How the Opal Legbar
was created

I fell in love with the Cream Legbar for it's cute crest, it's beautiful blue eggs, and most of all, for its autosexing traits. I was also in love with the lavender color breeds. Oh, but to have all these wonderful features all in the same breed!

It took a few years, but an idea was eventually formed. Why not make an autosexing lavender breed? I was warned that lavender breeds could not be sexed at hatch based on down color. But I loved the lavender color so much that I decided if the project failed, I would still end up with a flock of beautiful birds that laid blue eggs.

And so the project began.

I found this image on the internet. I don't know who to give credit to. This is a wonderfully simplistic "recipe" to create an autosexing breed using the barring gene. You can also add genetic diversity to an existing autosexing breed by outcrossing, then using this chart to regain the autosexing traits.

This is what I used to start my lavender autosexing adventure.

By no means am I a genetics expert. Far from it. I understand only the very basics. The chart above was invaluable to creating the Opal Legbar. The only thing it lacked was how to tell impure barred cockerels from pure barred cockerels.

Following is an article I wrote on the creation of Opal Legbar. This article and all images therein are copyright ©Candace Waldon and may not be reproduced without express written consent. Images may not be Photoshopped, cropped, or in any way altered, and credit must be provided.

Creating the Opal Legbar
by Candace Waldon

Ever heard of an autosexing barred lavender-brown crested blue egg layer? Now you have. Opal Legbars are a new beautiful addition to the line-up of autosexing breeds. Opal Legbars are just like Cream Legbars, only with the addition of the lavender gene. This breed has everything you love and want all in one package. They are barred lavender birds with cute crests, blue eggs, and best of all, they are autosexing! Know which chicks are males and which are pullets as soon as they hatch!

Opal Legbar males are beautifully barred lavender with golden highlights. The barring lightens the lavender feathers giving them a silver appearance. When the sun hits them just right, these birds glimmer! The golden highlights contrasting against the silvery barred lavender is absolutely stunning.

Opal Legbar hens are pearl gray with silver barring around their necks. Many hens also have light creamy salmon breasts.

Opal Legbars are still considered a project breed. They cannot be considered a true breed quite yet. It’s generally accepted that it takes seven to eight generations after creating that first hybrid to consider the new variety a stable breed.

When working with breeding projects, it is helpful to understand what a hybrid is, and the terminology used in projects. By definition, a hybrid is the offspring that results from the mating of two individuals with dissimilar genetic makeup. The offspring of the first cross between two dissimilar parents are the “first generation”, often shortened to “F1”. These F1 birds may all look very different from one another. However, when two pure breeds are used as the parent stock, the “F1” birds may all look very similar. The parent breeds will contribute known genetics to their offspring and the breeder knows with some certainty what the “F1” birds will look like and how they will produce.

However, because the “F1” are now heterozygous, meaning they have a different genetic makeup than their parents, they will not breed true. There is much less certainly what their offspring will look like or how their offspring will produce. Hatcheries will often sell these “F1” chicks “breeds”, but they aren’t breeds at all. They’re hybrids and will not breed true. If you want the same look and same productivity, you need to buy these F1 chicks from the hatchery again and again, year after year, or you need to have the parent breeding stock to cross to make your own “F1” chicks.

For example, let’s say you like Red Stars. Red Stars are also known as Red Sex Links or Golden Comets. This “breed” is created by crossing Rhode Island Red hens with Rhode Island White roosters. Red Stars will not breed true. You cannot cross a Red Star to another Red Star to get more Red Stars. Doing so will give you a wide variety genetic traits in the offspring. If you want more Red Stars, you must again breed Rhode Island Red hens to Rhode Island White roosters. Or let someone else keep the parent stock and keep purchasing F1 chicks.

In any breeding project, the goal is to achieve birds that meet the goals of the breeder, that all the offspring look like their parents, and that these traits are consistently presented generation after generation, not just in the F1 hybrid birds.

The specific goals of the Opal Legbar project is to attain barred lavender-brown birds that are sexable at hatch, lay blue eggs and are crested. Ideally Opal Legbars will also meet all aspects of the Cream Legbar SOP, except for feather color being barred lavender-brown.

The lavender gene is a color diluter. Underlying colors are diluted. Black is replaced by lavender, and red and golden plumage is diluted to soft orange or creamy peach or a light straw color. Lavender is also a recessive trait. A bird needs to inherit two copies of the lavender gene in order to express the color. Being recessive, a bird can carry one copy of the lavender gene without expressing it visually. Breeders must keep accurate breeding records to know which birds carry one copy of the lavender gene.

The first step to creating the Opal Legbar project was to introduce the lavender gene by crossing Cream Legbars to a breed that carried the lavender gene. Breeding two different breeds together creates a hybrid, which must then be bred back to type over many generations until the population is breeding true again. The closer in type the outcross breed is, the easier the task of breeding back to type will be. Therefore ideally a breed with similar characteristics was needed, like the newly introduced Isabel Leghorn, also called the Lavender-Brown Leghorn.

Isabel Leghorns are bred back to brown Leghorns to improve type and feather quality. Cream Legbars can also be bred back to brown Leghorns, although doing so would introduce white egg gene and lose the autosexing trait that makes Cream Legbars so Isabel Leghorn desirable. Crossing a Cream Legbar any other breed would cause those issues, that is, losing autosexing and introducing non-blue egg color. Having to work around those issues anyway, using Isabel Leghorns to introduce the lavender gene was a logical choice.

The foundation, or parent, breeds for the project were the Cream Legbar and the Isabel Leghorn. The first generation of this cross, or F1, a hybrid, carried one copy of the lavender gene, inherited from the Isabel Leghorn, and one copy of the blue egg gene, inherited from the Cream Legbar. These F1 birds looked like brown Leghorns. Some sported a small crest, some only a hint of a crest, and some no crest at all. Only F1 pullets were kept.

At this point it was decided to work on expressing the lavender color first, then reestablish autosexing, and finally work on egg color. The blue egg-laying F1 pullets were crossed back again to Isabel Leghorns. This crossing produced 50% lavender colored birds and 50% brown birds. Only the lavender colored pullets that laid blue eggs were used to continue the project. It is interesting to note that these project lavender pullets could be easily mistaken for Isabel Leghorns.

From the F2 offspring, only the lavender pullets that laid blue eggs were used to continue the project. These birds were crossed back to Cream Legbars, creating F3 birds that were again not lavender but were known to carry one copy of the lavender gene, aka, “splits”.

The F3 project birds mostly looked like very colorful Cream Legbars. These birds were bred together, again using only the pullets that laid blue eggs.

The first autosexing barred lavender-brown chicks were finally achieved in the F4 chicks.