People have been breeding a variety of chickens for thousands of years. The variety of chickens being bred have however declined drastically over the past decades. According to the Livestock Conservancy, more than 8,000 livestock breeds exist around the world, and about 1,600 of those are in danger of extinction. Only a handful of breeds are kept by poultry farmers globally and these usually consist of modern or popular variety. Whereas it is understandable that poultry farmers aim at breeding chickens with a readily available market, it is still crucial for them to select some rare chicken breeds to raise in order to avoid extinction.
The breeds designated ‘rare’ reflect the scientific observations of breeds in need of more breeders to avoid genetic limitations and ultimately disappearance of the breed. Below are some rare chicken breeds that have been predicated to be extinct in the near future.
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Hollands are among the list of rare chicken breeds worldwide. Holland Chicken come in two varieties, barred and white. White Hollands have white skin and barred Hollands have yellow skin and legs. Hollands have a bright red combs and are usually medium to moderately large. Their wattles and earlobes are red in colour. The now rare chicken breed is normally bred for heavy dual purposes. They are kept as both layers and for meat which counters their slow growing nature. A standard sized rooster weigh approximately 3.9kg and hens about 3kg. Hollands are good layers of eggs. In addition, they are adaptable to almost any surrounding. They are quite weather hardy, tolerating both heat and cold.
With its declining population, the Crèvecoeur Chicken is categorised as one of the rare chicken breeds in the world currently amounting to less than 1,000 birds worldwide. The Crevecoeur is solid black and has a red v-shaped comb. The body is lean with a steep chest and a rounded back. Crevecoeurs have very white skin and breast meat. Their leg meat is dark, almost duck-like in colour. Although it’s a small bird, the Crevecoeur can have a high proportion of meat to offal. This chicken breed lays large white eggs however in low amounts, an average of 120 eggs per. Although both the meat and egg produce is relatively lower than other breeds of chicken, they are adaptable to most climate thus are low risk breeds.
The Campine numbers are in decline as they are usually overlooked for breeds that are hardier to the climate, mature quicker and lay more eggs. Campine Chicken, also a rare chicken breed, are known for their solid coloured feathers on the head and neck which then fade into a barring of black and a solid colour. They have close-fitting feathers and are popular for their large red combs which flop to one side. Their legs are dark blue. Male Campines look very similar to females as they lack key distinguishing features and share the same colour pattern. This rare chicken breed comes in two varieties, Silver and Gold. The Silver variety has neck hackles and a pure white head, the rest of the bird being barred with beetle-green on a pure white ground. The Golden Campine variety also has the same pattern, on the other hand, their head and neck hackles are of a rich Golden colour rather than white. Campine chickens have low productivity of meat and eggs. They lay medium sized eggs of about 150-200 a year. Their low meat production is attributed to their small stature. On an average, the roosters weight about 2.7 kg and hens about 2.3 kg. Campine chickens are active, very hardy and have an inquisitive nature. The hens do not tend to go broody and are non-sitting fowls.
Orust are extremely rare chicken breeds with records from the previous decade indicating only 463 birds worldwide. The Orust is a small to medium sized petite bird. Despite its size, it is a good layer of medium sized eggs. Its egg productions averages to 150 a year. Orust can be identified by their black and white mottled feathers, their legs can sometimes have a similar pattern. As a unique trait, Orust roosters’ wattles turn from red to bright violet when they are agitated and protecting their hens. Due to their small size, they have a low meat production.
Although they are still considered as a rare chicken breed, there has been a slight increase in Lavender Orpington breeding over the past few years. Orpington chickens are generally big, round and fluffy. They have a shimmering greyish, silver colour with a definite purple tone. Lavender Orpingtons have middle-sized, single red combs, which are set off against a darker shade of lavender feathering on the head. Their egg produce is approximately 170-200 medium sized eggs per year. They make good meat birds, growing to a heavy table weight size.
Death Layers chickens are excellent layers. The peculiar name comes from the hen’s ability to lay an incredible amount of eggs. Deathlayer hens will lay approximately an egg a day until she dies. Unfortunately, they are amongst the world’s rare chicken breeds. Death layers have a distinctive stripe black pattern on their feathers and they can either have a gold or white base colour. The base colour is dominant around the head and neck. They also have bright white earlobes and grey legs and feet. Death layers do not do well in confined spaces, they are very active and require space to roam.
Rare chicken breeds face the same challenges. Most of them do not produce the best meat and their egg production is quite low. Consequently, Poultry farmers have shunned these birds in a bit to breed more profitable birds. What has to be understood is that just as it is vital to protect the diversity of our environment by planting trees and adopting other conservative methods, protecting rare livestock ensures the earth’s biodiversity and the protection of our greater food system. Securing and safeguarding the genetics of these rare chicken breeds is the only way they will continue to exist and flourish.