Marans come in an array of color varieties and known bloodlines, the quality of their shell color based on their breeding. To learn additional, detailed information, check out this link from the club Marans of America...
We have Marans in Blue and Black Silver. From all of the lines we have tried so far, this line has proven to meet our expectations in egg color, body type and temperament. Other lines were either too thin/lightly built, poor layers, slow growers or not having egg color anywhere close to "standard" #4. Let alone how closely they may have physically resembled the breed standard. You may find better, you may find worse... shop for them wisely!
The original Blue/Black/Splash we started with from Greenfire Farms.
This Splash girl was stacked, even if it's not my favorite color.
Our Splash rooster was a professional, he was diligent and a little curt in his manner. A gentleman to his girls but he did run a tight ship with minimal coddling. He was confident and efficient, respectful to the people who tended his coop. He got us going in 2016.
For the creation of the 3rd generation, we retained only the best of the Blue Silver offspring from the original group. They've proven to have the better shell color and their type is pretty stout. They've matured into lovely birds!
Mid season color in natural daylight
Their shell color does change with the seasons, starting off much darker in the beginning of a laying cycle versus towards the end of it. I like to show our mid season eggs, since that is what you're going to be getting more often than not. We occasionally get a neat egg with heavy speckles. We don't hatch for that but it's nice to see in the basket on occasion. We appreciate consistency that pure bred poultry offers but we also enjoy a splash of variety in the mix.
Note the width on this male. The distance between his legs. For dual purpose, that's an important trait to see. How will he fill it in? What colors will his feathers turn? What will his temperament be like? Those are the questions his further growth will decide.
There is no such thing as too many roosters when you make the switch to being dual purpose. In choosing to breed forward and focus on improving your flock, you'll need to grow out a number of males to make your selections from, for the next generation. Our boys grow in a bachelor group with free range pasture, where they show their growth and temperament. An older male rules the roost, keeping the younger groups in line. In this environment, the good ones become great by learning good rooster behavior. The rooster and hens I keep in a nearby pen were selected for the strong visual the breeding rooster offers... the young males can watch his interactions with the hens and they do seem to learn by observing.
In the line of Marans we've kept going with, the hens have proven themselves to be consistent layers that pass that along to their daughters. No instances of laying complications, no prolapse or chronic meat spots in the eggs. They lean towards having a good depth/width of body. We're working out some light "sootiness" that comes in over the blue feathers. Ideally we want to see a nice crispy blue to the feathers. For the most part, they're getting correct combs but a couple received combs that were a little large or leaning over a little bit.
There is a saying to "Breed from the head back" in terms of which traits to focus on from one generation to the next. Since we're dual purpose, I started with the body type and went from there. Since we NEED the eggs, I focused on good egg color and how well they laid, in conjunction with how they were built. The hue to the feathers can be improved later on, right now it's about how well they "Chicken" and this line "chickens" very well.
The progression of the flock is the most important thing to see. I put a lot of importance on the male because his male offspring is the most "extra" bird I will see and use. Fullness, fleshing, temperament, physique, feathering... a lot of consideration is given to the male and what he throws. The series of 4 cockerels shows the "flock progression" over a 5 year period. The first Splash bird to the last, and better, Black Silver bird. In looking over what you have made, you can better see what you have built. When making breeding decisions, what are you building for?