BREED NAME: MARSH DAISY
BRIEF DESCRIPTION: The Marsh Daisy Chicken is a strikingly beautiful chicken that is struggling to stay with us after more than a century in the English countryside. It has been described as heavy, but small with a gamey posture.
At one time the breed was available in Black, Partridge, Brown, Buff, Wheaten and White varieties. Wheaten and Brown are now most common colors of this rare and gentle breed that dates back to the 1800’s.
They are considered a long-lived breed, though currently limited and inbred populations often carry a lethal defective heart gene in roosters. These roosters may not survive past 3 years. Hens are good brooders.
The Facts: Marsh Daisy Chicken
Size: Standard Male: 6.5 Ibs. / Standard Female: 5.5 Ibs.
Comb, Wattles & Earlobes: Red rose comb, red wattles with white lobes.
Color: Partridge, Wheaten, White, Black, Brown and Buff with willow-green shanks. Eyes are red, nails horn colored.
Place of Origin: Lancashire, England
Conservation Status: Rare/Endangered/Critical
Special Qualities: There is no bantam variety of the Marsh Daisy Chicken. It is considered an economical breed, due to productivity and hardiness that can fit the bill for a dual purpose barnyard chicken.
It is slow to mature as are most Heritage breeds. As with most chickens, it flourishes and is an eager forager in free range conditions. It is a structurally well-balanced breed that can fly. Due to its development in the marshy regions of England, it thrives in damp climates and doesn’t mind rain.
In Wheaten and Brown, the most common colors today, roosters are rich blends of feather colors from the coppery golds of their cape to darker tones of mahogany reds, and browns and in wings, breast and back.
Brown roos should have a salmon breast to meet the standard. His tail held high is black with green iridescence framed by conservative but nicely draped ruddy saddle feathers.
The Partridge hen is dilute and spangled in her coloring with creamy under belly, vent and breast feathers. Her neck is a soft red brown with flights and tail feathers the richest of her browns with some black. Her shoulders, back and tail base are a frosty rootbeer shade.
The Buff variety is to be solid in color as are the Black and White. The red rose comb of both male and female has been said to resemble a daisy from this chicken’s marshy home range. The unique comb, red wattles, white earlobes and willowy green legs make this breed easy to identify, though today its numbers are dangerously few.
The productive White Leghorn was foundational in development of the Marsh Daisy. The Leghorn was of Italian origins, but has become an American icon of laying chicken breeds. Black Hamburg bred in produced the rose comb. Malay and Game was mixed in as well, streamlining this hardy and productive breed, to the credit of a Mr. John Wright of Lancashire, who worked diligently with the breed for over 30 years.
He kept a closed flock of Partridge, Wheaten and White until it nearly died out by 1913. Two of the few remaining hens were rescued by Charles Moore in 1913, who out-crossed them to a Pit Game rooster.
By breeding sons of this pairing back to the hens and introducing Sicilian Buttercup, the breed was revived and exhibited consistent willow-green legs. Blacks and Browns came later on, but Moore is credited with adding the Buff variety and maintaining the Wheatens and the Whites.
By 1921 the Marsh Daisy Club was born and the breed was shown to the public. A year later the breed standard was accepted into the Poultry Club of Great Britain and remains today. Egg numbers of over 200 per year were tallied for the best hens into the 1930’s. Marsh Daisy hens can lay well into winter months and their eggs are tinted.
By the 1970’s the breed’s survival was in a critical state (and is still guarded 2012). A Mr. Ralph White discovered remaining few in Somerset circa 1970, where the breed was once popular and healthy in number before WWII.
The original White color variety had become extinct, but a Mr. Andrew Sheppy, of Cobthorn, was able to obtain a group of Buffs, Browns, poor Wheatens and a single Black hen. Unpredictable offspring from this group meant there was much work to be done. A few other flocks were documented and exhibited at the time, from Essex, Cambridge, Somerset and Cheshire.
One of the nicest surprises in recent decades, for the Marsh Daisy chicken and those who love the breed, is that the White variety, thought extinct, has re-emerged from a recessive gene in existing stock.
Emerging from colored stock, the White needs work to remove a recurring tint, but its hidden survival means the color won’t have to be redeveloped from scratch. Currently the Black variety is nearly extinct.
In contemporary times in the UK, 39 members of the Marsh Daisy Club are actively working to save the best qualities and standards of the breed. For any working with the breed, the culling of non-standard specimens is highly recommended.
They are a good eating bird, so culls need not go to waste. With limited numbers inbreeding remains an issue as this historic breed is brought back from the edge of extinction.
For the most part, Marsh Daisy chicken fanciers are not in the habit of showing their birds, which is of some concern to the purists and the future of the breed. It’s most likely that today’s stock, shown or not, are all descended from the 5 known English flocks of the 1970’s.
The Marsh Daisy chicken may be one of the rarest chicken breeds world-wide. It never achieved popularity abroad, was never recognized by the APA and is little known or seen outside the UK.