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The flexible Marans

CHRIS GRAHAM tells us why this utility bird from France offers something for everyone

Dark cuckoo Marans female with good type. The ‘lump’ in her back is just ruffled feathersTHE Marans, as we know it, is a comparatively new breed. It arrived here from its native France during the late 1920s, when 60 hatching eggs were imported by Mr J.S. Parkin, manager at Stanbridge Earl Poultry Farm in Kent (then owned by Lord Greenaway).

Straightforward utility breeds were all the rage between the wars, and the Marans joined a group of useful, practical breeds that included the Barnevelder and Welsummer, which arrived in the UK from continental Europe. Mr Parkin’s eggs hatched to produce a range of colours.

In France at that time, the Marans was very much a regional farmyard fowl. It had been developed in an area about halfway down the west coast, and took its name from a town just north-east of the port of La Rochelle. Enjoying a reputation as a hardy, no-nonsense breed, the Marans got on with its typically active life, producing plenty of eggs and being good for the table. Read more...

Striking yet sturdy

CHRIS GRAHAM waxes lyrical about the Andalusian – a really attractive breed that’s inexplicably gone out of fashion

With its ‘reachy’, Gamelike type and very attractive plumage colouring, the Andalusian will grace any garden. This male has a reasonable head, but is lacking lacing definition and black sickles. Well-marked examples are few and far between these daysONE of the biggest mysteries connected with the rare Andalusian is why it continues to remain so rare! For a breed that has so much going for it, it’s strange that it is kept by so few fanciers – even at the UK’s premier poultry shows, you’ll be lucky to see more than a handful of these striking birds on display.

So what’s the problem? Does the name sound too foreign? Are people put off by an image of unmanageable Mediterranean temperament? Or perhaps it’s simply that the breed has fallen to such a degree that nowadays it’s hard to learn about, and even harder to buy.

Whatever the reason, the dwindling numbers are a crying shame, and would-be keepers are missing a great opportunity. The Andalusian offers cracking overall appearance, a very attractive plumage colouring on both male and female birds, plus all the utility performance you could reasonably want from a pure breed.

Yet despite having been around for well over 100 years, in more or less its present form – and a bantam version being available too – these pretty birds are forced to languish on the periphery of the poultry Fancy, without a dedicated club to support and promote them.

Read more...

House points

Poultry expert Chris Graham considers the most important practical features to look for when buying a poultry house

Large access panels that can be removed completely are a feature you’ll come to really appreciate when it comes to maintenanceWITH so much choice available these days, the apparently simple business of buying a poultry house has become surprisingly involved. The more you look, the more potential suppliers you find – but the real secret, as with buying birds themselves, is learning to tell good from bad.

As the poultry-keeping hobby has blossomed in recent times, so has the number people setting themselves up as hen house builders and suppliers. We’re at the stage now where, at one extreme, you have large concerns importing mass-produced, flat-packed houses from China while, at the other, there’s the one-man-in-his-shed operation building one-off units to his own design.  As with all other practical aspects of this fascinating hobby, there’s a good deal to be considered when buying a hen house. Read more...

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