The Appenzeller chicken is a small chicken breed that was on the brink of extinction during the World War II era. Today, breeding programs are working hard to conserve and grow the population of this breed. They’re a little more common in Europe, but it’s quite rare to find a true Appenzeller chicken in the United States.

This bird is quite resilient and can take care of itself pretty well. As a result, Appenzeller chickens are pretty independent and love roaming around and foraging all day. They’re quite smart and curious and can get caught up in some silly situations. So, if you’re fortunate enough to come across this rare breed, it’s worth taking the time to get to know them.

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Quick Facts about Appenzeller Chickens

Image Credit: Eyas, Shutterstock
Breed Name:Appenzeller Spitzhauben, Appenzeller Barthühner
Place of Origin:Switzerland
Uses:Egg production
Male Size:4-4.5 pounds
Female Size:3-3.5 pounds
Color:Brown, black, white, spangled
Lifespan:7-8 years
Climate Tolerance:Hardy
Care Level:Easy

Appenzeller Chicken Origins

The origin of this chicken breed is a bit unclear and mysterious, but it’s widely believed that they’ve been around since the 1600s. They may have been developed at local monasteries in Appenzell, Switzerland.

The breed faced near extinction in the 1950s due to World War II. However, conservation efforts helped them to regrow their population. Although there are a lot more Appenzeller chickens today, they’re still considered a rare poultry breed by The Rare Poultry Society.

Appenzeller Chicken Characteristics

Appenzeller chickens are best suited as pets rather than for commercial agriculture. They’re extremely active and prefer to spend all day exploring. They’re excellent foragers that require a lot of space.

So, if you want to keep an Appenzeller chicken as a backyard pet, you have to make sure that your yard is clean and well-maintained to avoid the spread of worms and other parasitic outbreaks. Make sure that you have plenty of space for them to forage and keep an eye on them because they can easily fly and hop over tall fences. These chickens also like to roost, so make sure to have some elevated spaces and trees that they can hop onto.

Since Appenzeller chickens are quite active, they don’t tend to be broody, and hens of this breed aren’t known to be great mothers. They’re pretty independent, and although they aren’t aggressive, they aren’t the friendliest breed either. They can be flighty, so it’ll take some time and gentle handling before they become completely comfortable around people. They can socialize with other chicken breeds, but males may become aggressive during mating season.

Appenzeller chickens are known to be intelligent and inquisitive. So, once they get used to you and their new home, they can end up bringing a lot of laughter with their funny antics and mannerisms.


Appenzellers are small and not harvested for poultry. They’re moderate egg layers, but it can be difficult finding their eggs since they’re not broody and may just lay their eggs anywhere. So, most Appenzellers are kept as pets or bred as show or ornamental birds.

Appearance & Varieties

There are two varieties of the Appenzeller chicken:
  • Appenzeller Barthuhner
  • Appenzeller Spitzhauben

The Appenzeller Barthuhner tends to have solid-colored feathers and are usually black, blue, or black-red. Barthuhner means “bearded hens,” and these chickens have a small comb surrounded by an impressive beard of feathers.

Appenzeller Spitzhaubens also have an interesting and striking appearance. They tend to have a spangled pattern, and the most common variety you’ll come across is a silver-spangled chicken.

Instead of having a showy beard, Appenzeller Spitzhaubens have a beautiful crest. Spitzhauben means “pointed bonnet,” and this variety of Appenzeller chickens has a v-shaped comb with a crown of feathers surrounding it. They also have an impressive set of long, straight tail feathers.

Population & Habitat

Both the Appenzeller Barthuhner and Appenzeller Spitzhauben are rare breeds. However, the Appenzeller Barthuhner is much less common and less popular, and it’s believed that there’s only a small group of them left in the UK.

The Appenzeller Spitzhauben was introduced to the United States in the 1950s by Dr. Albert McGraw, so there’s a small population of them in the US. The Appenzeller chicken is not officially acknowledged by the American Poultry Association in the US.

Appenzeller chickens are quite hardy and are both cold and heat-tolerant. So, they can live in many different kinds of climates.

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Are Appenzeller Chickens Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Appenzeller chickens may not be the best choice for small-scale farming. Although they’re pretty easy to care for, they’re not the most efficient egg layers, and they don’t tend to be broody.

They also need to roam around and don’t do well if they’re kept in small, fenced spaces. Since they’re quite small, a restless Appenzeller chicken may even fly and venture off into spaces outside of your property.

The Appenzeller chicken is a rare chicken breed that is resilient and independent, despite its small size. They do best as pets that are able to forage and strut around large backyards. Since they’re so rare, make sure that you only work with reputable breeders to ensure that you bring home a healthy chicken.

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Featured Image Credit: Dewi Cahyaningrum, Shutterstock