The Marans’ Egg

Beauty might be only skin – or shell – deep, but the truth is that we do care about it. I have beauty criteria when selecting what chicken breed to get. I look at plumage and the color of their eggs. For some time now, I’ve wanted one of those dark chocolate-colored eggs in my basket, and for that I decided to get a cuckoo Marans. This is a breed that originated in France, and it was only a couple of years ago that it was put onto the American Poultry Association’s list of recognized breeds. Being derived from French, no one seems to agree on how to spell or pronounce it. Is one chicken a Maran or a Marans? Silent S or pronounced? I’ve seen it officially both ways. I’m saying Marans. This time.

In any event, I got a cuckoo variety (which is a term for the slate gray striped feathering). My one Marans is named Veronica. Typical of this breed, she matured late and is not a prolific layer. I’ve been watching and waiting for that chocolate egg. Nothing. Of the six Ladies in the Little Barn, two lay blue eggs, two white, and two brown. Nancy Drew, the Black Star, lays a pale brown egg. Sometimes. She’s supposed to be a good layer, but she’s not. Sometimes her eggs are thin-shelled. There are days that she doesn’t lay at all, but I’ve occasionally found a light brown egg in the nesting box. I assumed that it was hers.

But on Sunday, this was in my egg basket:



The dull white egg is Misty’s, and the middle egg is Nancy’s. So, the only other hen that could possibly lay that brown egg on the right is Veronica. There’s a chance that her eggs will get darker, but I doubt it. Oh, well, I do like having Veronica in the flock. I’m partial to big, classic laying hens, and she is that. Veronica is chatty and calm. Here she is with Owly. Owly is not steady or calm. She is looking up (which is a trait specific to Owly and in all of my years of chicken keeping, I’ve never had such a quirky hen.)



Veronica is steadfast. That’s a good thing when there are hens like Twiggy and Owly in the mix.



I think that if I want chocolate eggs, I’ll have to buy Cadbury’s.


  1. Well, you can’t go wrong w/ a Cadbury. But you also can’t have that for breakfast. I’m sorry her eggs are not darker. At least you got a pullet. I bought a Cuckoo Marans 3 years ago and she grew and grew and was finally about three times the size of the other babies. She had these feet that were nearly the size of my hands. Then she started to stay back and let the other hens eat first. And finally she/he started to grow these beautiful saddle feathers.

    Giving him away was one of the hardest things I had to do. He was such a sweetheart. But I live in a no crow zone.

  2. That is such a lovely pic of Veronica…..She does have such a sweet look about her. My Brown Boven hen (Mae) lays the darkest eggs of my mixed flock. That girl was obviously bred for laying. The poor thing never takes a break…a nice large shiny dark brown egg is gifted to me every day…even now as she moults. I think there might have been 6 days since she started to lay(last nov), that she has not lay one. It is a good thing she is so prolific as the other girls are mostly on leave due to moulting. But Julie the Barred rock still lays the odd soft shell egg. It is usually followed by a huge egg and she does not appear to be any worse for wear. It seems to be just part of her package as she has always followed this pattern. Interesting creatures for sure!

  3. We have a Golden Cuckoo Marans and her eggs are not dark either. They do have dark speckles all over them, but they definitely do not fall anywhere close to the “chocolate brown” category. I have read that only Black Copper Marans reliably lay chocolate eggs, also Penedesencas are known for being reliable chocolate layers – but I have no experience with either.

    At first I was a bit disappointed that Danger, our Marans, didn’t lay the true chocolate eggs – but now I don’t really mind. The speckled eggs are pretty and she plays a big roll in the coop dynamics – so overall I’m pretty satisfied with her.

    • We have 4 French Copper Marans on point of lay (fingers crossed!)
      Oh, I’m so longing for dark chocolate brown eggs!
      Mind you, ANY eggs would be welcome here at the moment, as they’re all recovering from a really long moult. The worst ever in my 8 years of chicken keeping!

  4. I got 2 Cuckoo Marans as day old chicks on March 6th, and one was a pullet, and one was a rooster, (Otis) who I have kept. Otis lives with my 2 goat brothers, B.B. and Lee, and 3 other roosters, that I couldn’t bear to part with!
    I had 2 Ameraucana’s the same age as the Marans, and they laid their first eggs on July 30th, with the Marans (1 pullet),laying a few days later. They are beautiful dark brown eggs, sometimes perfectly brown and smooth, other times with dark specks on them. They are not as dark as other varieties of Marans that I have seen on the internet. I believe hers are getting lighter in color, rather than darker. They all 3 layed every day for the first few months, while my older hens were molting, and had nearly stopped laying. So my Marans was pretty normal, starting to lay at 21 weeks.

  5. Veronica is such a pretty hen! Very solid. I also picked my chicks based on feather and egg color. Two classic Barred Rocks and two Easter Eggers. One of my EEs was a roo and we had to rehome him. I would like to have more of the blue eggs. :-)

  6. Terry,
    Owly just takes her job in the flock as the official “looker outer for hawks” seriously. She can’t let one get past her on her watch.

      • Does she make alert sounds alot too to dangerous things that arent’ their because I know of another famouss Easter Egger who has since passed away that was qutie Quirky and fluff brained ? I think Owly might be Fern reincarnated.

  7. I’ve been reading your blog for several months (it’s fantastic) and finally have to comment about your cutey, Owly. We have a hen of the same breed who is also always looking around, exactly the same, in fact they could be twins! In her case, it facilitates escaping from the pen, flying on top of the hen house and laying her lovely blue eggs in the vines. She is a true jungle fowl!

  8. I believe you when you say Veronica is sweet and calm, but that look would make me think twice about crossing her.

  9. Hi, Terry
    Absolutely love your site,both seeing your beautiful birds and reading your blog. It must be totally unexpected to find that Veronica lays an a-typical egg in terms of its colour for a Marans. My father had a flock of a dozen almost 40 years ago now, and I remember the beautiful eggs vividly. I retired last year and have recently gone back to keeping a back-yard flock; I have amongst them 4 Marans bantams, only 3 months old, and am keen to see just how dark their eggs will be, although I’ve read that they are not on a par with the large fowl. There is an interesting site, which might give some ideas on egg colour: the shell colours are amazing, and far darker than any I remember collecting when we had our flock:
    Thank you so much for all you contribute to the world of the amateur poultry keeper, on both sides of the Atlantic.

  10. My marans was the biggest disappointment ever. A year old, never laid an egg, and then suddenly flopped over and died.

    Terry, were you just now picking ticks off the boys out by the barn?

    • I was picking off ticks. This is prime season for them. The ticks drive the goats crazy, and they rub their skin raw. But, what’s interesting is that goats don’t get lyme disease. I hope that someone is studying why.

      • As much as I hate the noise Guinea hens make, if you are having that much trouble with ticks Terry, have you thought of getting a few Guinea hens to run around your property to take care of ticks that might get ahold of you, the dogs, your family and the goats ?

        • I love my guinea hen…she is really fun to watch and a great watch dog/hen!

          • I’d like to keep guineas, but they tend to forage afield and sleep in trees. Around here, I’ve heard of too many flocks taken by coyotes.

  11. Hello, Terry,
    This question is off-topic of your blog post, I hope you don’t mind. I’ve been reading much conflicting “wisdom” about chickens feeding on slugs and snails. Some are saying slugs/snails can cause parasites in chickens? I’m now concerned. We live in the PacNW and are getting our first four young hens tomorrow. Needless to say, they are going to find slugs and snails. I can’t find anything in your archives on this topic; and so far, nothing on any state extension sites or such. Are slugs/snails anything to be concerned about, in your experience?

    • We don’t have the sort and quantity of snails that you have in your area. I have heard of snails spreading disease, but in goats, and other furry animals, not chickens. They carry protozoas and bacteria that cause disease. Personally, I wouldn’t worry if a hen eats one found on a leaf, but I wouldn’t feed them handfuls of them picked out of my garden.

      • Thank you! This new-to-us property is slightly overrun with the slimy devils, so we may just play it safe and only let the hens forage the gardens and beds that we’ve alleviated somewhat. The hens will still find some snails/slugs, but hopefully in numbers that their immune systems can handle. Thanks again.

      • I live in a very very sluggy and snaily place. I am guilty of feeding large handfuls to my hens over the course of the last few years. as far as I can tell, there have been no ill effects. there are some they don’t like and will not eat. I never poison slugs so that I can run the girls through the garden every morning – it has been a huge help with the garden.

        • Good to know, Jane. The problems that I heard with snails happened with four-footed animals. I don’t know enough to give science-based advise, so your first-hand experience is helpful.

          • I am also guilty of feeding handfuls of snails and slugs to my girls in the spring. I haven’t noticed any ill effects other than a soft egg or two from the most gluttonous of the hens. But that resolves itself in a day or two.

  12. Well, you are the expert, Terry, but Miss Veronica looks a heck of a lot like a Barred Rock to me. And her egg looks like the eggs that my Barred Rocks lay. Just sayin’….
    I have a Black Maran, and when she is done molting, I will send you a photo of her egg. Huge, dark chocolate color, covered with almost-black spots and speckles. Awesome!

    • Alas, she is a Marans. Her coloring is more blurred and grayer than that of a BR. Her comb smaller. I will tell Veronica about your perfect Marans and see if that inspires her :)

  13. Do you know if any of Veronica’s fellow Marans that you have raised are laying any eggs that are darker than hers ? I know Black Copper Marans are still much demand, that people are even looking for excess cockerels to breed their own !!! So if you ever do get Black Copper Marans Terry, and one or two is a cockerel you wont have as hard a time findign them a home.

  14. As always great photos. I have a hen like Owly looking up, down, runs ,flys talks sometimes sounds off like a rooster lol chases the squirrels! Her name is Camy ( for Chamomile) and she is quite a character. She is an EE but lays brown nt blue eggs. But I love her. My maran which is a splash but not much splash is Violet. She resembles your Cochin Pearl. Big bird 6.8 lb mostly white. sweet, sweet bird sits in your lap etc. her egg is a nice dark brown. Darker than my other brown eggs but not the chocolate I was looking for . My welsummer Ginger lays a much darker egg. Almost chocolate like the Maran egg photos I have seen on line. So I guess you just never know.

  15. We had Cuckoo Marans last year and we got a super extra large (bottomed out the scale) egg every day. Some times we got as many as 4, as there were 4 Marans. But they never were all chocolate colored, usually speckled with chocolate spots. The first egg we got from the pullet group that year was a Cuckoo Marans, at about 20 weeks old. They were not the best layers, but the most consistent through the year.

  16. My marans had issues with her chocolate factory, too! but after a month or so, the light brown slowly turned into half dark/ half light, and now (a couple months later) she lays a nice spotted dark deep brown. Maybe Veronica is just taking her time and one of these days her chocolate factory will kick in. Don’t give up hope!

  17. I have marans. The s is silent but always on the end of maran whether it is plural or single. I have black cooper marans and blue copper marans. Egg color is a genetic thing. Not all marans lay those super dark eggs. Generally they will not darken as the hen gets older, etc. If you want really dark eggs your best chance is to hatch a chick or buy one that came from a dark colored egg. I have some good dark egg layers-a 7 or 8 on the marans egg color scale (9 is the darkest.) They are really cool birds whether they lay dark color eggs or not. I love their personalities.

    I love your blog! Thanks for sharing your chicken adventures.