French and English Marans chickens are exotic, but not because of their appearance. They are beautiful birds to look at, but this alone does not make them unusual, since many chickens are attractive birds. Marans qualify as exotic because they lay chocolate eggs.

Maran eggs

Do the eggs taste like chocolate? Unfortunately not, but their coloring is as dark brown as any cocoa. The darkest brown eggs are produced by Black Copper Marans hens (making them highly sought after), while Silver Cuckoo Marans hens (which are more common in the U.S.) also produce a very dark egg.

The Marans breed was developed in France, where both its fine white flesh and dark brown eggs were favored by chefs. In 1929, some hatching eggs were smuggled into Britain, and further breeding took place in both countries. Today, there are a lot of Marans crosses as well as several standard colors for the breed. The hens lay at a reasonable rate. Most Marans are calm and interested in people, though personalities can vary a great deal within the breed. Here is a picture of a Marans hen (in the foreground) with some adopted chicks that she mothered.

Maran chickens

Marans Facts

Size

Hens 6-7 pounds.

Coloring

Black copper, silver, cuckoo (black and white spotting or barring, like Barred Rocks), golden, white, blue, wheaten.

Eggs

Hens are good layers of around 3 eggs per week, which are large and very dark brown.

Nature

Mostly calm and personable, but some variation.

Notes

Black Copper Marans that meet the French standard are quite rare in the U.S., where this class of chicken has not been officially recognized yet. At the same time, a lot of mixed breeds exist, which sellers may pass off as being genuine Black Copper Marans. If you see an advertisement for hatching eggs, make sure the seller mentions that they meet the French standard. If you are offered some Marans chicks or pullets, they must have feathered legs to be the real French article, or else they are probably British crosses. For some reason, the British breeding resulted in featherless legs. Of course, you may actually want birds without feathered legs, which are easier to keep clean.