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Re: Marans

Post by Wilt » 01 Aug 2009, 12:15

The Origins of the Marans
What did this landrace hen, which originated in the swampy farm country near Marans & La Rochelle; look like before being crossed with non-local fowl? We will probably never know. These farmyard fowl had very little selection, and this ‘swamp’ hen didn't really receive any particular care.

Typical marshland habitat around the Marans-La Rochelle area

The first out crosses
In the 12th century, with her marriage to Henri of Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, who became Henri II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine brought to England a dowry consisting of a part of South-west France: Poitou, Paintonge, Aunis, Perigord and Limousin.
This English domination lasted two centuries. English ships often stopped over at La Rochelle (near Marans) and unloaded gamecocks, which had survived the cockfight, at that time highly prized by sailers to cheer up their sea isolation. In return, poultry, which furnished fresh food and eggs, were taken on board the ships.
The gamecocks were naturally crossed with local landrace hens. The products born of these crossings had a more stocky figure and laid darker coloured eggs. The fighting cocks, of many varied colours, are the origin of various present Marans varieties and are responsible for the proud bearing, heavy figure and of the sometimes quarrelsome character of the cocks, they would have more game characteristics if it were not for the original hens.
Old English Game

Other French breeds that played a part in the development of the Marans included the feather legged Cocou de Malines including the pea combed ‘turkey head’, the clean legged Cocou de Rennes, & the Gatinese.

ImageTurkey-headed Coucou de Malines

Image Gatinaise

Image Coucou de Rennes

Introduction of the Asian breeds

The second half of the 19th century was a decisive time for the evolution of the French Marans breed often linked to the introduction of the Brahma and Langhans.
Image Brahma

ImageCroad Langshan

Mr Geoffrey Saint Hilaire and Mr Foucault imported some Croad Langshans.
Mr Louis Rouille, famous amateur breeder, was fascinated by an Asian breed that didn't possess yellow feet, whose fleshing qualities weren't negligible, and laid nice highly coloured eggs. Louis Rouille farmed a lot of Langhans hens in Fouras, situated at 12.43 miles south from La Rochelle. These birds spread in the area and it was by this way that the second crossing processes of the Marans took place.
From that moment on, the main characteristic of the breed was set: big red egg.
It was not the same however for the totally heterogenous plumage colours dating back from the ancestral origins of very numerous game varieties.
The first Marans presentations

In 1914, at the national exhibition in La Rochelle, took place the first presentation of this poultry under the name of "a country hen".
In 1921, Mrs Rouse from Ille d'Elbe seriously selected the future Marans for the size and the colour of its egg.
In order to make its plumage a little bit uniform, in 1928, Mrs Rousseau showed in La Rochelle a pen of homogenous Cuckoo variety hens and their big extra reddish-brown eggs.
Fortunately for the future of Marans, the editor of the "Aviculteur Français" ("French poultry farmer"), Mr Paul Waroquiez, visited this exhibition and was very interested in the unknown producers of such nice eggs. He published, in this respect, some articles in this magazine notably on July 1st 1929 on the "Maransdaise" breed origin.
In 1929, in order to protect the breed qualities, a "Marans" section was created within the Aunis Saintonge poultry farmer society, and the Marans hen was accepted at the local poultry exhibitions.
Mr Waroquiez suggested the creation of a club. The Marans Club Français presided over by Mr Bouyer, and it was created in September 1929.

In 1930, the Marans was presented at the exhibition in Liege, Paris, Lyon and Lille. During this same year, the standard commission made up of Professor Sebileau, Mr Waroquiez, Mr Sangalli and Mr Mace, visited about hundred farms that raised Marans fowl.
From these observations a standard, which called for a feathered shanked bird, was produced. A committee gathered at the Aulnoie Manor studied this at the end of 1930. The Standard was defined by the commission of April 2nd 1931, & was published in various poultry farming magazines, the Général Assembly ratified it on November 22nd 1931 and it was noted down in the SCAF catalogue.
From that moment on, the Marans breed spread almost over France and especially in the Nord Pas de Calais department, which sent eggs in England, and in the Seine, & Oise regions.

Here are some facts concerning the Marans representation at this time during the Paris exhibition:
In 1931: 16 trios , 16 class entries, 8 exhibitors,
3 varieties: Silver Cuckoo, White and Black Copper-neck.

In 1932: 10 trios, 43 class entries, 9 exhibitors,
6 varieties: White, Ermine, Golden Cuckoo, Silver Cuckoo, Red, and Black Copper-neck.

In 1933: 9 trios, 51 class enteries,
all the varieties were exhibited.

The decline of the Marans in France
From 1934, the Marans were in decline.
In 1936, in the Paris exhibition there were only 2 trios, 11 class entries, and 2 exhibitors.
During the Second World War, the Germans occupied the Marans area and, due to restrictions on movements, farming was almost reduced to nothing, marketing was impossible.
In 1946, just after the war, the situation of the Marans in its birthplace was the same as it had been in 1929.
In 1950, a cooperative poultry-farming centre for the Marans breed was created in Lagord, in order to try to remedy the situation. (Faubourg of La Rochelle) with the Marans club, the SCAF and the regional poultry farming organizations.
This centre was then moved to Dompierre sur Mer (commune of Belle Croix) near La Rochelle.
It functioned under the direction of the Departmental of Agricultural Services.
It practised selection by a hatched-nest system, birth records by individual pedigree, & the systematic study of the genetic factors. It furnished eggs for settings, and chicks to the agricultual cooperative members.
In the first year of selection, the egg average was of 168 eggs per hen.
In 1952, it nearly reached 200 eggs.
In 1953, the centre possessed 150 Silver-cuckoo Marans and 150 White Marans hens.
In 1954, the projects to have between 500 & 1000 birds but this target never come into being. The centre, which was at the time managed by a person who found more advantages in farming ordinary commercial chicks than in Marans, collapsed.

Chronicles of 1960 – 1970...
In spite of the setbacks met the 50’s and the 60’s, the research and the selection of the Marans were continued thanks to the MCF president, Mr Bachelier. So he took on Mr Priouzeau, in Marans, who selectedion and setting activities went on the two following decades.
With an impeccable constitution, a good conformation and laying more than 200 eggs a year, the Silver-Cuckoo Marans had already started to lose the darker eggs that were characteristic of its ancestors.
… a decline aspect
This period foreshadowed the Silver-Cuckoo Marans decline.
The productivity was going to destroy the unquestionable qualities of the Marans on the one hand, because there is a certain negative relationship between the produced egg quality by a given age flock and the shell colour, (as Bernard Sauveur from the NIRA said), and on the other hand, because the natural possibility of the Marans to lay very big eggs represents a certain handicap for an excellent hatching.
It was also at this time that in France a lot of industrialists widely used the Marans hens to produce foundation birds for sex linked crossbreds, tending to make people forget this bird as a pure bred hen.
About 1970, a supply of Russian hens having a phenotype close to the Black Copper-neck Marans contributed to improve size in this variety but unfortunately it was at the expense of the egg, and shank colour. The birds, which were born of these crossings, had to be eliminated.
Fortunately, some amateurs carried on, in obscurity, taking an interest in the Marans and especially of the Black Copper-neck Marans, which has already had the reputation of laying the darker eggs.
The fancy that was born for the Black Copper-neck Marans went on but the vagueness of the Standard, notably in the description of the plumage, represented quite a handicap.
Some farmers even specialized in the production of exhibition subjects, developing both separate cockerel and pullet breeding lines.
Others accepted the extreme heterogeneousness of the types and plumage as a fatality. They solely dedicated themselves to the extra reddish-brown egg production, and thus ignoring all the improvements of the type characteristics of the Marans.
We have to wait until the 1990s that the breed, supported by a hundred or so of selector farmers spread all over France and Belgium, guided by the work of a renewed practice of the MCF. In 2000, the MCF was made up of more than 400 members and delivered more than 12000 official rings to its farmers.
Marans in England
During 1929, an Englishman, Lord Greenway, attracted by the particular qualities of the Marans, bought, at the Paris exhibition, some Black, Cuckoo, & White birds. In England there was difficulty differentiating between the Cuckoo Marans and other Continental Cuckoo breeds, unless the eggs could be seen so after some years, he concentrated his efforts on the selection of the Cuckoo variety exclusively. At that time both clean & feathered shanks were common & he decided to breed clean shanked birds. Due to the instability of the plumage of this variety, he subdivided it into three sub-varieties: Dark Cuckoo, Silver Cuckoo, & Golden Cuckoo. These English Marans were developed with clean shanks, as breeders had difficulty differentiating them from other feathered shanked European breeds that laid cream/tinted eggs, some Barred Plymouth Rock & Light Sussex being used in their makeup, they were accepted into the British Standard in 1931,together with the Blacks, unfortunately the Whites had died out. Black Copper-necks were also imported from France in the 1930s but were never accepted into the British Standard.
The popularity for the dark egg lead to indiscriminate breeding over the next 20 years to try and improve the identification of pullets and cockerels as day old.
Good pure Marans can be devilishly difficult to sex when young - and the cockerels eat a lot.
Day old sexing meant the breeders didn't have to rear the cockerels so they could rear more pullets at reduced costs. To achieve this sexing of day olds other breeds,
such as the Light Sussex were introduced- their offspring were then put to a pure Marans and the resulting Marans-looking young sold as Marans. The cockerels were much lighter at day old so easier to cull them out. Successive years of breeding from these stocks produced a paler egg; poorer productivity and more white in the feathering (from the Light Sussex).
Good pure Marans are now very difficult to find as a result, as it can be very difficult to distinguish between these birds and they have become incorporated into some people's stocks.
Recent importations from France into the UK have resulted in both clean shanked & feathered shanked birds being available. The Poultry Club refuses to recognise the feathered birds, and the Marans Club of the UK has adopted the French Standard.
The impasse is unlikely to be resolved in the next 5 years, until the 7th Edition of the British Poultry Standard is published.
Marans in the USA
The earliest imports all came from the UK and Australia & were mostly the Cuckoo varieties, Whites & Blacks. These are all clean-shanked birds. Recent importations of Black Copper-necks (Wade Jean line) & Wheatens have been from France, augmenting a few Marans imported from Canada, these are the French type feathered shanked birds. The birds imported from Australia were all Cuckoo Marans, and are known as the ‘Perth’ line, being from that city in Western Australia. A current US breeder stated, “ I don't know when or from where the Perth Line came to this country. The only type I was ever aware of where the Cuckoo pattern and they did have a problem with side sprigs. I'm not sure who has them now or if they even are still around. I believe Lester Stocker used to have them and has since dispersed or combined all the various Lines he once maintained.”
The following was taken from the Marans of America Club website.
The cuckoo Marans was the only variety in the U.S.until the last few years. The first importation was by Isaac Hunter of Michigan at the end of WW2. He brought them from England.In 1963 John Fugate imported the cuckoo Marans from France to Athens Tenn. He later moved to Mexico and his marans were spread to several people. John later formed A partnership with Mr.Wilburn of Alabama. I talked to Mr. Wilburn a few years ago,he was 92 years old at the time but his mind was very sharp. He told me that Mr.Fugate had brought him cuckoo marans eggs from all over the world with the darkest being from Belgium. I also had several conversations with Mr.Fugate and he confirmed what Mr.Wilburn had told me.
They also had a genetics man in Iowa working with them whose name I have forgotten. I don't know what year it was but Mr.Lowell Barber of North Carolina who talked Bill Fitch into breeding Marans to help get them going in the U.S. Mr. Fitch didn't like the Marans but bred them for a short while because of his respect for Mr.Barber. He sold out to Terry Kellerman of Kansas.Terry had brought Marans in from Canada from the Lake View Fowl Trust owned by Mr.Jim Hopkins which he crossed with the Fitch Marans.
The Hopkins Marans were feather shanked and the Fitch Marans were clean shanked so the off spring were both clean and feather shanked birds. About this time Mr.Mick Murphy brought cuckoo Marans from England. Mr. Murphy was A exhalant breeder and was a very strong supporter of the Cuckoo verity. He worked exclusively with cuckoos. I cant think of the fellows name that was
the curator at the Smithsonian institute but he brought the Ripley line from England. When he died they sold his flock.

Mr.Ron Presley worked with that line for several years and did a great job with them. I don't know how the Perth line got here but they are from Perth Australia. The Leriquin line was brought in by a man whose name I wont mention. This line was not what we were told it was and we got some mighty sorry birds from them. We do have to credit them with getting all the different colors of Marans started.I have always regretted using that line at all and have bred it out of my Marans. I used seven different lines to develop my line of cuckoos.
I used the Fugate,Ripley and Kellerman lines very heavily and the Fitch and Murphy lines lightly and the Perth and Leriquin lines extremely lightly. The Fugate line had very nice egg color and was a large bird. The Ripley line in my opinion had the best egg color.The Kellerman line was extremely large hardy,vigorous birds but the egg color wasn't as good as the Fugate or Ripley. I really liked these three lines.The Murphy line had really nice egg color. The Perth and Leriquin lines I don't care for. I must thank the following breeders for their help in developing the line I have had for the last ten years. Mick Murphy,Tom Brown,Mr.Wilburn,Terry Kellerman,Ron Presley and Cari Shaffer. Other recent importations included some Marans that came in before the Avian flu stopped the importations. Others were imported by mistake from England. Some were smuggled in from France. Of the smuggled ones, there were a few smugglers who got caught and had to pay hefty fines. Although it hit their pocket books pretty hard, they were then able to claim their birds as imports. Other smugglers who didn't get caught were not able to lay the same claim due to the penalties that would be imposed. Other people got birds from them and were then able to say they had first generation Marans from French Imports, but they never say whom they got the birds from. These lines of birds may be named for the purchaser who offered first generation eggs. Whereas the guy who smuggled the imports are still sitting there and other people are claiming their birds, and he can't do a thing about it. Then you had the people who only had one or two varieties of birds, but outbred them to come up with the different colours, but sold them as pure Marans.

Marans are not Standardised in the American Poultry Standard, but the APA has indicated that when they are it will only recognise the feather shanked French type.

Copper necked Blue Cock with Copper necked black hens

Marans in Australia
Marans were included in the 1st Edition of the Australian Standard in 1998. There was, and still is, considerable conjecture as to whether they had ever existed, and if so were there any left. As the Australian Standard is a word for word copy of the British Standard it can be assumed the early birds were of the English clean-shanked types, the feathered shanks of the French type being a disqualification. It is presumed that the Standards Committee would not have included Marans unless they knew they existed, but unfortunately requests about the history & known birds has received no response. Dr Don Robertson of Gidegannup, WA advised he had re-created a Cuckoo Marans type, with the egg genetics based on Welsummers, but he was unable to obtain the deep Marans egg colour. He had these birds until about 10 years ago. He stated he could remember, as a lad, reading articles on sexing day old Cuckoo Marans in the WA Poultry Tribune in the late 1940 or early 1950s.Others also carried out searches for Marans or remnants of the breed in other States, whilst others carried out searches for the dark egg genetics. A breeder in Victoria, Anne Frankel obtained some English type Marans about 2001, Anne advised her line came from the deceased estate of an elderly man. He had had the flock for an unknown time, and nothing more is know of their origin.
Anne had a number of breeds but kept the Marans apart and values them. She said, “They were all pretty similar & I found in my years of breeding that they were mostly straight cuckoo or gold or silver cuckoo.
Some had rather lemon legs, others white mottled with black as is acceptable in a cuckoo bird, but they stayed pretty true to type”.
This leg colour is a sign of birds that could go back to the 1930s. Judy Witney, of the Victorian New & Rare Breeds Society worked with some of the Frankel line birds for some time but was unable to achieve the depth of egg pigmentation she wanted. Stock from Judy was dispersed to breeders in WA, Victoria, Queensland & Tasmania, but all appear to have died out. Anne also sold birds to WA, Tasmania & other Victorian breeders but they seem to have suffered a similar fate. A breeder from the Gold Coast hinterland stated on a US Marans forum that he /she had French type feather shanked Gold & Silver Duckwing Marans, unfortunately they did not give their name or email address and failed to respond to a Personal message, so this must be considered to be very dubious. In the 1999 Kory Chapman had a feature article in the Australasian Poultry magazine on the re-creation of Marans, he advised he had sold 60 breeding trios in 2000, but all seem to have disappeared. They had eggs a little lighter in colour than the Welsummers that were included in their original make-up.
A second search, based on egg colour identified, in Victoria a Cuckoo dark egg-laying remnant Marans that had been in the same family for over 40 years, and in the hands of their original supplier, from Eskdale in the Mitta Valley Victoria, for a least 15 years prior. This takes us back to the 1940s, so it can be safely assumed they were here pre the Second World War. This is born out in that the earliest birds known were a mixture of clean & feathered shanks, white & yellow legs, and single and ‘turkey headed’ pea combed birds. Some of these turkey headed birds, from Coucou de Malines blood, still exist. The egg colour is not as dark as the French Black Copper-neck or Wheaten, but on a par with Double Laced Barnevelders & Welsummers.
A breeder advised he had seen an exhibit of brown eggs at an Agricultural show that were several shades darker & redder than either of his Double Laced Barnevelders or Welsummers, on talking to the exhibitor he found the eggs were from backyard commercial Isa Brown type birds. This lead to a project aimed at selecting for the dark red egg genes from fowl of this type. A Wheaten strain with eggs in the 4-6 range have now been produced & are being further developed. At this time both clean & feathered shanked birds are being produced, but the latter are favoured.
A documentation search of records of poultry imports, especially Marans, was also carried out for the period 1930 -1952. From the time Marans were Standardised to the implementation of the total import ban on poultry. AQIS advised that at this time they had no interest in animal quarantine, only human quarantine, and that it had been the responsibility of the States.
AQIS advised they were not involved in animal quarantine until 1956, and prior to that it was a State responsibility. All State Departs of Agriculture/Primary Industries were contacted, WA & Tasmania failed to respond and NSW acknowledged the request but did not respond; SA, Qld & Vic stated they had not provisions in place to monitor poultry imports until the import ban in 1952.
SA advised poultry often arrived accompanying migrants & returning Australian tourists, in crates as deck cargo. On inspection they were either admitted without documentation or destroyed. Vic suggested the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia might hold records, but this proved not to be so. Qld suggested records might be held by the National Archives of Australia, who advised they had no records for any poultry imports, of any description, for the period in question.
The future, numerous breeders have subscribed to the import syndicate which if successfully taken to fruition will introduce French type feathered shanked Black Copper-necks, Blue Copper-necks & Splash Copper-necks.
The Australian Standard follows, word for word, the British Standard and disqualifies French type feathered shanked birds. It is felt that breeders who have spent thousands of dollars in an attempt to import Marans will be somewhat upset to find they are not recognised, and would be disqualified from exhibition. A submission has been made in the respect to the Australian Standards review Committee for the second Edition. However no response or recognition of receipt has been received to date.
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Re: Marans

Post by efwellywoman » 01 Aug 2009, 19:28

Brilliant post - thankyou SO much for all this info!
Welsummers, Vorwerks, Orpingtons in (taking a deep breath....)black-buff-buff columbian-crele -partridge & red, two totally indolent equines, two occasionally useful(ish) German Shepherds, one non feral feral cat (who is NOT going to live indoors however pitifully he might sit with his nose pressed against the window - OK I've lost, he's got his own cushion now....) and a partridge in a pear tree.....nope, that's just the Vorwerks tree climbing again...oh, and not forgetting the O(ld man of the)H(ils) and the Offsprung.


Re: Marans

Post by Phill » 01 Nov 2009, 11:12

Got a Maran on the 18th ocgtober 2009 she has the largest feet you have ever seen dinner plait size!! If I didn't know any better id suspect she was a cockeral though havent heard any crowing from her.

Very skittish but becoming tamer the more time I spend with her and looking forward to seeing her eggs when she starts laying can anyon guess when she will start laying??

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Re: Marans

Post by CP » 01 Nov 2009, 11:33

How old is she?

It's possible you might see eggs before Christmas but most likely she'll start in the spring. ;)
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Re: Marans

Post by Phill » 08 Nov 2009, 22:22

Most likely point of lay thats what age smillers farm usually sell poultry

however im a little worried as Margo has started to grow bluey green feathers in her tail but ive not heard any crowing and Margo is definately full grown now.


Re: Marans

Post by Lordy100 » 31 May 2010, 20:31

Can you sex Maran chicks at early age? I bought some eggs and have hatched them with some very dark, some very light and some in between they are meant to be copper blacks, any info appreciated.


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Re: Marans

Post by Wilt » 01 Jun 2010, 09:04

If they are coppers, it will take 4 to 5 weeks when copper feather will start to show on the boys chests and wing coverts, The face furniture is very prominent very early on the boys also. The light or dark is a sign on cuckoo marans of either male (light) or female(very dark) But on coppers they could be black, blue or splash depending on parent birds. Blue to blue can produce splash.
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Re: Marans

Post by YoYoFranko » 26 Dec 2010, 00:33

Ive 3 copper blacks at POL i just wandered if the eggs are usually lighter when they first start laying at get darker as they start laying more? Anyone know? thanks x

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Re: Marans

Post by Chris Kurzfeld » 26 Dec 2010, 05:31

They are usually dark to begin with then get lighter towards the end of the laying season (when they start to moult) - when they start laying again they usually come back dark.

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Re: Marans

Post by LILLY & BETTY » 04 Jan 2011, 17:34

My beautiful young Cuckoo Maran has just laid her first egg, it was light brown with dark brown speckles all over it, will she eventually lay all over dark brown eggs, or is this what they will be like?

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Re: Marans

Post by laffinfowl » 04 Jan 2011, 18:39

I have a Cuckoo Marans pullet that had been laying light brown eggs with dark brown speckles,she stopped laying while moulting at the end of October,she,s just come back laying the last few days,no more speckles and a good brown colour,don,t know if it will be the same for yours. A lot depends on the parent stock as regards how good the colour will be.


Re: Marans

Post by LILLY & BETTY » 05 Jan 2011, 09:55

laffinfowl wrote:I have a Cuckoo Marans pullet that had been laying light brown eggs with dark brown speckles,she stopped laying while moulting at the end of October,she,s just come back laying the last few days,no more speckles and a good brown colour,don,t know if it will be the same for yours. A lot depends on the parent stock as regards how good the colour will be.

ok, thanks, Im happy whatever we get, was just curious. :)

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Re: Marans

Post by Tia Maria » 05 Jan 2011, 16:17

Quote "The light or dark is a sign on cuckoo marans of either male (light) or female(very dark) But on coppers they could be black, blue or splash depending on parent birds. Blue to blue can produce splash."

I too thought Cuckoo Marans males were light when young and females darker. This was confirmed with my 'chicks' which were hatched middle of July. 3 lighter Marans soon outgrew the others and then each in turn started 2 crow. The small darker cuckoo marans scratched around very henlike until over Christmas it grew lighter neck feathers that were decidedly pointy, then 2 feathers started to curl down from 'her' tail then yesterday she crowed - a foolish thing to do as 'his' brothers had become Christmas dinner for the same 'crime'. My other dubious chick of many different colours (MaransxWelsummer) has also turned out to be male - so out of the 6 chicks one female
A mixed LF flock of 2 Lavender Araucanas, 3 Barnevelders (1 double laced and 2 blue), 1 Blackrock, 3 Cuckoo Marans, 1, 1 White Star, 2 Silver Campine, 1 Blue Marans, 1 Black Copper Marans & 1 Marans x Araucana (lays green eggs).

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Re: Marans

Post by laffinfowl » 05 Jan 2011, 16:42

Unlucky there Tia Maria,i too have discovered its not always the case and the headspot method i found to be not very reliable either,i have it down to about the four week mark now for sexing,mainly by watching behaviour.There is a visible difference in growth rate,cocks much quicker and at about two to three weeks the cocks are the bullies who dive in feet first on the others who have settled down to feed,comb growth also is a good guide and thickness of legs.Any i,m not 100% sure about i grow on for a week or two longer and find the feed time bullying gets worse and really shows the cocks from the pullets.I hatched ten that are coming up to ten weeks and culled three obvious ones,the other seven are all pullet like so i,m hopeful i,ve got it right.How does the Marans x Welsummer look colour wise? and has it laid yet,if so what shade of brown?

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Re: Marans

Post by darkbrowneggs » 05 Jan 2011, 21:02

I think the head spot method for sexing Marans came in after they had started crossing them out to other breeds to increase the egg quantities and to provide sex linked chicks (with the unfortunate result they lost the egg shell colour) So mostly if you have a line which is easy to sex at hatching they may be rather unsatisfactory layers in terms of egg shell colouring

My own Marans are almost impossible to sex this way, but you can take a chance if the secondary characteristics are more pronounced ie comb wattles, also the young males feet are larger and their legs are thicker, also there is the wing feather method - Female chickens have longer wing pinfeathers than the males do, but again this is the result of sex link crossing.

I prefer to wait until the first lot of wing feathers actually grow when there will be a distinct paler band on the wings of the males, but this one only works if the cockerels have been bred to be paler than the hens and have the double cuckoo gene.

The most reliable one is that the girls tails will be obvious after a few weeks, by which time the boys should be showing all the signs listed about. But in any case I find that by the time they are easy enough to tell they haven't eaten all that much or taken up a huge amount of extra space, and I hate the idea of killing them before they have had a chance to experience life, and as I have said before the cockerels are jolly tasty at about 20 weeks :grin: , by which time they have had a happy free-range life for a few months.

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