Originally, I found an advertisement for French Wheaten Marans chicks at my local feed store's bulletin board, and decided to order some chicks from the breeder. I was unfamiliar with this chicken breed, but was captivated by them. What makes this breed so unique is their dark chocolate colored eggs. By unusual circumstances, and many twists and turns, I was actually given the breeder's two "1-year old" hens last week. I promptly and appropriately named our new two French Wheaten Marans hens, Fanny and CoCo.
The Marans chicken breed originates from western France, around the actual town of Marans, and near La Rochelle. The Marans rooster is very striking, multi-colored, and is often depicted in French paintings and farm scenes. The hens look totally different from the rooster. Within this Marans breed there are actually eight or more colors or varieties. Our Wheaten Marans hens are one of the varieties, being light buff in body, with darker buff feathers around their neck, shoulder, and tail feathers. For a little drama, their tail feathers have a striking black tip on the ends. The most well known varieties within the Marans breed are the Cuckoo and Black Copper.
Marans chickens are generally characterized as a large attractive hardy breed. They are very active chickens, and do well in a homestead setting. They have a friendly docile temperament. They have a single red comb. and can come in feathered or clean-leg varieties. They were originally bred for their very dark brown egg production, and meat value.
It is the dark chocolate colored laid egg, which attracts most people to the bred, and which sets them apart from all other chicken breeds. The Marans egg receives its deep brown color right before laying. A deep chocolate brown pigment is deposited and tinted over the finished egg by way of mucus glands within the last 10 centimeters of the hen's oviduct before laying. Immediately after laying, this layer of tint dries quickly and the shell retains its beautiful dark chocolate color. Remember, the egg's flavor is determined by what the hen eats, therefore these eggs will not taste like chocolate. It is all about the "wow factor" in the visual appeal of the egg.
This differs from your usual farm-fresh brown eggs, most generally laid by heavy-weight chicken breeds, where the tan pigment is built into the shell calcium as the egg travels down the hen's oviduct, and not tinted in the last moments of being laid. Similarly, the popular blue-green egg laid by the Ameraucana breed is tinted throughout the thickness of the shell. With your normal brown eggs, and blue-green eggs, the color cannot be removed. However, the deep chocolate brown color on a Marans egg can be washed off with water, if you attempt it.
All of you who have been following this blog by now know we have our other beloved chickens, our "Hollywood Girls". With the introduction of Fanny and CoCo, there is an adjustment period, a "get to know you" period, and a creation of a new pecking order. While I'm watching this all unfold, I'd love to hear from you. Especially if you are familiar with the Marans chicken breed. What do you like most about the breed? What do you like most about the eggs? Do you have a Maran rooster, too? What variety do you have?