The Braekel chicken is a beautiful and very old breed of domesticated fowls originating from Belgium. Although rare, it is a breed much appreciated for its egg production and for the distinctive taste of its meat, somewhat reminiscent of game. It is similar to the Campine breed but larger and not hen-feathered. There is also a dwarf version of the Braekel chicken, called Bantam.
Quick Facts About The Braekel Chicken
|Brakel, Everyday Layer, Nuns Hen, Farmyard Hen, The Grey Neck
|Place of Origin:
|Brakel region of Belgium
|Small to medium
|180-200 eggs per year
Braekel Chicken Origins
The Braekel chicken, also known by old names like Nuns Hen, Farmyard Hen, and The Grey White Neck, is a very old breed of European poultry. According to some sources, this hardy chicken was developed in the small town of Brakel, Belgium, in the 16th century. Others even say that these chickens already existed when Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in 58 BC! However, even though this breed is as old as some historians claim, the fact remains that it is very rare today.
Indeed, the Braekel chicken, very popular a hundred years ago, was bred for its meat and for its laying qualities in almost all small farms in Europe. Unfortunately, this chicken fell victim to its popularity during the two world wars, which almost decimated the entire population. European clubs were formed to save the breed, but the Braekel chicken population remains scarce even today.
Braekel Chicken Characteristics
The main characteristics of the Braekel chicken are a uniform neck color and a pattern of straight stripes on the feathers. They have a large, single-pointed comb and white earlobes. The crest and wattles are red, both in cocks and hens. Besides, the Braekel chicken is quite similar to the Campine breed, although the latter is smaller and hen-feathered.
The Braekel is a very rustic chicken, which likes to move freely in the yard and flies easily (which is quite rare in chickens). It is easy to breed and hens can start laying eggs at an early age of 6 months. The hen lays 180-200 white eggs per year, weighing between 35 and 50 grams, and is not prone to brooding. The chicks grow quickly and become hardy chickens, resistant to disease and able to adapt to almost any climate. An adult rooster weighs about 5.5 pounds and a hen 4.8 pounds. Also, this breed gives good grain-fed chickens, but its meat has a hint of gaminess that does not appeal to everyone.
Appearance & Varieties
The Braekel is a breed with a lot of pigmentation. Eye color should be as black as possible for both sexes. The hen often has dark spots on the crest, which, by the way, is a typical feature of this breed. The crest should be wide and drooping to one side in the female, while it should be straight in the rooster. The legs are a striking slate blue. The typical barred feather pattern of Braekel chickens is unique and the barred varieties are the most popular.
There are seven color varieties in Braekel chickens, with silver and gold being the most popular. Less common colors include lemon, white-barred gold, white-barred, white, and black and blue.
Population & Distribution
Due to their rarity, Braekel chickens are mainly found in Europe. In addition to its native country, the breed is also popular in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland, Romania, England, and Poland. However, the exact population is unknown.
Are Braekel Chickens Good for Small-Scale Farming?
In a word, yes. Since Braekel chickens are very hardy, resistant to most diseases, and can tolerate almost any climate, they are a good choice for small-scale farming. They are also good layers, excellent foragers, and tend to wander the yard and fields, looking for insects, seeds, worms, and greenery.
However, if you don’t live in Europe, you may have a hard time acquiring Braekel chickens, due to their rarity and high cost.
In conclusion, Braekel chickens are gorgeous and large domesticated fowls, with their barred plumage, mostly silver or gold. They are a dual-purpose breed, but primarily bred for their eggs rather than their meat. These chickens originating from Belgium have been very popular throughout Europe for centuries but are now rather rare to find.
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Featured Image Credit: VIVANE6276, Pixabay