Gallus gallus domesticus
Marans chickens produce some of the darkest, chocolate-brown eggs in the world!
Marans Chicken Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Gallus gallus domesticus
Marans Chicken Conservation Status
Marans Chicken Facts
- Invertebrates such as insects, larvae, and worms; reptiles; amphibians; small mammals such as mice
- Main Prey
- Name Of Young
- Group Behavior
- Fun Fact
- Marans chickens produce some of the darkest, chocolate-brown eggs in the world!
- Biggest Threat
- Most Distinctive Feature
- French Marans have lightly feathered shanks and feet; British Marans have bare legs and feet
- Distinctive Feature
- Bright red face, comb, wattle, and ear lobes; curved, bone-colored beak; pink or slate legs; relatively short tail held at no more than 45 degrees; broad shoulders; strong, upright stature; variety of colors and patterns
- Other Name(s)
- French Marans; British Marans
- Friendly hens; sometimes contentious roosters
- Easy to train hens with treats
- Incubation Period
- 21 days
- Originated in swamps, now primarily kept in small, captive flocks
- Hawks, owls, eagles, foxes, raccoons, snakes, coyotes, wolves
- Favorite Food
- Commercial feed and treats such as vegetables and fruits
- The swamps and wetlands near Marans in southwestern France near La Rochelle.
- Number Of Species
- Europe, North America, Australia
- Nesting Location
- In coops
Marans chickens produce some of the darkest, chocolate-brown eggs in the world!
Wandering the vast swamps of southwestern France more than 800 years ago, the indigenous ancestors of the Marans chicken began to breed with imported game fowl from afar. The resulting chickens were further developed over the centuries, incorporating desirable traits from a variety of breeds. By the turn of the 20th century, a hardy, dual purpose bird approached standardization. The Marans chicken was large, broad at the shoulder, full at the breast, and good for meat. It was a decent layer, too, and produced uniquely deep brown eggs. These eggs would become the breed’s greatest asset, and the trait that makes them among the most popular small flock chickens today.
Incredible Marans Chicken Facts
- Marans chickens are names for the town of Marans, in the region of France where they originated.
- Marans chickens are considered dual purpose birds, good for both meat and egg production.
- The ancestors of this breed include wild swamp chickens from France and game fowl that were imported mainly from Asia.
- French Marans chickens have lightly feathered shanks and feet, while British Marans chickens have bare legs.
- The deep, chocolate-brown color of Marans eggs depends on the genes of the hen and a number of other factors.
Where to Find Marans Chickens
Marans chickens originated in the marshes surrounding the town of Marans, France. The town now lies in the Poitevin Marsh Regional Natural Park, or Parc Naturel Régional du Marais Poitevin. This park lies in southwestern France, near the coastal city of La Rochelle, within one of the largest marsh and wetland regions in Europe. The area is home to a rich diversity of animal and plant life. In the 13th century, it was home to feral chickens that bred with imported game fowl to begin the evolution of what would become French Marans chickens.
Breeders in France organized in the early 20th century to standardize the breed. The first recorded showing occurred in 1914 in La Rochelle, and by 1931 the breed standard had been established in France. Meanwhile, exporters took the Marans chickens to England in the 1930s. The British Marans chickens known today may have developed independently through selectively crossing several other breeds. They have bare legs and feet, as opposed to the feathered feet of French Marans.
Today, Marans chickens of both the French and British types have made their way to several countries in Europe, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, and perhaps other parts of the world. According to a 2023 piece in the New York Times, Marans chickens are one of the most popular and fastest selling breeds today, largely due to their unique, deep brown eggs.
The scientific name of Marans chickens is Gallus gallus domesticus. This name is the same as that of other domestic chicken breeds, which are thought to have evolved from the red junglefowl of southeast Asia. Indeed, even the casual observer can see many similarities between the red junglefowl and the Marans chicken, especially the Black Copper variety.
The common name, Marans chicken, is taken from the town of Marans in southwest France, just a little way from La Rochelle near the coast. The French Marans chickens are thought to have evolved from the native fowl which inhabited the surrounding swamps as they crossed with imported breeds.
Marans chickens are medium to large chickens. They are broad at the shoulder and have a strong and upright appearance. Males weigh around 8 pounds, while females weigh approximately 6.5 pounds. Hens reach heights of around 15 inches, while roosters can grow up to about 22 inches tall. They are soft feathered with relatively short tails. They hold their tails aloft at an angle no greater than 45 degrees from their body.
Marans chickens have red faces with red earlobes, and wattles. Their large, red, single combs stand up tall and are evenly serrated. They have bright, orange-red eyes. Their beaks are slightly hooked and horn colored, and their legs and feet may be pink or slate. French Marans have somewhat sparse feathers on their shanks and toes. Birds with lightly feathered legs and feet are also the only Marans officially recognized by the American Poultry Association. British Marans chickens, meanwhile, have bare shanks and feet with no feathers.
The American Poultry Association only recently recognized Marans chickens, accepting the Black Copper coloring in 2011. They since recognized the Wheaten and White varieties, followed by the Black coloring in 2021.
Other Colors and Patterns
Many other varieties of Marans chickens are recognized by breeding clubs around the world. The Silver Cuckoo Marans, bred in both French and British varieties, are heavily and irregularly barred with black and white. They are among the most popular of the breed in the United States and in other locations. Golden Cuckoo Marans are similarly barred, but with reddish brown and black, while Dark Cuckoo Marans are barred in dark and light gray.
The Black Copper variety, also known as Brown-Red, Copper Black, and Birchen, have black plumage with glossy black tail feathers and copper red hackles and saddle feathers. The Silver Black Marans are similar, but with silver in place of the red.
White Marans are, unsurprisingly, white. Black Marans are black. Wheaten Marans have feathers that are golden-red to reddish-brown. Other color patterns include Colombian, Black-tailed Buff, Blue Copper, Splash, and more.
Marans chickens are described as friendly and relatively docile, but not easily pushed around by other breeds. The roosters are not usually aggressive, but can be quite contentious, possibly due to their evolution from game fowl. They crow, but they are not known to be excessively noisy. The hens are very agreeable and easy to train with treats.
These chickens prefer to roost between two to four feet above the ground. They tolerate confinement well, but they do require adequate space in their coops and enclosures as they are larger chickens. They are not the best flyers, but they can fly short distances and reach low branches.
Although Marans chickens are known as laid back and even lazy birds, they do love to roam and forage. This is a sturdy breed that does well in most types of weather. Because their feet are not heavily feathered, they can even do well in relatively cold and wet climates.
Marans chickens evolved from swamp fowl and game chickens. They are formidable foragers, eating not only invertebrates such as insects, larvae, and worms, but also larger prey such as reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. These chickens must also be fed a good quality commercial poultry feed with plenty of protein and calcium, especially when hens are laying. Foods such as leafy greens and other vegetables and fruits would be healthy additions to their diets. Even scraps such as bits of meat or pasta and rice make excellent treats as well.
Marans chickens lay between 150 and 200 eggs per year. Hens usually begin laying when they are between about 24 and 26 weeks of age, but sometimes take even longer. Marans roosters reach sexual maturity earlier, around 18 weeks. Some Marans breeders suggest keeping a ratio of about one rooster for every six hens. This is more than many other breeds, but the laid back, docile nature of Marans chickens carries over into their mating habits, lowering fertility if a rooster has too many hens.
Marans hens tend to go broody and reportedly they are good mothers. The chicks grow rapidly, and they can be much larger than other breeds at the same age. They develop so quickly that some owners express difficulty recognizing young pullets, because they are as large as cockerels.
The most desirable trait of Marans chickens is the color of their eggs. They are among the deepest, darkest, chocolate-brown chicken eggs in the world. Only the Penedesenca chickens lay similarly dark brown eggs. Marans hens produce about four eggs per week, averaging between 150 to 200 eggs per year. These eggs are large and round, and they come in deep, chocolate-brown shades that vary based on a number of factors including each hen’s genes. Multiple genes affect not only the depth of color, but also spotting or stippling patterns on the eggs.
Color is also affected by how long the egg is held in the hen’s oviduct before it is laid. Marans hens deposit chemical compounds called porphyrins on the outside of their eggshells as they pass through the oviduct. Eggs laid earlier in an egg laying cycle are normally darker than the ones that come later. The longer an egg is held inside the hen, the more pigment is applied. Therefore, a hen that lays fewer eggs per year is likely to produce darker, more desirable eggs.
Other factors that affect the color of Marans eggs include the seasonal temperatures and the stress level of the bird.
Snakes can easily prey on young chicks in the nest if coops are not fortified well. Hawks and owls can also prey on young chickens, although full grown Marans may be more difficult targets. Because Maran chickens are not the best flyers, and they enjoy roaming freely about, predators such as eagles, foxes, weasels, and raccoons can pose problems. Secure chicken runs and enclosures may be a good solution in areas where predators are a concern.
Lifespan & Conservation
Marans chickens have been around a very long time. They began their journey from wild landrace chickens that roamed freely in the swamps and wetlands of France centuries ago. Today they are growing in popularity due mainly to their unique egg color. Although they are described as rare by some sources, their future looks bright. They are not listed on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. With continued interest, hopefully they will stay off the list and continue to thrive.
Marans Eggs and James Bond
Not every egg gets its own place in a legendary story. No one ever even said what sort of egg Humpty Dumpty was, though one might rightly wonder if he was of a thin-shelled variety. The deep brown French Marans eggs, however, will forever be known as a favorite of none other than James Bond. In From Russia with Love, the author, Ian Fleming, wrote that Bond preferred the brown, speckled eggs of Marans hens to ordinary white eggs. Who is to argue with 007?View all 163 animals that start with M
Marans Chicken FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What do Marans chickens look like?
Marans chickens are medium to large chickens. They are broad at the shoulder and have a strong and upright appearance. They are soft feathered with relatively short tails. They hold their tails aloft at an angle no greater than 45 degrees from their body. Marans chickens have red faces with red earlobes, and wattles. Their large, red, single combs stand up tall and are evenly serrated. They have bright, orange-red eyes. Their beaks are slightly hooked and horn colored, and their legs and feet may be pink or slate. French Marans have somewhat sparse feathers on their shanks and toes. British Marans chickens, meanwhile, have bare shanks and feet with no feathers.
How big are Marans chickens?
Marans chickens are a medium to large breed. The hens reach approximately 6.5 pounds, and the roosters grow to be about 8 pounds. Hens reach heights of around 15 inches, while roosters can grow up to about 22 inches tall.
How well do Marans chickens fly?
Marans chickens are not the best flyers, but they are not the worst. They can fly short distances and reach low branches in trees. This helps them to escape ground predators.
How many varieties of Marans chickens exist?
There are two distinct varieties of Marans chickens. The French variety was developed first, from crosses between landrace swamp chickens and imported game fowl, and later other imported chickens. French Marans have lightly feathered shanks and feet. British Marans were developed later, and may or may not have derived from the French variety. The British Marans have bare legs and feet.
What makes Marans chickens special?
Marans chickens lay some of the darkest, deep-brown, chocolate-colored eggs in the world. These eggs are highly desired, and breeders work to develop lines from hens that lay the darkest eggs.
Where do Marans chickens live?
Marans chickens first lived in France. They were exported to England and other parts of Europe, to the United States and Canada, Australia, and perhaps other parts of the world.
What do Marans chickens eat?
Marans chickens are great at foraging, possibly due to their ancestors that roamed the swamps of France. They eat all sorts of invertebrates, including insects, larvae, and worms. They also eat amphibians, reptiles and even small mammals such as mice. They love treats, including vegetables, fruits, and other scraps. And of course, they require commercial feed rich in protein and calcium.
How many eggs do Marans chickens lay?
Marans chickens lay between 150 to 200 eggs per year. Their eggs are large and round. The deep brown color of the eggs varies, not only between individual hens but also the time of year and how long it has been since the hen’s last molt. Some hens lay solid brown eggs, while others lay speckled eggs.
How long do Marans chickens live?
Marans chickens can live for 7 years or more.
Are Marans chickens hardy birds?
Marans chickens are quite hardy. They do well in most climates and are tolerant of both cold and wet weather.
Are Marans chickens rare?
Many sources describe Marans chickens as rare, but they are also known as a very popular heritage breed. They are not currently listed on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. Their future looks promising, as they are one of the fastest selling chicken breeds as of 2023.
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- The Marais Poitevin Regional Nature Park, Available here: https://pnr.parc-marais-poitevin.fr/
- Jackie Reeve/New York Times, Available here: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/guides/best-chicken-coops/
- Purina Animal Nutrition, Available here: https://www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed/education/detail/lay-the-rainbow-chickens-that-lay-colored-eggs
- Oklahoma State University, Available here: https://breeds.okstate.edu/poultry/chickens/marans-chickens.html?Forwarded=afs.okstate.edu/breeds/poultry/chickens/marans
- Fleming's Bond, Available here: https://flemingsbond.com/eggs-from-french-marans-hens/