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The frizzle feathering sometimes found in chickens is a rare occurrence, and therefore highly desired in some breeds. Here is an overview of how the frizzle feather mutation occurs and why not all chicks sold as frizzles will have frizzled feathers.
The gene responsible for frizzling is dominant, meaning that it “covers up” the normal feathering gene. A chicken with a frizzle presentation will have a frizzle gene and a normal gene, one from each parent. A cross of two frizzled birds should result in the following:
- 25% of the chicks will have two genes for normal feathering
- 25% of the chicks will have a double frizzle gene and will have "frazzled" feathering
- 50% of the chicks will have a frizzle gene and a normal gene and will be frizzled
The problem with frizzling happens when two frizzle chickens are mated. Their offspring may have a chance of receiving two copies of the frizzle gene, and chicks with a double copy have feathers that are fragile and break very easily, which isn’t very pretty to look at and isn’t safe or healthy for the chick to grow up completely naked.
Therefore, to help ensure we don’t produce these “double copy” frizzled chicks, half of the parents are normally feathered, and the other half are frizzled. That cross should produce the following:
- 50% of the chicks have one frizzle and one normal gene and frizzled feathering
- 50% of the chicks have two normal genes and normal feathering
That’s why it’s important to not breed two frizzles together to avoid producing the double copy chicks, and why you may also receive chicks in your order of frizzles that are not necessarily showing frizzle. Breed those “normal” chickens back to a frizzled chicken and see what happens! They are important!