Henrik Petersson PM'd me with some great information... thought I'd share! Learning is so wonderful!!
~~~~~Chickens have lived in Sweden for around two thousand years (around 1000 for the Swedish Black Hen). During most of this time, they lived in small flocks among poor farmers, free ranging on small farmsteads. Over the centuries, several breeds emerged that became adapted to this situation. One of these were the Swedish Black Hen.
Then, some hundred years ago, industrialisation came about, changing the way chickens were kept. The traditional breeds were rejected, paving the way for profilic egg layers and specialised meat birds. These new breeds were not kept free or in small numbers, but locked up in their thousands in factory like conditions. Since people saw no value in the traditional breeds, they went all but extinct.
In the 1980's, the attitude started to change. People started to see that keeping the traditional breeds around had both ecological and cultural value. A major search started, and several old breeds were found, that had been kept by stubborn old farmers who had refused to give in to the industralisation.
The search was not only for chickens. People also found several traditional breeds of most type of livestock - geese, ducks, cows, goats, pigs, etc. These old traditional breeds were collectively refered to as "lantraser", meaning "farmer breeds".
In connection with this, something was formed called "genbanken", meaning "the gene bank". All individual animals were registered. When those animals bred, their offspring was registered as well, creating a pedigree of animals dating back to the time they were rediscovered. This collection of registered animals make up the gene bank of Swedish farmer breeds today.
Animals don't count as members of the gene bank until they are registered. So if a gene bank registered Swedish Black rooster and a gene bank registered Swedish Black hen have chickens, the chickens don't count as part of the gene bank from the moment they are hatched. You have to register each individual animal.
To complicate things further, there is something called "genbanksbesättning", roughly translating as "gene bank stock". This means that one has a whole flock of gene bank animals, and also has to be applied for.
It is possible to go out of the gene bank, simply by not registering your animals. But it is not possible to enter the gene bank again, if you miss a generation.
There are several rules for those wanting to keep a gene bank stock. For example, you must keep them separated from chickens of other breeds for at least three weeks before the mating takes place. Also, apart from in exceptional circumstances, you are not allowed to put eggs in a brooder.
There is an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Swesih farmer breeds of poultry: Svenska Lanthönsklubben, meaning "the Swedish Farmer Chickens Club". They have a website, who unfortunately is not available in English, but perhaps may be interesting to browse: www.kackel.se
There are, as of 2007, 430 gene bank registered Swedish Black Hens in Sweden (plus, of course, a lot of unregistered ones). This means it's a threatened breed.
Personally, I love the idea of a gene bank stock kept in America! But I don't know whether foreigners are allowed to apply. And since you have other breeds already, it may be easiest not to apply.
As for the temperament of the Swedish Black Hens: the lady I bought the rooster from, has an entire flock of them (gene bank registered, by the way). When I came to pick my rooster up, she had them free ranging on the lawn. As they spotted us, they clucked and moved away, keeping several yards between us and them. So it seems the breed is pretty shy. I have also read that country breeds generally are shy, as an adaption to living in an environment with a lot of predators.
Our roo was very shy too, in the beginning. Nowadays he's pretty personable, but that might be a result of him living among a flock consisting entirely of Lohman Brown hens. Lohman Brown are known to be pretty up front.
But all hens can get pretty tame, I believe, with proper handling.
The country breeds are known for having a lot of the primal instincts left. For example, the hens often go broody and are excellent mothers. They are also known for being very hardy, and good at foraging.~~~~