rocks, you will have a great strain of birds males included. Maybe, there may be some tweaking of female matting’s and male matting’s with some breeders, most of the time if you breed by the standard of perfection the color and the type will show up on 50% of the birds. I have been taught by other master breeders you do not have to double mate R I Reds to get good off spring each year, I hope this article that I have written for my web site will inspire you to take this approach in Raising Rhode Island Reds or for that matter what ever breed of poultry you desire.
Good Luck to you and let me know if this article helps you latter in your hobby as a breeder of one of the greatest Dual Purpose Bantams the Rhode Island Red.