Know Your Chickens

Know Your Chickens

Our feathered companions, chickens, have been around, as an old farming friend of my father would say, ‘since Adam was a lad’.

Their rich diversity of color, size and feather pattern and their elegant, toy-soldier-like strutting are a joy to behold. Most are friendly, docile creatures but there are,  as amongst us, a few grumpy old men who will look at your legs as the next hours d’ oeuvre. Many are bred for the sheer pleasure they give to the breeders who will,  after a full day’s work, put in another 2 or 3 hours taking care of their charges.

It is commonly believed that Britain’s commercial farms and farmers are the best in Europe for animal welfare and ensuring that all animals have happy and stress-  free life. If, like me, you consider animal welfare a priority, please buy British whenever possible.

1: Araucana/Lavender :

Native to: Northern ChileKnow Your Chickens

Now Found: Worldwide


The Araucana is an ancient breed which was named after the Araucan Indians who lived on the plains of the Andes Mountains in Chile.
In the early 16th century, the Portuguese explorer Magellan recorded poultry resembling the Araucana. Later in the same century, the breed arrived in countries surrounding the Mediterranean.

The true-breeding Lavender Araucana was developed in Scotland in the 1930s by George Malcolm.
The Araucana does not lay many eggs but the eggs they do lay are spectacular in color. They are primarily blue or inexperienced however will vary from cobalt blue to violet blue to achromatic. The shell color is exclusive therein it’s identical color within and out. The Araucana are hardy, grow quickly and mature quick. they’re content to be in an exceeding pen as long as there’s a daily provider of contemporary grass.

It is believed that in 2006 the Spangled variety became extinct. I hope this proves to be wrong and in some corner of the world, there is a Spangled Araucana.

2: Australorp /Black

Native to: AustraliaKnow Your Chickens

Now Found: Throughout the British Isles and on most continents


The Australorp was developed using the Black Orpington which was imported into Australia from the British Isles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Aus- tralian breeders wanted a quality dual-purpose breed and this was achieved by crossing the Black Orpington with the Langshan, Minorca and White Leghorn. The Australorp was born.

Several people wanted the honor of choosing the name since Australian Laying Orpington did not trip lightly off the tongue. In 1919 Arthur Harwood suggested Austral with an added ‘or’ to honor the ancestors. In 1921 the breed was imported into the British Isles.

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This is a good all-around breed, laying in the region of 250 light brown eggs a year. A group of six Australorps holds the world egg-laying record of 1857 eggs (an average of 309.5 eggs per hen) over 365 consecutive days in 1922 and 1923.

They are docile, friendly and happy in a run as well as free range. They make a good choice for a beginner.

3: Pekin / Partridge

Native to : America

Now Found: Throughout the British Isles and on most continents


The Pekin is a true bantam. One version of the Pekin’s history says that they were liberated from the Emperor Xianfeng of China around 1860. Another story is that a  number of these birds were given to Queen Victoria in the middle of the 19th century. These were crossed with other breeds for improvement, resulting in the Pekin bantam of today.

The Pekin are not the greatest egg layers with only in the region of 90 creamy-white colored eggs a year but the bantam is small and could not sit on large quantities of eggs. The Pekin must be kept clean and dry: wet weather is a problem for this breed because the mud will stick to the leg and feet feathers creating walking problems.

I have heard this delightful little bird described as a walking tea cozy. They are docile, love company and, if handled from a young age, will happily sit on your lap. An excellent choice for a first-time owner or children.

4: Andalusian

Native to : Andalusia in SpainKnow Your Chickens

Now Found: Throughout the British Isles, Europe, North America, Canada, and Australia


This ornamental bird began in Andalusia but the breed was further developed in the British Isles and North America. The modern blue Andalusian is a result of crossing black and white birds imported from Andalusia in 1846. Crossing two blue birds will result in around 25% black offspring, 25% white and the others will be blue. Because of this low incidence of the desired color, the Andalusian is only bred by enthusiasts with an interest in preserving the breed. The Andalusian lays in the region of 160 creamy white eggs a year.

The Andalusian has a magnificent presence. It is elegant and graceful with a carriage of which any catwalk model would be proud. They are extremely fast runners; the breed society suggests you invest in a landing net. When people are asked why they keep Andalusians the answer is nearly always ‘because they are elegant and beautiful’.

5: Maran/Copper Headed Black

Native to : France

Now Found: Throughout the British Isles, Europe, North America, and Canada


In the 12th century the Duke of Anjou, later to become Henry II, married Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her dowry included lands in south-west France. British ships would call at La Rochelle, near Maran, where they would exchange the survivors of on-board cockfights for fresh food. These survivors would then breed with the local marsh hens. They are, very simplistically, thought to be the beginning of the Maran.

The breed, as we know it today, arrived in the British Isles in 1929 courtesy of Lord Greenway who brought eggs back from the Paris Exhibition. He started selectively breeding to standardize the color. There are five standard color variations in the British Isles and twelve in France. The Copper Headed Maran was first shown in the 1930s and, though not one of the famous five colors, it is an attractive and popular member of the Maran family.

The Maran is known for laying up to 200 beautiful chocolate-brown eggs each year
as well as for its quality meat.

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