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Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by mirandalola, Nov 28, 2016.
What's your favorite breed and why?
I've had over 30 breeds of chickens in my life. Among my favorites are Jaerhons because of their small size but prolific laying of large white eggs and most importantly can handle extreme cold and heat equally well.
Jersey Giants because they are a gentle breed that lays well and sizeable enough to provide lots of meat.
However, the breed I've come to raise exclusively is the Penedesenca in the Black variety.
I had Welsummers that laid beautiful eggs and I wanted more dark layers. With research, I discovered only Marans, Welsummers, Penedesencas, Empordanesas,and some lines of Barnevelders and Langshans laid dark eggs.
I thought that Marans were fairly common and since I'm not common, I wanted something more unique or obscure.
Wheaten, partridge and crele Penedesencas are egg varieties. The black is a DP variety. Since when breeding birds, I eat all the extra males, the black was my choice of variety.
Extremely rare birds as they are, it took me about a year to find my foundation stock.
They quickly outshone all other breeds for my liking.
In addition to the dark eggs, Black Penedesencas are famous in Spain for their meat qualities. They are considered organoleptically unique from other chickens. Not the same but on a par with French Bresse. There is an annual festival for the black Penedesenca rooster in Penedes on the weekend before Christmas called Fira del Gall (fair of the rooster).
It is a huge foodie event. Penedes is the first wine growing region of Europe and at the fair they feature all sorts of poultry. Area restaurants compete by preparing their best recipes utilizing the meat of the black Penedesenca.
There are usually about 1,000 BP roosters there that people select and pay $50 for the bird to be butchered and dressed on the spot that will be their Christmas dinner.
We only have the classic black variety in the US. There is now an improved version in Spain but in making a larger bird for meat, they lost the dark egg color and the white earlobe. To me, those are their most important qualities so I have no interest in the improved.
I think there are 2 possible reasons that these wonderful birds aren't more popular other than the fact that most people have never heard of them.
Lots of people want pet birds they can cuddle with. This isn't the breed for that, however, some of the people I've sold to have tamed them nicely.
The other reason is they are known by some to be flighty and I think that is a misnomer.
By nature, they avoid human contact - or anything non-chicken. But if not closely confined they are quite calm. They just need to know they have an escape path. They are very respectful of fences no matter how short. Most of my fences are 3' and the usual way they get out is by sneaking under, not flying over.
Once they reach a year of age, they aren't nearly as wary around me since they believe I'm not there to eat them and they come running when I go outside but I just can't pick one up like I could with Orps or JGs.
I much prefer this behavior because I can leave them all outside during the day and not be concerned about them.
For years, I've kept flocks of roosters in 2' pens. That makes them cheaper to keep.
Alert as they are, nothing can sneak up on them during the day nor drop down from the sky unobserved.
They see hawks coming long before I ever could. I hear them make the aerial predator call, walk outside and it will still be a while till the hawk appears.
I've seen a rooster take a hawk out of the air and then slowly stride back to where he sent the hens to hide.
They are quite heat hardy even in our humid conditions. I no longer worry about summer heat. They have also fared our extreme cold temps too. We hit -19F one night a couple years ago and my birds are in buildings with huge windows open on both the east and west. I've never lost a bird to cold. The roosters do tend to get frostbitten combs and wattles.
They are on organic pasture and usually organic fermented feed which I sometimes supplement with kelp and berries in winter.
As for the white earlobe, there is an additional breed that is also from Catalonia that lays dark eggs with a white earlobe. It is the Empordanesa. They come in several color varieties but only the white has been imported into the US. As the Penedesenca comes from the Penedes region, the Empordanesa comes from the Emporda region.