Saturday, December 19, 2009

Three French Hens

The three old French breeds, Houdan, LaFleche and Crevecoeur, were the subject in 2008. This year, the newer breeds, Faverolles and Marans, are the gift of the day. In contrast to the elaborate crests and combs of the old breeds, Faverolles and Marans have single combs. These are Blue Copper Marans from Whitmore Farms,

The Marans, taking its name from the French city of Marans, was developed around the turn of the 20th century. Although that puts it later than the 18th century origin of the carol, it was created from several ancient breeds, including the de Malines and French Cuckoo or Rennes, an ancient clean legged Cuckoo breed from Brittany. Cuckoo refers to the color pattern of black and white barred feathers.

Marans are not yet recognized by the American Poultry Association, but their dedicated breeders are working to achieve that status. A qualifying meet, a significant event on the road to recognition, was held in September 2009. Although official recognition was not granted, the APA encouraged the breeders to hold another in 2010, with the expectation that the birds shown at that time will succeed in convincing the judges that the breed merits recognition. Birds must show sufficient resemblance to each other to establish the breed type. Black Copper Marans such as shown in these photos from the Marans Chicken Club USA,, are the variety under consideration.

The French standard recognizes eight varieties: Silver Cuckoo; Golden Cuckoo; White; Coppered Black; Black; Wheat; Black-tailed Fawn, and Ermine.

The English strain of Marans has clean legs. The French has feathered legs.

One of the exciting aspects of Marans chickens is that they lay dark chocolate brown eggs. This color chart comes from the Marans Club of France. They would certainly make a delightful Christmas gift, a reminder year round of the bounty of hens.

Faverolles were developed in the mid-19th century Houdans and Dorkings with Asiatic breeds such as the Brahmin and Cochin and the local fowl of the Auvergne region around Faverolles, France. The breed was recognized by the APA in 1914. [For reasons that I have not been able to determine, the ‘s’ is dropped from the Faverolle name, but retained on Marans. Go figure.]

The breeders who developed them wanted a good dual purpose chicken, a large meaty bird good for the table and laying well through the winter. Males weigh in at 8 lbs., females at 6 ½. Their eggs are tinted.

Today, they are kept mainly as show birds, with the attraction of the Salmon color pattern. Faverolles are the only breed with this color pattern. The males and females are very different, the males brightly colored with contrasting colored plumage of black, reddish brown and straw, and the very different and more subdued wheaten female. White Faverolles are also recognized. Breeders continue to work with Black and Buff color varieties. Both males and females have large beards and muffs. This illustration is from Dr. J. Batty’s 1983 reproduction of Lewis Wright’s Poultry. The group illustration is from Harrison Weir’s Our Poultry, c. 1912, and bears his signature.

Faverolles continue to be good layers of delicately tinted eggs and retain their broody and mothering qualitites.

Welcome gifts for the Third Day of Christmas!


Terry said...

I think that the blue copper Marans are just about the most beautiful hen out there. I've been trying to find one. I'll pester the breeders at the Poultry Congress until they sell me one :)

PoultryBookstore said...

Contact Whitmore Farms now and get on the list for 2010!