One of last year’s customers got in touch with me the other day. “Hi Jodi! Do you have any more Black Copper Marans? I just love your girls!!!”
I love my BCM girls too, so I know how she feels. With their gorgeous dark brown eggs, bright orange eyes, neat red combs, gentle personalities and classic hen shape, they really are lovely.
Her comment got me to thinking about their lines, a blend of Island and Sunshine Coast breeders, plus one lovely little wild card.
A few summers ago, before I closed my flock, I used to watch the local online classified ads site like a hawk, hoping for “good deals” to feed my growing chicken addiction. One evening I saw a poorly worded ad for blue and black Copper ‘Murans’ at point of lay for ten dollars each, a ridiculous price.
A point of lay pullet around here goes for anywhere from $20 for a mutt all the way up to $100 for a finely bred rare heritage bird, so ten bucks was a real steal, even if spelling and grammar weren’t this seller’s strong points.
I immediately emailed, indicating I wanted two blue and two black. And could I pick up in the morning? An affirmative reply including address had me excitedly hustling out to East Sooke the next day, cash in hand and empty dog kennel in the back of my SUV.
When I pulled into the yard, I was waved down a faint track across a gentle slope carpeted in wispy, fine, mid summer brown grass, that ended up in an open field below the house. There was a crew of mostly barefoot small children with two young women waiting, another vehicle like mine filled with empty cages and a smallish old travel trailer shut up tight. No chickens or chicken paraphernalia or even chicken pens were evident, as far as the eye could see.
A spare young woman greeted me disconsolately, and invited me to step into the trailer, which, as it turned out, is where the chickens were hiding. She had my four shut up in the bathroom, all ready for me. The other lady was her neighbour, who was taking the rest of the birds off her hands.
I stepped inside the trailer and looked around, and at least 25 shapely young purebred hens – all different breeds, stared back at me. They were perched on the table, and along the backs of the benches and on the counters and in the sink and standing around on the floor looking bored. Streaks and mounds of bird poop were everywhere. It looked like the trailer had been not cleaned for weeks, if ever. There was zero food, one filthy water fount and not a lot of fresh air. It was a warm day, and stifling in there. But the birds looked surprisingly good despite their living conditions. They must have received regular rations even if they weren’t fed free choice.
I didn’t spend long inside; I couldn’t. Retreating to gulp down some fresh air, I grabbed my kennel and waited outside by the door. The young woman disappeared into the bathroom, emerging four times with a bird held tightly in her arms, and as she handed each to me, she explained sadly that she had hatched every bird herself, from eggs she had gone on long waiting lists to acquire. She hated to see them go, especially since they were finally starting to lay, but her husband was fed up with the cost of food, and the bird poop everywhere from their free ranging. Her and her husband didn’t like that the children kept stepping in the poop either. One of the kids had gotten worms, and the doctor had mentioned the chickens. So her husband was making her sell them. Such a pity I thought, when a chicken pen would have made all the difference.
She had posted the ad, to which only I had responded, before her neighbour got wind of the situation and offered to take them all. I glanced at the neighbour, who stood watching me with a malovent glint in her eye that left me with little doubt she coveted my birds too. So I tucked my four in the back of my vehicle, handed over $40 and got out of there.
My new girls spent the next month one field over from the barnyard, in quarantine, and it soon became apparent that one of the blacks was a boy. Not only that, but the two blues laid light brown eggs, not the dark brown I was aiming for. One of the blues was a loud mouthed broad too, and I can’t abide a whiney chicken. So it wasn’t long before the boy went to freezer camp and the blue girls went up for sale.
I charged the university students who came to pick up the blues for their shared household $20 each, a great deal for purebred heritage hens, and then I was back to even on the money side of things. But really I was ahead, because I now had one very nice looking black Copper marans hen who laid dark chocolate brown eggs.
My trailer hen went missing last summer, but not before I had a couple seasons to hatch a bunch of her eggs. This year I have four nice black Copper Marans hens in my coop who echo their mother and grandmother’s lovely shape; and a few of my lucky customers have some too.
I often get asked, when I am selling hatching eggs or chicks, about the birds’ lines. It’s the prudent chicken keeper who pays attention to diversity in their flock, and I always do my best to pass on all I know. But for my Marans, I can only say they are from three lines; farm xyz up island, farm abc on the Sunshine Coast, plus one lovely mystery girl who grew up in a trailer in East Sooke. Maybe I will call it the Loretta Lynn line.