Funny name for a chicken breed eh? This feisty little Swede comes in three colours, blue (Blå), black and blue splashed white. The Bb gene controlling their colour has been bred into lots of chicken breeds. Blue chickens are pretty, plus it’s fun to breed for colour.
Breed any two blue (Bb) birds together and you will get 25% black (BB), 25% blue splashed white (bb) and 50% blue (Bb). Blue birds have two copies of the Bb gene (heterozygous), blacks and splashes have one (homozygous). Breed two blacks together, get all black chicks. Breed two splashes, get all splash chicks. Or breed a black with a splash and get all blues. Mesmerizing, isn’t it?
Besides that fun colour shifting gene, Silverudd’s Blues get a blue/green egg gene (from their Cream Legbar blood) and lay-lots-of-eggs genes from their Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Swedish Leghorn blood.
What’s not to like about a cool little green-legged chicken that comes in three colours and lays a ton of pretty green speckled with brown eggs? Nuthin, that’s what!
Martin Silverudd, a Swedish monk and chicken aficionado, started developing the breed in the 1960s. Many amazing and wonderful things got their start in the 1960s, including me. My grandpa was named Martin too, but that is where the similarities between me and Mr. Silverudd’s hens end.
Martin Silverudd developed other breeds as well, including one called the Isbar (ice-bar), before he died in the 1980s. Sometime in the 1990s, the Swedes who were breeding his productive green egg layers started calling them Isbar Blues, and that is the name the breed was imported into North America with.
Now, the main problem with the name Isbar is the ‘bar’ part. These chickens have no barring anywhere on their sleek little bodies. Keeping ‘bar’ in the name would never do.
So in 2016 some chickeny folks, over at the Svenska Kulturhönsföreningen (Swedish Culture Poultry Association), decided to officially rename the breed. Mr. Silverudd had called it the Svensk Grönäggsvärpare (Swedish greenegglayer), but that was too generic they felt and would never do either.
After much discussion, the Association members voted for Silverudd’s Blue, to memorialize the breeder of this by now globally sought-after chicken. That’s surely a cultural poultry milestone if ever I heard one!
I won an auction for a dozen Silverudd’s Blue hatching eggs this spring, and after shipping the eggs from Alberta managed a pretty good hatch, although a few of the chicks died off mysteriously one after the other during their first week after hatch. I read that a certain amount of early mortality is common with this rare breed, the gene pool is limited. I ended up with a blue pair and a splash pair for sure and maybe a black or two although I haven’t yet done a firm count. They move fast.
I hatched my Silverudd’s Blues with a batch of Silver Double Laced Barnevelders (this year’s “must have” breed, judging by the insane prices they are going for – $100 for a pullet!) and I’ve kept the Silver* group together. I find keeping hatches as flocks helps everyone feel secure. Chickens really do bond with their hatch mates.
This flock represents my 2018 trial breeds. I’m just watching them grow and getting to know them. Eventually I will have to cull the roosters, but I will keep the hens together long term so I can see how they get on, and decide if I might like to breed them in the future.
So much of choosing breeds for me is about personality and then performance. I have raised lots of breeds over my chicken keeping career, really disliking some and loving others. I think, so far, that I like these Silverudd’s Blues pretty much.
For one thing, they are cheap to feed. I have never seen any breed as good at foraging! Every time they find another huge worm, which they excitedly split amongst themselves and gobble down with glee, I think “great job! Less protein for me to have to buy!” They free range from morning to night, and seldom eat from the free choice feed hanger.
They are small too, built like thrifty leghorns, so their feed to egg ratio should be super efficient, especially given their formidable egg-laying reputation. I will find out in a few more months, when they start to lay. And finally, they are quiet. I can’t abide a whiney chicken (Ancona, we’re talking about you!). I will find out soon if the roosters are as quiet as the hens (as will my neighbours…sorry in advance, neighbours).
I am enjoying my very pretty very pricey Barnevelders too, although they seem a little flighty. Lots of people just love their “Barnies”, so I am looking forward to finding out what all the fuss is about there, as they grow up and their personalities really start to shine.