The full fantail as seen on a Serama rooster from the back view. You can see that all the changes from wild type associated with the fantail phenotype are present such as high tail angle, left and right tail segment orientation shifted to open and flattened, feather orientation readjusted to run with the plane of the tail and permanently spread (fanned) tail segments. This was not a pose. His tail was like this all the time.
This blog post looks at a few fantailed birds, some from well-known breeds, some from more obscure breeds and others are birds that I have had or produced.
Fantailed Langshan showing an extreme fanned tail. This type of tail os considered 'non-standard' to Langshan breeders, but they occur in most lines, indicating recessive genes at work that are carried by birds showing the standard tail. However, it must be pointed out that the standard Langshan tail still shows several of the fantailed traits - High tail angle, tail segments opened at the base and individual feather orientation modifications. It is only a step or two from the standard Landshan tail tot he fully fantailed form, mainly a further shift in individual feather orientation and further flattening (opening) of the two individual tail segments. The standard Langshan tail form can be called a vase-shaped tail, while the bird above shows a fan-shaped tail. The later is simply a more extreme (further modified) version of the former. Side view of the same male below.
This male Cochin tail is a fan-shaped tail over a large amount of fluff positioned below the fan-shaped tail. This was a "dark" phenotype, being a melanized Partridge on the eb (brown) e-allele, which I received with some Partridge chicks. An effort had been made to improve the type of the Partridge by going out to some of the best black lines, so the recessive melanizers appeared in those lines for a long time afterward. The type of these "dark" birds were greatly improved over the original Partridge line, and very nice Partridge also came from that work. I was lucky enough to get a pair of these to work with from 5 Partridge chicks I received. These two showed both high disease resistance and good vigor. The male (pictured above) by chance showed several of the fantail traits, as do many of the Asiatics such as Cochins, Brahmas, Langshan and Silkie. The hen (pictured below) had a fairly normal, pinched tail, though at a slightly higher tail angle than in the wild type. She had the normal cochin fluff and her tail had the look I associate with hatchery lines of Cochins. She was a remarkable bird though, with many fine traits and an excellent breeder.
Exhibition Cochin Bantams showing the wide spread, laterally flattened tail form over the large amount of under fluff common to exhibition lines. These fanned tails are at a lower angle than those seen in Serama or Langshan, because the breed standard for Cochin calls for a somewhat lower tail angle.
I have not bred chickens since 2012. I have been breeding pigeons since 2015. I am finding the pigeons to be a much better fit for my current housing limitations. In my breeding work with pigeons I am also focusing on fantailed phenotypes. I hope to compare the expression of the genes for fanned tail in chickens with those in the pigeon. This affords me the opportunity to make comparative observations of the identical phenotype in another genus.
Ginger red Silkie male showing a wide opened tail spread, again filled with the heavy fluff as in the Cochins above.
Enjoy the fantails shown in this blog! I will have more to say about the phenotype and the apparent genetic factors that lie behind it in several upcoming blogs.
First generation cross of the "dark" Cochin hen (see above) x Dark Brahma male. In this instance, the male Brahma I had showed a partial fantail. This first generation male shows a full fantail, with short feathering and at a moderately high tail angle.
A Serama showing a substantially open fanned tail. This one has full spread across the back of the tail, with the view from the back only being slightly cupped.
A New Hampshire bantam male showing a spread tail that is quite opened from side to side as seen from the back. The tail angle is only just above horizontal. The fanned tail can occur at any tail angle, as we see in the Cubalaya where the fanned tail at a low angle is called a "lobster claw" tail.
This picture from Barry Koffler's Feathersite shows a Ma Lai bantam from Vietnam, translated as "Hand Fantail" (the tail is said to look like a hand held up and spread like a fan). In this hen-feathered cock bird we see all the traits combined - High tail angle, left and right tail segment orientation opened, feather orientation turned to flatten the feathers and permanently spread (fanned) tail segments. This is the only breed I know of that is specifically selected for the fanned tail.
A photo of a stunning Japanese Satsuma-dori by Uichiro Sakamoto, taken from the internet for educational and comparative purposes. This breed often shows fanned tails, especially in the red-black variety. This is a lovely fanned tail at a lower angle. Many Oriental Games show a tail like this, though often less glorious than in the Satsuma. The Satsuma is the only other breed I know of in which the fanned tail is acknowledged and not selected against. I suspect there may be other obscure breeds that show the trait as a major positively-selected phenotype trait. However, it seems to be fairly common in a number of exhibition breeds where partial expression of some of the traits involved, making fuller, rounder tails. Chabo (Japanese bantam), Cochin, Serama, Brahma, Langshan, Cubalaya, as well as within descendants from the Asiatics such as Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, Rock and Wyandotte breeds. Even modern commercial sex-links can show some of the traits associated with fantails when they have descent from Rock and New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red. I have even seen partial fantail traits in Cornish/Rock cross commercial meat birds, again, due to their descent from Rocks, which in turn descend from the old fashioned Cochin-China fowl of the 1840s, as do so many of the other breeds I have mentioned above.
A Barred Plymouth Rock bantam hen showing a fanned tail where each side of the tail is spread, but the orientation of the two tail segments is only open at the base, and not completely spread out into the visually flattened tail when viewed from behind. Tails like this are much more common than the full fan tails, and such birds are usefully in a breeding program for the full fantails. The Asiatics are the common source for the fanned tail - including the Cochin family, the Oriental Games and Asian bantams. The Plymouth Rock descends directly from imported Chittagong/Cochin type birds crossed onto local barred stocks in the Northeast of the US in the mid to late 1800s.
A Golden Sebright rooster showing a wide fanned tail, but presented as two separate segments side-by-side. The tail angle is fairly high. As viewed from behind, this tail was two separate fans that touched each other at the top and were spread apart about fifteen to twenty degrees at the base. So this bird shows the high tail angle and the feathers fanned within the two segments, but it lacks the opened tail that turns the two tail segments into one wide fan, and it lacks the factor that turns the feathers into a plane of orientation with the opened tail. This is still a lovely tail, and is a fanned tail but does not represent all the genetic changes from wild type that exemplify the most extreme versions that mimic a fantailed pigeon, or a turkey or peacock with tail or train spread.
Another example of the tail as two separate segments, with each segment fanned and spread wide. This is the same type of tail as seen in the picture above of the Sebright rooster. This hen had a fairly closed tail though, when viewed from behind, with very little opening at the bottom of the two tail segments as viewed from behind the bird. We see such tails fairly frequently in a great many breeds and these traits are part of the full fantailed phenotype, so they can be used in breeding toward true fanned tails.
From this point on, all the pictures represent birds from my own breeding program. These birds are later-generation blends of multiple family lines. Their ancestry includes the Serama male at the top of the page, as well as the large fowl "Dark" Cochins and Dark Brahma line mentioned above. Interestingly, these lines shown below do not include any Langshan ancestry. They also include several lines of Phoenix, as well as Silkie and several other bantam components such as New Hampshire and Buff Rock bantams. There are other breeds in the ancestry as well from large fowl breeds, such as Golden Wyandotte and red/white sex-links.
Partially fanned tail in a Cochin/Phoenix F1 rooster. Very attractive and fairly open at the bottom from behind, perhaps 100 degrees in spread at the bottom feathers when fully extended.
Full sibling to the rooster above, and also showing a partially fanned tail. Cochin/Phoenix cross. The hen behind him is a select individual bird from commercial red/white sex-links. She was an exceptional layer, extremely disease resistant and of gentle disposition. Her tail also shows a partial opening from behind at the bottom of each tail segment with the top only touching along the upper webbing of the first feathers at the top on each side of the segments.
A later-generation blend of multiple breeds from my own breeding program, granddaughters of the two birds in the picture directly above (Cochin/Phoenix F1 male x red/white sex-link hen), showing a tail as two segments that are partially open at the base while touching at the top and each segment fanned. This hen produced offspring showing the fully fanned fantails.
Son from the hens above showing a much wider opening at the base of the two tail segments, along with the fanning of each segment.
Another son of the hen above showing the fully spread tail with all four traits - high tail angle, left and right tail segment orientation opened, feather orientation turned in socket to make a smooth, flattened spread and permanently spread out (fanned) tail segments.
A view of the male above from behind showing the visual effect of the fully fanned tail. This tail form is static in this type. It does not close. This is the way the tail looks all the time. Even when the bird is perching on a branch, the tail may close a bit in balancing, but never closes beyond about 60 degrees in openness. In the picture at the top of this blog, the Serama male is shown perched on a bamboo pole. Even perching there, where the tail is used as part of the ballast to create balance for the bird on the perch, the tail doesn't really close very much at all.
Same rooster again, this time as a mature bird.
A daughter of the male above showing partial fanning. Fanning seems to be easier to achieve in males than in females. Once it is set in the females of a line though, it seems to reproduce consistently.
This is the son of the hen just above, from the partially crested male two pictures above. He shows much better tail fanning than either parent, though they each express some of the genes and carry the others that make the full phenotype. A cockerel in this picture, the tail was longer in the adult bird. Note how the individual main tail feathers are turned in comparison to wild type feathers, and also note how the sickles are coming over the fanned main tail feathers lying flat, showing that they are turned in orientation as well. In the full phenotype, the main tail feathers, the sickles and secondaries turn to lie in orientation with the tail. I have seen intermediate types where the tail is fanned, but the feathers are not turned and they look like individual blades, with edges oriented to sky and ground. These types do not give the nice, clean effect of the turned feathers in the spread tail creating the 'fan' form.
A daughter of the hen above backcrossed to her father, showing a partial fan where the two sides of the tail are well spread and there is some opening at the base of the tail. The spread of the individual segments is impressive though, and the tail consists of seven main tail feathers and a main sickle on both sides. Multiple feathering is a major breed trait of fantailed pigeon. Many of the exhibition breeds where fantails and their component parts can be found exploit multiple feathering in the tails to produce fuller effects. Most Asiatics (Cochin/Langshan/Brahma) will tend toward multiple feathering.
A cockerel, full brother to the pullet just above, a cross from the red and white hen back to her fantailed father. This male shows several of the genes making up the full fanned tail, but not all of them. The open fan is missing in this bird. However, you can see the turned feathers, cascading back and across the turned main tail feathers. Multiple feathering is apparent, as is the lift of the tail. The tail is fairly open across the lower back, at about 90 degrees.
Full brother, but one year younger, to the cockerel above, fanned tail showing most of the traits, but lacking the completely flattened tail segments.
Full brother to the cockerel above, a young cockerel, showing a nice fantail.
Two sibling cockerels from behind. These tails can take a full two years to fully mature. Their father, the most extreme fantail I raised to maturity, was less extreme in his first year (picture below). Langshan, Cochin and Brahma tend to take a couple of years to grow into their full feathering, and this line was the same in taking two years to mature. Bantams didn't seem to take two years to grow in, and Serama showing this tail type are sometimes quite extreme from an early age.
Come back to read more blogs on this phenotype. We will be looking at a host of subjects in relation to the fantailed chickens in subsequent posts. To keep track of this series, bookmark the main page for the series, of which this is the first post. Enjoy the pictures! I hope they whet your appetite for more.