Mangile's Pigeon Pages
About Three-egg Clutches
American Pigeon Journal
December 1990, page 33.
From Domestic Pigeons
By Robert J. Mangile
816 E. Atkinson Ave.
Pittsburg, Kansas 66762
now and then, one reads about a pigeon fancier who discovers that he or
she has a female pigeon that occasionally lays a three-egg
clutch. This puzzles many fanciers because the normal clutch size
for domestic pigeons is two eggs.
In a 1977 Pigeon Science and Genetics
Newsletter, [PS&GN] (issue #4, page 45) Tom McCaig of Hacienda
Hts., California, wrote that a particular black crested Frillback hen
laid 3-egg clutches "every time" that year and all three eggs were
fertile. Her sister also laid 3-egg clutches twice that
year. A hereditary basis was implicated.
In keeping with traditional
‘newsletter spirit’, I responded to McCaig’s comments (PS&GN, issue
#5, page 29), with the following: "....3-egg laying hens. No
secret, I don't think!? I had one. This bird was a
double-yolk layer. I supposed this was the case on a couple of
3-egg clutches and reported it somewhere in PGNL [Pigeon Genetics News
Letter] some time ago. Apparently, two ova that ordinarily
comprise a double-yolked egg are encased separately. Anyway I did
get a few double-yolked eggs out of her later. If more details
are desired I'll run down my records - OK? The bird was a blue
Dave Rinehart (PS&GN editor)
responded with: ". . (OK - run them down Bob! I have a red
Lebanon hen that repeatedly lays double yolked eggs: but she has never
laid 3-eggs. No accurate records kept on how many clutches or how
many double yolked eggs she produced though. Seemed like about
every other nesting though. - Dave)"
On page 12 of PS&GN, issue #6,
selected data on my Runt was published. To summarize, on October
26, 1972, she laid two soft, rough-shelled eggs, followed by another
normal egg on October 30th. In other words, ... a ‘3-egg
clutch.’ (Note the time between eggs?) Following that
clutch, she laid a minimum of six (6) clutches of one normal egg and
one double-yolked egg through December 1974. In short, each
clutch contained three yolks!? Primarily, they were recorded in
the fall and winter months. No records of double-yolked or
three-egg clutches were recorded during the spring and mid-summer
Many fanciers have long held the idea
that the double-yolk egg-laying trait is hereditary. Hens that
lay double-yolked eggs can sometimes be traced to other double-yolk
egg-layers in their pedigree. This is tricky at best because long
held stock is often inter-related anyway!
In "The Pigeon" (Chapter IV –
Physiology, paragraph 443), W.M. Levi mentions abnormalities of
clutches. He states . . . "The pigeon hen usually lays two eggs
clutch; in rare cases, three; and occasionally, only one. The
latter is caused by the improper functioning of the hen's reproductive
organs. Very rarely are four eggs laid to the clutch."
In paragraphs 444 and 445, he
discusses hatching difficulties for identical twins (normal size eggs
with one yolk shared by both embryos) and double-yolked twins (large
eggs containing two separate yolks and embryos). One case
mentioned was of a ‘normal-downed’ and a ‘short-downed’ squab within a
single shell. The differences in down length suggest that each
squab was derived from a separate fertilized egg (yolk). Twin
squabs rarely hatch without human assistance.
R.G. Silson (1988, Jour. of Heredity)
reports on hens that lay three-egg clutches and suggested that the
3-egg clutch trait was a simple recessive mutant. He states . . .
"A pedigree study indicates that the factor is a simple recessive that
is not fully expressed in the homozygote. All later three-egg
hens always had a three-egg hen on both sides of their pedigree,
sometimes several generations back."
Nothing solid can be concluded without
more detailed study. Hens that lay three-egg clutches are
possibly double-yolk layers that occasionally or frequently lay three
eggs due to the intended ‘double yolks’ being encased in separate
shells. The same would hold true of the 4-egg clutch; i.e., both
[sets of] eggs were intended as double-yolked.
Whether or not the double-yolked
characteristic naturally has modified expressions and/or can be
modified into three-egg or four-egg laying hens through selection, is
questionable at this time. If any consistency can be recorded
from selected pairings in related birds that lay multi-egg clutches,
perhaps we can establish a genetic unit to 'multi-egg clutches' and
through selective breeding change the reproductive mode of
domesticated pigeons. This might be achieved more easily than one