Cuckoo marans

Cuckoo marans on pastureCuckoo marans are one of the
new chicken breeds we’re trying out in
2011.  We decided to test the variety since Harvey Ussery uses
cuckoo marans as his mother hens and we want to find a
broody/maternal variety
.  Other folks keep
cuckoo marans for their
extremely dark brown (“chocolate”) eggs, because the chickens are a
rare breed, or because their owners like eating James Bond’s favorite
type of


Cuckoo marans chickens
originated in the mid 1800s in the French town
of Marans.  As a result, it’s technically incorrect to refer to “a
cuckoo maran hen” — instead, the name “marans” should always have an
“s” at the end.  The English imported marans and selected for
non-feathered legs, so you can tell whether your marans are of English
stock (like ours) or of French stock by looking for leg feathers. 
(Most American birds are English-type marans.)  Either way, marans
share the European trait of
white (well, pink, really) skin, which makes for a different-looking
carcass than that of traditional American meat breeds.

Marans, FranceMarans were probably
originally bred to be good farmyard birds and are
now considered a dual purpose breed due to their moderate
According to some sources, a marans type chicken dates back to the
thirteenth century, which presumably means marans were selected for
utility as well as looks.  Cuckoo marans originated in marshland
and they’re supposed to be able to handle damp and wet better than some
other varieties.

Modern cuckoo marans lay
anywhere from 160 to 210 eggs per year, which
is not so hot if you’re raising the chickens just for their eggs. 
(We hope their maternal abilities will make lower egg-laying
worthwhile.)  Although marans are famous for laying “chocolate
eggs”, many individuals lay ordinary brown eggs instead — if shell
color is important to you, be sure to look for a dark-laying strain.

Identification: Cuckoo marans vs.
barred rocks

Barred rock hensCuckoo marans look a lot like
the more common barred rock, but the two
breeds aren’t that tough to distinguish.  In
, look

  • Barred feathers, meaning
    straight white lines running across the chicken rather than a speckled
  • Cuckoo marans cockerelYellow legs

In contrast, cuckoo
marans have:

  • More speckling than
    barring (although the rooster may look nearly barred.)
  • Light pink legs

Sexing cuckoo marans

You can get an idea of
the sex of a cuckoo marans nearly from the day
it hatches.  At the fluff stage, males tend to be light silver
colored while females are almost black.  The males also usually
have a a larger yellow spot on their heads than the females (but this
isn’t as easy to distinguish as it is with dominiques.)

Sexing cuckoo marans chicks

Sexing cuckoo maransOnce your chicks feather out,
sexing becomes simpler.  Female
cuckoo marans are much darker than males, with the white spots on the
feathers being smaller and further apart.  Of course, once your
chickens reach three months old, you should be able to distinguish
males from females of any breed by body size,
comb size, etc.


Cuckoo marans pulletsWe raised our cuckoo marans
in the
, which means
they were easily able to hide just by walking a
few feet back into the weeds.  Perhaps that’s why they turned out
so skittish and shy, although the trait may be genetic since some
internet sources report similar behavior.  (On the other hand,
other folks say that their cuckoo marans are calm and tame.)

It’s also tough to get a
Thrifty Chicken Breedssolid handle on our cuckoo marans’ foraging
ability.  We processed our cockerels at 12
weeks (at which time they weighed 2.06 pounds) and found that their
to meat conversion rate
was around 5.2.  The
number suggests that
the marans foraged better than our
last year
but worse than our

To be fair to our marans, though, they didn’t have perfect pasture
since I kept them in one large pasture during their entire youth rather
than rotating, so they might have had limited access to good food.

I’ve read from several
sources that cuckoo marans exhibit extreme
broodiness, which can be good or bad, depending on whether you want to
raise your own chicks.  Our pullets aren’t old enough to show
off their broodiness yet, so we’ll have to wait until next year to tell
whether the reports are true.

POOP-free chicken waterer
is the perfect way to keep your chickens healthy and happy.

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