The Marans is a breed of domestic chicken that was developed in the Marans region of western France. It was developed using native fowl of various breeds and was later enhanced by introducing the bloodlines of the Croad Langshan. It was brought to the United Kingdom during the 1930’s, after Lord Greenway found them to be of good quality, but he could only smuggle a few eggs in a luncheon basket due to importation restrictions at that time.
After his poultry manager hatched some of the eggs and reported exceptional findings, he imported sixty chicks to be used as breeding stock in that area. He focused on breeding chickens with silver and dark cuckoo markings initially, but later moved onto developing black, white, and cuckoo chickens. The breed was accepted into the British Standard of the British Poultry Club in 1935, but due to indiscriminate breeding practices conducted over the next twenty years, the breed lost much of its purity and purebreds are now extremely rare.
The Marans is medium to large in size depending upon the area in which it is bred and it has clean legs in every area but France, where feathered legs are preferred. The French standard recognized nine colors of this breed including cuckoo, black, white, and Columbian, but it can also come in unaccepted colors like blue and splash. This breed is typically docile in nature, but active, so it thrives in free range environments. Hens lay up to 150 dark brown eggs each year, a quality that they are prized for, but the meat is also highly valued due to its unique taste.
Image Caption: A Cuckoo Marans hen in winter. This barred feathering, called cuckoo, is the most common color for the Marans breed. Credit: Steven Walling/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)