All about Marans
English ships sailing into Marans, near La Rochelle in France in the 1800s used to carry hens and fighting cocks. These were exchanged with fresh hens from Marans and the region became the birthplace of a particular breed of poultry, originally called the Marandaise, later to become the Marans.
Around 1880 two poultry merchant brothers from London were responsible for spreading knowledge of the Marans hens. One of them was a wholesaler of white Russian eggs (Russia was at this time an important poultry producing country). The other brother, whose ships docked at Marans, had the idea of competing with the white Russian egg trade by selling the dark brown eggs of Marans hens which were bigger and fresher. Thus the eggs soon became popular in the London markets.
Maranses were crossed with Brahmas and Langshans in order to make the eggs browner. Brahmas were used for their egg laying abilities and the Langshans for the dark brown colour of their eggs.
Maranses - there are two types: French Marans and English Marans - weren’t actually introduced to Britain until 1929. The English are cuckoo and clean legged (they look similar to barred Plymouth Rocks), while the French can be wheaten, copper black, black, white or Colombian and have feathered legs. Classed as a heavy breed, the Marans is the one pure breed where it is relatively easy to distinguish male and female chicks. The males have a white spot on the top of their heads, while the females have a darker one. They are a good choice of breed for free range as they are good foragers. Bantams are available as miniatures of their large fowl counterpart.
The Marans’ eggs are so special that in France competitions are held to judge the size, shape, texture and dark colour of the eggs. The colour ranges from brown to a dark chocolate. Bantams are usually not that tame and not particularly keen on being touched. They can be unreliable layers, but are worth keeping just for the colour of the eggs.
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