Heritage Breed?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by geareduplyn, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. geareduplyn

    geareduplyn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2008
    Salley SC
    I keep seeing Marans described as a Heritage Breed. How do they merit this description?
  2. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    They are an old breed, that has been around a long time. That's what a heritage breed is.
  3. geareduplyn

    geareduplyn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2008
    Salley SC
    Where have they been? Whos Heritage? I never heard of them until 4 or 5 years ago.
  4. Three Cedars Silkies

    Three Cedars Silkies Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 17, 2008
    Gainesville, Fl.
    The French...[​IMG]
  5. Black Feather

    Black Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2007
    Taken from the Feather Site website:

    "This breed, which originated in western France in the town of Marans, is best known for its dark chocolate colored eggs. It is a fast grower and does well in damp areas, having been developed in a marshy portion of France. The original French birds have feathered legs, but this characteristic has been bred out of the British and many American lines. The French recognize 8 varieties: 1. Silver Cuckoo, 2. Golden Cuckoo, 3. White, 4. Coppered Black, 5. Black, 6. Wheat, 7. Black-tailed Fawn, and 8. Ermine; they are considering adding the Silvered Black (created since 1932 and remarkable for the color and spherical form of its eggs). In the Cuckoo Marans, males are lighter in color than females--it is said to be possible to color sex them even as chicks with pretty good accuracy. I've never seen or heard about the other varieties. "

    The Marans

    Craig Russell
    RR 4 Box 251
    Middleburg, PA 17842

    with permission from
    SPPA Bulletin, 1997, 2(1):5-7

    While not an old breed (or perhaps breeds), the Marans do contain some very ancient blood lines and have had a persistent, if often small, American following. Marans are a first class utility fowl, but the American interest has been mostly centered on their eggs which, like those of the Welsummer, are an extremely dark brown. The breed takes its name from the French town of Marans, but most North American Marans are of English extraction. The importance of this is that the English version is clean legged, but in its native France the breed is raised with sparsely feathered legs. The breed was developed in the early 1900Õs as a dual purpose utility fowl and the de Malines and French Cuckoo or Rennes, an ancient clean legged Cuckoo breed from Brittany, figured heavily into its makeup. Langshans, Faverolles and Barred Plymouth Rocks were also used and even Braekel and Gatinaise and perhaps other blood lines may have been used in at least some strains.

    When Marans were imported to Britain around 1929, the related Nord or North Holland Blue was already well established. This breed and the Cuckoo variety of the Marans were almost indistinguishable. The British solved this problem by selecting clean legged sports. The Marans were a very recent development and, as might be expected with any "breed" with such a varied background, were still producing numerous variations from the standard type and by using more French Cuckoo and Barred Rock blood soon established a clean legged race.

    So, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is some question as to whether Marans constitute one or two breeds. While I had heard that there had been French or feather legged Marans in Canada at one time, I had never encountered any and was not sure that they still existed. However, last fall at Columbus I talked to a gentleman raising feather legged Marans. Therefore, the question has importance for American breeders, particularly Maran keepers. For my part, since there are no other differences, I believe they should be considered a single breed with feathered and clean legged varieties (much as some breeds have rose combed and single combed varieties). Let's hear your views.

    While not an old breed, Marans are certainly a rare breed in North America and one that has generated considerable interest. Therefore, I do think it behooves us to provide a standard to guide both judges and breeders.

    Interestingly, the British North Holland Blues also differ from those in their native land. As I mentioned, the Hollands and the Marans are related. The Malines is a primary ancestor of both and they both contain at least some Barred Rock blood. Like the Marans, Hollands were variable during the early period of their development. While the early imports to Britain had mostly feathered shanks and this version was standardized there, the Dutch themselves finally settled on the clean legged version probably at least, in part, to differentiate them from the French Marans.

    To say that this creates a confusing situation hardly covers it. At one time both British and Dutch North Holland Blues were present in North America. Years ago I saw some of the English type but I'm afraid both have probably disappeared. It's just possible that some were even merged with the Marans.

    There are four recognized varieties of Marans: Black, Dark Cuckoo, Golden Cuckoo, and Silver Cuckoo. North Holland Blues come only in Cuckoo. The Marans colors seem to have all sprung from the original crossings and were developed and stabilized by selection. Any barred or cuckoo breed produces black sports from time to time and the Langshan blood in early Marans had to make these common. The Golden Cuckoos resemble Creles to some extent (varying slightly in color and markings). The pattern is essentially a cuckoo barring imposed on a black breasted pattern. The Silver Cuckoos are simply the silver version. The Dark Cuckoos are the most common Maran and that is certainly true in North America, but while IÕve never seen any Silver Cuckoos there have been and probably still are some Golden Cuckoos and Blacks here.

    I might note that all Marans (even Blacks) have white legs. I understand Black breeders often maintain some dark legged breeders to maintain a dark under color.

    I should also point out Marans are recognized by the A.B.A. That organization calls the Dark Cuckoos simply Cuckoo, but I prefer the British terms because when compared with other Cuckoo Fowl such as Cuckoo Dorkings and Dominiques, Marans are darker with less distinct barring. This is especially true of the females.

    The following information comes from the A.B.A. and the British Poultry Standards. . . .2


    Plumage, Black Variety, Male and Female: Black with a beetle-green sheen.

    Plumage, Dark Cuckoo Variety, Male and Female: Cuckoo through-out, each feather barred across with bands of blue-black. A lighter shaded neck in both male and female, and also back in the male, is permissible if definitely barred. Cuckoo throughout is the ideal, as even as possible.

    Plumage, Golden Cuckoo Variety, Male: Hackles bluish-grey with golden and black bars; neck paler than saddle. Breast bluish-grey with black bars, pale golden shading on upper part. Thighs and fluff light bluish-grey with medium black barring. Back, shoulders and wing bows bluish-grey with rich bright golden and black bars. Wing bars bluish-grey with black bars: golden fringe permissible. Wings, primaries dark blue-grey, lightly barred; secondaries dark blue-grey, lightly barred, with slight golden fringe. Tail dark blue-grey barred with black; coverts blue-grey barred with black. General Cuckoo markings.

    Plumage, Golden Cuckoo Variety, Female: Hackle medium bluish-grey with golden and black bars. Breast dark bluish-grey with black bars, pale golden shading on upper parts. Remainder dark bluish-grey with black bars. Cuckoo markings.

    Plumage, Silver Cuckoo Variety, Male: Mainly with in neck and showing white on upper part of breast, also on top. Remainder barred throughout, with lighter ground colour than the Dark Cuckoo.

    Plumage, Silver Cuckoo Variety, Female: Mainly white in neck and showing white on upper part of breast. Remainder barred throughout, with lighter ground colour than the Dark Cuckoo.

    All Varieties: In both sexes: Beak, white or horn. Eyes, red or bright orange preferred. Comb, face, wattles and ear-lobes, red. Legs and feet white.

    Standard Weights: cock 8 lb; cockerel 7 lb. Hen 7 lb; pullet 6 lb.


    My personal feeling is this is not a heritage breed of North America, but this is just my opinion. I find people throw 'Heritage' around a lot these days as it's become quite the fad and a way to sell birds/eggs more easily or make birds more attractive/valuable to the consumer. Most large fowl breeds of chickens can be considered heritage if you are simply looking for an 'old' breed. This is just my opinion though, it's not right, it's not wrong, it's just what I think [​IMG]

    Urban Coyote
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2008
  6. geareduplyn

    geareduplyn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2008
    Salley SC
    I agree completely that Heritage, like Show Quality is a much misused term. That was the purpose of the original post. I wanted to know why they were considered Heritage. I guess that they would be Heritage in France.
  7. Black Feather

    Black Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 20, 2007
    I think for my own understanding of Heritage chickens I would tend to lean toward breeds that are true and unique to North American. I would not consider 'new' breeds as heritage simply because they are not old enough and were not a part of our heritage.

    I dug this off of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website:

    Parameters of Poultry Breeds on ALBC Conservation Priority List (2007)

    Poultry breeds on the ALBC Conservation Priority List generally conform to certain genetic and numerical parameters.

    1. The breed is from one of the four traditional U.S. poultry species (chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys).

    2. A bantam breed may be listed if there is no large fowl counterpart.

    3. The breed census satisfies numerical guidelines:

    • Critical: Fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States, with five or fewer primary breeding flocks (50 birds or more), and globally endangered.

    •Threatened: Fewer than 1,000 breeding birds in the United States, with seven orfewer primary breeding flocks, and globally endangered.

    •Watch: Fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the United States, with ten or fewer primary breeding flocks, and globally endangered. Also included are breeds with genetic or numerical concerns or limited geographic distribution.

    •Recovering: Breeds that were once listed in another category and have exceeded Watch category numbers but are still in need of monitoring.

    •Study: Breeds that are of interest but either lack definition or lack genetic or historical documentation.

    4. The breed is a true genetic breed (when mated together, it reproduces the breed type.)

    5. The breed has had an established and continuously breeding population in North America since 1925. Or, if imported or developed since 1925,
    •The foundation stock is no longer available.
    •Must meet numeric guidelines for inclusion.
    •Must have at least five breeders in different locations in the United States.
    •The global population is threatened and the United States population is making a contribution to conservation of the breed.
    Breeds not meeting all these criteria may be placed in the "Study" category and monitored.

    And yet more information from another website (http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/heritage/)

    "Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by farmers in the past, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture."

    "Heritage animals were bred over time to develop traits that made them particularly well-adapted to local environmental conditions. Breeds used in industrial agriculture are bred to produce lots of milk or eggs, gain weight quickly, or yield particular types of meat within confined facilities. Heritage breeds are generally better adapted to withstand disease and survive in harsh environmental conditions, and their bodies can be better suited to living on pasture."

    "There is no official definition or certification for “heritage” animals, but for a livestock breed to be truly heritage, it must have unique genetic traits and also be raised on a sustainable and/or organic farm. Heritage animals are well-suited to sustainable farms since they are able to survive without the temperature-controlled buildings and constant doses of antibiotics administered to the commercial breeds raised on factory farms."

    I think I've just confused myself more! [​IMG]

    Urban Coyote
  8. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    Heritage breeds are a large, worldwide group. The breeds that the American Livestock Breed Conservancy has chosen to focus on, are a subset of that group. It includes a lot of heritage breeds that were developed in other countries, but brought to the United States during a certain time period, as well as the breeds developed here.

    Some people like to focus on a heritage breed. Some people like to focus on a heritage breed from the ALBC list. Some people like to focus on a subset of the ALBC list, a breed that was actually developed in this country.
  9. walkswithdog

    walkswithdog Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 17, 2008
    DC Region
    And some breeds AREN'T on the list, in certain varieties despite being fairly rare - like a well bred Partridge Rock flock.

    Because production birds number in the thousands it doesn't hold that there are a great number of well bred heritage quality animals to represent the breed/group.

    There should be more good breeders of Delawares for instance. A well bred, heritage delaware is a gem and the more people who do take in Delawares to improve on the better.

    I'm taking this production group of PRs and working toward a heritage group. Combining them with show and heritage lines I find. Sorting out the unthrifty. Working toward a flock that is healthy without heat, on pasture, without tons of medication AND looks as it should, lays and produces as it should. When I'm done I hope to hand my daughter a well developed heritage flock.

    Along the way I hope to sell a number of excellent heritage birds to others interested in the breed.

    Sure people misuse the label. And I swear half of what has been written is confused or worse.

    Heritage means different things to different people. Here I hope it will reflect the goals of health, soundness, hardiness, reflecting the standard and serving the goals of a sustainable life, eggs and meat and more birds. Smart enough to survive on nine acres and avoid critters, smart enough to come in out of the rain. And unlike show flocks, breed, be very fertile, lay and brood.

    All of which means a lot of work, culling sorting and evaluating. Every chance I get I try to buy from someone already further along in breeding a heritage flock. We talk about how long they've been on pasture, how quickly they grow, how many eggs the hens lay and how many chicks are hatching when incubated or brooded. What kind of shelter they have, heated or not, how they do in heat and cold. If I like the answers, then I buy chicks.

    A heritage flock isn't to my mind a caged bird thing. It's dynamic healthy, self sustaining, group. If they're not capable out of doors, in the weather, on the land then they're not a true heritage flock.

    My turkeys are a heritage breed, bourbon reds, they have a large, very dry night pen. But it's not a coop. The rain can't get on them, they have multi-height perching available. But that's it. If they can't exist like the local wild bronze, they can't live here. And that's always going to be the criteria. Live on the land, live off the land and stay healthy. And each generation choosing the best.

    I love the people who have dedicated themselves to heritage breeds. From what ever country.
  10. klf73

    klf73 Mad Scientist

    Jun 1, 2008
    Hmm, I must have missed it but where are the marans described as a heritage breed? Of course me missing it isn't unusual [​IMG] . I am getting heritage Delaware eggs in the spring, my last breed ( [​IMG] )

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