Littlepeddler's Marans

Official site of the Littlepeddler's French Black Copper Marans. 
                                           Includes LP Farms   

These are the things you need to know!

I favor progeny testing over genetics for improving egg color. I know that the rooster carries egg color genes, but the
study on egg color done but R.C. Punnet isolated more than a dozen different genes for brown eggs and concluded
that for really dark eggs that you required one of the major brown egg genes and as many of the minor egg colors as
possible (the minor colors stack-up, the major colors are an either or).
Color genetics are the easiest to learn and the easiest to select for in breeding. I also read one of R.G. Punnets
papers on the inheritance of weight where he crossed Bantams with Large fowl, but when you get to size and type
the genetics aren't going to help you much. Those areas of the bird are typically improved through culling because
they are polygenetic and cannot be identified or controlled by a single factor.
Some of my tips that I have collected over the years are:
1) a high tail on a cockerel can see improvements in his sons if the hens has a low tail.
2) if you want larger hens breeding a your largest cockerel to average sized hens won't work and will produce
average sized hens, but breeding your largest hen will make for larger hens (even if not breed to your largest
3) In a pairing it is more important that the cockerel's color be perfect than for the hen's color to be perfect
4) in a pairing it is more important for a hen's type to be perfect than for a cockerel's type to be perfect
5) combs tend to be passed from the hen in a pairing
6) A short shanked hen and a long shanked cockerel produce correct proportions while two short shanked birds will
have offspring that are dumpy and two long shanked birds will have offspring that are too lanky and upright (even if
the parent are with in what is acceptable just on the bottom or top of the spectrum)
7) White under coats on the BCM can be carried by the hen, but only show up in the cockerel
8) Dark Egg color can be restored successful in a line that has lost it with use of either a cockerel or a hen (both
carry all the genes).
Well that is a start for discussion. The best thing really to do is to pedigree your flock and keep good notes. Your
Marans may be built on a different portion of the available gene pool than someone else's flock and what they find in
their flock may not hold true for your flock.
Curtis Hale
You need to know how a punnett square works.
Know the difference between a Wheaten Marans and a Black Copper Marans male birds
Perfect Color for a Black Copper Marans male

Text by: Hans L. Schippers - Amstelveen - Holland
Photography: A. Francesch and H.L. Schippers


Because renewed interest in (dark) brown eggs there is a revival of
interest for poultry breeds producing such eggs. For example: breeds as the
original French breed the Marans, the Spanish breed Penedesenca and last
but bot least the fine Dutch Barnevelder Fowl. The interest is also there
because the appeal of the utility poultry breeders to fill in the 'niche
markets'. For that reasons in England the Speckledy, (a sex links hybrid of
Rhode Island Red and Marans) some years ago were developed. Recent research
learned that still the utility Barnevelder is the breed with the best brown
egg-production of approx. 180 – 210 eggs, per hen per year. The Marans and
special the Penedesenca have the darkest brown eggshell colour but their
eggs are in general somewhat smaller than the Barnevelders' egg. The here
fore mentioned qualities are breed-characteristics (!) and because the
renewed interest for it, it's very important to improve this quality.
Sometimes these characteristics are neglected. On the other hand, egg
quality and form are also very important for the brown egg layers! The
increasing demand for dark brown eggs is the main reason for this article.

About the egg

The eggs of each poultry breed will not only exhibit external
characteristics but can also be recognised by other traits. Most
Mediterranean breeds e.g. the Leghorns will produce large white eggs while
almost all Asiatic heavy breeds lay brown eggs of varying shades. This is
thought to have some relation to the amount of fat that laying hens carry.
For example, the Barnevelder is renowned for its many, large, dark brown
eggs and the following information is thought necessary to enable the
reader to understand its background and utility aims.

It is very important to breed from brown egg layers with a pedigree
achievement of a minimum of 200 dark brown eggs which weigh between 55 - 65
grams per bird per annum as this is also part of its breed characteristics.
The eggshell must be strong and well shaped, the colour as dark as
possible. Those who breed for exhibition should also select birds for these
basic utility requirements. Few people wish to purchase Barnevelders,
Marans or Penedesenca without their renowned egg laying capacity. At
present time, too many of these birds are bred for exhibition purposes
only, and the egg production side is ignored and therefore can be very
poor. Egg production is improved by good selection, more importantly by
using as a stock cockerel a bird, which has been bred from a high producing
hen (dam). By continuously breeding in this manner, production will improve
with each generation. When selecting eggs for hatching only the darkest
should be included. It is therefore important to understand where the dark
pigmentation originates.
Egg Colour

Egg colour is hereditary upon which the selected cockerel has the greatest
influence. Cockerels bred from hens, which already produce dark shelled
eggs, will pass on this gene to their progeny, and in this way the shell
colour is improved and maintained. An example: the hybrid crossing of the
Rhode Island Red with the Barnevelder improves the production of dark brown
eggs better than would be expected from the Rhode on its own. If however
the Barnevelder is crossed with white eggs laying strain such as a Leghorn,
then the eggs looses much of her colour and is more or less tinted. Not
brown or white.

As well as the conformation of the bird, accurate markings and colour, the
eggs must also be dark drown – the browner the better. The pigmentation to
produce this colour comes from certain elements in the blood. This
pigmentation is put on the shell by glands in the oviduct at the same time
the shell is formed. Only a limited number of colours can be produced in
the oviduct namely:

Oöcyaan, this produced from the waste product of the bile and bilirubin,
dark green in colour resulting in blue to blue green eggshells laid only by
one or two poultry breeds.

Oörhodein or porphyrin, made from blood by products, is very important for
the dark brown shell of the Barnevelder, Marans and Penedesenca and other
breeds laying dark brown and brown-shelled eggs.

Bilihumin and Biliprasin are very dark pigmentations, which are sometimes
responsible for darker spots or freckles on brown-shelled eggs.

Further Oöchlorin and Oöxantin are less important and mostly found for
yellow or red tinted eggs.

A mix of these pigments is responsible for the characteristic egg colour
for each breed. Many of the Asiatic poultry breeds produce brownish shelled
eggs while most of the Mediterranean breeds lay white shelled eggs.

Egg Form

Immediately after the shell is formed, osmosis takes place drawing the thin
albumen in the egg, after which some extra pigmentation is added. It is
thought that the longer the shell remains in the uterus the more
pigmentation is added. It's a known fact that the smaller, oblong eggs pass
through the reproductive system faster than the larger rounded eggs. This
is thought to be the reason why the large rounded egg of the Barnevelder,
slower to pass through the oviduct, is darker brown.

To calculate the ideal shape of the Barnevelder egg you divide the width by
the length times 100. The resultant measurement is called the form index.
The ideal 'form index' for a 58 gram egg is 5.7cm long by 4.2cm wide.

As the length of the form index is reduced so the egg becomes longer and
conversely when it increases the egg becomes more rounded. The ideal form
index for the Barnevelder is about 74, and at this figure the shell colour
will be at its genetic best! Eggs of this size are generally thought to
have stronger shells and are easier to pack. However, it is acknowledged
that the better the production, the lighter the shell colour becomes over
the period of lay.

Egg Shell

The eggshell is produced from Calcium Phosphate. The majority of which is
pure Calcium with the remainder made up of Phosphorus. Magnesium and
Manganese along with a little albumen to act as glue in the formation of
the shell. Where the latter is spread irregularly over the shell, it may
cause a great number of little, lighter and darker spots to arise. These
are the so-called 'marbled eggs', which are generally thin shelled. The
metabolism of such an egg declines and quickly becomes stale, it also
becomes more quickly dehydrated and, because of this, very rarely hatches.
During prolonged hot periods hens generally eat less and unless this is
offset by providing extra vitamins in their drinking water, the eggshell
becomes thinner. This is also thought to be the reason why thicker shelled
eggs are produced in January and February, as against those produced in
July and August. Here also the duration of an egg's life before incubation
takes place is very important; i.e. eggs stored over a shorter period of
time will tend to hatch better. The eggshell of an egg is not equally
thick. It tends to be thickest at the pointed end; the sides' thinner and
the rounded end somewhere between. To be strong enough for handling and
normal transportation the shell thickness should be at least 33/100mm. A
hen's eggshell will vary little during its period of lay. An average shell
weighs approximately 6½ grams, a total of 1300 grams per 200 eggs produced,
more than 40% of the bird's bodyweight. This amount a hen is unable to
produce without added help provided by feeding the correct balance of
Calcium and Phosphorus in her layer's diet. If further Calcium is required
than it must be balanced with extra Phosphorus to have the desired effect.
Any increase will take about four months before an improvement is noticed.
Vitamin D is also required to improve the shell and, it can be argued,
shell colour. This vitamin can be absorbed by the hen naturally via
sunlight. Those who live in countries with very short day lengths or/and
little sun can provide this in the natural form of Cod Liver Oil.

The eggshell contains thousands of small holes called pores. An average
shell contains approximately 7.500 pores. Most are at the large rounded end
(which covers the air cell). They play a very important role in the
metabolism of the eggs such as exchange of gases and moisture during
incubation and hatching.

Just before the egg is laid, and immediately after the pigmentation has
been added, a final membrane is formed on the outer shell called the
cuticle more commonly referred to as the 'bloom'. There is a danger that
some will be removed when the washing of dirty eggs is carried out. It is
even more important not to use any abrasive material to remove dirt. The
membrane is identified by the clear lustre of the egg. Egg freshness can be
determined by the size of the air cell at the rounded end.
In general the smaller the air cell the fresher the egg. This is true with
the exception of eggs produced in hot humid conditions, causing the air
cell to be even smaller and remain so when kept in such conditions. A
larger air cell is produced in a colder climate although the egg is still
fresh. During incubation, the air cell becomes steadily larger.

At the end

>From time to time new, dark brown egg layers are presented as utility
breeders. To keep the dark brown colour pay attention to this story and you
can improve or even create you your future brown egg layers. And still the
brown eggs in Europe bring a little more profit!

© June 2000 - Hans L. Schippers -Amstelveen – Holland  
Breed type and tail angle
Chicken crop heath
Know your egg chart color. 
Marans Standards 
The European Standards
pdf file.
Copy-write Littlepeddler's Marans 2015