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Birchen Marans
Black Copper/ Brown Red
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Columbian Marans
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Wheaten Marans
Black Copper Genetics

Black Copper Marans are probably the most genetically diverse of all the marans variety. On this page we are honored to have Genetics Expert David Hancox  interprets in layman terms the genetics that consist of this wonderful marans variety. Description of the Brown-Red Marans

The origin Marans Standard states

  • - the cock must be "black except for the hackle, saddle, shoulders, and the coppery lancet. The breast is slightly spangled which reddish-brown spots…"
  • - the hen must be black, except in the hackle feathers that have a golden edging, and having some reddish-brown on the breast".
  • This description deserves some comments in order to avoid faulty interpretation,

    The precision of the vocabulary, which is used, is very important. We should also notice that the hackle mustn't be golden but copper, and that the cock breast is reddish-brown spotted and not spangled. The hens have a black breast, and not necessarily have reddish-brown glints like the cock. Too much reddish-brown in the hen may cause an unbalance of the Brown-Red color due to an excessive of undesirable golden glints on the back and wings.

The Brown-Red cock.

With a majority of black feathers, the head, the hackle, the saddle and the lancets must be copper-colored. In respect to the definition of this "coppery color", some variation is allowed but must however remain a mid-copper to red-copper.

We must reject that which is too light, an ochre, yellowish color, or straw-colored at the hackle. Shades such as fawn and golden-buff are also incorrect. Copper is not fawn. The color must always be strong enough, so that any ambiguity might be avoided in these differing shades. Some feathers, especially in the lower part of the hackle and the lancets, can be more or less black-red. The shoulders should be crimson-red colored exactly the same as the Black-Red Duckwing cock (e+ wild type).

This color shows itself to be quite velvety, and can turn a reddish-brown color especially when the whole tone is mainly "copper-red". This red color of the shoulders must be sufficiently spread to the whole of the small wing covers, making a uniform mass, which it will be, if it is not blended with the black. Such black spots, when they appear blend into the red of the shoulders, as well as on the saddle and on the lancets revealing a color unbalance (there is a too much dominance of black in comparison to the copper). Their breast is black whereas the ideal breast as well as the throat is well marked by coppery spots, but not excessively so.
Another sign that reveals an unbalance between black and copper: is the color of the ear tufts, it has a circular form and it has a more or less brown-fawn color (for the correct copper colored cocks). In the overly black cock, the color would range from a blackish tone to a totally black, (as would the hens).

In well-marked cocks, the color of the ear tufts must match, more or less, the copper color of the head. The shoulders must always be a good copper-color Even thought such cocks have a black breast without reddish-brown spots, they give excellent results in the breeding pen. The coppery colors of the shoulders and of the ear tufts have a very positive influence on the balance of the black and copper coloring. The cocks with blackish ear tufts, black spotted shoulders, and those with a totally black breasts result in a lack of copper color, and will produce a very high proportion of pullets that are completely black, or lack sufficient copper color in the hackle.       They must be culled from the breeding pen.


The green sheen on the black plumage is not required in the Brown-Red Marans. The absence of this green sheen has a correlation with the presence of a gray rather, than black under color; orange-red eyes rather than black eyes; of brown eggs; and slate legs that are due to the amount of melanin that is present in the bird. So the ideal compromise consists in seeking and preserving by rigorous selection, a perfect balance between too much black and too much copper.
It must be understood that this balance in the Brown-Red color is characterized in the cock as follows:

  • - a sufficiently strong copper color (not excessively black), with red-colored shoulders
  • - a slightly coppery marked breast
  • - a black breast but only if the shoulders and the ear tufts are good
  • - orange-red eyes and clear (whitish) shanks

When we select birds with a very red coppery color it seems more difficult to contain excess black on the whole body. The black tone is often deeper and glossier. So, the search is for a good and strong coppery colou but no more than that appears to be necessary to stabilize the very best balance of colors.

On the contrary, the light coppery tones produce, more widely, a dominance of the incorrect golden tone, at the expanse of black. We must also note that the color of the cock hackle often show a two tone shade because the fringe has a stronger color than the rest of the body. The hackle color is close to that of the lancets. This is correct, and this contrast is of variable intensity (which is however less important in the strong red-coppery color).

The Brown-Red hen

As for the hens, the color markings are the same as that for the cock.

  •  black, coppery color at the hackle and nothing else.

The head and the hackle are more or less a strong copper color, varying from mid-copper to red-copper, this variance seems to be the result of black dominance.

Consequently, it is a little more difficult to control the ideal balance with the red-copper color than with the incorrect light-coppery tone of the hackles that is sometimes encountered.

Hens with these overly light yellowish or straw-colored hackles must be avoided. The hackle feathers have a black-colored tip, the ear tufts are usually blackish fawn colored but are darker than in the cock.  All the rest of the body, including the breast must be black without white feathers or other fawn shades, and without a green sheen.

On the other hand, the coppery color of the hackle must also be present on the front of the neck or throat, and spread out almost down to the breast.

The hens, which are correctly copper-colored, produce a very satisfactory proportion of cockerels with an ideal red mark on the breast. These two color characteristics have a very strong correlative between them; hens that have nice hackles, and cocks that have nice breasts .

Excessive black


The present Brown-red color instability explains the frequent appearance of nearly or even totally black pullets. These latter, genetically remain Brown-Reds, and under no circumstances are they to be considered a true Black. This mistake must be avoided and these two varieties mustn't be mixed in the breeding pen.

These quite black pullets (we should rather speak of melanised Brown-Red pullets) can in no way be presented in the show as a real Black variety and it would be a swindle to sell them as such. Due to past crossing of Black, E, birds and Brown Red, ER, birds the E allele can be isolated in some Red-Brown lines. This is one reason for the overly melanised birds.

However, some of these ‘too’ black pullets can be useful to correct ‘light’ birds but only if the are known to be ER based, and egg color is very good. The regular use of very well colored cocks corrects the excess black in some hens, which are sometimes totally black.

 This phenomenon is the same for the eye color. The regular use of very well colored cocks whose eyes are orange-red allows improvement in some situations that seem insurmountable (i.e. hens with dark brown or black eyes).

The choice of the cock is of the highest importance in order to improve this Marans variety, the stress must be made with equal stress on plumage and the quality of the egg color, the ideal selection consists in using 100% of true color hens (with good coppery hackle), and not selecting the blacks except in cases of emergency in order to preserve the precious extra reddish-brown egg.

In the same line of birds, it is often easier to control the excess black in the cocks, than in the hens. Generally, the cocks have feet, eyes and plumage (including the ear tufts) less darkly colored than hens of the same breeding. That's why the standard accepts the darker shank and feet of the hens. The orange-eyes are notably essential. Today, very few hens have reddish-brown or black eyes.

Other color flaws

We can find another color flaw in the Brown-Red hens. It's the appearance of feathers, which are speckled, stippled, with more or less light marks, fawn-colored coppery colored, or with light shafts. They are said to have stippling on the breast and even on the whole body. Such hens have sometimes been shown as "partridge" Marans, which is totally unacceptable. The true genetic "partridge" color present in some breeds (like the wild type Duckwing) has nothing in common with these Marans hens, which can only be considered as bad Brown-Reds from which you can get nothing good. These hens often corresponds to cocks whose breast red color is too spread out down to the thighs, and whose coppery tones are often replaced by a pale light fawn or straw-colored feather shades, which are considered to be incorrect. Once again, it is advisable to choose as breeding stock only the cocks or hens that are neither too black nor too pale, fawn colored or which are a bad, light coppery, color.

The selection must maintain a fair balance between what are the best black and the best copper shades.

The genome of the Brown-Red is as stated based on the Birchen ER allele. Without any modifying genes the cock would be a standard Black breasted Red, the hen black with gold in the hackle, and gold lacing on the breast feathers. So as Copper is required the gold s+ gene must be present. Gold will not give us the required Copper colour so the colour depth is increased by the addition of Mahogany, Mh. This genome ER/ER s+/s+ Mh/Mh would still allow too much expression of copper on both the cock and hen, so the black plumage is strengthened by the addition of the melaniser Ml, other recessive melanisers may also be present. Adding the required Dermal Inhibitor, feather shank genes gives for the cock a genome of

ER/ER s+/s+ Ml/Ml Mh/Mh Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 and for the hen ER/ER s+/- Ml/Ml Mh/Mh Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1.

Interestingly the Dutch Marans Standard requires a well laced breast, and hens meeting the French would be disqualified. The Dutch obtain the required lacing by the reduction of melanisers and the possible addition of the Columbian Restrictor Co to the genome.

As previously stated birds which appear to meet this Standard have been found that are based on Extended Black, E their genome is thought to be E/E s+/s+ Mh/Mh Id/Id W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 (Ml/Ml?) cock, and E/E s+/- Mh/Mh Id/- W/W Pti-1/Pti-1 (Ml/Ml?) for the hen.

Plumage Description
The name Red-Brown may seem strange for a bird that is a black breasted red in the cock, and a red birchen in the hen, one needs to look back to the beginning of the breed to find the reason. The first crossings were made using English fighting cocks, the “cockers” named the color of the birds by what they could see when they were fighting in the pit, the breast and the back.  So a bird with a broken breast (black with red/brown markings, and a red back was called a Brown Red. The Brown-Red, has been the main variety of the breed for numerous years. 
Most popular of Marans Variety in France

Indeed, more than 80% of the members of the Marans Club of France have selected the Brown-Red variety. It is also very popular in the Low Countries and the USA. Its numerical superiority widely demonstrates the constant interest breeders have in this variety. This success is due to several reasons. A nice Brown-Red Marans flock has style. Furthermore, we find that hens of this variety lay the darkest extra reddish-brown eggs of all Marans. This variety, together with the Birchen (Silver-Black) and Golden-Salmon (Black-Red), are birds, which are the closest in type to the Standard. Moreover, the great number of existing birds reduces the problems associated with inbreeding. At the present time, it's the Brown-Red Marans, which is used as a source of improvement, in the sometimes deficient, egg color quality of the other varieties.

  • - the Brown-Red is based on the Birchen gene , ER, of which there are three, and only three, other varieties.
  •  They are the:
  •  The Blue Brown-Red (Golden-Blue), the Birchen (Silver-Black) and the Blue Birchen (Silver-Blue).

Consequently, if crossing to improve other Marans varieties (Wheaten, Black-tailed-buff, White....) is carried out, the Brown-red variety can't be recommended from a plumage point of view. However when we are forced to turn to the elite of this variety because of the qualities of their extra-reddish egg colour) we must do so.

 Note:  in the search of an improvement to the Silver-Cuckoo variety, it is better to choose good Silver Birchen bird that lays nice eggs.

This improving cross, of the Silver-Cuckoo variety with the Silver Birchen produces good results because, in the Marans, many Silver-Cuckoos are probably based on the Birchen allele and not on the Extended Black.

The selection of the Brown-Red variety

In order to select and improve the Brown-Red variety, the most commendable solution consists in avoiding out crossing to any other variety. It is advisable to stick rigidly to an internal selection in the Brown-red variety as long as possible and to out cross only in an emergency such as that caused by severe inbreeding depression… They most suitable outcross would be to one of the other ER based varieties.

However, this recommendation doesn't mean that crossings between varieties is impossible, but that it makes the control and the follow-up of the genetic characteristics inherited much more uncertain. One of the trickiest situations results from the crossings between Brown-Red (Birchen) and Black birds, by the confusion caused by the color of the resulting hens …

When a Brown-Red is mated to a variety that is recessive to it all the resulting progeny will look like a Brown-Red. That's why some young birds of other colors can appear in Brown-Red lines. These colors, which are due to recessive characteristics, disappear after the first crossing with the Brown-Red but remain latent in the genotype ready to reappear in future generations; this is called the "atavistic return" of the recessive allele.

While it requires work to maintain its black and coppery markings, at the level of ideal distribution, the Brown-Red variety, in most cases, is genetically fixed and stable. The selection for "true" Marans characteristics since the beginning of time has had as its priority the dark reddish-brown egg color, has been to the detriment of correctly colored exhibition birds.  Clumsy crossings with Black or Wheaten colored subjects have achieved nothing to correct this. Conversely, there are very nice Brown-Red Marans exhibition stock that have been selected for plumage color but lack the ability to produce a dark red color in their eggs.

Let us be clear and precise: they are no longer Marans!


How to correctly distinguish the Brown-Red variety


 A Crow wing (black triangle) Brown-Red   A Duckwing (brown triangle) Wheaten


The color of the Brown-red cock can resemble, and can be mistaken for, the color of other varieties such as the Black-Red (Golden-salmon) or the Wheaten. We can easily understand the disadvantages that such confusions might create for the serious breeder.

In order to recognize definitely the genetically correct Brown-Red, it is necessary to check that the cocks have a totally black wing triangle (a Crow wing). It is the only varieties of above the three that show this black pure wing triangle constituted by the visible fold back of the secondary feathers.

It should not be mistaken with the wingbow, which has nothing in common with the triangle. When a cock has a wing triangle of an ochre-brown, dark-fawn or brown-cinnamon color, it isn't a Brown-Red cock. It should never be used in a Brown-Red Marans breeding pen, because it is a Marans cock of the Wheaten variety or Golden-Salmon variety.

If this Duckwing phenomenon occurs in a Brown-Red line it shows that the breeding stock used was genetically mixed. In such case, we can understand that it is a genetic variety that appeared as a recessive in the Brown-Red. This must be carefully detected, and selected against, in order to maintain the genetic purity of the Brown-Red breeding stock.

On the other hand, the pullets of these 3 varieties would be easily identifiable.

In order to avoid any mistakes, it must be kept in mind that, for the Brown-Red variety, ever area of the bird that is not a true coppery-red color must necessarily be a true pure black color including the "triangle".

So there aren't any other possible alternative or shades in the plumage other that these two tones which are very well contrasted.

Off-white or the white feathers are a disqualifying fault.

Some birds show, in the juvenile plumage, white spots, similar to the recessive Mottling gene (mo), if these spots remain present after the first adult moult the birds must be rigorously eliminated.

It is impossible to easily identify chicks which have an abnormally white down, notably on the head. Moreover, this fault, contrary to others, seems to show relatively few difficulties, since in the end, it almost totality disappears.


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