Andy Cawthray looks at pure breeds developed for egg laying. This month: The Marans
The Marans is probably the most well-known breed of chicken to come from France. This is primarily because of its ability to lay incredibly dark brown eggs. It also however carries some useful table properties and is widely used for both meat and eggs in some regions of its country of origin. It is however for the egg colour though that many people keep Marans. This is reflected in the show scene, where the breed is not widely exhibited for their looks and instead the eggs being the competition that breeders look to win.
The Marans takes its name from the town of the same name on the mid west coast of France. Its ancestry lies with a number of breeds ranging through Faverolles, Croad Langshans, Coucou de Malines and Plymouth Rocks to name but a few.
In their native country, Marans with feathered legs are favoured whereas in other countries such as the UK, featherless legs are selected for within the breed. Depending upon which countries standards of perfection are used as reference, various plumage types can be seen, with black, dark cuckoo, silver cuckoo and golden cuckoo being the more common.
The Marans hen weighs 7lb (3.2kg). As with the male she has white legs, red or bright orange eyes and a medium sized white or horn coloured beak. She has a compact stance with neat medium sized wattles and single comb.
The Marans cock has an active looking posture. Weighing 8lb (3.6kg) he has a medium sized solid looking body, strong neck and relative long, upright tail. With the reasonable sized width and depth in the frame of the male it is possible to see the underlying table qualities of the breed.
The Marans egg is extremely dark brown, and its actual colour quality can be assessed using an agreed and accepted points scale. The pores on the egg surface are smaller than the eggs of other breeds plus the membrane of the egg can be very thick particularly in the darker eggs. This can result in breeders experiencing hatching problems.
As a breed the Marans exhibit a high level of curiosity and will actively seek out their keeper. They do however rarely become tame preferring instead to remain at arm’s length. They are friendly amongst themselves and with most other breeds, seldom showing aggression.
Marans are well suited to a free range environment being effective foragers; however they will also perform well in a more confined run. They are a vigorous breed capable of coping with any climate. The feathering on the legs of the French strains of the breed is less profuse than most other feathered legged breeds so they cope sufficiently well in wet or muddy conditions without need for special care.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE
Marans are a popular breed because of the egg shell colour and are usually quite freely available. A breeder who prizes the dark shell colour might charge £40-£50 for a hen. Someone who simply likes brown eggers but with a less intense brown shell colour may charge only £15-£20.
ABOVE: The Marans: BELOW: Marans eggs