Are you interested in keeping an Ancona chicken? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In our complete guide to the Ancona, you’ll find out a little about its history and appearance but most importantly, what this breed is used for and how to care for it.
While there are some downsides to this breed, the Ancona is a highly productive chicken that is friendly and very easy to keep. By the end, you’ll know whether or not this is the right chicken breed for you. Let’s get started!
History and Origin of the Ancona Chicken
The Ancona chicken has a fascinating history. It gets its name from where it originated from, in Ancona, Italy. It was first introduced into England back in 1851 and shortly after, it found its way over to the USA and Australia.
Many think they are related to the Leghorn chicken which also came from Italy, but this isn’t true. They both have similar appearances, but the Ancona is a unique chicken in its own right.
The reason the Ancona became popular is that they are an excellent dual-purpose chicken, used for both meat and eggs. However, with other chickens favored for these in the modern day, the popularity of the Ancona chicken has vastly declined.
Physical Characteristics of the Ancona Chicken
The Ancona is a classical-looking chicken that is notable for its distinct feathering. It only comes in one color variety which is mainly black but with white tips. These white tips are only small in size which makes it look as though the chicken is speckled.
There are actually two varieties of Ancona chicken depending on what their combs look like. One variety has a single straight comb and the other is a flatter rose comb. Whichever the variety, the comb on both types is a bright red.
Both of them have large red wattles along with white ear lobes. Along with this, they have both yellow skin, legs, and beaks, with the beak being a slightly darker yellow.
In terms of size, they are medium to large with a muscular body which makes them ideal for use as meat. There is also a bantam variety which is much smaller and not a great producer of either eggs or meat.
Uses of an Ancona Chicken
If you’re interested in the Ancona chicken, then you’ll want to know what it is used for. Here we’ll take a closer look at just how good this chicken is for eggs and meat, as well as seeing how suitable it is for small backyard coops.
The Ancona is seen as a dual-purpose chicken. That means it can be bred for both eggs and meat. Part of the reason it became popular was due to it being a meat bird but in modern times specific broiler breeds have been preferred, such as the Cornish Cross.
These days, the Ancona is rarely used for meat as people prefer to keep them for their eggs laying. However, for those looking to be more sustainable and live off the land, the Ancona chicken is one of the best chickens for it.
As mentioned, this chicken is generally kept for its egg-laying abilities. It’s a great layer and will give you around four eggs per week on average. The record yearly laying for an Ancona is over 300 per year, so you may even get up to six eggs a week if you’re lucky. However, most hens lay fewer eggs than this.
There are also a couple of other reasons why this breed is a great layer. One of those is that it will continue to lay throughout the winter. While that may not seem impressive, many other breeds either slow down or completely halt their egg-making in the colder months.
The other reason they are good layers is that they are not broody, which means the hens don’t want to sit on their eggs to hatch them. This stops them from being aggressive and also shutting down egg production while in motherhood mode.
Not only will you get a lot of eggs per week, but they’ll also be large too. The hen will continue to lay at a high production level for around four years before she starts to slow down.
- Eggs per Year: 200-250
- Eggs per Week: 4 to 5
- Size: Large
- Color: White
By now we know that the Ancona chicken is great for eggs and meat, but is it suitable as a pet and for small backyard coops? The answer is yes as they are easy to care for and generally don’t show any aggression to humans.
While they are never aggressive, they aren’t particularly sociable either. If you were looking for a lovable breed that you can handle easily, it may not be for you. Handling them from being chicks can make the bond a lot closer.
These chickens are quite intelligent and alert, which can make them a pleasure you keep. You’ll take plenty of pleasure from watching them forage around as they can be quite entertaining. There is also the bantam type, which has similar behavioral characteristics.
There are a couple of factors that might put you off with these chickens and one of them is that they can be quite noisy. If you have neighbors close by, then you may want to think about getting a quieter breed before you start getting complaints!
The other is that they need a lot of space both with their coop and being able to run around. Therefore if you can’t afford a large coop or don’t have a large backyard, then it may be best to look for another breed.
Feeding and Housing an Ancona Chicken
If you’re hoping to home an Ancona but aren’t sure they’ll be suitable for where you live, then you may be pleasantly surprised. These chickens can easily cope in both hot and cold climates. However, their combs can be prone to frostbite in freezing temperatures.
So while they can easily cope with a wide range of temperatures, what are their feeding and housing requirements? Here we’ll take a closer look.
Ancona chickens are medium to large chickens so they need plenty of space but the importance of that is amplified by the fact they don’t like confinement. Due to this, they’ll need a sizable coop with each chicken having around 10 square feet of space.
You’ll also want to give them a very large run, or better, allow them to be in free range throughout the day. To do this, you’ll need to ensure a secure perimeter so that your chickens can’t escape, and large predators can’t get in.
There is nothing special that you need to do with the feeding of your Ancona. They will happily thrive off standard feed. While the standard feed is fine, you will have to give them added calcium if you want consistently high-quality eggs.
Along with their standard feed, you can also give them a wide variety of treats such as leafy vegetables and fruit. However, it’s a good idea to check whether the treats you plan on giving them are safe for chickens or not.
Thankfully this breed has very few health concerns to be worried about aside from the common diseases a chicken can get. You’ll also want to regularly clean the coop and provide them with a dust bath to help prevent mites and lice.
Reasons to Keep an Ancona Chicken
Still interested in keeping an Ancona chicken? We thought it would be useful to surmise all the reasons why it could be a good idea.
- Dual Purpose – For those looking for both meat and eggs, the Ancona is the perfect breed. Of course, they are still a great chicken for those who are only interested in having their own chicken eggs. Whatever you need, this chicken can provide it.
- Produce in the Winter – Many chicken breeds will shut down egg production in the winter, which can be highly frustrating. If you live in colder climates, you’ll be happy to know that the Ancona chicken produces all year round.
- Efficient – The Ancona is a great forager and if given the space, will happily search for its own food. This will cut down on your food costs and means they are very cost-effective.
- Beautiful Appearance – If you were hoping for a beautiful backyard companion, then the Ancona is a great pick. With their speckled feathering, they are very attractive chickens.
- Friendly – While not always the most sociable with human strangers, these are non-aggressive and friendly chickens that won’t cause you any trouble.
- Easy to Care For – You don’t need any special requirements for this chicken. And with them being great foragers, they are exceptionally easy to keep and care for.
Reasons to Not Keep an Ancona Chicken
While looking at the positives of keeping an Ancona chicken, it would be remiss of us not to mention the downsides! Here they are.
- Quite Noisy – If you were hoping for nice quiet chickens, look elsewhere. This breed is chatterboxes who seem to be constantly clucking at each other.
- Not Sociable with Humans – They also aren’t a good idea for those looking for a chicken they can stroke, hold, and hand feed. While they are friendly birds, there are better breeds out there if you want a loving pet.
- Don’t Like Confinement – The Ancona doesn’t like being kept in small spaces. Due to this, they need a lot of room, and many backyard keepers simply don’t have enough space.
- A Bit More Expensive as Quite Rare – You’ll also find that these chickens are more expensive than many other breeds. That’s simply a result of them being quite rare.
The Ancona chicken is a classic dual-purpose breed that became hugely popular in Europe, America, and Australia. Sadly today these chickens have gone out of fashion but if you’re looking for a beautiful, friendly, and highly productive breed, the Ancona chicken is a great choice.