Bev's Breeding Philosophy and Practices
Bev's work with Marans has centered around breeding the best quality poultry possible. Because lines historically have been limited in the United States, there has been limited genetic material to work with in developing the breed and its various plumage colors.
Bev's ultimate goal is to breed each variety to the French Marans standard. But for the time being, some varieties lack features of the French standard, such as feathered shanks. Bev's philosophy in selecting her breeding pairs is just this. She regards the laying ability of each pullet over time, and breeds those who can produce good quality pigment OVER TIME, NOT JUST ONCE OR TWICE. This is an expensive way to breed, because she must raise hundreds of chicks each season to laying age, and choose only those that lay well OVER TIME. Only then does she select her breeding pairs for the next generation.
Bev's interest is in developing the breed and its color varieties in the United States, and making good quality stock available to anyone who truly wants to work with the breed in a conscientious manner. She believes in working cooperatively with other breeders, rather than competitively. Good breeding programs must have fresh genetics over time so that lines do not become inbred; the way to do this is with cooperative agreements with other breeders. She provides support and information generously.
One area Bev does not compromise is egg color. She will not sell a variety until it has developed the ability to produce a #4 colored egg, the hallmark color to define the egg as from a TRUE Marans.
Egg color varies across individuals, across the age of the laying bird, and even across an individual season for a given laying bird. But unless a variety is capable of producing #4 eggs (or above) at some point of their laying cycle, Bev will not consider them true Marans. Use care when purchasing "Marans" from sources. No matter how beautiful the color of bird, if the flock is not producing #4 or better eggs at some point of the laying cycle, the birds technically DO NOT QUALIFY AS MARANS, PERIOD. (According to the French Marans standard) A "new variety" of Marans is NOT Marans until the flock produces the hallmark #4 eggs. When you look to add Marans to your flock(s), insist that you add quality, which means that you add TRUE Marans. Anybody can claim their birds are "Marans" but "the egg color needs work." If the flock cannot produce #4 eggs at some time, they simply are not Marans, regardless of the breeding. This is how the French begin by defining the breed. They MUST produce a minimal egg pigment. So look carefully when you go to invest in your new flock members. Never buy "Marans" without verification that the flock can produce #4 eggs. This does not mean that every egg produced will be #4, but rather that the flock has DEMONSTRATED that they can produce #4 eggs.
If you think of chromosomes as parking lots, for sets of blueprints, then each chromosome has a number of distinct "parking spots" where a particular set of blueprints is assigned to park. A parking spot is known as a "locus" (location) on a chromosome, and the set of blueprints is called a "gene." Mostly, animals and people have chromosomes that come in pairs, so they get TWO of any gene (i.e., two identically shaped parking lots). The one exception to this is the sex chromosome pair, where in that pair of chromosomes, the two chromosomes have different shaped parking lots, and one of the parking lots has more spaces than the other. Now, there are different gene versions that can park in a given spot. Suppose you had a parking lot where in spot #32 Ford Mustangs were allowed to park. It could be a red Mustang or a blue one, but Ford Tauruses or Chevy trucks could not park there. Ford Mustangs are all the same MODEL, but come in different VERSIONS, just like genes. But a Ford Taurus, or Chevy truck is a DIFFERENT MODEL, altogether. When a gene comes in different versions, we call the versions "alleles." So, a gene may have several different alleles, but it is different from a separate gene. For example, the gene for eye color is a different GENE than the gene for earlobe shape. But the allele of blue eye color is the SAME GENE as the allele for brown eye color, but a different VERSION of that SAME GENE.
The "E" locus in poultry controls the "base color" of the bird (i.e., it is the parking spot assigned for the blueprints for basic overall feather color). For example, the most dominant version (allele) of an E-locus gene is called "E," (which, coincidentally is the same overall name as the parking spot, so the parking spot is called "E" and then the most dominant color allele of the gene that parks there is also called "E" - a lot of times they name the parking spot after the most "famous" allele that may park there) which is solid black base color, doesn't allow any color to "bleed" through. Then the next most dominant E-locus allele is called "ER," which gives rise to a mostly black bird with parts that are not black such as head and hackles, saddles and parts of the flight feathers and breast lacing on males, and head and hackles on females. There are several more alleles that belong to the "E" locus, as well. (Wheaten, white, etc.)
WHAT color shows on these parts is defined by a different gene, a secondary color gene (i.e., not the E-locus gene, but rather "S" locus gene, a different parking spot). So, in the case of a copper black bird versus a birchen bird, they are both ER allele at the E-locus (so display the same PATTERN of color distribution and basic overall color of black) but have different secondary color genes. In the case of the copper black, the color allele at the S location is gold ("s+" is the notation for the gold allele in poultry at that location, and "S" is the notation for silver - they are alleles that occupy the same "parking place" on the chromosome). Thus, a copper black bird is ER with s+s+(gold, in this case a coppery red version of gold), whereas a birchen is ER with SS(silver, which ideally is white).
Blue color is the result of a third gene. It is a modifying gene for black pigment, and is located at a parking spot called "Bl." The choices (alleles) that can go into this parking spot are basically black pigment (bl+ = black pigment allele) or a bleaching allele (Bl = blue allele, which really is the black pigment allele with a modifier that bleaches the black pigment). If you think of the blue allele (Bl) as a bleaching version, then you can visualize how if a bird gets one dose of blue allele (Bl,bl+), it turns out blue in color, and if a bird gets two doses of blue allele (Bl,Bl), it gets double-bleached all the way to splash. And the blue allele acts wherever there is black in the bird, so wherever the bird WOULD HAVE BEEN BLACK, it is now bleached either to blue, or all the way to splash, depending if it gets (one blue allele and one black pigment allele), or (two blue alleles).
If you imagine that each parent has two cards in a deck of cards for a given gene, and can give only one card to an offspring, but it can be either card, then if mom has cards A and B in her deck and dad has cards C and D in his deck, then their children each get two cards, one from mom, and one from dad, for a given gene. So this mom and dad could have kids with AC or AD or BC or BD. (Where items in pink are what the kids get from mom, and items in orange are what kids get from dad, gene-wise)
Take a second example. If mom had A and B and dad had A and B, then their kids could have AA, AB, BA, or BB. AB is the same as BA - it doesn't matter which gene came from mom and which from dad, if you get dealt an ace of spades from mom and a jack of hearts from dad, or if you get dealt a jack of hearts from mom and an ace of spades from dad, you still end up with the same cards.
If you have a blue bird, then the genes are (bl+,Bl) in that bird, because it takes one black and one blue allele to get a blue bird. It takes two black alleles (bl+,bl+) to make the bird black. It takes two blue alleles (Bl,Bl) to make the bird splash. So:
bl+,bl+ = black bird
bl+,Bl = blue bird
Bl, Bl = splash bird
So if you had a blue mother (bl+,Bl) and blue father (bl+,Bl), then the kids could be: (bl+, bl+), (bl+,Bl), (Bl, bl+), or (Bl, Bl). Since (bl+, Bl) and (Bl, bl+) are the same thing, then you would theoretically get from four kids one (bl+,bl+)=black kid, two (bl+,Bl)= blue kids, and one (Bl,Bl)= splash kid. So, 1/4 of the kids would be splash, 2/4 (or 1/2) of the kids would be blue, and 1/4 of the kids would be black.
So, breeding a blue bird to a blue bird, regardless of OTHER color types (gold, lacing, etc.), you will get 1/4 black, 1/2 blue, and 1/4 splash theoretically, wherever that bird WOULD HAVE BEEN BLACK, otherwise. So, breeding a copper blue rooster to a copper blue hen would theoretically result in 1/4 copper BLACKS, 1/2 copper BLUES, and 1/4 SPLASH coppers.
Breeding a solid blue bird to a solid blue bird likewise would theoretically result in 1/4 solid blacks, 1/2 solid blues, and 1/4 solid splashes. Keep in mind that these ratios apply to large numbers of samples. It is entirely possible that you could hatch 12 offspring from a blue x blue mating, and get different ratios, because it is a statistically small sample.
If you breed a black (bl+, bl+) bird to a blue (bl+,Bl) bird, you theoretically get: (bl+,bl+), (bl+,Bl), (bl+, bl+), and (bl+,Bl). Since (bl+,Bl) is the same hand dealt as (bl+,Bl), and since (bl+,bl+) is the same hand dealt as (bl+, bl+), then you would get two black kids and two blue kids for every four kids, in theory.
If you breed a black (bl+, bl+) to a splash (Bl,Bl), then you would get (bl+,Bl), (bl+, Bl), (bl+,Bl) and (bl+,Bl) kids. Since (bl+,Bl) is the same as (bl+,Bl), and the same as (bl+, Bl) and same as (bl+,Bl), then you would get four blue kids.
If you breed a black (bl+, bl+) bird to a black (bl+, bl+), you get all blacks.
If you breed a splash (Bl, Bl) bird to a splash (Bl, Bl) bird, you get all splashes.
If you are red/green colorblind, then you are insane by now, trying to read this. :)