The 's' in Marans is correct, since this breed was named for the port town of Marans, France, although it is not pronounced.
Developed in the marshy Marais Poitevin, this breed is a hardy forager that does well in damp conditions. Its origins reach back to the fighting chickens that sailors brought to port on trading vessels. Those birds, crossed with local chickens, resulted in the breed that took the city's name. Part of their charm is the dark chocolate brown eggs they lay. They are also known for their docile temperament.
Marans may have feathered or clean legs. The breed was shown at the National Exposition of Agriculture in La Rochelle, France in 1914 with feathered legs. English breeders brought them home and bred them to clean legs.
World War I devastated France and the Marans. New stock was returned to France from the English strains, which French breeders then bred back to feathered legs.
Both varieties exist in the U.S., but the breed has not yet been recognized by the American Standard. Breeders are working toward recognition, which requires at least two hens, two pullets, two cocks and two cockerels birds be shown at APA shows at least twice each year for two years. Judges then submit their opinions and a qualifying meet is held. No fewer than 50 birds must be shown at that meet.
"Favorite Recipes of The North American Marans Club," a cookbook assembled by that group, is available through http://poultrybookstore.com. It includes recipes from many fans of this delightful breed, including Martha Stewart, who raises them, and myself.
Thanks again to Barry Koffler, www.feathersite.com, for this picture.