Backyard chicken keeping is an increasingly popular hobby that is experiencing a resurgence. More and more cities are rolling back ordinances that prevent keeping chickens on your property, leading to an uptick in interest. There are hundreds of different types of chickens to choose from – hybrids, heritage breeds, crosses. One of those breeds is the Maran chicken, one I’ve personally kept on my little farmstead before and definitely a chicken that I would recommend.
All about Maran chickens
When it comes to picking the right breed of chicken for your home or farm, knowing the basics of the Maran breed will help you make that decision.
- Other names: Poule de Marans
- Appearance: Trapezoidal shape, meaty, variety of colors
- Origin: Marans, France
- Temperament: Docile
- Noise: Loud
- Purpose: Meat, eggs
- Maturity: 35 weeks
- Eggs per year: 150-200
- Egg color: Dark brown
- Egg size: Large
- Size: Large
- Hen weight: 5-6 lbs
- Rooster weight: 7-8 lbs
- Broody: Sometimes
- Lifespan: 7+ years
- APA Recognized: Yes, 2011
Maran chickens, sometimes called Poule de Marans, are large, trapezoidal-shaped chicken known to be big, meaty, and rather colorful. They hail from Marans, France, and are generally docile. Some say that Marans are quiet, but it has been my experience that they are not. Maran hens in particular can make quite a bit of noise and have presented problems for some in urban areas. They are a dual purpose bird, good for both meat and eggs. They mature at 35 weeks old.
Marans come in a handful of color varieties, including Cuckoo, Golden Cuckoo, Black, Birchen, Black Copper, Wheaton, Black-tailed Buff, White, and Columbian. They lay 150-200 large, very dark brown eggs per year. Hens top out at about 6 pounds while roosters can grow to 8 pounds. They can live more than 7 years. This breed was recognized by the American Poultry Association in April, 2011.
Marans are generally pretty docile chickens. I’ve found they can be a bit aloof too. If they know you’re bringing treats, all bets are off. They’ll be your best friends.
When it comes to roosters, and this applies to just about every breed of chicken, if you treat them with respect and are kind, they will typically return the favor. Knowing their boundaries and reading their body language is important. If, despite all your best efforts, your Maran rooster won’t stop being aggressive, it may be best to remove him from the flock and look for a nicer rooster.
The Maran chicken is a dual-purpose chicken, bred for both meat and eggs. They lay as many as 200 large, brown eggs per year. Once mature, hens weigh about 6 pounds and roosters weigh about 8 pounds.
Coop and run
Chickens tend to pick up bad behaviors when their coop and run aren’t up to their standards, so making sure you have the appropriate coop and run for your Maran chickens is vitally important.
Marans like to have plenty of coop and run space to go about the business of being a good chicken. The more space you can provide them, the happier they’ll be and the more eggs they’ll lay. Maran chickens should be provided 10 or more square feet of free range area per bird.
Chicken runs and coops should be kept properly cleaned out and provided fresh straw regularly. At least one nest box per laying hen is preferred, although they can tolerate “buddying up” and laying eggs in the same nest box. These chickens are known to wander some and will occasionally find creative places to lay their eggs.
Common Maran chicken problems
The Maran chicken is fairly hardy, though one breed-specific problem they experience is dirty leg feathers. Breeds with longer leg and foot feathers tend to experience a lot more filth buildup around the legs and feet, which can lead to various health problems.
Chickens are susceptible to a number of viral illnesses, including Marek’s disease, vaian flu, fowl pox, Newcastle disease, and bronchitis. Some of these conditions are more common than others. Signs of a viral infection among your chickens include sneezing, coughing, reduced egg production, reduced eating, lethargy, discharge around the eyes and sinuses, sores, and paralysis in the case of Newcastle disease.
Most chicks acquired from a reputable breeder or hatchery are vaccinated against the more common viral infections, like Marek’s. Chicks acquired from smaller-scale sellers may not be vaccinated. Always ask if your chicks have been vaccinated and what they’re vaccinated for.
Bacterial infections are a real concern for chickens, as coops, runs, and the outdoors, in general, can be havens for bacteria. The most common bacterial infections for chickens are salmonellosis and colibacillosis. These infections can be fast spreading and infect entire flocks.
Signs your chickens may be struggling with a bacterial infection include reduced egg laying, breathing problems, reduced appetite, and death. Salmonellosis doesn’t always present symptoms in chickens.
The two most common types of fungal diseases are brooder pneumonia and ringworm. Ringworm can be spread to humans as well, so if you suspect your chickens have ringworm, handle them carefully and wash your hands and clothes immediately.
Brooder pneumonia tends to only infect young chicks spending their first few weeks in a brooder. Ringworm usually clears up on its own with time. Keeping brooders and coops clean is key to avoiding these fungal infections.
Like most of our pets, chickens can experience parasitic infections. Worms, ticks, lice, and mites are some of the more common ones. Symptoms of these parasites include loss of appetite, lethargy, skin irritation, and unexpected loss of feathers outside of normal molting.
Be wary of used coops. Always disinfect them thoroughly before introducing your chickens. Replace coop bedding often and periodically disinfect chicken coops to reduce the presence of parasites.
It can be a rough and tumble life for chickens as they go about establishing pecking orders and foraging for food. Injuries, particularly foot injuries, aren’t uncommon. Most surface-level injuries will clear up on their own, but foot injuries are particularly concerning as the chickens’ talons tend to come into contact with their own manure as well as other pathogens in the soil and on the ground.
Common signs of a foot injury are difficulty walking or putting weight on the foot as well as lethargy. In the case of bumblefoot, a type of staph infection, both the chickens’ digits and sometimes entire feet can become swollen with pus-filled abscesses. Foot injuries should be treated and bandaged as soon as they are noticed.
Egg binding is an often tragic issue for chickens. It’s caused when an egg becomes stuck between the hen’s uterus and cloaca. Signs of egg binding include weakness, inability to perch, often choosing to sit or lay on the ground, straining, and a lack of egg laying. Egg binding can quickly become a fatal condition and will generally require a trip to an avian vet to fix.
Pasty butt, sometimes called pasty vent, is a fairly common condition that afflicts chicks. It can quickly become a life-threatening issue if not addressed. Pasty vent tends to be caused by stress and dehydration. It occurs when thick stools block the chick’s vent, preventing it from passing droppings.
Eventually, the chick will become ill and refuse to eat. Signs of pasty butt include smaller chick size and a pasty mat of droppings over the vent. This condition is easily treated by cleaning the affected area and removing the stuck droppings.
Breeding Maran Chickens
Breeding your Maran chickens doesn’t differ significantly from breeding other types of heritage chickens. Providing your Maran hens access to a Maran rooster and allowing nature to take its course will yield healthy, strong chicks. A ratio of 10 hens for every rooster will typically yield good fertility rates. You can allow a broody hen to sit on her eggs or hatch them in an incubator. A quick guide to hatching:
- Incubation time: 21 days
- Incubator temperature: 37.5°C (99.5°F)
- Incubator humidity: 40-50%
- Egg turning: 4 times a day
- Candling eggs: Day 7
- Lockdown Date: Day 17
- Lockdown temperature: 37.2°C (99°F)
- Lockdown humidity: 65%
For more information, check out our comprehensive guide on incubating chicken eggs.
What to feed Maran chickens
Up until about 16 weeks old, your Maran chicks should be fed a commercial chick starter feed with 18% protein. This added protein will help your young chicks grow and develop into healthy birds. After 16 weeks, they can be switched to a 16% protein layer feed to support healthy feathers and good egg production. Chickens enjoy being put out to pasture where they can eat grass, bugs, and other plants. They will also gladly eat some fruits, vegetables, grains, and leafy greens. Free-ranging your birds will also cut down significantly on your feed costs.
For more information, check out our comprehensive guide on what foods chickens can and cannot eat.
History of Maran chickens
The Maran chicken, also known as the Poule de Marans, hails from the port city of Marans, France. It was bred from feral chickens found locally and crossed with game chickens from Asia. These original “Marandaise” chickens were then crossed with Croad Langshans to improve the meat and egg laying of the bird.