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"Javas are one of the oldest breeds of the American class, and although they once enjoyed great popularity, they are now extremely rare... Historically, the glossy Black Java was seen more often than the Mottled variety, and this remains true today."
(Janet Vorhwald Dohner, The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds; 2001: Yale University)

Mottled Javas with  Navajo-Churro lamb

When people ask me what kinds of chickens I raise on Dot Ranch, it's almost always assured that their foreheads will crease in wonder when I blithely say "Mottled Java's and Black Copper Marans." While ardent chicken enthusiasts often recognize Marans as a French heirloom breed well known for their astoundingly rich chocolate colored eggs, seldom do I meet somebody familiar with the Mottled Java.

Mottled Java RoosterMottled Java Chickens are a very unique American breed, and they are listed on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Threatened list. The second oldest breed of chicken in America, they are predated only by the equally rare but better known Dominique.

Once prized for their black plumage and creamy yellow skin, Mottled Javas were the pride of the farmer's market. In the 1800's, it was considered a mark of excellence to have a black plumed bird for the table, as it would be obvious to all if the bird had been properly plucked or not. Mottled Javas were a dual purpose breed, producing both delicious brown eggs and meat on their large frames. They were used as a foundation bird for the establishment of other breeds such as the Black Jersey Giant, Barred Plymouth Rock, and the Black Australorp. Mottled Java hen

However, by the early 1900's, the Java was in decline, and by 1940, they had nearly disappeared from farm yards, replaced by their faster growing descendants. By the 1980's, the Javas had almost disappeared entirely from the American rural landscape, and were only preserved at a lone hatchery and in the hands of under a half dozen private breeders.

Luckily, the plight of the Java was recognized, and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy joined in the fight to save these magnificent historical birds from becoming just another footnote to factory farming. I'm proud to say that Dot Ranch has joined forces with the ALBC, and we are participated in the 2012 Java Recovery Project, with hopes of participating once again for 2013. These heritage breed birds are far too valuable for both their beauty, their place in our unique American history, and as an integral part of the biodiversity of modern domesticated birds to be forgotten or lost.

French Black Copper Marans rooster crowing awayBlack Copper Marans are a threatened breed in their home country of France, and they are even more imperilled and rare here in the United States. Our introduction to these magnificent birds was nearly accidental, but we feel that it provides a perfect opportunity for Dot Ranch to raise a second bird in need of genetic conservation. The gene pool for Black Copper Marans is very small in the U.S., and the quality of the birds seldom matches that of the French true blood stock, with their more heavily feathered legs and distinctive dark colored eggs. It is these eggs which first caught my eye, because it ensures that even if a rooster were to get out of the breeding pens, there is no way we can ever mistake a Mottled Java egg for a Black Copper Maran egg.

Black Copper Marans, or Brown-Red Marans as they are sometimes called, are relative newcomers to the poultry world, being a recognized breed only since the early 1900's. Originating in the Marans, France region, they were descended from a cross of landrace "swamp" hens, English imported gamecocks, French feather legged Cocou de Malines, and Asian Black Copper Marans henLangshans. From this veritable hodgepodge of ancestors rose the distinctive heavy set yet graceful Black Copper Marans, with their richly pigmented eggs, lightly feathered legs and outer toes, and the stunning deep red copper plumage. However, almost as soon as they received international attention, the breed began to decline. By the 1940's, the outlook for them was dire, and even with the help of the newly founded Marans Club of France, the breed looked to be in danger of disappearing forever. It was only through the hard work and perserverance of farmers world wide that the breed was saved from the brink of extinction, and by the 1990's, European populations began to stabilize.

Black Copper Marans hen and rooster in the background
Today, many people get sticker shock when trying to buy Black Copper Marans or Mottled Java chickens. One of the questions I hear most often is why are they so expensive? The answer in that lies in their difficulty with hatching rates, their rarity, and the tremendous problem of maintaining genetic diversity within small flocks. As biologists are well aware, constricted gene pools often lead to lower fertility rates. Between the difficulty of importing birds from other states, and the uncertainty of shipping hatching eggs across the country, it is all too easy to end up with a bottleneck flock.

Each year, I strive to import birds from across the country to expand my own flock genetics, and this is why I enjoy the high hatch rates that are normal for us here at Dot Ranch. It is also why our purebred birds are priced at nearly triple the cost of our Marans-Java crosses: maintaining a healthy flock carries steep costs to the producer. My hope is that as these birds become better established, the prices will come down and we'll be better able to pass that savings on to you. The problems facing Black Copper Marans breeders are very well known, but Mottled Javas face similar problems. In many ways, the difficulty in maintaining a diverse Java flock is even more severe than that facing Marans producers, due to the fact that Mottled Javas aren't as well known, and they declined even further than the Black Copper Marans before capturing the attention of conservationists. Mottled Javas have the added onus of a delicate air sac membrane within the egg, which results in nearly 90% failure rates with shipping hatching eggs. While we have had very good luck with storing and hatching Mottled Java eggs, we have had abysmal failure with importing eggs.

Are you a poultry breeder who raises Mottled Java's or Black Copper Marans? I'm always looking to exchange quality birds with other poultry breeders to ensure the continuing high level of genetic diversity required to keep these breeds viable and valuable. Please feel free to make inquiries or offers either by telephone or email.

Muscovy Duck and Ducklings

Threatened and endangered breeds aren't the only poultry to live on Dot Ranch. We also breed and raise Muscovy Ducks. These valuable multi-purpose ducks provide eggs, meat, jewelry grade feathers, and an invaluable service: parasite, slug, and fly control. Muscovies are native to South America, and had been domesticated for thousands of years before European contact. They are a non migratory bird, and there is some debate that they're actually more of a goose than a duck, as they graze like geese, perch and roost in trees as well as on the ground, and don't quack like ducks usually do. Muscovies have a very distinctive hissing and cooing noise, it's very quiet, and very cute. They are also incredibly prolific birds, and may lay up to three fertile nests annually, with nest sizes ranging from 15-32 eggs on average.Muscovy Duckling

Muscovies are also unique among ducks in that their oil glands are very small and underdeveloped in comparison to most wood ducks and water ducks. As a perching duck, Muscovies really don't require a lot of water to be happy, and in fact, they can drown in deep ponds if their feathers lose their oily sheen. Because of this, they're perfectly happy with cheap $10 plastic kiddy swimming pools for a water source, which makes them great for backyard enthusiasts. The other great effect of the smaller oil glands is that Muscovy ducks have a much lighter and less greasy flavor than other ducks, making them ideal for the table. Muscovies are able to fly for short distances, but as they are very heavy, they tend to stick to low flight lines. Because they are very adept at taking care of themselves, we recommend that you clip the wings of your Muscovy ducks to prevent them from venturing out into the wild and cross breeding with or competing with native ducks.

Muscovy Ducklings are available starting in May and usually running until September. Mature birds may be purchased nearly year round, and we have dressed birds available for sale as well.