UCP Episode 038: Love the Dark Eggs – Oh Wonderful Marans!

Black Copper Marans - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Black Copper Marans – photo courtesy of Bev Davis


The Marans chicken breed is marvelously varied!  The untrained observer could see a Black Copper, a Blue, a Wheaten and a Cuckoo Marans and never realize that these chickens, with vastly different coloring and feather patterns, were of the same breed. What unites these different looking Marans are their rich, brown egg color.

Marans chickens have a long history dating back to the 12th century when English sailors 

Cuckoo Marans - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Cuckoo Marans – photo courtesy of Bev Davis

would trade their game cocks (the ones that survived the on-ship entertainment) to locals in the port town of Marans, France for fresh food and goods.  These traded gamecocks were interbred with the local landrace black chickens indigenous to this region of France.

In the latter half of the 1800s, French chicken breeders crossed the local Marans with two Asiatic breeds – the Brahma and the Croad Langshans.  It was through this cross-breeding that the Marans breed developed its signature dark brown egg coloring.

Marans egg color chartThough the different subsets of the Marans breed may not look at all alike, they share one easily identifiable, unifying trait – the russet brown eggs laid by all of these birds.  In order to be deemed a true Marans hen, the bird must lay eggs that are at least a #4 on the egg darkness scale. The scale ranges from #1 (a white egg) to #9 (an extremely dark brown egg). Most Marans will typically lays eggs between #6 to #8 on the egg darkness scale.  It is truly a rare to have a bird that can produce eggs that rate as a #9 on the egg darkness scale.

Maran Eggs - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Maran Eggs – photo courtesy of Bev Davis

The Marans breed is not a heavy layer (compared to other breeds that have been bred solely for the purpose of egg-laying.  However, Marans hens are usually consistent layers – producing three or more eggs a week. Additionally, these marvelously dark eggs are typically large in size, and also a bit more spherical in shape than other breeds of chickens’ eggs.

There are nine recognized color varieties of Marans in the French standard: 1) Cuckoo; 2) Golden Cuckoo; 3) Black; 4) Birchen; 5) Black Copper; 6) Wheaten; 7) Black-tailed Buff; 8) White; and 9) Columbian.

Crele Maran - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Crele Maran – photo courtesy of Bev Davis

The United Kingdom officially recognizes four color varieties of Marans.  Despite the officially recognized colors of Marans, there are several other varieties within this breed which have yet to be recognized under any nation’s poultry standards.  It was not until 2011, that the first variety of the Marans breed, the Black Copper Marans, was officially recognized as a standard chicken breed in the United States.  The official recognition of the Black Coppers, and then later that same year, the Wheaten Marans variety by the A.P.A. was due to the laudable efforts of the Marans Chicken Club USA.


Wheaton Maran Hen & Chicks - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Wheaton Maran Hen & Chicks – photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Bev Davis, is the current president of Marans Chicken Club USA, which transitioned from a simple Yahoo group dedicated to the topic of Marans chickens to a full-fledged organization with its own website, and elected club officers and regional directors.  The Marans Chicken Club is the driving force behind the efforts to standardize and have recognized the Marans breed in the U.S.  It is through this organization’s significant and cooperative breeding and showing

Bev Davis & Beautiful Copper Maran - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Bev Davis & Beautiful Copper Maran – photo courtesy of Bev Davis

efforts that the Marans are becoming a more popular breed of chicken in the United States.  Without the Marans Chicken Club USA, the Marans breed might still be an unrecognized breed in America.  The group continues to seek A.P.A. recognition for other varieties of Marans.  Recently, the group turned its attention to the White Marans variety. Just this past December (2013), the group had a qualifying poultry show for the White Marans at the Oklahoma State Poultry Federation Show.  The Marans Chicken Club USA now awaits word from the A.P.A. whether their efforts were successful and a third Marans chicken variety will be recognized officially.  The group aspires to someday soon obtain official A.P.A. recognition for all of the Marans varieties.

Columbian Marans - - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Columbian Marans – – photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Marans are dual purpose birds, being both competent layers and also quality meat birds. The French believe that Marans make particularly good cooking birds for traditional dishes such as cassoulet au poulet.  Full-grown Marans roosters average about 8 pounds and hens 6 pounds, which is certainly a decent-sized cooking bird, but not a bohemoth in the backyard to raise and feed.

The Marans are docile, quiet birds that can stand being confined well.  The Marans breed is also known as being a gentler

Blue Maran Hen - photo courtesy of Bev Davis

Blue Maran Hen – photo courtesy of Bev Davis

bird when it comes to free-ranging in the yard.  This breed is much less-likely to rip up one’s lawn or garden.  These are all good attributes when considering a chicken appropriate for an urban backyard.  From my own personal experience with my Cuckoo Marans hen, Coco, she is the quietest and least destructive of my three breeds.  Though I can pick her up, she is the least tolerant of being held out of all my chickens – past and present.  Additionally, Marans have a single comb which means that owners do need to be careful about frostbite in very cold climates.  The standard for the Marans breed, written by the Marans Chicken Club USA and accepted by the A.P.A. requires that the breed have lightly feathered legs, which follows the French standard for the breed. However, you will likely find that many Marans for sale in  the U.S. are clean-legged, like the Marans in the UK.   Be aware for show purposes, it is a disqualification for a Marans chicken to be clean-legged.



UCP – New Urban Chicken Podcast Website “My Flock” Page – LINK


  • Marans Chicken Club USA Website – LINK
  • Bev Davis’ website (bevsmarans.com) LINK
  • Yahoo Group for Maran Chicken Club USA – LINK
  • Marans Chicken Club Facebook PAGE 
  • UK Marans Club Website (Great Pics of Dark Eggs) LINK
  • Backyard Poultry Magazine – Marans Chickens ARTICLE
  • Dark Brown Eggs – Post on Cooking Marans (with Recipes) LINK 
  • Texas Marans – Website about Marans by Regional Chair LINK 
  • UK Marans webpage – Interesting opinion on protecting the breed LINK 
  • Avian Aqua Miser – Good Informational article about Marans – LINK
  • Animalspawnation – Comparison of Barred Rocks & Cuckoo Marans LINK
  • Marans Unlimited – Website with Show Quality Marans & Info LINK 
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