It is so disheartening when you find a defect on a bird that in all other aspects is promising or stands out in the group. To have to choose from the less promising grow outs because the otherwise top pick has a split wing, crooked toe, arch in the back or other defect recessive or not can be one of the most frustrating tasks when breeding.
This past weekend I was at a show in New York and had purchased two cockerels from a junior sight unseen. (Mistake #1- buy a bird you have not laid eyes and hands on) The junior advertised the birds as extra males from chicks she bought from a well know breeder. (Mistake #2-letting the breeder name outweigh the need to know the history and pedigree of that specific bird and why it was culled or is being sold) My current family group of this particular breed is considered pet quality so my thought was to get some well-known blood in that might help me breed more toward show quality. (Mistake #3-bringing in new unknown blood and not starting with the known established bloodline I already owned) As I took possession of the two cockerels, I looked them over first for general health and vigor then began checking eye color, leg color, plumage color, overall symmetry and type. The first cockerel passed all visuals except the comb was not a very well-defined pea comb. Other than that, he did not have any obvious defects. The second cockerel was nice type and color. Leg color was a hair light but he was a good size for his age. I like the way he carried himself and got excited at my luck in purchasing him. Well, that was until I took them out of the cage for the physical inspection. I checked the heart girth, the keel bone, and tail. All seemed without defect. Then the seller injected that she believed the birds were in molt because they were missing some feathers. My heart sank.
As I fanned out the wings on each side, I found the axial feather missing on one side of the second bird. The seller said it might have fallen out as the birds were beginning to come of age and fighting in the pens prior to coming to the show. It was farfetched but I hoped that was true. Unfortunately, looking deeper at the place where the feather should have been showed no breakage or evidence of a feather ever being there. It looked to be a classic case of the recessive split wing defect.
Split wing is a recessive defect and can be carried in birds that do not display the defect making it one of the defects you run the other way from. It is considered a serious defect in the show ring. I do not believe they know why it affects one wing and not the other in some cases. In any case, what do you do with birds that you discover have serious defects? There are traits you might not like and can improve through selective breeding but defects are better avoided especially recessive defects because you might unknowingly breed and propagate hundreds of birds that might look fine but when bred might produce hundreds more of defective offspring. I don't want to be that breeder, do you?
It does not matter what you paid for the bird. Forget about how much you want that color in your line. It might even set your breeding plan back a season or two. Whatever you are thinking, do not breed birds with split wing, slipped wing, crooked toes, duck foot, crossed beak, blind, wry tail, twisted feather or any other serious defect. Cull that bird as soon as you can so you will not be tempted to think you can outmatch those stinking genetics.
Even more important, do not offer birds with known defects or disqualifications to 4-H students, junior breeders, backyard breeders or anyone that might breed that bird. Sometimes cull does mean destroy. Some thought should be put into if that bird can realistically be a backyard pet or not.