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The yellowish tints on the White Marans

The White Marans plumage is, thought to be due to the presence of the Recessive White genes. Consequently, it is possible to see some golden colored tints on the hackles, body underside and the lancets appearing in the white cocks that are based on the gold s+ allele.

These tints seem to be intensified by the sun, UV exposure, but we must it understand the real reason of their presence is genetic, and due to the inadequately masking by the Recessive White allele. Silver based birds will give a cleaner White bird.

At this time, there is nothing to prove that Recessive White is the only genetic characteristic responsible for the white plumage in the Marans breed. The Dominant White, which in theory tends not to mask yellow tints, could very well exist in some White Marans stocks, considering the crossings carried out in the origin of the breed.

The best way of eliminating these yellow tints in the Marans would be by selecting birds that were homozygous for both Dominant White and Recessive White, and based on a Silver base color. Pattern disrupter genes such as barring/cuckoo, and redistribution genes such as the Columbian Restrictors greatly assist in the coverage of color. In other words, it would be White bird preferably with a Silver-Cuckoo, Columbian, or possibly a pure silver-black (Birchen) background.

Most White Marans seems to carry only Recessive White. The presence of yellow glints has been accepted and included in the official Standard, which is contradictory as a colored feather is a disqualification.

Left White Shanks-Left Blue Gray Shanks

White Marans should have pinkish white shanks, but this is still a long way from being the case today. This is because the (id+) gene, which is responsible for the bluish shanks, which still appear from time to time in the White Marans. The shanks must be pinkish-white, not slate-gray, bluish or even lead-gray.
Other genes are also responsible for the deposition of pigment in the shanks, i.e. the melanisers including Melanotic (Ml), and the Extended Black gene E, the Birchen gene ER permit, under the influence of (id+). This tends to explain the existence of a variable gray color in the shanks ranging from light gray to almost black. It's one the reasons why the shank colour of the Black, Brown-Red (Copper-Black) and Birchen Marans are not pinkish white, unlike all the other varieties whose genes tend to inhibit this deposition of melanin. It's clear that the improvement in these White birds can only be made by the elimination of the bluish or grey shanked birds, and/or by the introduction of White Marans with pinkish white shanks (preferably a cock since it is going to pass on his genes to all his descendents). To overcome this problem in present White Marans, it would be advantageous to introduce the dominant Dermal Inhibitor (ID) whose action is to remove pigment from the shanks, and thus producing the required pinkish-white color. Unfortunately the ID gene is sex-linked, homozygous in the male but only hemizygous in the hen, making pinkish white shanks difficult, if not impossible to obtain. Other genes are known to reduce pigment in the shanks include Recessive White c, Dominant White I, Wheaten eWh, and Cuckoo B. In time, a progressive elimination process can achieve the demise of the blue-gray shanks. In other words, it would be White bird with a Silver-Cuckoo, Columbian or pure silver-black (Birchen) background.This persistent fault in the White Marans should be able to be corrected without too many problems in the years to come since the correct white-shanked birds do exist.
However, it must be noted that crossings to improve the egg color quality, using varieties such as Brown-Red or Black birds introduce the shank darkening genes E or ER and id+ that is naturally linked to them. A far better choice would be Silver Cuckoo or Birchen, or if not available Wheaten or Gold Cuckoo birds from dark egg producing hens.
The presence of white shanks in the chosen breeding stock, in at least one of the parent birds will prove to be all the more precious, as it will partially overcome the unwanted effects introduced by the use of the Black, Brown-Red or Birchen varieties when trying to improve the egg color.



Note; General appearance of Cock and Hen is posted on the Black Copper Marans page

The white Marans was very widespread in the sixties, during its "semi industrial" era. Then it was abandoned in 1966 in the favor of the commercial hybrids, and it progressively disappeared. Considering its quasi-extinction, we can speak of it as a resurrected variety in France

It's resurrection dates back to about 1990, the White is nowthe most fashionable variety in France.

Description of the White Marans

The plumage must be white on the whole body without any red, black or fawn feathers. The shanks must also be white or pinkish as for most of the Marans varieties.

However, in the white-colored cocks, the hackle, the shoulders, and the lancets can be straw-colored, a characteristic that has been tolerated in the Marans breed.

White plumage genetics in the Marans

The genetic characteristics responsible for white feathers are not genes that produce a white color, but genes, which prevent the deposition of color into the feather. The white plumage is due to genetic characters, which mask the existing underling plumage colors.

White is not to be confused with albinism, which are clearly different at the genetic factor level and produce an absence of all pigmentation including the eyes, which are pink.

The two main genes, which are responsible for the white plumage in chickens, are:

  • - the Dominant White which has the symbol (I)
  • - the Recessive White which has the symbol (c)

Dominant white (I)

As this characteristic is dominant, crossing a pure white bird (I/I) with a colored bird gives birds with white plumage (I/i+). The initial color (black, fawn, wheaten, cuckoo) will be masked or veiled. This gene has most effect on black, however is not completely effective on red, which can result in the Pyle pattern. By selection we can obtain Dominant White in a homozygous state, the main breed based on this gene are the White Leghorn, it is also found in some White Marans stocks. Dominant White is known as a leaky gene as it doesn’t fully suppress black and the odd feather may appear.

Recessive white (c)

Recessive White when crossed with a colored bird produces C+/c chicks, which are colored. For example a Recessive White hen crossed with a Black cock produces black (colored) chicks in first generation. These colored birds, even if they have no visible white feathering, carry the Recessive White allele, c, that they are able to pass on to their descendants by what is called the atavistic return of the white genes (c).

So the mating between two normally colored birds that are carriers of the (c) allele in the impure state (heterozygote) will produce about 25% white birds. The genotype for these white colored birds is (c/c), as (c) is present in the homozygous state. Breeds with recessive white are numerous: they include White Marans", Dorkings, and Wyandottes… Recessive White is also a leaky gene not fully suppressing the gold/red spectrum, so a yellowish sheen on the hackles, the back, the shoulders and the lancets of the cocks, may appear after the adult moult.

Note: the chick down may be either light yellow-colored or grayish-white (or smoky white)

The Selection Os White Marans

An examination of the good qualities and the faults of the best current white stock allows us to define three main lines of action for the improvement of the White Marans:

  • - to improve the egg color by an out of variety mating, preferably by the use of Wheaten birds,
  • - to sort out the serious and too much frequent anatomic flaw, such as  the problem of split wings. This can only be achieved by test mating.
  • - to select, first and foremost, the white shanked birds in order to get to obtain 100% of  birds with pinkish white shanks.
  • but not neglecting the selection for pure White birds

In respect to this, we must stress the fact that a White Marans pen, were all the breeding stock have blue or lead-gray feet, can’t produce white shanked birds.

Indeed, the Dermal Inhibitor (ID) characteristic which assists in producing white shanks, and is dominant, and can't miraculously be revived from breeding stock with gray feet, because they have the id+ gene, a recessive).  So as far as possible use a white-shanked cock.

The effects of crossings with White Marans

To the Brown-Red, this will have no improvement on the color of the White plumage. Indeed it may cause gold tints in the hackle & lancets of the male. Whilst this cross may improve egg color, shank color will certainly not be improved.

The Wheaten and Black-tailed Buff varieties, due to their red and buff pigmentation, may also harm the plumage purity of the White Marans by introducing unwanted gold hackle & lancets tints. The egg color and shank color may be improved.

The introduction of a Silver Cuckoo bird will improve the White plumage, but not shank color. If lines of good dark egg color birds are available it will also improve egg color.

Today, it appears that there are a good number of birds with white shanks in the present White Marans lines.

As for the method of the crossings to another breed  (for example with the White lancets can be straw-colored, a characteristic that has been tolerated in the Marans breed.

The outcross to another breed rapidly damages the genetic characteristic of the extra reddish-brown egg color, leading to an egg color recovery selection, which is long, fastidious and even insurmountable in the White Marans variety. Only inbreed crossings are required for the improvement that can only be obtained by the indispensable supply of the genes, which are contained in the genotype of other Marans varieties.

As the improvement of the White Marans egg shade is at the current time the top priority, it is especially advisable to carry out useful cross breeding to Marans varieties whose eggs are the darkest possible color.

It is advisable to remind you in this respect that the color which is the most suitable to cross for the best white plumage qualities of all our varieties is paradoxically the pure black colored birds (Black & Silver Cuckoo), especially if Dominant White is present in the White parent. Black is unfortunately a very rare color in the Marans and Silver Cuckoo can have problems with egg color quality and shank color.

Anyway, such "in-variety” crossings, if they proved to be essential, must be followed up with a selection plan for a minimum of several years. 

Genome of the White

The best White would be produce by the following, for the cock                                            E/E I/I c/c S/S B/B W/W Id/Id Pti-1/Pti1 and the hen                                                           E/E I/I c/c S/- B/- W/W Id/- Pti-1/Pti-1

but White may be based on any ‘e’ allele, only Dominant or Recessive White may be present, cuckoo/barring may also not be present. The Dermal Inhibitor must be present in order to get white shanks in the cock, but even this will not give a white shank in the hen.

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