Sunbird Farms was one of the first in America to have the Bielefelder. We received our Malines before they were officially released by Greenfire Farms. We have raised Bresse since 2010, and have had been experimenting with Barbezieux since the beginning. At Sunbird Farms, we love to work with rare breeds and enjoy introducing them to the broader public. It’s really why we do what we do. Which makes it all the more interesting that one of our favorite chickens of all time is the Black Copper Marans.
The Black Copper Marans (“BCM”) is not a “rare” breed these days. Undoubtedly, just about everyone getting into chickens has heard of, wanted, or ordered the chocolate egg layer from France. They’re likely in thousands of flocks across the country and sold through nearly every hatchery these days. The name “Bev Davis” has found its way into descriptions from Backyard Chickens to mypethicken.com, making the once hard-to-find hen the very definition of poultry democracy. So what’s the deal? Why do we bother with the most ubiquitous of “rare” breeds? Glad you asked…
About 100 years ago in Northern France, in the port town of Marans, this farmyard breed was officially recognized. But the story of the Marans started centuries earlier, when English sailors brought their favorite fighting cocks into France. Once there, they crossed them with the native marsh hens. Half way through the 1800’s, amid the Asian poultry craze, a few breeders were fascinated by the Langshan for its quality of meat and color of eggs. In an effort to further the quality of local poultry, the farm hen of Marans was crossed with the Langshan of the East. Born of land and sea, the chicken from Marans was first exhibited in 1914 under the name of “country chicken.” By 1920 the name had changed to the “Hen Marandaise,” and by 1921, one Mrs. Rousseau was selecting for the “size and color of the egg.” The French Marans was born.
For most it’s an egg obsession. The desire for dark chocolate eggs has led many to move from Cuckoo Marans, to its more heralded cousin, the BCM. While we appreciate how beautiful these “extra-red” eggs are (the French refer to them as red, not brown), we love them for other reasons. Strong and rustic, the Marans is the perfect farmyard chicken. They are curious, but not overly. Their triangular shape, feathered legs, and overall “plump” appearance is the essence of fortitude with style.
Each winter they take time off from their laying duties. Some find it frustrating, but we think it makes their eggs even more valuable. It is a reminder that all good things have a season, like summer tomatoes or spring asparagus. Watching Marans go about their daily lives invites the observer to slow down. We have time to enjoy a loaf of rustic bread, a hearty red wine and some farmhouse cheese. Life it too good to rush.
If you’re interested in our Black Copper Marans, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org