as they grow
Many of my customers are new to black copper Marans, and as they grow and begin to feather out I start getting questions about different traits they exhibit. If you have bought from me in the past, you know that I really enjoy sharing what I have learned and spend a lot of time communicating with customers months after the purchase. A lot of the questions are the same, so I thought it would make a good topic to post here.
I mention on the home page that BCM are a heavily culled breed. If you are just keeping hens for the dark eggs then this doesn’t really matter, but if you are breeding forward for showbirds, or even just the knowledge that your birds are bred to the standard, then there will be many traits to look for, especially in the boys.
First, let me tell you why I’m so open about what I do, and what is good and bad about my birds. I bought my first flock of BCM from an ad on Craigslist. I didn’t research the breed, I just knew they laid dark eggs and I got excited and bought the first birds I found. I was so excited to watch them grow, and when they started laying they did lay pretty eggs. I proudly posted pictures of my birds on a chicken forum, and I’ll never forget the first response I got from an experienced breeder. “Buy an axe”...
That’s a hard thing to hear, and my initial reaction was to get defensive, but over the next year the same man that told me to buy the axe taught me a lot about breeding BCM. I scrapped the entire flock and started over with breeder quality birds from Julie Aikers. That entire experience cost me two years in breeding, so that’s why I’m so open with my customers now. I don’t want others to go through the same trial and error I did, so starting with breeder quality stock and learning the initial faults to watch for in your first flock can save years in the future.
My first breeder selections are on the cockerels, but there is so much involved in those selections that I will save it for another post. Today I will focus on some of the common faults in my girls, what is good about them, and traits they exhibit that need to be improved. Most questions I get are regarding the girls, anyway.
Last year I bred for larger size and darker color in my roosters. We wound up with some beautiful cockerels, but some of those pairings also created some hens that were over melanized (too dark). I don’t want my hens to have bold copper hackles like a sex link, so my breeder hens were already moderately colored. Some of the offspring still have that beautiful dark copper, but we are throwing some that are almost completely black. In my program those are culls. They still lay the dark eggs, but if those birds are bred forward they will continue drawing the color down. Those hens are, however, an excellent match for a rooster with hackles that are too light or roosters that are showing copper on their breast. Ideally the breasts of my roosters are completely black, and darker hens are a good way to achieve that in the offspring.
Another fault that we see less often is what is known as “mossy”. Mossy hens will show a brownish or coppery dusting on their black feathers, especially along the back and wings. Again, those are culls for me, but interestingly enough it seems that the mossy hens lay the darkest eggs.
A fault that we rarely see, but is sometimes present, is the showing of a random white feather in the wings. All of my chicks will have a couple of white feathers until the first molt, and 95% of them will drop the white feathers for black as adults, but there is that rare bird that will still display white feathers as adults. This is also a cull.
Don't let this discourage you from breeding, hens are more easily corrected than roosters, and proper mating choices can limit the occurrence of these faults, but no flock is perfect. Getting a show quality bird is much like a college football player making it to the NFL. There will be a lot that are good, but a much smaller number are ready for the pros.
Our birds give you a very solid foundation to start from, or exhibit good traits that another breeder could be looking for to bring into his or her flock. Our foot feathering is excellent on almost all of our birds. Not too much, not too little, and only on the outside toes of each foot. We don’t have any straw colored hackles, our best hens have dark copper hackles that are nicely blended with the black feathers. Our hens are heavy bodied birds that will bring size to the roosters, and are well suited for environments all over the country. Our eggs are not the darkest you will find, but they are dark, and the current generation of young birds is laying darker eggs than the hens they came from. The best thing about our birds is the disposition. We have wonderfully docile birds that are friendly and calm, not flighty at all. These birds are such a pleasure to be around that they are my favorite breed I’ve ever owned, I would keep them no matter what the egg color, but oh those eggs...
I know this was a long post, but if you made it this far then you are truly interested in breeding for a better bird. I will delve more into rooster selections in my next post