Raising Chickens for Eggs
The Appenzell Bearded Hen: A Unique Breed of Chicken

The Appenzell Bearded Hen: A Unique Breed of Chicken

The Appenzell Bearded Hen is a unique breed of chicken that originated in Appenzell, Switzerland. These birds are known for their long beards and muffs, which help keep them warm in cold weather. Appenzell Bearded Hens are excellent egg-layers, and can produce up to 300 eggs per year! In this article, we will learn more about the Appenzell Bearded Hen and how to care for these amazing chickens!

The Appenzell Bearded Hen: A Unique Breed of Chicken

What is an Appenzell Bearded Hen

The Appenzeller chicken (one variety of which is known as the Appenzell Bearded Hen) is the national chicken breed of Switzerland and originated in the Appenzeller region of Switzerland. The Appenzeller chicken comes in two varieties the Spitzhauben and the Barthuhner.

What does an Appenzell Bearded Hen look like?

The Spitzhauben (meaning ‘pointed hood’) has a forward-pointing crest and V-shaped comb while the Barthuhner (meaning ‘bearded hen’) has a rose comb and no crest. Today the breed is kept mainly for its exhibition value although it lays a good quantity of medium-sized, white eggs. First-year hens may lay around 150 eggs of around 55g each.

The Appenzeller has several color varieties including black, gold spangled, and silver spangled, with the silver spangled Spitzhauben being the most common found abroad. Crossing with the Andalusian chicken has also produced a ‘blue spangled’ Appenzeller.

These colors appear in both the Spitzhauben and the Barthuhner varieties. The Appenzeller isn’t recognized by American breed registries and it is very rare in North America.

Origins of the Appenzell Bearded Hen

The ‘bearded hens’ have been around in Switzerland since the middle of the 1860s. Crossing of various breeds of country hens in the Appenzeller region eventually resulted in this powerful chicken with its distinctive rose comb and beard.

The small rose comb offers little surface area so frostbite is not such an issue as it is for some breeds. Also assisting against frostbite is the beard which protects the throat and ear lobes.

While the black-bearded hens are not in danger, the other color varieties are very rare. The partridge-colored Appenzeller Bearded Hen virtually disappeared in 1985/86. The Swiss association, Pro Specie Rara, set up an emergency program in conjunction with the Appenzeller Hen Club.

Pro Specie Rara is the Swiss association for the protection of rare breeds and has taken on the task of preserving the national breeds that are part of the country’s heritage.

These beautiful birds were brought over to America by doctor Albert McGraw after World War II. They’re mostly kept as show or ornamental, but some people keep them for their eggs.

Appenzell Bearded Hen Eggs

The Appenzell Bearded Hen is an average egg layer and produces an average of 150 eggs per year. They lay steadily all year round, starting at around 6 months old. Their eggs are medium in size and are white in color.

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Are they suitable for backyard life?

It does best if allowed to roam without (or with little) restriction. It is an excellent climber and, given the chance, will climb out of reach of predators to roost in trees. It does not go broody easily. It has powerful wings and the body is carried rather high giving it a proud appearance. It is an excellent forager.

Temperament

The temperamental Appenzeller is considered a ‘light’ chicken with the hens averaging 3.5 pounds and the cocks 4.5 pounds. It is suited to life in the mountains. It is a flighty, nervous bird that forages well but doesn’t appreciate confinement. Being of a suspicious disposition improves its chances of survival in its native environment.

The Appenzeller will get along with most breeds and not really aggressive chickens they tend to rather fall into the pecking order.

Are Appenzell Bearded Hen friendly?

Appenzellers are friendly birds and show great intelligence. They are social birds and your should have at least 3 or 4 in your flock when getting started.

How long do Appenzell Bearded Hens live?

The average life of these birds is about 8 years. The only real variable is making sure they are well taken care of.

Can you eat an Appenzell Bearded Hen?

They make a fair table chicken, but as they are considered a rarer breed, I would suggest against it.

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Is the Appenzell Bearded Hen right for you?

There are a few challenges for you to consider.

This breed has a conservation status is recorded as “threatened”. It is best to check on any special license or instructions that may be set up for owning these birds. That would also drive your price up for your initial investment.

Other breeds lay more eggs so this breed may cost you more money than you get out of it.

If you have a large garden, these birds are great for you to leave to roam around. They will eat possible pests and also fertilize your plants.

If you want to show birds at your local fair, etc – these are incredibly beautiful birds to consider.

Where to purchase Appenzell Bearded Hens

This is quite a rare breed in the United States, but you can still find them at some chicken hatcheries throughout the USA.

You can get your hands on a wonderful flock of chickens, ducks, or geese if you’re willing to search. Some live poultry outlets and farms may also keep them while others purchase from registered breeders or clubs that specialize in these types of birds – always check with local conservation centers as well.

It might be a great business idea to breed and sell them yourself! If you plan on breeding your chickens, you will want to make sure that they are from a good bloodline. As they are in limited quantities in the US, you may have a few issues and need to connect with a real breeder to make this happen.

They do not go broody very easily and kind of make lousy parents. It will take work for you to start a hatching business if you want to go that route.

The limited gene pool makes for an increased chance of birth defects and possible issues with their immune systems.

The bottom line?

Appenzeller Sperberhauben Hens are beautiful birds that can be a joy to own. But, as always, you should do your research and make sure this breed is right for you before making any commitments.

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