Marans chickens. A complete breed guide.
What are Marans chickens?
The French term for a Marans chicken is Poule de Marans.
The French pronounce it mah-rahn. Neither syllable has an accent, and the "s" is silent in both the singular and plural forms. Most Americans pronounce it Mah-RANS, with the accent on the second syllable.
The Marans is a large, attractive table fowl with superior meat quality. Its eggs are unusual in that they are a rich, dark reddish brown. The birds do very well in damp conditions, and are good foragers. The hens do go broody and will raise their own young.
I currently have around thirty Marans in my egg flock to provide dark brown to chestnut eggs but they are not an economical breed to keep. I have blue and copper blacks and mine are selected for their eggs so might not fit the standards for showing.
I have used my Marans as a starting breed for my olive egg projects.
Is it Maran or Marans?
It is Marans, with the s, after the place they were first bred.
The Marans breed overview:
Primary use: The Marans is dual purpose and historically was used for eggs and meat. Exhibition is only recent and not many standards exist.
Conservation status: Rare and difficult to find quality specimens. Conservation status is unrecorded.
Size: Cockerel 22 inches and hens 20 inches tall. Heavy and well built.
Weight: Cockerel 3.5 - 4 kg Hen 2.5 - 3 kg Bantam Cock: 680-790g Bantam Hen: 570-680g
Class: Rare breed.
Temperament: Good. Roosters can be problematic.
Cold hardy: Marans are suitable for cold and damp environments.
Colours: There are nine accepted varieties. White, Black, Wheaten, Black Copper, Birchen, Crele, Columbian, Black-Tailed Fawn, and Silver Cuckoo.
Broodiness: Marans are broody, most commonly in their second and third seasons. Not regular broodies.
Egg colour: Dark red-brown shell, in the darkest with a touch of purple with a pronounced sheen. Minimum egg weight of 65g.
Productivity: 170 eggs per year.
Availability: Available from most hatcheries in limited numbers.
Useful to Know: A good layer that is an active forager.
What do Marans chickens look like?
Marans are large, strong, powerful chickens with broad, full and well rounded bodies and a slightly backward declining posture. The head is medium sized with a simple straight comb, vivid orange to red eyes and red earlobes. Marans have close, tight feathering which may extend down the shanks.
Below: A cuckoo Marans cockerel.
Below: A copper black Marans hen.
Below: My Copper Black Maran hens getting fed treats.
Brief history of the Marans:
Marans come from the area around the seaport of Marans France. Marans is located on the Atlantic coast, near LaRochelle, just north-west of the Bordeaux region. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in the area of southwestern France around the town of Marans although this area has a reputation for chicken and egg production stretching back into the 1300's.
Marans breed FAQ:
How do you sex Marans?
Some types of Marans chickens are sexable by their characteristics at day old and some are not. For the full article ion sexing Marans chickens at home.
Can Marans chickens fly?
Marans are big, heavy chickens that can fly but not for long distances or any great length of time. I have only ever seen mine fly to the roosts in the coop or to the top of walls or fences on my land, never to cover ground. The wings are quite short and held close to the body making flying difficult but not impossible.
What colour eggs does the Marans lay?
Marans chickens are well known for laying large dark brown, almost chocolate coloured eggs.
Below: The classic dark brown eggs of the Marans.
The genes for the deep, dark egg colour appear to be somewhat recessive, in that the egg colour will both fade over the laying season and suffer from poor breeding choices. The unique colour of the eggs is also linked to the laying period, the longer an egg remains in the oviduct, the darker it will be.
Birds that are better layers generally have poorer shell colour. For more on the Marans egg and breeding chickens for dark brown eggs.
A breeder attempting to cross might develop a better layer, but production would come at the sacrifice of egg colour and once lost it is very difficult to regain the original colour.
Are Marans good layers?
The Marans is not a good layer by modern hybrid standards and they were never bred to be production birds, they are a dual purpose heritage breed. My Marans have never layed more than 168 egg in year.
Since it is the egg colour that attracts most people, they would like them to lay like Leghorns and get upset when they don't. The Marans, being primarily a dual purpose breed, does not lay exceptionally well compared to the lighter egg-laying breeds.
Marans take a long time to mature and start laying eggs at 35 weeks of age and a good hen will go on to lay 150 to 180 eggs per year. The hens are productive for 6 years or so and may lay 700 eggs in their lifetime.
Are Marans friendly?
Marans are friendly chickens but they do not make good pets for the backyard. They are large powerful birds that don't tame like Silkies would for example. My Marans are well behaved for the most part and I have little trouble with them. Marans hens are docile and rarely fight.
Mine do not like being handled either. They are for the most part quiet, the boys have quite a crow when they get going and it might just be my strain but they lack the personality of my other chickens.
Do Marans need any special care?
Marans are a sturdy, cold hardy chicken that requires little extra care. They do not like confinement and prefer to free range and as such need quite a lot of space.
They are not a difficult breed to keep but indiscriminate breeding accentuated problems commonly associated with the breed.
In the past few years existing strains have improved considerably and a much better quality Marans is now available through reputable breeders.
Marans can have feathered legs which are associated with some problems.
How long do Marans chickens live?
Marans live for 6 to 9 years.
Are Marans roosters aggressive?
Marans roosters can be aggressive, one of mine has been the most bad tempered cockerel I think I have ever owned. I keep two for breeding purposes and they have to be kept separate. A small flock with a single male is unlikely to see any problems. This is one breed I would not trust with children.
Are Marans hens broody?
Marans do go broody but not often like Silkies. Mine are traditional, turning broody in Spring in either their first or second year and raising a clutch with no problems at all. Sometimes they will go in every year and sometimes not.
Can the Marans be shown at an APA recognized show?
The Marans breed has been admitted to the standard and are able to compete for prizes at APA shows. Marans breed standards.
Where to get Marans and how much to pay for them:
You can buy Marans at most hatcheries as day old chicks but their is no guarantee these birds will lay a dark brown egg. Where to get Marans chickens and how much they will cost you.
The Marans Club is a great resource for those looking for Marans as well as breeders who would like to improve their stock. The collective knowledge of the club members is a valuable contribution to the improvement of the breed. Members offering stock for sale are listed on the "Members Ads" page.