- Country of origin: Belgium
- Primary uses: For meat and eggs
- Lifespan: around 6 years
- Production (annual): 140 – 160 eggs
- Size: Large
- Color: Tinted
- Cock: 5 – 5.5 kg
- Hen: 4 – 4.5 kg
- Cock: 500 – 600gr
- Hen: 300 – 400gr
- Colors: Black, White, Cuckoo, Blue, and Ermines
- Useful to Know: A massive bird species, among the heaviest of all chicken breeds
Maline chickens (or Mechelse hoen) belong to a big and heavy chicken breed, famous for delicious meat. The Malines name is derived from the Mechelen area of Belgium where it originates from. They seem to grow slower than other chicken breeds and they need a balanced diet.
Marine chickens are generally gentle birds with a calm and stable temperament. Being quite large and heavy birds, Malines are not good at flying but do very well in confinement. In general, they are hardy chickens and can live in cold weather well. Small flock owners and homesteaders often choose this breed because they are a good dual-purpose breed.
Background and History
The Malines derive from two provinces of Flanders which are Antwerp and Brabant (Belgium). The local authority here wanted to evolve the native Belgian chicken, which is the Flemish Cuckoo. The Maline chickens are a result of the cross-breeding of local farm chickens patterned cuckoo with some types of Oriental chickens in the nineteenth century. Therefore, the Malines inherit the large structure of the Oriental chickens and the high-quality meat of the local stock. They are a large chicken breed with feathered shanks and herringbone feathers. In 1891, selective breeding for types and colors began and it received official recognition in 1898.
In the early twentieth century, under the name “Poulet de Bruxelles”, Malines were very famous and in great demand for their meat quality which is white and finely textured. After World War II, many other meat breeds appeared and the demand for Maline meat in the area decreased. But it still has a certain position in the market.
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Being a part of Asian breeds, Maline chickens have a large body frame with the following typical physical features:
- The head is broad and heavy.
- The eyes can be both red and orange.
- The beak is white in color and quite small compared to its large body.
- Bright red comb and wattle have four to six serrations on the comb.
- To support the large, heavy body frame, their thighs and legs are very muscular.
- Plumage color covers the white skin, making good cold-weather insulation.
- Their feet can be yellow, light brown, or off-white.
- Maline chickens are large birds with quite small wings kept close to their bodies.
- Their tail is short and horizontal to their bodies.
- Malines are also famous for the name “Mechelse koekoek”. It is because their most typical color is cuckoo color which is a light blue-gray base alternated with darker, blue-grey to grey-black stripes. Some people think this fowl is a cuckoo rather than a chicken. Roosters seem to inherit this feature twice, so their lighter strips are bigger. The roosters’ color is lighter than that of hens which have this factor singularly.
- The feathers covering the whole body down the bird’s legs and toes are quite thick and downy. This feature creates good insulation and protects the bird from cold weather.
Maline chickens are calm and docile. They are not too skittish around people but appear amiable. That’s why this chicken breed is ideal for beginning backyard farmers. Let’s take a look at their behaviors:
- Although Malines are strong and can bear cold climates, they still enjoy sunlight in some summer months.
- Careful supervision is necessary, but they also don’t like children to pull and prod them at all.
- Malines often appear in a confident manner. And with their fully grown size, it is also very suitable as a pet.
- In warmer months, Malines like to stretch their legs and thrive for forage outside in large spaces. They are excellent foragers during summertime.
- They love to eat fruit, insects, weeds, and grubs.
An ideal ratio of cockerel and hens is 1 for 5. Maline hens normally start laying the first eggs from the sixth month.
Maline Chicken Productivity (Egg Laying and Meat Production)
Is Maline Chicken Good for Eggs?
Malines’ hens start laying the first eggs in the 6th month. Egg-laying numbers can vary among hens depending on their genes and feeding. Some lay better than others. But in general, Malines have a limited egg-laying capacity, but consistently. A hen can produce from 140 to 160 eggs per year. The eggs are large to jumbo sizes. The large size is common, weighing around 2.3 ounces (70 gms).
That’s why some people still consider the Malines as a dual-purpose chicken breed. Eggs are usually tinted, in light brown or cream color.
Is Maline Chicken Good for Meat?
While Malines’ impressive stature comes from Asian breeds, they inherit the fertility and meat quality from the local ones. This chicken meat was available on every Belgian market at the end of the 19th century.
Maline chickens have very good flesh growth, so they are an excellent choice for a heritage meat bird. Fat marbled through their meat makes it become an incredible flavor and extremely moist meat. They shine among meat birds because they are the only bird with that feature. They provide ample and tender meat from 4-6 months of age.
The chickens with the cuckoo-pattern color are also more likely to provide the best meat quality. This chicken is famous for its meat quality which is pale in color and fine texture. Its meat is very famous all over Europe.
Maline chickens grow out quite well on a 15% protein grower/finisher ratio. But the protein excess of 20% actually makes more waste from the birds. You should have at least 2 chickens for a flock. But it is better to have 5 of them for a small flock number. Due to a rare breed, there must be more bloodlines to keep their vigor up.
Though they are still able to get on well with more defined conditions, Malines prefer staying outside for the whole day from dawn to dusk. Your chickens love cool water. So to make the water not get too warm, you should find water that is hard to stand in or push over and place it in the shade.
If you have thought about keeping Maline chickens, the most essential thing is a coop. The ideal space per chicken is 0.5 square meters (equally 5.2 square feet). A running chicken needs 1.9 square meters (or 20 square feet).In cold northern climates, people should care more for the roosters’ large combs. For example, they often prepare insulated coops with good ventilation or air-concept coops. There should be a perch in the coop for the chickens to sleep in and a wooden box for egg-laying.To keep them safer at night, it is necessary to have a sunken fence going over and around the coop.
It is ideal to spend a large, secure backyard for Malines to live well. But if you have just a small space, it might be fine for a small flock. A mature bird needs around 4 spare feet coop in minimum for it to live and space of around 20 square feet for it to run. So if possible, you should provide your chickens with good outside access to prevent boredom.
With bulky bodies and short wings, Malines don’t want to fly, or actually, they are very poor fliers. Therefore, high-level containment fencing is not necessary, and low fencing of 3.5 feet is usually enough to contain the chickens. On the other hand, if there are dangerous predators surrounding your place, you should consider a higher fence to protect your poultry.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Benefits of Raising Maline Chickens
Despite their large and unfriendly appearance, the Maline chickens are not a kind of aggressive breed. They are instead very easygoing and will get on well with other chicken breeds sharing the same space.
Malines do not fly and they have a gentle character. Also, they are hardy and disease-resistant chickens. That’s why they do not require a lot of care and time from keepers
Challenges or Drawbacks
During the fattening period, poultry keepers must add a mash from buckwheat and milk to their daily feed. This contributes to the final appealing favor of the meat.
Male tail feathers are especially weak. That’s why door openings to run and cages need to be wide to not damage those.
Is the Maline Chicken Right for You?
If you have a small backyard and want to raise an easy-to-raise chicken breed, Malines chickens are certainly for you. They have a good resistance system, rarely get sick. They are also easygoing. That’s why they fit well for beginning keepers. If you raise a chick by hand, it will grow and become very close to you.
On the other hand, like other chicken breeds, if you want the best egg and meat production, you must spend more time and effort, applying proven methods.
How to Raise the Malines Chicken
When first getting the chickens home, you should provide them with foods of a higher percentage of protein. You can feed them growers’ mash (19% of protein) that is easy for them to ingest. You should not stop giving your chickens’ growers mash before the 6th week.
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After that, you can move on chicken pellets which contain between 15-16% of protein. From the 22nd week, the week before the egg production starts, you should feed them layers of mash or pellets. These foods containing 17% of protein will give more nutrients to your chickens to help them produce eggs better.
It is also very important to get fresh drink water available for the chickens all day long. Malines like to drink cool water, maybe because of its prehistoric throwback.
Water and feed should be at the back level. That height is proper for all chickens to take food easily. You should not place the water lower than that though. Chickens can scratch litter into it, making the water go dirty quickly.
During the egg-laying period, your hens also need grit. You should give them easy access to that all the time. With a nature of excellent foragers, Malines will supplement their feed intake by often tracing outside for snails, insects, seeds, and bugs to eat.
Regarding the proper food quantity for Maline chickens, it depends on their sizes and whether they are foraging outside. Although Malines are large in size, you should not overfeed young chicks. If their body cannot adjust properly, there is damage to their bone structure. Instead, you should gradually increase the feed quantity around how the chickens consume. On average, breeders feed their chickens 170 gms a day. It is fine to leave the feed in the feeder for the chickens to eat whenever they want. Or to control how much they eat better, you can give them set meal times.
Chocolate and beans are two kinds of foods you should not give to your Maline chickens. Scientists have found the phytohemagglutinin in beans and the theobromine in chocolate can respectively cause fatalities and heart problems. And moldy food is not good for the chickens because of the bad bacteria in it. If they get this food inside their body, that will make them unwell anymore.
1/ Do people raise Maline chicken breed for egg-laying?
Yes, though the egg-producing capacity of this breed is not very good, their eggs are large and even jumbo. It is still a good choice for poultry keepers.
2/ Can Malines fly?
Actually no, they have a bulky body while their wings are short. Instead, they are great foragers and rarely run.
3/ How long does it take to raise a Maline chicken for meat?
Around 4-6 months is enough time when Maline meat is of the best quality, ample and tender.
The Maline chicken breed derives from an ancient heavy bird, inheriting its large frame size and good eating meat. They are also reasonable layers of tinted eggs. Malines are a great choice for both novice and experienced poultry keepers. They have great characters like hardiness, easy-going temperament, and impressive physical appearance. However, compared with other chicken breeds, Malines still have some drawbacks. This makes people often prefer others for both meat and egg production and decorative birds.
- “Poultry Book – A Guide for Big or Small Poultry Keepers, Beginners, and Farmers”, Harry Roberts, Read Books Ltd, 2013
- “The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens: How to Raise a Happy Backyard Flock”
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