Marans Chicken: Breed Information and Owner’s Guide

Perhaps you have heard of Black Copper Marans chickens that lay chocolate colored eggs.

But did you know there are several varieties of Marans chicken to choose from?

All of them lay dark colored eggs, but some varieties are darker than others.

This breed is worthy of a place in your flock because they are quiet, not troublesome and will lay you some spectacular eggs.

Keeping reading to learn everything you need to know about this breed including egg colors, expected temperament and much more…

Marans Chicken

Marans Chicken Overview

The Marans chicken is a very ancient breed that can be traced back to the 1200s.

Back then she started out as a landrace chicken but over time she has had all sorts of genetic input from other breeds. Her exact genetic makeup is likely to remain a complete mystery to us.

However, what we consider as present day Marans started to appear around the early 1900s. At that time her eggs were well known for their richness of color and taste.

These days Marans are kept in backyards or on small homesteads.

They thrive when they are free ranging although they will tolerate confinement.

The Black Copper Marans is perhaps the best known because of their chocolate colored eggs. However there are lots more Marans varieties to choose from (more on this later).

Overall this is a friendly chicken that lays beautiful chocolate colored eggs.

Marans Chicken
Beginner Friendly: Yes.
Lifespan: 7+ years.
Weight: Hen (5.5lb) and Rooster (8.5lb).
Color: Black Copper Marans most popular.
Egg Production: 4 per week.
Egg Color: Dark brown and chocolate.
Known For Broodiness: Average.
Good With Children: Ok.
Cost of Chicken: $5-$50 per chick.

5 Reasons To Keep This Chicken

  • Marans are very easy to handle.
  • This is the only chicken breed that can lay these beautiful colored eggs.
  • They do well in colder climates.
  • Lots of lovely colors to choose from.
  • They are quiet so can comfortably be kept in an urban setting.

Breed History

Marans Rooster

The history of the Marans chicken is a story of survival against the odds.

Let’s start at the beginning.

This breed started out as a landrace chicken in the swampy lands around Marans, France.

Way back in the 1200s, sea voyages were long and tedious for the sailors.

An on ship sport was cockfighting. The surviving cocks were often traded or sold for fresh food when the sailors reached port. The post of Marans was very busy with sea trade at this time, so many game cocks found their way to various farms and flocks.

We will never know all of the ancestry of the Marans, but in the late 1800s breeds such as the Langshan and Brahma were introduced to the genetic makeup.

At this point the Marans actually started to look like the Marans of today.

However it was not until the 1930s that the breed standard was finally set.

Sadly the two World Wars set back the progress of the Marans breeds and in fact they almost died out. Thankfully, enthusiasts and later the French government worked hard to improve the breed.

There were more problems to come between 1960-70s.

Marans did not produce eggs fast enough for the production farming and were replaced in commercial settings by faster egg layers such as ISA Browns.

Again, enthusiasts worked diligently and restored the breed to its former glory.

Although popular in many countries, the Marans has never enjoyed runaway success. These days they remain rare/uncommon and are sought after by enthusiasts for their dark brown eggs.

What Do Marans Look Like?

Cuckoo Marans Chicken
Cuckoo Marans Chicken

Marans have a trapezoidal shaped body.

They are muscular chickens with plenty of muscle on their breast and thighs.

All varieties have a single comb, red wattles and red earlobes.

Their eyes are orange.

Marans have quite dense feathers which helps to keep them warm during the winter.

Depending on which country you live in, feathered shanks may or may not be accepted. Both the US and France accept feathered legs, whereas the UK and Australia only accepts clean legs.

You can expect the roosters to weigh 6.5–8.5lb and hens to weigh 5.5–6.5lb.

Bantams are available and weigh in at 17.5–19.5oz and 14–15.8oz respectively.

Marans Chicken Recognized Varieties

Each country has its own standard approved varieties.

In their homeland of France there are nine approved varieties:

Birchen: They have a solid black body but the head and neck feathers are a silvery white color with a narrow black stripe in the middle that runs the length of the feather. There are black birchen and blue birchen varieties. They are among the rarest of the Marans breed and good quality birds can set you back around $50 each.

Black: As the name implies this Marans is all black. This variety does not seem to be overly popular as it is often overlooked by the more colorful varieties such as the Black Copper Marans.

Black Tailed Buff: The black tailed buff should be a uniform buff color all over with the exception of the black tail.

Black Copper Marans: The roosters look quite stunning in their full plumage. They have copper colored hackles and saddle feathers over a black base which has a green iridescence in sunlight. Hens have some coppery highlights in their neck feathering but are much more subdued overall. Not so long age this color was all the rage. People wanted them in their flocks for the deep coloring of the eggs.

Columbian: The Colombian is one of the older varieties of Marans and has been around since 1931. Today it is extremely rare and hard to find. Their plumage pattern is white all over with black feathering on the neck feathers, tail and wing tips.

Cuckoo: Cuckoo Marans are one of the most popular varieties. There plumage is similar to a Dominique and has a light colored background with bands of irregular black coloration.

Golden Cuckoo: This bird has a beautiful patterned plumage. The overall barring pattern is the same as the cuckoo, but the color of the bars can be any combination of yellow/orange or reddish hues. This variety is very rare and quite expensive.

Wheaten: Hens are a light honey/wheat color with a darker head. Whereas the rooster looks a bit like the black copper rooster but is not quite so eye catching.

White: The white variety is one of the older varieties of Marans. They have pure white feathers will no other colors in their plumage. These lovely snow white hens will cost you around $15 each.

Of these varieties the American Poultry Association only recognizes the black, white, wheaten and black copper varieties.

What Is It Like To Own A Marans Chicken?

Marans Chicks

Marans Chickens love to be active.

If you let them free range you will often see them wandering around at their leisure.

You will also see them foraging.

They really do thrive on activity so if you can let them out of the run for a supervised range they will benefit tremendously from it.

Personality

Marans are generally docile and friendly chickens.

They do not bully other birds, but will not tolerate being picked on either.

Despite this they are remarkably easy to handle.

Hens are friendly and will follow you around for treats. However they are not overly cuddly so do not expect them to become lap chickens.

Because they have a lot of gamecock genetics, it is not surprising that the roosters can be a bit contentious at times. You should not leave them unsupervised around small children especially in the breeding season.

Egg Production

Marans are famous because of their eggs.

They lay a rich and deep brown (almost chocolate) colored egg.

You can expect them to lay between 150-200 eggs each year. However, if you are aiming for really dark eggs then the production rate may be slightly less. To use the printer ink analogy: there is only a certain amount of pigment available so the more eggs there are the lighter they will be.

The French use a gradation scale for color desirability.

Interestingly, 007 himself (James Bond) is said to love Marans’ eggs.

Hens are about average when it comes to broodiness – some like to be broody and others could not care less. They do make great mothers though.

Egg Production
Eggs Per Week: 4 Eggs.
Color: Chocolate brown.
Size: Medium.

Noise Levels

This is a quiet breed that is not prone to vocal outbursts.

You should only expect to hear the egg song or a rooster crowing. Because of this they are well suited for urban living.

Marans Care Guide

Black Copper Marans Free Ranging

Health Issues

Marans chickens are a very robust breed.

They really do not have any significant issues with their health apart from the usual parade of parasites. Lice and ticks can be controlled by using a simple poultry dust.

Lots of people dust twice a year to keep lice under control, yet other opt for treatment as needed (they only dust is they see live).

Either solution is acceptable as long as your chickens are parasite free.

Worming also can be done regularly or as needed.

Worms are becoming resistant to some types of wormer, so the best option is to change wormers each time you use it.

Feeding

As always you should use good quality feed for your flock.

Chicks should be started on 20–24% protein chick crumble. They need this high protein as they grow so quickly as chicks. You can feed them this from hatch until they reach around 16 weeks old.

At this point you can slowly move them to a 16% layer feed.

Your laying flock will need a 16% protein feed to keep them in good condition. When they begin to molt, you should increase their protein level to 20%. This will help them to grow their feathers back quickly and maintain a good healthy metabolism.

You should always provide a separate container of calcium so the hens that require extra calcium can take what they need. If your flock free ranges you will not need to provide grit, but if they are kept in a run then you should provide a container of this also.

Clean fresh water should always be available to them.

Coop Setup

Each Marans you keep in your coop will need 4 square feet.

So if you are keeping 6 Marans you coop will need to be 24 square feet. More space is always better especially if you have roosters since they can be a bit quarrelsome.

They will also each need 8-10 inches of roosting space. Try to make sure you have plenty of perches so that your chickens can move to another area if they wish.

Lastly, chicken nesting boxes. A standard 12×12 inch nesting box will do them nicely. Line it with plenty of bedding and they will happily use them to lay in.

Try to provide one nest box for every three hens.

French Black Copper Marans

Roaming

Your Marans will thrive if they can free range.

They love to roam and are good foragers.

This bird’s ancestors were free ranging and their survival depended on being good at finding food.

Marans will supplement their feed with extra seeds, grain, bugs and other goodies they can find for themselves. If you do have to keep them in a run then they will tolerate confinement, but are not usually happy about it.

Each one should be given 8 square feet of run space and lots of things to keep them occupied.

Just note that in confinement they have a tendency to become fat and lazy hens and hang around the feeder all day. So make sure you keep them active.

Should You Have A Marans In Your Flock? (Summary)

The Marans chicken has survived through many ups and downs and has a dedicated following of enthusiasts.

They have an incredibly deep genetic pool and this is evidenced by the sheer number of varieties of Marans. In total there are more than 9 varieties. However many of these are not recognized by the American Poultry Association because they are still considered to be in the process of refinement.

Several of these varieties are extremely rare and in need of conservation.

Of course, the rarer breeds will cost a lot of money for good quality stock. But they are a hardy and tough breed that will grace your yard for years to come.

Regular care and attention is all they need and if you can let them free range they will be in chicken heaven – they were born to be active and enjoy the activity tremendously.

Which is your favorite color variety?

Let us know in the comments section below…

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

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