Below are photos and more info for each variety & my experimentals.
BLACK COPPER (BCM)
I have several bloodlines I've mixed together. I cull the males heavily and keep only the top quality individuals. Out of 50 or so males I raised in spring of 2014, I kept only three!
I get eggs up to #9 on the Marans egg color scale, but not all lay quite so dark. Most of my copper hens lay from #7 to #9 at the beginning of their cycle.
I have several Wheaten bloodlines. Some have darker eggs than others, but I have kept males from the darkest lines.
I also have several blue Wheaten hens, but I do not have a blue Wheaten rooster. Therefore I have the blue hens scattered throughout the regular Wheaten matings. A couple of my pens are regular Wheaten only, and the rest have a regular rooster with both regular hens and one or more blue hens.
I'm not going to try to keep the eggs separate this year, so my Wheaten eggs will hatch both regular and blue Wheaten chicks.
BLACK TAILED BUFFS (BTB)
The BTB's I first started with did not lay dark eggs, but I have obtained some new bloodlines.
The egg color varies a lot. I'm getting some darker eggs and some lighter eggs. Mostly I'm getting about #4 to #6. Obviously these still need some work.
I do have one bloodline that lays pretty dark eggs, and ALL my BTB roosters are from that one bloodline ONLY (I culled out all the roosters from the other lines). Therefore my next generation should average darker eggs than this one.
BLUE TAILED BUFF PROJECT (BLTB)
Since I started with only one rooster and no hens in this variety, I needed to plan matings to prevent severe inbreeding and get some genetic diversity. So here's what I've done:
I have the original rooster with Black Tailed Buff hens and two Wheaten hens (yes, you can cross BTB and Wheaten, the result will be both types of chicks).
I have that rooster's Blue Tail Buff daughters with Black Tailed Buff roosters from my darkest BTB egg line.
The above matings will produce both Black Tailed Buff and Blue Tailed Buff chicks. A few regular and blue Wheatens will also very likely pop up in the hatches.
In the next generation, I'll place some Blue Tailed Buff offspring with Black Tailed Buff birds (from my darkest egg line), and some Blue Tailed Buff pullets back with the original male.
The eggs are not super dark, but due to carefully selected matings, I expect they will get darker with each generation.
I should be able to have these well established in 2 or 3 generations.
BLACK SPLIT FOR WHITE (BSW)
Solid black Marans (no copper or birchen markings), are very, very rare, and I'm lucky to have these. I bought eggs from April Howington but I got pullets only. These are split for white, so I have them with a white rooster that I also got from April. I am very pleased with the darkness of the eggs I'm getting from these hens.
Of the chicks that hatch from this mating, about half will be black and half will be white. All the black ones will be split for white.
Because the eggs from this pen are so dark, I'm going to keep my white males for next year's white X white matings from this group.
I plan to get more blacks this spring that are not split for white so I can get a good flock of the black ones going.
These are among my favorites- so snowy and beautiful!
I have several bloodlines. Some lay darker eggs and some lay lighter eggs.
For the next generation, I will keep males hatched only from the very darkest eggs. More specifically, I'll keep white males from the black-white splits.
CUCKOO AND BLUE EXPERIMENTAL PEN (CKB)
Since I'm a bit short on both Cuckoos and Blues, and I want to work on increasing both, I set up a pen with the following:
A cuckoo rooster with one barring gene
A splash Copper hen.
Two blue Copper hens.
What I'm expecting to get from this pen is black and blue coppers, Gold Cuckoo, Blue Gold Cuckoos, and *possibly* regular cuckoos as well as blacks and blues that (hopefully) don't have copper markings.
The hens are not laying very dark eggs, but the rooster is from a very dark egg bloodline. The pullets that hatch from these eggs should lay darker eggs than their mothers. And of course I'll cross dark egg bloodlines into the offspring to improve the egg color further.
Ermines are one of the rarest of all Marans varieties.
The ermine pattern is often mistaken for columbian, but it's a little different. The quickest way to tell the two apart is to pull the feathers back and examine the undercolor of the bird. Columbian has a grayish undercolor, whereas ermine is pure white all the way to the skin.
Since my gene pool is very small, I'm crossing them with my darkest egg line of Black Tailed Buffs. The reason I'm using BTB's is because the color genes are almost identical, except the Ermines lack the gold gene that the BTBs have.
The biggest problem in crossing these two varieties, is that the Ermines inherit the mahogany gene that BTBs carry, which results in "leakage" in the Ermines. It will take some work to get rid of that gene, but in a few generations, I should have a fine line of Ermine Marans.
BUFF AND BLUE EXPERIMENTAL PEN (BBX)
This is just a "play around" pen. I put two off-color blue copper hens with an off-color BTB rooster (he's from a dark egg line).
I have no idea if this will produce any useful offspring other than some pretty hens that lay pretty eggs. I may or may not get anything out of these that are worth breeding another generation.
OTHER BREEDS / VARIETIES
I have more than just Marans!
My Olive Egger eggs are produced two different ways this year.
First, I have easter egger hens with Marans roosters. The eggs from these are be ordinary easter egger green, but any pullets that hatch from these eggs will lay varying shades of olive green eggs.
Second, I have first generation olive egger hens with a very dark egg line Black Copper Marans roo. This is a super good rooster who was going to be used in my Black Copper pens, until his last molt, when he sprouted some white feathers. That left him useless for Marans breeding, but perfect for olive egger breeding.
Since the F1 hens are already half Marans, they will only carry one blue egg gene. This means half of their offspring will lay olive eggs. However, because their offspring will be fathered by this particular Marans rooster, they will get an extra dose of chocolate egg genes, and their olive eggs will be much darker than the first generation cross. Also, the half of the pullets who lack the blue egg gene will lay very dark brown eggs.
In short, half the pullets produced from this F1 pen will lay dark olive eggs, and half will lay very dark brown eggs.
I have a beautiful variety of class A, B, and C Seramas. I don’t use C males for breeding unless they’re outstanding in some way.
I have plain feather, booted, silkied, and frizzled Sermas in a rainbow of colors.
More to come - stay tuned