Cuckoo 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 very
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
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 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
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.
Cuckoo marans look a lot like
the more common barred rock, but the two
breeds aren’t that tough to distinguish. In barred
- Barred feathers, meaning
straight white lines running across the chicken rather than a speckled
- Yellow legs
In contrast, cuckoo
- 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.)
Once 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.
We raised our cuckoo marans
in the ragweed
forest, 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
solid 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 feed
to meat conversion rate was around 5.2. The
number suggests that
the marans foraged better than our dark
cornish last year
but worse than our black
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.
Be sure to give an update on broodieness scores for all your breeds this spring and summer. I’m trying to decide on a dual purpose broody chicken breed. Thanks!
I will definitely keep you updated (and I hope you’ll do the same with your potentially broody breeds.) So far, nobody has been interested in sitting on the nest, but it’s a bit early from a hen’s point of view.
Any broody hens yet this spring?
Dave — The hens we had that went broody were all Australorps (and none of them stuck with it.) But our Cuckoo Marans are younger — maybe they will go broody next spring after they’ve had some laying under their belts?
I have only one Cuckoo Marans,Bea. She is just over a year old and her chicks are 5 weeks old today. I really didn’t want her to go broody and tried to break her but she was too determined so I gave in. She has been a great mother and successfully hatched every egg I put under her. I hope yours have the same tendencies as my Bea.
Sarah — Sounds like we need to swap birds! No broody Cuckoo Marans here yet….
Our cuckoo never went broody so we gave away her fertilized eggs to a friend’s broody Orpington who hatched 5 out of 6 eggs. Our little Silkies will annoyingly brood over a rock if it’s under them. You might consider a Silkie to hatch any fertilized eggs and she’ll mother ducks if that’s what hatches. We gave away our large cuckoo because she started brutalizing our two little Silkies while our Leghorn remains sweet and polite with the little ones.
Sylvester017 — I’ve been very disappointed in our marans’ (complete lack of) broodiness too. On the other hand, the hybrid australorp x marans broilers seem to grow faster than either parent, so that’s a plus!
We may have to try silkies. I’ve heard from several folks who’ve had the same great luck with them as mother hens that you have.
I have 2 Cuckoo marans and they are very skittish and are the only 2 of my flock that don’t squat for me. We love their eggs (large) one is a nice medium dark brown and the other is tan with dark brown speckles. They matured a lot later than my other chickens too, 5 1/2 to 6 months old before they started laying.