The Story of Atlas aka ‘The Egg’.
By Martin Doulton with the help and support of Sue Venator and Eve Marso
POSTSCRIPT- Sadly Atlas passed away on Friday 05 January 2013. It was 43c here at home and he weighed 8.4kg. Somewhere between 6 and 11pm he died of a heart attack brought on by heat stress - I found him under his favourite apple tree in the Orchard. He was buried the following day in a big planter box and will be remembered by a Blueberry Bush planted on top of him. Obviously he is irreplaceable. He was acknowledged as the Best Large White Orpington in Australia that had been bred in many years - if not ever on the East Coast of Australia- during his show career. He was Best White at the 2010 Vic Rare Breeds Show , Best White in Show at the National Orpington Show 2011 and Best White in Show at the Orpington Club Northern Feature Show 2012. He was never beaten by another White Orpington!
He is survived by a number of progeny including 7 chicks hatched at Waninga during Oct 2012.
This is a three part story, with each of the three involved and their connection, telling how a hatchling dubbed ‘Egg’ became a cock-bird named Atlas.
Three Orpington fanatics who regularly swap birds, favours and stories now tell how a White bird came to be who is he.
It also explains how luck played a part in making sure an ugly (and I mean ugly) duckling of a bird actually hatched and then grew into a beautiful swan.
By the accounts of Orpington breeders with vast experience they say this bird is arguably one of the Best Large White seen for many years on the east Coast of Australia.
The scene is set at the 2011 National Orpington Show
A stunner of a bird, taking Dallas’ attention, drawing a big smile when sighted, along with a few comment to the positive.
Pristine white and filling the show pen, a Large White cock-bird that finally looked like an Orpington.
‘Atlas’, Best White in Show at the National Orpington Show 2011.
I have to say I can not take any credit for breeding, hatching or growing him out. All I did was make sure he fulfilled the potential that Eve saw in him.
The Story of Egg –Part 1 by Eve
Sue Barker came to visit one day and brought me 6 eggs. It was late November 2009 and I didn't really fancy having to incubate another lot, but not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth I retrieved my incubator from the back room and installed the six "White Orpington " eggs, instead of transforming them into an omelette.
Five eggs were clear, and one lonely white fluff-ball hatched.
As ‘Egg’ had no siblings I raised him as a pet. Allowing him follow me around the garden and feeding him by hand with whatever I could lay my hands on while working. Chopped up dog sausage, hard boiled egg, bread soaked in milk. These were among his staples together with tiny porridge oats and starter crumbles.
When he grew to an identifiable size as a cockerel he joined the rest of the gang and started to rule the roost. Regardless of the fact he was the ugliest teenage duckling I had ever laid eyes on.
Tail feathers up in the air, hackles twisted in every direction, pinions hadn't come through until fairly late, non-existent cushion.
EGG, as Sue christened him, was a disaster. Windblown and dishevelled, I was going to cull him, but a gut feeling made me run him on.
As if overnight, a magical change took place, and ATLAS was born. He wooed the girls, strutted his stuff in front of me and he took my breath away.
When I decided to pair him off with two of my first place show winners, two white hens, I got about 35 offspring. I have run on two white cockerels who are the spitting image of their father, and suddenly I was given the added responsibility of running on some of the other offspring - stunning recessive Lemon Columbian, two Buff Columbian and a Red/Blue Columbian, all pullets. They were a surprise, but accidents do produce new recipes, and - new colours in poultry.
Following this cornucopia of type and colour I was running out of space, and offered Martin the honour of becoming the "ATLAS CUSTODIAN".
Dedicated as he is, Martin has done a magnificent job of shampooing, blow-drying, manicuring, pedicuring and botoxing Atlas for the 2011 National Orpington Show, and was promptly rewarded with Champion WHITE Orpington. Also a comment from the judges that he was an outstanding bird.
The moral of this story is: Do not cull birds before they have reached a certain level of maturity. They can change overnight.
The Story of Egg -Part 2 by Sue
By way of explanation…..
In the April 2011 Orpington Club of Australia Newsletter there was an article by Sue documenting ‘A White Odyssey- or more rightly a Study in White’.
The most pertinent bit’s of that earlier article, as relating to this story, are the description of her acquisition of WA Whites and subsequent blending of these with some hens from Bluey Callinan’s lines and then crossed to a Waninga White Ckl.
So now with Sue’s words:-
I am now reasonably sure that ‘Egg/Atlas’ is the result of my mixing up a few eggs that I gave to Eve. At the time I had the Waninga White boy mentioned in my ‘Odyssey’ in with the girls from the WA X Blueys Whites = I believe I accidentally put some of those in the carton and Egg/Atlas is the result of that mating.
I know I put ones from the pure WA pen in the carton for Eve. But we both had a laugh one day, not long afterwards, as both of us couldn’t quite remember which pen some eggs had came from (on same day, each at our own properties of course and not a normal occurrence as eggs are normally marked clearly as to colour and pen)
In hindsight and after checking my books regards who was with who, also after taking the 2011 National Show pictures and studying ‘Atlas’ and comparing him to his brother here, also a White, who wowed all at the 2010 National Show = I am certain that Atlas is from that Waninga White and the hens from the WA / Callinan cross.
Atlas is an almost image copy of his 2010 Show’s younger brother.
The Story of Atlas- part 3 by Martin
I have only ever known this bird as Atlas. I first saw him at the 2010 Vic Rare and New Breeds show at Seymour. He presented as a really ugly gawky teenager. I am sure he had cow hocks for legs. If he had been mine I would have eaten him! Looking back now, I am glad he was not my bird at the time.
When next I saw him it was January 2011.
Eve had bred a large number of chicks and was running out of growing room.
At the time I was looking for a new White cockerel to put across my hens for the 2011 breeding season.
I asked if I might be able to have Atlas and in return I gave Eve my Stud White cockerel, the full brother to the 2010 Ch Large White. I had kept a whole raft of 2010 bred White Ckls from him. I wasn’t even sure I was going to keep the bird as he hadn’t looked that good the last time I had seen him.
I collected Atlas in January and as I had finished breeding for the season I decided to put him away in a Cockerel pen.
Once he was in this pen two things caught my eye about him.
He was heavy, all of Eves birds are solid thanks to her natural feeding program.
Also that he was white. No yellow what so ever anywhere and with what look to be the beginnings of a really nice rump. So he got a reprieve from going off to market.
Over the next month or two I started to see him fill out thanks to his solitary confinement and his high protein diet.
It wasn’t until May 2011 that I let him out of his pen to wander the orchard.
This was when the ‘wow factor’ clicked in. Both Hilary and I were watching over the fence one afternoon, when this big white cock-bird started strutting his stuff and it was at that moment we knew it was appropriate to call him by the name given to him by Eve, he was truly Atlas!
The rest as they say is history.
Atlas revelled in his darkened bachelor pad which was a pen run on grass and moved every two or three days.
He went through an almost perfect moult with the new feathers growing in whiter than white.
With a taste for Laucke Meat Bird feed and a special Mash, this caused him to really fill out as the adult he now was. The adult size and weight combined with his excellent looks meant he presented a picture of being a Black Orpington in White clothing!
About two weeks out from the Big Show he came into the stable and was washed for the first time. Just looking at him after having his wash and blow dry he looked pretty damn smart!
After the show Atlas came back looking better than ever, in fact the week after he was in tip top condition. So off he went to the breeding pen as planned and we will now see what hatches.
Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.
Who would have thought an unwanted egg that nearly became an omelette.
Was the only one of a gifted six eggs to hatch.
Was not culled early as it may have if it had been anywhere else but Eve’s.
Would then grow though an amazingly ugly, gangly teen period.
Then to go on to become a National Champion and ’arguably one of the Best White Orpingtons ever seen on the East Coast of Australia’.
Sue says (having the final word/s) = this says a lot about sharing, caring, and allowing your birds to grow out past the gangly teenage stage, feeding them well, and watching them become what we ‘Orp Tragics’ all know they are = wonderful and graceful birds.