If you’re looking for some new chickens to join your flock, allow us to introduce you to the Houdan. This native French bird looks like it should be walking the runway at Paris Fashion Week, but also pulls its weight when it comes to productivity on the farm. In this article, we’ll discuss some facts and characteristics of the Houdan, as well as let you know whether they’re a good choice for small farms and backyard chicken keepers.

chicken feet divider Quick Facts About Houdan Chickens

Breed Name:Houdan
Place of Origin:France
Uses:Meat, eggs, show
Rooster (Male) Size:8 pounds
Hen (Female) Size:6.5 pounds
Color:Mottled black and white, white
Lifespan:7-8 years
Climate Tolerance:Heat tolerant, less tolerant of cold
Care Level:Easy
Production:150-180 eggs/year
Population:The breed is being monitored by livestock conservation groups due to decreasing numbers

Houdan Chicken Origins

The Houdan chicken breed originates from France, specifically a town west of Paris, from which it draws its name. It is thought the breed developed from a mix of other five-toed chicken breeds in the region, some of whom date back to the Roman Empire. Houdans were exported to England and then America in the mid-1800s. The breed was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. An American breeder developed a white version of the usually mottled Houdan, which was recognized in 1914.

Mottled Houdan chicken
Image Credit: Yingna Cai, Shutterstock

Houdan Chicken Characteristics

Physically, the Houdan is a rare and unique chicken, which we’ll talk more about in the next section.

Despite their startling appearance, Houdans are known for their gentle disposition. They are calm and easy to handle, a good choice for kids or inexperienced poultry keepers. Houdans also don’t mind being confined in small spaces and aren’t easily rattled, both traits that help make them popular show birds.

Houdans are social chickens. Roosters prefer to preside over a large flock of hens. Houdan hens are moderate to strong layers, producing 150-180 large white eggs per year. The hens will brood if allowed, but sometimes crack the eggs in the nest because of their heavier weight.

Chicks are easy to raise and grow quickly. Overall, the Houdan is not a complicated bird to care for. They can be kept free-range or in a coop with adequate space. Houdan can live on a variety of ground surfaces as well.

Houdans will forage for food if kept free-range but usually lay better if they receive additional nutrition such as protein and calcium.

The breed tolerates heat well if given access to shade and water. They don’t tend to do as well in freezing temperatures, however.

Uses

The Houdan is a versatile chicken, raised for both meat and eggs. The meat of this bird is considered high-quality and has excellent flavor. They produce a decent number of eggs per year, even more so when fed a better diet. Houdans are also popular pets and show birds because of their sweet temperaments and flashy appearance.

Houdan chicken with funny comb
Image Credit: Tanya_Terekhina, Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

Houdans come in two color variations: white and mottled, a mixture of black and white. They are fluffy-looking birds with both crests and beards. A prominent comb and unusual five-toed feet round out their distinctive appearance.

They are compact, medium-sized chickens with short legs. The legs are featherless. White Houdans have white-pink legs, while the mottled birds sport pink and white legs with black spots.

Female Houdan chickens have smaller combs and wattles than the males. Both genders have tufted ears and long, high-set tails. In America, the Houdan has a V-shaped comb, but in other countries—such as France—the comb is shaped more like a leaf or butterfly wings.

Population

Houdan chickens tend to be somewhat rare outside of their native France, seen more often as show birds than meat or egg producers. The Livestock Conservancy, a U.S.-based group that monitors the numbers of rare and heritage breeds, considers the Houdan to be at critical status. Because the Houdan reproduces quickly and easily, they are more than capable of increasing their numbers, should their popularity rise.

White Houdon chicken
Image Credit: Pataporn Kuanui, Shutterstock

Are Houdan Chickens Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Houdan chickens are an excellent choice for small-scale farmers because of their versatility and ease of care. They tolerate coop-living well, making them a good option for a backyard flock. The Houdan offers a lot of value to small farmers because they can be raised for meat and eggs. In addition, Houdan chicks are easy to hatch, offering an additional income source.

chicken feet divider Conclusion

They may look fancy, but the Houdans are more than just pretty birds. These chickens are under-rated egg producers and a source of fine dining as well. Despite all that they bring to the table (so to speak), Houdan chickens are not as well-known as many other poultry breeds. Small-scale farmers looking for a good-tempered, multi-purpose chicken breed would do well to consider the Houdan.


Featured Image Credit: Yingna Cai, Shutterstock