Quirky Birds – part II – Friesian Fowl (Chamois)

Here’s a breed that is not only one of the more unusual choices, but also stunning in appearance as well as being a good layer. It does tend to be rather nervous and flighty, though.

The Friesian has a most interesting pedigree – it hails from the Friesian islands off the Dutch coast and excavation has shown it was around some 1,000 years ago! It didn’t arrive on these shores until the 1980s.

I first saw them at the Wernlas Collection of Rare Breeds back in 1998. ‘Chamois’ Friesians have such beautiful pastel colouring and can lay claim to being the only breed to have it.

There are two other standard colours in the UK (a lot more in Holland), and these are: Gold Pencilled and Silver Pencilled. However, they are rarely seen and look very similar to the respective colours of Hamburghs.

Size wise, there is conjecture as to whether they are large fowl or bantam. Many specimens are reminiscent, from a size perspective, of the ambiguous Hamburgh ‘in-betweeners’ which used to be seen, and were halfway between large fowl and bantam. The Hamburgh breeders have worked hard to rectify this and now most specimens are distinctly one thing or the other.

Whether the Friesian Fowl is large fowl or bantam, it is certainly a light breed, who some would regard as bantam. Others could argue that they are large fowl and they would have a case. They do lay a good-sized white egg and some strains are larger than others. In my view, until more owners show them, there will always be conjecture amongst poultry keepers as to their correct size (at present the Friesian Fowl is catered for by the Rare Poultry Society).

Friesians owners can expect around 250 eggs per year, provided the living conditions are conducive to reasonable egg production.

As mentioned earlier, they can be flighty fowl, but are always tamer when birds have been handled regular as youngsters. Most Friesian Fowl in the UK will be very inbred by now. However, they are inbred for good features such as egg production, hardiness, quick maturity and feather colour.

After keeping Friesians for many years, I find them generally a pleasure to keep. Their white eggs are popular with family members and together with their tenacious characters and striking plumage, I think make a really good breed for beginners.

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