July 06th, 2022
French Marans Club Australia
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As in all other poultry breeds, colours and patterns are based on the colour distribution gene, the ‘e’ series.
This in order of Dominance is
Allele Adult male: Adult female:
E Extended Black Black, or with colour in hackles & shoulders Black or nearly so.
ER Birchen Black Red with a black ‘Crow wing’ Black with colour in hackles, & lacing on breast,
eWh Wheaten Standard Black-Red, light under colour Salmon breast & Salmon/brown
back with some stippling. Black restricted to wings & tail.
e+ Duckwing Standard Black-Red Brown, darkly stippled body, with a Salmon breast
eb Brown Standard Black-Red Brown body, no Salmon on breast,
entire body tending towards
indistinct often coarse feather
Chick hatch down
E - Extended black
The down is black on the dorsal and lateral surfaces, whilst the ventral surfaces and the wing tips are cream-colored or
white. Homozygous chicks often have a small white dot on each side of the lower foreface. Down is shorter than in ER chicks.
ER - Birchen
The down resembles that of E, although the non-black areas on ventral surfaces may be reduced in some cases. The head may be brownish.
eWh – Wheaten
The down of wheaten is essentially clear cream in color, although small dorsal head spots are common. An occasional chick,
usually female, may show a faint, broken trace of the dark lateral back stripes.
e+ - Duckwing
The wild type down pattern consists of a dark brown median dorsal stripe that continues onto the dorsal surface of the head. On
either side of the back are narrower, dark brown, lateral stripes separated from the median stripe by two yellowish-white stripes.
The ground color is of a lighter tan shade, being lightest on the ventral surfaces.
eb – Brown
The brown chick has the darker brown pigment more evenly distributed over the dorsal surfaces and the head. Some reduced evidence of the
yellowish-white stripe is often_ evident. There is no sharp break in the head Color as in the e+ chick, although some lighter shading
of brown may be evident in front of the eyes and/or along the front line of the comb.
These descriptions are for the genes in the absence of other colour-changing gene, many of which alter the above colour description quite dramatically.
- ptilopody - in the Marans are a result of the dominant Pti-1 gene.
The Marans show a minor degree of leg feathering, which is present only on the outer side of the leg and the outer toe.
From experimental crossing it has been found that the sparse leg feathering of the Marans is due presence of only
one feathering gene. Experimental crosses have also shown that genes that inhibit leg feathering may also be present
which explains the presence of clean shanked birds where feathered shanked birds would have been expected.
The Standard states that the eye should be bright with an orangey-red iris.
Correct eye colour for a male,which is slightly brighter than that of the hen.
Bay eyes are to be avoided,
Birds with black or pale (light) eyes should be disqualified.
Colours based on the E allele:
We must also consider what is the most suitable underling colour, Silver or gold. To determine this we can look at the Standard, which tells us a green sheen is not required. Red/gold tends to promote this green sheen & Silver depresses it. One vote for Silver. Looking out side the box we see Silver Cuckoo is also an E based variety, so it should be Silver. We now have a male genome of E/E S/S Ml/Ml, as we do not want yellowish shanks we need the White skinner gene W. Melanotic pushes black pigment into the shank & beak as well as the plumage, too much for our Standard so we can remove some by the use of the sex-linked Dermal Inhibitor Id to achieve the acceptable dusky shank, which is always going to be darker in the hen. The shank feathering gene Pti-1 completes the genome giving us E/E S/S Ml/Ml Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 for the male and E/E S/- Ml/Ml Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 for the hen.
determine their genetic makeup. Only when the genotype is correct is it appropriate to say we have birds that are 100% of pure Black.
The use of Brown-Red birds in crossings with only one Black bird to regenerate a Black breeding line is not recommended for two reasons. Firstly because the "copper" gene (s+/s+) will introduce a range of unwanted gold/red tones, and the recessive Birchen allele which can often be visually expressed in the hens.
On the other hand, the Silver Cuckoo is a Black bird with the addition of the dominant barring gene B; thus it will be visible in the plumage if it is present, even if the genotype is impure (B/b+). So once B is eliminated we notice its disappearance from the "Black" genotype (E/E) we want to recreate. To this end the use of a Cuckoo bird, described by the British as a Dark Cuckoo, may well be of interest. The British favour a bird with a plumage darker than the Silver Cuckoo, and to obtain it they mate pure Silver Cuckoo, B/B, males to Black, b+/b+, hens. The resultant Dark Cuckoo males, B/b+, do not breed true, which is why they have never found favour in the French Standard. However if such a Dark Cuckoo male, B/b+, is mated to a Silver Cuckoo hen, B/-, approximately 50% of the resulting chicks will be Black.
If this initial mating of a Black to a Silver Cuckoo hen is not possible, then the next best choice would be to mate a Silver Birchen cock to a Silver Cuckoo hen. This will again produce Dark Cuckoo males and Black pullets, but will introduce the Birchen gene that will segregate if close matings are made.
Therefore it is behoves us to preserve, even if it’s only one bird, pure Blacks of breeding quality.
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Obvious white or copper-coloured feathers.
Blue variants- Blue & Splash
This colour is not recognised by any country, but is fairly common in the USA. It is made by the addition of heterozygous Blue Bl/bl+
Addition of homozygous Blue gives the Splash variety, again another variety that is not recognised.
The blue coloured varieties have existed in the Marans breed since its origins, i.e. Blue was introduced at the first crossing with it’s English Game ancestors. At this time I can find no country that has accepted a Blue or Splash as a separate variety, but the process is under way in several. The Blue gene is a dominant gene with variable penetration that dilutes black pigment, when present in either the homozygous Bl/Bl, or the heterozygous Bl/bl+ states. In the heterozygous state, Bl/bl+ dilutes black to a bluish/grey colour, this blue colour produces a variety of shades in the plumage, ranging from ‘pigeon egg blue’ to a dark ‘navy blue’, often with some blackish feathers scattered here and there, but has no effect on gold/red pigments. Homozygous Blue Bl/Bl creates an even greater dilution effect, producing a Splashed White (Splash) bird. This plumage is white with the odd blue feather; it is known in Europe as “dirty White” This is very different from both the Dominant White and the Recessive White, both of which have the effect of converting black to white.
It is important to understand that:
Blue does not breed true but gives the following results,
The genome of the heterozygous Blue Marans cock is E/E S/S Ml/Ml Bl/bl+ Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 and that of the hen is E/E S/- Ml/Ml Bl/bl+ Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1.
The genome of the homozygous Splash Marans cock is E/E S/S Ml/Ml Bl/Bl Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1, and the hen E/E S/- Ml/Ml Bl/Bl Id/-d W/W Pti-1/Pti-1.
Cuckoo birds are Black, E/E (or occasionally Birchen, ER/ER) based in the Marans, the genotype is completed by the addition of the sex-linked dominant barring gene (B), thisreplaces the black plumage with the irregular Cuckoo pattern, as we know it in the Marans.
Another sex linked dominant gene (S) silver intensifies the silver-white contrast in the plumage of the hackle, back, shoulders, and lancets. In this way, the Cuckoo (B) colour factor expressed itself on each of the two (B/B) chromosomes present in the cock, and has a cumulative effect, doubling the expression giving a lighter shade to the cock’s feathers.
On the other hand, in the Cuckoo hen, the (B) factor is hemizygous expressed on only one allele, the second remaining unexpressed. Thus the hen plumage is a darker Cuckoo (B/b). The homozygous Cuckoo male has a genotype of E/E S/S Ml/Ml B/B Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1, and the hemizygous hens one of E/E S/- Ml/Ml B/- Id/-d W/W Pti-1/Pti-1. In addition to the cumulative plumage lighting effect, cuckoo/barring also removes pigment from the shank and beak, and these are lighter in the cock. Description of the Silver-Cuckoo colour:In comparison with the body colour, the cuckoo cock’s hackle and lancets approach a colour closer to silver-white. The cock plumage is a contrast in shades. The plumage of the hen is more uniform, and very dark in comparison, reflecting the auto-sexing capacity of the cuckoo gene.
The actual shade of the hen can vary, and may have a slightly lighter neck hackle. However the hen should be neither nearly white nor nearly black. Care must be taken to avoid birds that tend to be too light in colour, because it is not as called for in the Standard. The sexes can de differentiated at birth, the cockerels being a lighter silvery colour with a large head spot, the pullets darker with a smaller head spot.
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Cock: Lacking lighter hackles in the cock, or any gold in the hackles and lancets.
Hen: gold or fawn feathers on the bodyNote: The heterozygous B/b+ Dark Cuckoo is much favoured by the British, it is accepted in their Standard and also in the Australian and New Zealand Standards, and is common in the USA. The cockerel is the same dark colour as the hen, the hen of the Silver & Dark Cuckoo being identical hemizygous. It is not a colour that is recognised by the French or any other European Standard. The exhibition male is exactly the same colour shade as the hemizygous hen. It is often produced using a more complex mating of a Silver Cuckoo male over Black hens. These birds nearly always have unfeathered shanks and so are not considered eligible to be called Marans under European law.
The genome of the cock is E/E S/S Ml/Ml B/b+ Id/Id W/W pti-1/pti-1 and the hen E/E S/- Ml/Ml B/- Id/-d W/W pti-1/pti-1.
Blue Silver Cuckoo & the Splash Silver Cuckoo
The last possible colour based on the E allele is the Blue Cuckoo. Again these are not recognised colours, in any Marans Standard, but are believed to exist in the USA.
These colours are the result of adding the barring gene to a blue bird: (or the blue gene to a Silver Cuckoo). The first mating is the easiest, a Silver Cuckoo male mated to a Blue hen will give 50% Silver Cuckoo & 50% Blue Silver Cuckoo chicks.
The genome of a Blue Silver Marans cock is E/E S/S Ml/Ml Bl/bl+ B/B Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1, and a hen E/E S/- Ml/Ml Bl/bl+ B/- Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1.
The Splash Silver Cuckoo would be a nearly white bird, with the cuckoo pattern only visible on the odd coloured feather. It could possibly have ‘ghost barring’. I have never seen this colour pattern, genotype of the male being E/E S/S Ml/Ml Bl/Bl B/B Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1, and a hen E/E S/- Ml/Ml Bl/Bl B/- Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1.
The varieties based on the Extended Black allele may mask all other allele in the series.
Colours based on the ER allele:
( also known as Black Copper or Copper Necked)
Brown-Red hens Brown-Red hatch down
The name Red-Brown may seem strange for a bird that is a black breasted red in the cock, and a red birchen in the hen, one needs to look back to the beginning of the breed to find the reason. The first crossings were made using English fighting cocks, the “cockers” named the colour of the birds by what they could see when they were fighting in the pit, the breast and the back. So a bird with a broken breast (black with red/brown markings, and a red back was called a Brown Red. The Brown-Red, has been the main variety of the breed for numerous years. Indeed, more than 80% of the members of the Marans Club of France have selected the Brown-Red variety. It is also very popular in the Low Countries and the USA. Its numerical superiority widely demonstrates the constant interest breeders have in this variety. This success is due to several reasons. A nice Brown-Red Marans flock has style. Furthermore, we find that hens of this variety lay the darkest extra reddish-brown eggs of all Marans. This variety, together with the Birchen (Silver-Black) and Golden-Salmon (Black-Red), are birds, which are the closest in type to the Standard. Moreover, the great number of existing birds reduces the problems associated with inbreeding. At the present time, it's the Brown-Red Marans, which is used as a source of improvement, in the sometimes deficient, egg colour quality of the other varieties.
The Blue Brown-Red (Golden-Blue), the Birchen (Silver-Black) and the Blue Birchen (Silver-Blue). Consequently, if crossing to improve other Marans varieties (Wheaten, Black-tailed-buff, White....) is carried out, the Brown-red variety can't be recommended from a plumage point of view. However when we are forced to turn to the elite of this variety because of the qualities of their extra-reddish egg colour) we must do so.
Note: in the search of an improvement to the Silver-Cuckoo variety, it is better to choose good Silver Birchen bird that lays dark eggs.
This improving cross, of the Silver-Cuckoo variety with the Silver Birchen produces good results because, in the Marans, many Silver-Cuckoos are probably based on the Birchen allele and not on the Extended Black.
The selection of the Brown-Red variety
In order to select and improve the Brown-Red variety, the most commendable solution consists in avoiding out crossing to any other variety. It is advisable to stick rigidly to an internal selection in the Brown-red variety as long as possible and to out cross onlyin an emergency such as that caused by severe inbreeding depression… They most suitable outcross would be to one of the other ER based varieties.
However, this recommendation doesn't mean that crossings between varieties is impossible, but that it makes the control and the follow-up of the genetic characteristics inherited much more uncertain. One of the trickiest situations results from the crossings between Brown-Red (Birchen) and Black birds, by the confusion caused by the colour of the resulting hens …
When a Brown-Red is mated to a variety that is recessive to it all the resulting progeny will look like a Brown-Red. That's why some young birds of other colours can appear in Brown-Red lines. These colours, which are due to recessive characteristics, disappear after the first crossing with the Brown-Red but remain latent in the genotype ready to reappear in future generations; this is called the "atavistic return" of the recessive allele.
While it requires work to maintain its black and coppery markings, at the level of ideal distribution, the Brown-Red variety, in most cases, is genetically fixed and stable. The selection for "true" Marans characteristics since the beginning of time has had as its priority the dark reddish-brown egg colour, has been to the detriment of correctly coloured exhibition birds. Clumsy crossings with Black or Wheaten coloured subjects have achieved nothing to correct this. Conversely, there are very nice Brown-Red Marans exhibition stock that have been selected for plumage colour but lack the ability to produce a dark red colour in their eggs.
Let us be clear and precise: they are no longer Marans!
So the Brown-Red colour pattern of black and red (or copper) is relatively unstable in comparison to the other varieties. The breast can be entirely black, or full of copper marks down to the thighs.
Only the selection can maintain the required colour.
Description of the Brown-Red MaransThe origin French Marans Standard stated
The current SCAF Standard states:
With a majority of black feathers, the head, the hackle, the saddle and the lancets must be copper-coloured. In respect to the definition of this "coppery colour", some variation is allowed but must however remain a mid-copper to red-copper.We must reject that which is too light, an ochre, yellowish colour, or straw-coloured at the hackle. Shades such as fawn and golden-buff are also incorrect. Copper is not fawn. The colour must always be strong enough, so that any ambiguity might be avoided in these differing shades. Some feathers, especially in the lower part of the hackle and the lancets, can be more or less black-red. The shoulders should be crimson-red coloured exactly the same as the Black-Red Duckwing cock (e+ wild type).
This colour shows itself to be quite velvety, and can turn a reddish-brown colour especially when the whole tone is mainly "copper-red". This red colour of the shoulders must be sufficiently spread to the whole of the small wing covers, making a uniform mass, which it will be, if it is not blended with the black. Such black spots, when they appear blend into the red of the shoulders, as well as on the saddle and on the lancets revealing a colour unbalance (there is a too much dominance of black in comparison to the copper). Their breast is black whereas the ideal breast as well as the throat is well marked by coppery spots, but not excessively so.
A Brown-Red cock with too much red on the breast A Brown-Red cock with a yellow neck hackle
Another sign that reveals an unbalance between black and copper: is the colour of the ear tufts, it has a circular form and it has a more or less brown-fawn colour (for the correct copper coloured cocks). In the overly black cock, the colour would range from a blackish tone to a totally black, (as would the hens).
In well-marked cocks, the colour of the ear tufts must match, more or less, the copper colour of the head. The shoulders must always be a good copper-colour. Even thought such cocks have a black breast without reddish-brown spots, they give excellent results in the breeding pen. The coppery colours of the shoulders and of the ear tufts have a very positive influence on the balance of the black and copper colouring. The cocks with blackish ear tufts, black spotted shoulders, and those with a totally black breasts result in a lack of copper colour, and will produce a very high proportion of pullets that are completely black, or lack sufficient copper colour in the hackle. They must be culled from the breeding pen.
The cock, which too much colour in the breast, with strong fawn or red markings down to the thigh are again very bad. Indeed, they seem to produce pullets with an incorrect colour due to the presence of patterns blurring the breast, and the body, and with lightfeathers shafts. These pullets should be excluded without the slightest hesitation, and the cocks should also be rejected.
The green sheen on the black plumage is not required in the Brown-Red Marans. The absence of this green sheen has a correlation with the presence of a grey rather, than black under colour; orange-red eyes rather than black eyes; of brown eggs; and slate legs that are due to the amount of melanin that is present in the bird. So the ideal compromise consists in seeking and preserving by rigorous selection, a perfect balance between too much black and too much copper.It must be understood that this balance in the Brown-Red colour is characterised in the cock as follows:
On the contrary, the light coppery tones produce, more widely, a dominance of the incorrect golden tone, at the expanse of black. We must also note that the colour of the cock hackle often show a two tone shade because the fringe has a stronger colourthan the rest of the body. The hackle colour is close to that of the lancets. This is correct, and this contrast is of variable intensity (which is however less important in the strong red-coppery colour).
How to correctly distinguish the Brown-Red variety
A Crow wing (black triangle) Brown-Red A Duckwing (brown triangle) Wheaten, the Golden Salmon is also a Duckwing
The colour of the Brown-red cock can resemble, and can be mistaken for, the colour of other varieties such as the Black-Red (Golden-salmon) or the Wheaten. We can easily understand the disadvantages that such confusions might create for the serious breeder.
In order to recognize definitely the genetically correct Brown-Red, it is necessary to check that the cocks have a totally black wing triangle (a Crow wing). It is the only varieties of above the three that show this black pure wing triangle constituted by the visible fold back of the secondary feathers.
It should not be mistaken with the wingbow, which has nothing in common with the triangle. When a cock has a wing triangle of an ochre-brown, dark-fawn or brown-cinnamon colour, it isn't a Brown-Red cock. It should never be used in a Brown-Red Marans breeding pen, because it is a Marans cock of the Wheaten variety or Golden-Salmon variety.
If this Duckwing phenomenon occurs in a Brown-Red line it shows that the breeding stock used was genetically mixed. In such case, we can understand that it is a genetic variety that appeared as a recessive in the Brown-Red. This must be carefully detected, and selected against, in order to maintain the genetic purity of the Brown-Red breeding stock.
On the other hand, the pullets of these 3 varieties would be easily identifiable.
In order to avoid any mistakes, it must be kept in mind that, for the Brown-Red variety, ever area of the bird that is not a true coppery-red colour must necessarily be a true pure black colour including the "triangle".
So there aren't any other possible alternative or shades in the plumage other that these two tones which are very well contrasted.
Off-white or the white feathers are a disqualifying fault.
Some birds show, in the juvenile plumage, white spots, similar to the recessive Mottling gene (mo), if these spots remain present after the first adult moult the birds must be rigorously eliminated.
It is impossible to easily identify chicks which have an abnormally white down, notably on the head. Moreover, this fault, contrary to others, seems to show relatively few difficulties, since in the end, it almost totality disappears.
The Brown-Red henAs for the hens, the colour markings are the same as that for the cock.
Consequently, it is a little more difficult to control the ideal balance with the red-copper colour than with the incorrect light-coppery tone of the hackles that is sometimes encountered. Hens with these overly light yellowish or straw coloured hackles, extensive breast markings, and shafty feathers must be avoided.
Overly marked,yellow hackled, showing shafting of the breast feathers.
A close-up of 'mossiness' in the body plumage of a Brown-Red hen.
The hackle feathers have a black-coloured tip, the ear tufts are usually blackish fawn coloured but are darker than in the cock. All the rest of the body, including the breast must be black without white feathers or other fawn shades, and without a green sheen.
On the other hand, the coppery colour of the hackle must also be present on the front of the neck or throat, and spread out almost down to the breast.
The hens, which are correctly copper-coloured, produce a very satisfactory proportion of cockerels with an ideal red mark on the breast.
These two colour characteristics have a very strong correlative between them; hens that have nice hackles, and cocks that have nice breasts.
Excessive blackThe present Brown-red colour instability explains the frequent appearance of nearly or even totally black pullets. These latter, genetically remain Brown-Reds, and under no circumstances are they to be considered a true Black. This mistake must be avoided and these two varieties mustn't be mixed in the breeding pen.
These totally black pullets (or melanised Brown-Red pullets) should not be exhibited at a show as a real Black variety and it would be untruthful to sell them as such. Due to past crossing of Black, E, birds and Brown Red, ER, birds the E allele can be isolated in some Red-Brown lines. This is one reason for the appearance of these melanised birds.
However, some of these ‘too’ black pullets can be useful to correct ‘light’ birds but only if the are known to be ER based, and egg colour is very good. The regular use of very well coloured cocks corrects the excess black in some hens, which are sometimes totally black.
This phenomenon is the same for the eye colour. The regular use of very well coloured cocks whose eyes are orange-red allows improvement in some situations that seem insurmountable (i.e. hens with dark brown or black eyes).
The choice of the cock is of the highest importance in order to improve this Marans variety, the stress must be made with equal stress on plumage and the quality of the egg colour, the ideal selection consists in using 100% of true colour hens (with good coppery hackle), and not selecting the blacks except in cases of emergency in order to preserve the precious extra reddish-brown egg.
In the same line of birds, it is often easier to control the excess black in the cocks, than in the hens. Generally, the cocks have feet, eyes and plumage (including the ear tufts) less darkly coloured than hens of the same breeding. That's why the standard accepts the darker shank and feet of the hens. The orange-eyes are notably essential. Today, very few hens have reddish-brown or black eyes.
Other colour flaws
We can find another colour flaw in the Brown-Red hens. It's the appearance of feathers, which are speckled, stippled, with more or less light marks, fawn-coloured, coppery coloured, or with light shafts. They are said to have stippling on the breast and even on the whole body. Such hens have sometimes been shown as "partridge" Marans, which is totally unacceptable. The true genetic "partridge" colour present in some breeds (like the wild type Duckwing) has nothing in common with these Marans hens, which can only be considered as bad Brown-Reds from which you can get nothing good. These hens often corresponds to cocks whose breast red colour is too spread out down to the thighs, and whose coppery tones are often replaced by a pale light fawn or straw-coloured feather shades, which are considered to be incorrect. Once again, it is advisable to choose as breeding stock only the cocks or hens that are neither too black nor too pale, fawn coloured, or which are a bad, light coppery, colour.
The selection must maintain a fair balance between what are the best black, and the best copper shades.
The genome of the Brown-Red is as stated based on the Birchen ER allele. Without any modifying genes the cock would be a standard Black breasted Red, the hen black with gold in the hackle, and gold lacing on the breast feathers. So as Copper is required the gold s+ gene must be present. Gold will not give us the required Copper colour so the colour depth is increased by the addition of Mahogany, Mh. This genome ER/ER s+/s+ Mh/Mh would still allow too much expression of copper on both the cock and hen, so the black plumage is strengthened by the addition of the melaniser Ml, other recessive melanisers may also be present. Adding the required Dermal Inhibitor, feather shank genes gives for the cock a genome of
ER/ER s+/s+ Ml/Ml Mh/Mh Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 and for the hen ER/ER s+/- Ml/Ml Mh/Mh Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1.
As previously stated birds which appear to meet this Standard have been found that are based on Extended Black, E their genome is thought to be E/E s+/s+ Mh/Mh Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 (Ml/Ml?) cock, and E/E s+/- Mh/Mh Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 (Ml/Ml?) for the hen.
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Cock: brown wing bay, any other colour than black on the flights, straw-coloured hackles. Hen: brown spots on the body. Birchen
This variety of Marans is not the rarest that exists in the breed as it regularly appears as a result of Brown-Red and Silver-cuckoo crosses. Although rare, this variety is no in any risk of disappearing. We can define the Birchen (Silver-Black) Marans as a Brown-Red that has its copper/red plumage replaced by silver-white to give a Birchen pattern, ER. The silver (S) colour factor, which is dominant to the gold (s+) allele, is present in the genotype of the Silver-Cuckoo variety. From this, we can understand the relative frequency of the silver (S) genes in the breed. So in the absence of the cuckoo allele, the Marans breeding stock, which carry (S) silver, give rise to Birchen birds from Brown-Red X Silver Cuckoo. Care must be taken to remove the red enhancers, Mahogany and Autosomal Red; otherwise this could result in a showing of red, especially on the shoulders of the cock. The Birchen Marans leaves nothing to be desired, when compared to the famous Brown-red variety as far as aesthetic qualities are concerned. The plumage colour is a very spectacular Silver & Black combination. Today we find some very correct Birchen stocks that present to a good standard and lay especially nice extra dark reddish-brown eggs.
It is advisable to note that these Birchen breeding birds are very precious, in the absence of good Black fowl, to improve some lines of Silver-cuckoo Marans that have lost the capacity to lay the extra dark reddish-brown eggs.
Description of the Birchen Marans
The Birchen Marans can be described as conforming in every respect to the Brown-Red except that the copper/red plumage is replaced by silver-white that contrasts with the black plumage background. The colour pattern (black and silver) is identical to that of the Brown-Red. The eyes are orange-red, the shanks are grey but never black. The wing is totally black.
Note: to date, the Birchen Marans is not recognised in the French (SCAF) Standard, but it is recognised in Belgium, & Holland.
The approval formalities could be easily be carried out, and in a relatively short time would be accepted into the French Standard. The birds seen today are of a good type, have a good plumage, and a good egg colour.
The genome of the cock is ER/ER S/S Ml/Ml Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1, and that of the hen ER/ER S/- Ml/Ml Id/-d W/W Pti-1/Pti-1.
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Cock: white wing bay, any other colour than black on the flights, straw- coloured hackles, any gold/red feathering. Hen: white spots on the body. The Blue variations
Adding heterozygous Blue, Bl/bl+, to the above varieties, makes the Blue variations. As described previously, see Blue Silver Cuckoo.
Blue Copper (Blue Brown-Red) pair
The Splash variations
Adding homozygous Blue, Bl/Bl to the above varieties, makes the Splash variations. As described previously, see Splash Silver Cuckoo.
A Splash Copper (Splash Brown–Red) pair
Colours based on the eWh allele:
Wheaten Marans cock Wheaten Marans hen
Although the Wheaten variety didn't appear in the first Marans Standard it is with the Brown-Red and Silver-Cuckoo, one of the most commonest varieties of the Marans. It's most likely that the "Wheaten" colour, like the Blue, has really existed in the Marans since it’s origin, i.e. since the very fist cross to the original “English Game” cocks. This colour was ignored for a long time, due to ignorance, as well as a poor description of the variety in the former Standards. The description ("red-salmon-fawn-partridge" variety), which was used during the first dozen or so years after recognition, was a very poor description lacking any definition of one of the most legitimate varieties of the breed. It is necessary to have better idea of the genetics of this erroneously named colour. As for the Wheaten Marans, it has suffered for many of years certain of understanding in regards to the simple genetics of its plumage colour. The utmost accuracy is essential when using the vocabulary used to describe the different plumage colours. The terms red, fawn, salmon, partridge, correspond to 4 precise genetic plumages that are well defined and different from each other. They have little in common and they are based on different ‘e’ alleles. To go back to our "Wheaten" coloured hens, apart from the fact that the different genomes & have often been wrongly called "salmon-fawn", their "wheaten" colour is accompanied with a slight edging on the feathers, which perhaps explains the erroneous use of the term "partridge". As for the salmon shades of this Wheaten colour, it may once again explain the use of the term "salmon-fawn" which is incorrect. So the confusions were numerous, and caused the crossing by mistake of the various genetic colours for a long time. The Wheaten colour has been described for a long time in at least 3 or 4 other breeds of poultry (it is a relatively rare colour, and often very badly described). The descriptive elements of the old Standard (the original standard) were relatively coherent as far as the majority of the Marans variety is concerned.
The "red-salmon-fawn-partridge" description, which was erroneous and confusing, was applied to both the Wheaten variety, and the Black-tailed-Buff variety (which was not named at the beginning and so genetically ignored), has quite stopped the evolution of these 2 varieties for more than 30 years. However, we can accept the idea that the different selections of the Wheaten and Buff breeding stock, available since the origin of the breed, seem to have never been correctly supervised In most cases, the cocks that were often associated with these hens are more or less fawn-red breeding stock (theoretically a Black-tailed-Buff variety) that has little in common with the real genetic Wheaten variety. Indeed, the true Wheaten cocks are black, with a coppery-red coat, and so look like the Brown-Red cocks except for the wing triangle, which is brown instead of black. From such subjects, which are more or less pure, a selection of the correct breeding stock is necessary in order to stabilize the other cousin variety: the Black-tailed Buff.
But this work seems more difficult for the following reasons:
- great complexity and variability of the genes that create Buff high genetic impurity of the stocks
- lack of selection from the beginning of the breed.
Consequently, the selection of the Wheaten breeding stocks must precisely correspond to the correct description of the "Wheaten" as per the Standard. in order to allow, if need be, the systematic detection of good Wheatens in the various Marans stocks.
The genetics of the Wheaten colour
Wheaten is dominant to e+ and eb when in isolation, as in Marans; but is recessive to all alleles when in combination with ‘recessive black’ genes, as in the Rhode Island Red
(Light or Ermine)
This old Marans variety, which is described and recognized in the breed Standard, has become one of the rarest varieties today, and is nearly on the point of extinction.
Even though it has been described for a long time, this variety has never undergone any important development, and in this respect we have to resign ourselves to the factthere is little photographic record of it. From the plumage aspect the phenotype of the Columbian Marans of origin is close to that of the Light Sussex. The genotype is based on the Wheaten eWh gene, shown by the presence of its white (or light) undercolour, it should not be like the Brahma and Wyandotte, which are Brown, eb based and have a blue/grey undercolour.
The presence of the Columbian Marans white undercolour in the original Standard demonstrates the total absence of the Brown gene, eb.
We don't know if any Marans ever had the Brown eb gene, but today this gene is not found in the genome of any Marans variety. So the Columbian Marans genome consists of the Wheaten, eWh, allele together with the Columbian (Co) and Silver, S. The Columbian gene restricts the distribution of black pigment in the feathers to the hackle, tail, flights and possibly the shank feathers. Moreover, Co also suppresses sexual dimorphism to such an extent that the cocks and the hens have identical plumage colours. It should be noted that these genes modify the black and white distribution on the feathers i.e. producing a feather having a black centre with a white border or edge, and not the opposite.
The genome of the Columbian Marans cock is eWh/eWh S/S Co/Co Id/Id Pti-1/Pti-1 and the hen eWh/eWh S/- Co/Co Id/Id Pti-1/Pti-1.
Columbian pair, good specimens being hard to find.
For illustration of colour pattern, a Light Sussex hen.
Description of the Columbian Marans
Black-Tailed Buff male A pen of Black-Tailed Buffs
The correct wing markings on a Black-tailed Buff
The Black tailed Buff variety and Wheaten variety are two colours that are closely related, both are based on the Wheaten allele.
In order to be clear and precise, we should speak of Black-tailed Buff Marans and not just fawn or buff.
Indeed, Buff, when it is used by itself, describes precise colour shade, as in the Buff Orpington, Leghorn or Wyandotte, i.e. a very uniform colour without any black, which could be called a self Buff. This self Buff colour, is genetically complex (so that it is virtually impossible to cross it with another colour), doesn't exist in the Marans, as they aren’t apparently composed of the whole and numerous genetic factors responsible for this colour. Consequently, it is in this way easier to understand that from a small breeding pen of Brown-Red birds (when there is a certain genetic impurities present) it is possible to get Wheaten, Black-tailed Buff, or Golden Salmon coloured birds, certainly not always to Standard, however which are often useful in your breeding program.
The opposite is impossible, as the Brown-red characteristic is dominant, and if present would appear visually in the plumage. Moreover, Wheaten breeding stock can give birth to Black-tailed Buff subjects which show without the slightest doubt that such ancestral Wheaten birds are impure because they convey in the latent state some recessive genes responsible for this Black- tailed buff colour.
We can also state that a true breeding pen of Black-tailed Buffs, having the correct genome for this colour, can't produce Wheaten birds, never mind Brown-Red, Cuckoo or Black. As we have seen Cuckoo birds can be produced from Black by the addition of the dominant barring allele, as can Blue with the addition of the dominant heterozygous Blue allele, Black-tailed Buffs are produced from Wheaten by the addition of the dominant Columbian restrictor Dark Brown Db and the eumelanindiluter Dilute, Di. Birds that are impure for Db/db+ when mated together can produce both Black-tailed Buffs and Wheatens.
The risks to seeing any of the famous and classic Marans colours appearing from the Black-tailed Buff breeding pen is zero, except for the White Marans which could possibly appear in any variety because it is created in a very different way. Refer to this subject in White Marans.
The Golden-Salmon variety (Black-red Marans e+) could also theoretically come to us by this method. The Golden-Salmon exists but today is so extremely rare such an event is unlikely. Such is the pity!
Returning to the selection mistakes, which were made for decades, pure Wheaten coloured cocks which resemble the Brown-Red have often been wrongly used in ignorance over Brown-Red hens. These Wheaten cocks, which as said were mistaken for the Brown-red variety, introduced the Wheaten allele eWh into the Brown-Red breeders. Today, these Copper-Black stocks still produce young Wheaten or ...Blacktailed Buff chicks.
At the same time, the Black tailed Buff cocks (which were wrongly called red) were mated with Wheaten hens and produced birds that were closer to a buff colour. The colour of these hens was genetically dominant, due to the presence of Db. It constantly reappears, setting up a heterozygous circle, which is however locked within only one genetic family, eWh. This heterozygous difference between Black tailed Buff eWh/eWh s+/s+ Db/Db and Wheaten eWh/eWh s+/s+ db+/db+ can never end up producing a constant result.
This phenomenon explains the former (and absurd) name of "red- yellow-salmon-fawn-partridge" for a Marans variety which in reality is only constituted from a mixture of heterozygous breeding stocks: buff (or fawn) cocks, more or less wheaten hens, explains the erroneous term salmon-fawn; and partridge results from either the slight stippling of the hen feathers, or perhaps by the brown wing triangle on the wheaten cock’s wing.
Therefore, it would be proper to select and to isolate the Wheaten birds, as well as the Black- tailed Buff ones. In this way, we would achieve what has never been correctly done in the past.
The selection of Black-tailed Buff Marans
It is very easy to recognize, from a young age, the real Black-tailed Buff coloured cock whose red-fawn colour is quite strong over the whole body.
Only the extremities (flights and tail feathers) are more or less black. In contrast to the Wheaten cock, whose breast and undersides are black, in the
Black-tailed Buff both these areas are red. The hackles in both varieties are coppery and similar, but the Black-tailed Buff has no black in the neck hackles. The two varieties can't be differentiated by the neck hackle colour.
A Black-Tailed Red hen
We have seen that the Wheaten hens are not uniform in colour over the whole body.
Their red-fawn hackle and their light breast clearly contrast. The shades on the back and on the wings remind us the shade of the grains of wheat, i.e. a whole and not very strong colour contrary to the Black-tailed Buff hen.
The Black-tailed Buff hens, when they are correctly selected, must have a strong and uniform colour, which is a very rare occurrence in Wheaten hens.
The ideal plumage of the Black-tailed Buff Marans must be close to that of the New Hampshire breed. The current Black-tailed Buff Marans cocks are relatively common and their colour corresponds to that of the New Hampshire breed.
Correctly coloured cocks are often exhibited. The hens are usually not very uniform and seem impure. Sometimes, they almost seem to be Wheaten rather than a golden buff colour. Even so they will constitute a very good base to work from for the Black-tailed Buff variety. Once they are mated to cocks that are the correct colour.
The buff hens that have a breast that is too light should be rejected. The uniformity of a strong golden buff coloured plumage must be looked for. The choice of Black-tailed Buff cock seems to be more easily attained.
Hens totally devoid of black in the neck hackle are faulty.
in the past there has been serious faults in selection.There has been a lack of investigation to determine how to produce the correct colour.
Confusions with the red colour
The Black-tailed Buff variety is not a Wheaten, neither is it a "red".
Red, which currently does not exist in Marans, would need to have, in both sexes, a uniform, very strong red plumage, (including the hackle and lancets). They would need to be the colour found in the Rhode Island Red breed, which does not have Dilute but does have recessive Black.So the correct Black-tailed Buff coloured cocks, even though they have strong colours, are not uniform but on the contrary show different shades of colour. There are three shades of gold/red in the New Hampshire breed, the hackles and the lancets, notably in the cocks, show a coppery-gold shade and have coloured tips. They are not a uniform dark red, as found in the dark red of the Rhode Island breed.Due to the lack of serious selection to date, as well as crossings with Wheatens, the present buff-coloured subjects seen at shows have a very inconsistent plumage in the
present buff-coloured subjects seen at shows have a very inconsistent plumage in the hens (from an uniform light buff with a black tail, to a more or less uniform strong golden buff colour.). The colour seems to be very well stabilized in the cocks, but not so for the hens.
Description of the Black-tailed Buff colour: The whole plumage is strong golden buff colour
The head, the hackles and the lancets are a little lighter, i.e. a light golden buff colour. The lancets are sometimes a stronger shade. In the hen there are hints of black lacing in the neck hackle.
The shoulders and wing covers are darker, a deep auburn colour.
The primary flights have black exterior barbs (almost to the end)
The Black tail feathers sometimes have brown borders
Pinkish white shanks
a salmon buff undercolour
Description of the Black-tailed Buff hen
The whole plumage is uniform and a strong golden buff colour. The shade, between the hackle and shoulders, is less contrasting than that of the cock.
Golden buff coloured head and hackle, with black tips on the interior feathers that are more pronounced than on the cock.
Golden buff coloured head and hackle, with black tips on the interior feathers that are more pronounced than on the cock.
Black tail with brown edging.
The flights, undercolour and the shanks as for the cock.
The genome of the Black-tailed Buff is
EWh/eWh s+/s+ Mh/Mh Db/Db Di/Di W/W Id/Id Pti-1/Pti-1 and the hen
EWh/eWh s+/- Mh/Mh Db/Db Di/Di W/W Id/- Pti-1/Pti-1
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Cock: black spots on the breast, smoky blue/grey under colour.
Hen: Too light or washed out colours. Irregular coloured plumage.
None of these varieties are currently accepted in the Standard.
Blue: The Blue Wheaten, Blue-tailed Buff and the Blue Columbian (aka Coronation) are the above varieties with the addition of heterozygous Blue Bl/bl+. Blue Wheatens are known to exist, but not the other two.
Splash: The Splash Wheaten (Pyle), White-tailed Buff and the Splash Columbian are the above varieties with the addition of homozygous Blue Bl/Bl. None are known to exist.
Colours based on the e+ allele
Golden Salmon trio Golden Salmon hen
This Marans colour, which to date not recognized by the French Standard, is still very rare. The present French breeding stock show outstanding plumage, as well as dark egg colour qualities, but serious flaws exist notably in lack of weight. These birds require, in France, a great deal of improvement. The Golden-salmon Marans is more commonly known as a Black Breasted Red (cock) and Partridge (hen). It is in fact a Red Duckwing based on e+ and s+. This colour was obtained from the original crosses with the Old English Game cocks, where it remains a common variety in that breed to this day. The allele responsible for this plumage pattern is e+. It is accompanied by the presence of the gold (s+) allele. Thus Golden-Salmon variety male is e+/e+ s+/s+ and the hen e+/e+, s+/-. When gold (s+) is replaced by silver (S), we have the Silver-Salmon variety.
Black-red chicks (Golden-Salmon), these e+ chicks have a very distinctive hatch down pattern.
Description of the Golden-salmon Marans
The Golden-Salmon cock’s plumage is very different to that of the hen.
Being similar to that of the Wheaten cock. Like the Wheaten it has gold/copper finery on a black plumage background, to which is added a cinnamon-fawn coloured wing triangle (a Duck wing), which should not be confused with the black wing triangle (a Crow wing) of the Brown-Red variety. The breast must be black with a duller black abdomen. The hackles and the lancets are copper coloured with variable tones (from orange to golden-coppery) and possibly bordered with black lacing.
The back and the small of the back are an auburn-red colour with dark velvet red shoulders. The wing triangle is fawn or cinnamon brown coloured, and made by the folded wing secondaries. The tails is black as are the primary flights, and the wingbows. The eyes are an orangey-red.
The hen:The hackle is light golden colour with black tips, with a salmon reddish-brown breast. This latter colour is close to the grey/brown tones around the underside of the belly, the tail and is close to a reddish tone on the thighs.
Note: This salmon coloured breast is a fundamental identification mark of this e+ Duckwing variety. It gives its name to the variety, and should not be confused with the patterned "Partridge" variety which is based on the eb Brown allele. This eb bird never has a salmon breast, and eb does not to exist in any present day Marans varieties. The wing flights as well as the tail feathers are also a blackish-brown with a little brown stippling. The eyes are orangery-red.
The genome of the Golden-Salmon cock is e+/e+ s+/s+ W/W Id/Id Pti-1/Pti-1 and the hen e+/e+ s+/- W/W Id/- Pti-1/Pti-1
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Hen: Lack of salmon coloured breast
Silver-Salmon hen, and close up showing salmon breast.
The Silver-Salmon colour must be in every respect the same as the Golden-Salmon, except for the difference in base colour. The golden or coppery parts are totally replaced by Silver (S) to give a nice silver-white colour on the hen head and hackles, and on the cock shoulders, back lancets and wing triangles. However, the hen breast is to remain a "salmon reddish-brown" as in the Golden-salmon variety. In the Silver-Salmon the head, hackle, & back are Silver. The characteristic, responsible for the presence of the salmon reddish-brown breast on the hens of the Silver-Salmon and Golden-salmon varieties, is not affected by the powerful action of the sex-linked Silver (S) gene which, when present changes all other gold/red feathers to a silver-white. This gene called Autosomal Red causes the salmon colour of the breast on e+ Duckwing hens, and the body colour on eWh Wheaten hens.
This variety that we know as the Silver-Salmon (Silver Duckwing) can be recreated from, currently existing Golden-salmon, by crossing with a Birchen (Silver-Black). This very useful last variety, even though it is still very rare, is becoming more and more fashionable.
The genome of the Silver-Salmon cock is e+/e+ S/S W/W Id/Id Pti-1/Pti-1 and the hen e+/e+ S/- W/W Id/- Pti-1/Pti-1
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Hen: Lack of salmon coloured breast
Blue and Splash variations of both these varieties are possible giving Blue Golden-Salmon (Blue Red), Blue Silver-Salmon (Blue Duckwing), Splash Golden-Salmon (Pyle) and Splash Silver-Salmon. All would need to retain the salmon breast.
Colours that may be based on more than one ‘e’ allele
Golden Cuckoo of both sexes
It's one of the rarer varieties of the Marans outside the UK and USA. As in the Silver-Cuckoo, the Golden-Cuckoo variety is affected by the slight shade differentiation between the cocks and the corresponding hens. The (B) gene, which expresses itself by its homozygous state in the cocks, gives the cock a plumage, which is lighter than that of the hens.
The lighter parts of the plumage are in this way accompanied with a barred orangey-grey colour which is due to the presence in the Golden-Cuckoo genotype of recessive sex linked gold gene, which is written (s+/s+) for the cock and (s+/-.) for the hen.
Some Golden-Cuckoo chicks appear quite regularly in Silver-Cuckoo Marans that are are impure i.e. the males are S/s+. It is possible to recreate a Golden-Cuckoo Marans variety by the introduction, into the genotype of a Silver-Cuckoo, the (s+) Golden gene, which is present in the Golden-Salmon, Black tailed Buff, Wheaten and the Brown-Red varieties*. Those crossings, if confined within the Marans breed, keep the extra reddish-brown egg qualities.
The process to produce Golden-Cuckoo is
Mate a ‘Golden *’ male to a Silver-Cuckoo hen, this will produce Black pullets (which are culled) and impure gold/silver barred males.
Take one of these males and mate him to ‘Golden *’ hens, this will produce unbarred golden pullets, silver barred and blacks (which should all be culled) and both barred golden cockerels and pullets. [if !mso]>
These barred golden cockerels and pullets when mated together will produce unbarred golden pullets, and dark coloured barred golden cockerels (again culled) and barred golden pullets and light coloured barred golden cockerels.
The latter are Golden-Cuckoo Marans and will breed true from now on.
This colour is known in many other breeds as Crele, and is traditionally based on e+, but as stated can be made on the other golden varieties as well.
Substitute Cuckoo Marans for barred Rocks, and Golden-Salmon, Brown-Red, Wheaten, or Black-tailed Red for Brown Leghorn, finally Golden Cuckoo for Legbars.
The Golden Cuckoo, like the Silver Cuckoo, is an auto-sexing breed that can be sexed from the hatch down.
The 6 pullets being darker than the lone male
Genome of the male being ER/ER or eWh/eWh or e+/e+ s+/s+ B/B Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 and that of the hen ER/ER or eWh/eWh or e+/e+ s+/- B/B Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1
Serious Defects To Be Avoided
Blue Golden Cuckoo (Blue Crele) and Splash Golden Cuckoo (a Cuckoo Pyle) are also possible but none are known or recognised
White Cockerel Pullet
The white Marans was very widespread in the sixties, during its "semi industrial" era. Then it was abandoned in 1966 in the favour of the commercial hybrids, and it progressively disappeared. Considering its quasi-extinction, we can speak of it as a resurrected variety in France …It's resurrection dates back to about 1990, the White is now the most fashionable variety in France.
Description of the White Marans
The plumage must be white on the whole body without any red, black or fawn feathers. The shanks must also be white or pinkish as for most of the Marans varieties.
However, in the white-coloured cocks, the hackle, the shoulders, and the lancets can be straw-coloured, a characteristic that has been tolerated in the Marans breed.
White plumage genetics in the Marans
The genetic characteristics responsible for white feathers are not genes that produce a white colour, but genes, which prevent the deposition of colour into the feather. The white plumage is due to genetic characters, which mask the existing underling plumage colours.
White is not to be confused with albinism, which are clearly different at the genetic factor level and produce an absence of all pigmentation including the eyes, which are pink.
The two main genes, which are responsible for the white plumage in chickens, are:
- the Dominant White which has the symbol (I)
- the Recessive White which has the symbol (c)
Dominant white (I)
As this characteristic is dominant, crossing a pure white bird (I/I) with a coloured bird gives birds with white plumage (I/i+). The initial colour (black, fawn, wheaten, cuckoo) will be masked or veiled. This gene has most effect on black, however is not completely effective on red, which can result in the Pyle pattern. By selection we can obtain Dominant White in a homozygous state, the main breed based on this gene are the White Leghorn, it is also found in some White Marans stocks. Dominant White is known as a leaky gene as it doesn’t fully suppress black and the odd feather may appear.
Recessive white (c)
Recessive White when crossed with a coloured bird produces C+/c chicks, which are coloured. For example a Recessive White hen crossed with a Black cock produces black (coloured) chicks in first generation. These coloured birds, even if they have no visible white feathering, carry the Recessive White allele, c, that they are able to pass on to their descendents by what is called the atavistic return of the white genes (c).
So the mating between two normally coloured birds that are carriers of the (c) allele in the impure state (heterozygote) will produce about 25% white birds. The genotype for these white coloured birds is (c/c), as (c) is present in the homozygous state. Breeds with recessive white are numerous: they include White Marans", Dorkings, and Wyandottes… Recessive White is also a leaky gene not fully suppressing the gold/red spectrum, so a yellowish sheen on the hackles, the back, the shoulders and the lancets of the cocks, may appear after the adult moult.
Note: the chick down may be either light yellow-coloured or greyish-white (or smoky white).
Recessive White chick Dominant White chick
The yellowish tints on the White Marans
The White Marans plumage is, thought to be due to the presence of the Recessive White genes. Consequently, it is possible to see some golden coloured tints on the hackles, body underside and the lancets appearing in the white cocks that are based on the gold s+ allele.
These tints seem to be intensified by the sun, UV exposure, but we must it understand the real reason of their presence is genetic, and due to the inadequately masking by the Recessive White allele. Silver based birds will give a cleaner White bird.
At this time, there is nothing to prove that Recessive White is the only genetic characteristic responsible for the white plumage in the Marans breed. The Dominant White, which in theory tends not to mask yellow tints, could very well exist in some White Marans stocks, considering the crossings carried out in the origin of the breed.
The best way of eliminating these yellow tints in the Marans would be by selecting birds that were homozygous for both Dominant White and Recessive White, and based on a Silver base colour. Pattern disrupter genes such as barring/cuckoo, diluter genes such as Splash Blue, and redistribution genes such as the Columbian Restrictors greatly assist in the coverage of colour. In other words, it would be White bird preferably with a Silver-Cuckoo, Columbian,Splash Blue or possibly a pure silver-black (Birchen) background.
Most White Marans seems to carry only Recessive White. The presence of yellow glints has been accepted and included in the official Standard, which is contradictory as a coloured feather is a disqualification.
The egg colour of the present White Marans seems not to as dark as that found in other varieties. Egg colour will improve in the years to come notably by cross breeding with other silver based varieties, such as Black, Silver-Cuckoo and Birchen Marans. Problems and selection of shank colour
On the left: white shanks
White Marans should have pinkish white shanks, but this is still a long way from being the case today. This is because the (id+) gene, which is responsible for the bluish shanks, which still appear from time to time in the White Marans. The shanks must be pinkish-white, not slate-grey, bluish or even lead-grey.
Other genes are also responsible for the deposition of pigment in the shanks, i.e. the melanisers including Melanotic (Ml), and the Extended Black gene E, the Birchen geneER permit, under the influence of (id+). This tends to explain the existence of a variable grey colour in the shanks ranging from light grey to almost black. It's one the reasons why the shank colour of the Black, Brown-Red (Copper-Black) and Birchen Marans are not pinkish white, unlike all the other varieties whose genes tend to inhibit this deposition of melanin. It's clear that the improvement in these White birds can only be made by the elimination of the bluish or grey shanked birds, and/or by the introduction of White Marans with pinkish white shanks (preferably a cock since it is going to pass on his genes to all his descendents). To overcome this problem in present White Marans, it would be advantageous to introduce the dominant Dermal Inhibitor (ID) whose action is to remove pigment from the shanks, and thus producing the required pinkish-white colour. Unfortunately the ID gene is sex-linked, homozygous in the male but only hemizygous in the hen, making pinkish white shanks difficult, if not impossible to obtain. Other genes are known to reduce pigment in the shanks include Recessive White c, Dominant White I, Wheaten eWh, and Cuckoo B. In time, a progressive elimination process can achieve the demise of the blue-grey shanks. In other words, it would be White bird with a Silver-Cuckoo, Columbian or pure silver-black (Birchen) background. This persistent fault in the White Marans should be able to be corrected without too many problems in the years to come since the correct white-shanked birds do exist.
However, it must be noted that crossings to improve the egg colour quality, using varieties such as Brown-Red or Black birds introduce the shank darkening genes E or ER and id+ that is naturally linked to them. A far better choice would be Silver Cuckoo or Birchen, or if not available Wheaten or Gold Cuckoo birds from dark egg producing hens.
The presence of white shanks in the chosen breeding stock, in at least one of the parent birds will prove to be all the more precious, as it will partially overcome the unwanted effects introduced by the use of the Black, Brown-Red or Birchen varieties when trying to improve the egg colour.
Selection of the White Marans
An examination of the good qualities and the faults of the best current white stock allows us to define three main lines of action for the improvement of the White Marans
- to improve the egg colour by an out of variety mating, preferably by the use of Wheaten birds,
- to sort out the serious and too much frequent anatomic flaw, such as the problem of split wings. This can only be achieved by test mating.
- to select, first and foremost, the white shanked birds in order to get to obtain 100% of birds with pinkish white shanks.
but not neglecting the selection for pure White birds
In respect to this, we must stress the fact that a White Marans pen, were all the breeding stock have blue or lead-grey feet, can’t produce white shanked birds.
Indeed, the Dermal Inhibitor (ID) characteristic which assists in producing white shanks, and is dominant, and can't miraculously be revived from breeding stock with grey feet, because they have the id+ gene, a recessive). So as far as possible use a white-shanked cock.
The effects of crossings with White Marans
To the Brown-Red, this will have no improvement on the colour of the White plumage. Indeed it may cause gold tints in the hackle & lancets of the male. Whilst this cross may improve egg colour, shank colour will certainly not be improved.
The Wheaten and Black-tailed Buff varieties, due to their red and buff pigmentation, may also harm the plumage purity of the White Marans by introducing unwanted gold hackle & lancets tints. The egg colour and shank colour may be improved.
The introduction of a Silver Cuckoo bird will improve the White plumage, but not shank colour. If lines of good dark egg colour birds are available it will also improve egg colour.
Today, it appears that there are a good number of birds with white shanks in the present White Marans lines.
Black will improve the White plumage, especially if Dominant White is present, but will not improve shank colour. Silver Cuckoo can have problems with egg colour quality and shank colour.
Anyway, such "in-variety” crossings, if they proved to be essential, must be followed up with a selection plan for a minimum of several years.
Genome of the White
The best White would be produce by the following,
for the cock E I/I c/c S/S B/B W/W Id/Id Pti-1/Pti1
and the hen E/E I/I c/c S/- B/- Bl/Bl W/W Id/- Pti-1/Pti-1
but White may be based on any ‘e’ allele, only Dominant or Recessive White may be present, cuckoo/barring may also not be present. The Dermal Inhibitor must be present in order to get white shanks in the cock, but even this will not give a white shank in the hen.
SERIOUS DEFECTS TO BE AVOIDED
Grey or Blue shanks
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