The Marans

Craig Russell
RR 4 Box 251
Middleburg, PA 17842

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 1997, 2(1):5-7

While not an old breed (or perhaps breeds), the Marans do contain some very ancient blood lines and have had a persistent, if often small, American following. Marans are a first class utility fowl, but the American interest has been mostly centered on their eggs which, like those of the Welsummer, are an extremely dark brown. The breed takes its name from the French town of Marans, but most North American Marans are of English extraction. The importance of this is that the English version is clean legged, but in its native France the breed is raised with sparsely feathered legs. The breed was developed in the early 1900Õs as a dual purpose utility fowl and the de Malines and French Cuckoo or Rennes, an ancient clean legged Cuckoo breed from Brittany, figured heavily into its makeup. Langshans, Faverolles and Barred Plymouth Rocks were also used and even Braekel and Gatinaise and perhaps other blood lines may have been used in at least some strains.

When Marans were imported to Britain around 1929, the related Nord or North Holland Blue was already well established. This breed and the Cuckoo variety of the Marans were almost indistinguishable. The British solved this problem by selecting clean legged sports. The Marans were a very recent development and, as might be expected with any "breed" with such a varied background, were still producing numerous variations from the standard type and by using more French Cuckoo and Barred Rock blood soon established a clean legged race.

So, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is some question as to whether Marans constitute one or two breeds. While I had heard that there had been French or feather legged Marans in Canada at one time, I had never encountered any and was not sure that they still existed. However, last fall at Columbus I talked to a gentleman raising feather legged Marans. Therefore, the question has importance for American breeders, particularly Maran keepers. For my part, since there are no other differences, I believe they should be considered a single breed with feathered and clean legged varieties (much as some breeds have rose combed and single combed varieties). Let's hear your views.

While not an old breed, Marans are certainly a rare breed in North America and one that has generated considerable interest. Therefore, I do think it behooves us to provide a standard to guide both judges and breeders.

Interestingly, the British North Holland Blues also differ from those in their native land. As I mentioned, the Hollands and the Marans are related. The Malines is a primary ancestor of both and they both contain at least some Barred Rock blood. Like the Marans, Hollands were variable during the early period of their development. While the early imports to Britain had mostly feathered shanks and this version was standardized there, the Dutch themselves finally settled on the clean legged version probably at least, in part, to differentiate them from the French Marans.

To say that this creates a confusing situation hardly covers it. At one time both British and Dutch North Holland Blues were present in North America. Years ago I saw some of the English type but I'm afraid both have probably disappeared. It's just possible that some were even merged with the Marans.

There are four recognized varieties of Marans: Black, Dark Cuckoo, Golden Cuckoo, and Silver Cuckoo. North Holland Blues come only in Cuckoo. The Marans colors seem to have all sprung from the original crossings and were developed and stabilized by selection. Any barred or cuckoo breed produces black sports from time to time and the Langshan blood in early Marans had to make these common. The Golden Cuckoos resemble Creles to some extent (varying slightly in color and markings). The pattern is essentially a cuckoo barring imposed on a black breasted pattern. The Silver Cuckoos are simply the silver version. The Dark Cuckoos are the most common Maran and that is certainly true in North America, but while IÕve never seen any Silver Cuckoos there have been and probably still are some Golden Cuckoos and Blacks here.

I might note that all Marans (even Blacks) have white legs. I understand Black breeders often maintain some dark legged breeders to maintain a dark under color.

I should also point out Marans are recognized by the A.B.A. That organization calls the Dark Cuckoos simply Cuckoo, but I prefer the British terms because when compared with other Cuckoo Fowl such as Cuckoo Dorkings and Dominiques, Marans are darker with less distinct barring. This is especially true of the females.

The following information comes from the A.B.A. and the British Poultry Standards. . . .2


Plumage, Black Variety, Male and Female: Black with a beetle-green sheen.

Plumage, Dark Cuckoo Variety, Male and Female: Cuckoo through-out, each feather barred across with bands of blue-black. A lighter shaded neck in both male and female, and also back in the male, is permissible if definitely barred. Cuckoo throughout is the ideal, as even as possible.

Plumage, Golden Cuckoo Variety, Male: Hackles bluish-grey with golden and black bars; neck paler than saddle. Breast bluish-grey with black bars, pale golden shading on upper part. Thighs and fluff light bluish-grey with medium black barring. Back, shoulders and wing bows bluish-grey with rich bright golden and black bars. Wing bars bluish-grey with black bars: golden fringe permissible. Wings, primaries dark blue-grey, lightly barred; secondaries dark blue-grey, lightly barred, with slight golden fringe. Tail dark blue-grey barred with black; coverts blue-grey barred with black. General Cuckoo markings.

Plumage, Golden Cuckoo Variety, Female: Hackle medium bluish-grey with golden and black bars. Breast dark bluish-grey with black bars, pale golden shading on upper parts. Remainder dark bluish-grey with black bars. Cuckoo markings.

Plumage, Silver Cuckoo Variety, Male: Mainly with in neck and showing white on upper part of breast, also on top. Remainder barred throughout, with lighter ground colour than the Dark Cuckoo.

Plumage, Silver Cuckoo Variety, Female: Mainly white in neck and showing white on upper part of breast. Remainder barred throughout, with lighter ground colour than the Dark Cuckoo.

All Varieties: In both sexes: Beak, white or horn. Eyes, red or bright orange preferred. Comb, face, wattles and ear-lobes, red. Legs and feet white.

Standard Weights: cock 8 lb; cockerel 7 lb. Hen 7 lb; pullet 6 lb.



[Chickens D-O]


back to Poultry Page

All text ©1998 FeatherSite unless otherwise credited; for graphics see note.

Direct questions and comments to Barry at FeatherSite -- questions and comments