Marans

History of the Marans breed

In the 12th century, with her marriage to Henri of Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, who became Henri II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine brought to England a dowry consisting of a part of South-west France: Poitou, Paintonge, Aunis, Perigord and Limousin. This English domination lasted two centuries. English ships often stopped over at La Rochelle (near Marans) and unloaded gamecocks, which had survived the cockfight, at that time highly prized by sailors to cheer up their sea isolation. In return, poultry, which furnished fresh food and eggs, were taken on board the ships.

The gamecocks were naturally crossed with local landrace hens. The products born of these crossings had a more stocky figure and laid darker colored eggs. The fighting cocks, of many varied colors, are the origin of various present Marans varieties and are responsible for the proud bearing, heavy figure and of the sometimes quarrelsome character of the cocks, they would have more game characteristics if it were not for the original hens.

The Marans were imported into the United Kingdom in the 1930s. These early birds had both Silver or Dark Cuckoo markings and feathered shanks. Black, Cuckoo, & White birds were derived from these birds. English Marans were developed with clean shanks, as breeders had difficulty differentiating them from other feathered shanked European breeds. Marans were accepted into the British Standard in 1935, Gold Cuckoos followed in 1944, with the Blacks being added in 1952; unfortunately, the Whites died out. Black Copper-necks were also imported from France in the 1930s but were never accepted into the British Standard.

The popularity of the dark egg lead to indiscriminate breeding over the next 20 years to try to improve the identification of pullets and cockerels as day old. Good pure Marans can be difficult to sex when young, but day old sexing would have meant that breeders could cull the cockerels and raise more pullets at reduced costs. This was done by using other breeds such as the Light Sussex - their offspring were then put to a pure Marans and the resulting Marans-looking young were sold as Marans. The cockerels were much lighter at day old so it was easier to cull them out. Successive years of breeding from these stocks produced a paler egg, poorer productivity, and more white in the feathering (from the Light Sussex). As a result, quality pure Marans are now very difficult to find, as it can be very difficult to distinguish between these birds and the crossed version which has become incorporated into some stocks.

Read more about the extensive history of this unique breed at the Marans Club of America page: Marans History

Marans Behaviour

The Marans breed is most well known for their large to extra-large chocolate brown eggs. Many factors influence egg color in the Marans breed including age of hens, time of year, diet, and even bloodline. For this reason egg color is one of the judging factors for the quality of the line. The French Black Copper and the Cuckoo varieties typically lay the darkest eggs, but eggs from all quality varieties should be dark brown. The French Marans Club has developed an official egg color chart with a 1-9 color scale. The French standard specifies that a hen must lay at least a 4 to be considered a Marans (http://www.marans.eu/loeuf.htm#loeuf)

Temperament: Although roosters can be slightly aggressive, most of the time this breed gets along well with other chickens and is docile with people. They are active and good foragers, but also handle confinement well. While not as vocal as other chickens, they are generally active but may become lazy if not given the proper space.

Click on the photo link below to view our Marans photo album.

Marans photo album