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5 Chicken Breeds You May Not Have Heard Of
Do You Own Chickens?
It's chick season again, and you're maybe looking at getting some Rhode Island Reds or maybe a Buff Orpington or two, but rare and unusual breeds abound in the chicken world, including many that haven't yet made the American Poultry Association's breed list. Many you won't find in a poultry catalog. Check out some of the rarest and most interesting birds.
- The Icelandic or Viking Hen. Just as the name sounds, these birds were the original fowl brought to Iceland by the Vikings. These birds almost became extinct due to egg farms, but aficionados are bringing these rare birds back from extinction. Because the Icelandic chicken has been a "natural breed," that is, one allowed to develop by itself in a closed environment, most have calico feathers, single combs, and lay white eggs, however, they can be any color.
- The Barnevelder is a Dutch bird developed in the early 1900s to provide meat and dark brown eggs. Rare in the United States, they are usually brown with "double-laced" plumage, meaning that their feathers have a darker border and a second dark interior border, making for a pleasing pattern. Often called chocolate egg layers, their eggs can be very dark, but some strains may have lighter colored eggs that are still darker compared to common brown egg layers.
- The Belgian d'Uccle is a Bantam breed, meaning that they are a smaller chicken bred to be more pets than for meat or eggs. Most common are the Mille Fleur, a unique patterning which includes a reddish-brown background with back and a white spot, but they may be blue, blue Mille Fleur, black mottled, lavender and white Mille Fleur. These birds are very friendly and like being handled.
- Marans are a group of chickens that originated in France. Known for their extremely dark eggs, they are considered chocolate egg layers, some having shells that are as dark as bittersweet chocolate. There birds come in many varieties: the cuckoo marans being the most available with a barred black and white pattern. Other marans include the black copper marans, blue copper marans, and blue splash marans.
- The Russian Orloff is an ancient bird coming from Russia. This bird has an old-style Malaysian look of a game-cock, suggesting that they are indeed an older breed. These birds have characteristic muffs (feathers along the side of the head) and beards (feathers below the chin), similar to Easter Eggers and Ameracaunas. These birds lay light brown eggs and can come in a variety of colors including spangled (bright white spots against a darker background), splash, barred/cuckoo, and solid colors such as white and black.
Most of these chickens are rare and many hatcheries will not have these birds. Still, if you do your homework and look for fanciers, you'll find these birds and have a chicken that is truly rare and out of the ordinary.