I know that I come to this thread late, but it certainly was an interesting and fun read. My son and daughter in law raise rare and heritage chickens up here and I have had various breeds for years.
The marans lay lovely eggs but I find that they have a problem with blood spots in them, if that doesn’t bother you then OK. As a meat bird they don’t weigh up but they do lay well.
My favourite are the Orpintons, Buff, Lavender, whatever. They are fluffy, gentle and heavy enough that they don’t roost but prefer to stay on the bedding. This helps in the cold weather as their feet then don’t freeze because they sit on them at night. They weigh up nice as a meat bird and lay well.
I don’t keep many, I only have 7 Orpinton hens and get 5 eggs a day, enough to keep us in eggs so I don’t have to buy but not so much that they are a lot of work.
I cut down on the feed with vegetable and other kitchen scraps ( bread etc.). When I am peeling potatoes or carrots, apples etc. I have a ceramic bowl that I peel into, put in a cup of water and just microwave it for 5 min. I find they eat it quicker when it is soft and it is easy to do. Chickens will eat anything, and woe betide a stray mouse if it gets in the chicken house.
I keep my birds fenced, too many coyotes and foxes. I have never had them free range or use them to control bugs. But I did have 6 geese in my peony field and they do a wonderful job of keeping weeds under control, not so much the grass.