Marans were approved and accepted into the American Poultry Association in the Continental Class in April 2011. They were developed in France and are known for their famous, chocolate brown egg. The English standard calls for clean legs, the French standard calls for feathered legs. Whitmore Farm breeds to the French standard.
Whitmore Farm raises both Black Copper Marans and Blue Copper Marans. The Black Copper variety is the most common variety in France and is generally believed to have the darkest egg color of all the varieties. The Blue Copper variety is a striking color combination with all the traits Black Copper Marans are famous for. The French Marans website acknowledges that Blue Copper Marans, although rare and not a recognized variety, have been around as long as the Black Copper variety has. The nice thing about raising Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans is that you can run the birds together and still get purebred Black Copper Marans and purebred Blue Copper Marans. The blue color gene is a variant of the black color gene, they occupy the same loci on the chromosome. Think of the blue color gene as a dilution gene. It dilutes out the black color. Gray is a dilute black.
This Blue Copper variety is a striking color combination with all the traits Black Copper Marans are famous for. Because the blue color gene is a variant of the black color gene, the two varieties can be run together.
A farmer named Will had some chicks,
World famous because of their tricks,
They would stand on one leg,
Lay a copper-hued egg,
And escape Bar-b-Quing on sticks!
– Rose Woodsmall
Here is a sample of the eggs laid by our Marans flock. The white eggs in the top right row are Leghorn, the egg in the middle is an Ameraucana, and the two tan eggs on the left are Delaware eggs.
Dark Maran Chicken Eggs
Marans lay the largest egg of the breeds we raise. Eggs from one year old hens average 2.27 oz (64.4 g) and meet the USDA “extra large” classification. Eggs from adult hens frequently hit the jumbo benchmark.Marans egg color is a very controversial and often misunderstood topic. I’ve raised several different bloodlines of Marans and these are by far the best. They have the darkest eggs I’ve been able to find. Egg color does vary by individual bird, by the time of the year, and varies depending on their diet and management (free range on green pasture vs. confinement). Generally speaking, the eggs from these birds average around 7 with some 8 and some 6, on the French 1-9 color scale. It is unrealistic to expect every bird in your flock to lay a dark egg all year long. Egg color does not work like that. We occasionally get a 9, but it is the exception and it is usually in early spring or late fall when birds are just coming on line.
Marans have the lowest lay rate of the breeds we raise. Some speculate that selecting for dark eggs reduces lay rate because dark eggs pass thru the oviduct more slowly receiving additional coats of color. Brown egg color is controlled by at least 14 genes and is not well understood. If it were as simple as only hatching the dark eggs, everyone would have a good line within one generation. Whitmore Farm will continue to select for improved lay rate and monitor egg color in successive generations to be sure it does not suffer.
Welsummer and Marans
If you are simply interested in dark brown eggs, you should also consider the Welsummer. Our Welsummer lay eggs nearly as dark as our Marans. We have to collect them separately to avoid confusion. Here is a pic showing eggs from both breeds in the same tray. The Marans eggs are on the left, the Welsummer eggs are on the right. Leghorn eggs are in the middle and two Delaware eggs and one Ameraucana egg are in the top row for additional color reference points. These represent the best of the Welsummer eggs during a single days collection. To view the full color spectrum of Welsummer eggs see the Welsummer page.
Those interested in the breed should join the Marans Chicken Club USA and the Marans of America Club. The French Marans Club is the premier source of information on Marans. I refer to it often. If you speak/read French, you should definitely join their club. They have their own forum and newsletter. There are also several Yahoo groups where people can go to for advice and discuss the Marans: Yahoo Marans Breeders of America, Yahoo Marans Chicken Club, and Yahoo French Marans.
Whitmore Farm employs flock breeding, so when you place an order for day old chicks you will get a mixture of both Black Copper Marans and Blue Copper Marans chicks, and occassionally a Splash Copper Marans chick. Basically, whatever black copper/blue copper/splash copper color ratio hatches out that week.