Just because you might not have heard about this breed doesn’t mean that it’s not worth learning about. Unfortunately, not everyone has a good marketing department, and that is certainly the case with Barbezieux chickens!
If you couldn’t guess it from the letter x at the end of the name, Barbezieux chicken is native to France. It’s a highly versatile chicken breed with many good qualities and few things to complain about.
Keep on reading to learn all about those qualities and everything else that make these birds special!
History of Barbezieux Chickens
Barbezieux chickens originally come from a town called Barbezieux (full name Barbezieux-sur-Hilaire), which is located in the Charente-Maritime département of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in western France.
Their history began in the 14th century when they were first bred in Barbezieux. It’s quite an old breed, which is why it was included in the 500 most ancient French poultry.
It is speculated that they are related to Marans, which is another dark-colored chicken breed from the Charente-Maritime département.
In addition to being one of the oldest, it was also one of the most respected and sought-after because of its exceptional meat quality.
Maybe the best evidence of this is the quote from the famous French chef Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
Upon seeing a big Barbeziex chicken being served, Brillat-Savarin wrote in his 1826 “Physiology of Taste” the following words: “What is nicer than the cordial atmosphere created among guests at the sight and smell of a beautiful, stuffed Barbezieux capon.”
Barbezieux chicken meat was at its peak popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s, after which the demand for it started to decline.
The biggest reasons for this are the two World Wars and the industrialization of farming. During this period, the types of chickens that grow quickly and thus produce more meat and profit started being preferred over Barbeziuex chickens.
Another reason why the demand for this breed fell is the change in egg color preferences.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, people began seeing white eggs as less healthy and nutritious compared to yellow and brown eggs because white bread was found to be worse for your health than darker types of bread.
These three factors led to the almost extinction of the Barbezieux breed.
However, towards the end of the 1990s, a group of amateur farmers decided to help this type of chickens return to their former glory and began to breed them again.
They have succeeded in doing so since, nowadays, Barbezieux chicken is considered one of the best-tasting chickens not only in France but in the world. Gault et Millau, a French guide to dining and restaurants, rated it third in 2011 amongst 20 types of tastiest chicken meat in France.
Barbezieux Chicken Characteristics
Barbezieux chickens aren’t only rich in taste but also in appearance. Yes, they are only available in one color, black, but the way that black combines with this bird’s size and contrasts other attributes such as comb, wattles, and earlobes makes them quite impressive and stout.
Adding to the impressiveness is the shiny green hue that adorns the black plumage. As is the case with many birds, the males are equipped with more ornaments– which is why you will see the glossy black feathers and green highlights combo exclusively on them.
The aforementioned comb and wattles are raspberry-colored, and both can grow quite big. In fact, the soft comb sometimes grows so large that it doesn’t stand upright, which is the usual case but falls to the side.
Male and female comb and wattles not only differ in size, as female ones are smaller but also in color intensity since theirs are somewhat paler.
These chickens, with white earlobes and brown-red eyes, impress with their build as well.
Their big heads rest on elongated necks that are mounted on prominent shoulders. Extending from the shoulders are their wide back, big breasts, and large wings. Complementing their eye-striking upper part of the body are convex bellies from which long blue-tinted shanks protrude.
Size and Weight
We have already mentioned the fact that the meat of the Barbezieux chicken is among the tastiest in the world. But did you know they are also some of Europe’s biggest and tallest chicken breeds? Big and tasty chicken – is there a better combination than that?
To illustrate how big it really is, it suffices to say that in the past, it has been called the “giant of the chicken breeds”, “biggest and the strongest of all breeds“, and “a cross between a chicken and a turkey“.
That size expressed in numbers is as follows: on average, roosters grow 27 inches in height and almost 10 pounds in height. Their female counterparts are 2 inches shorter and 2 pounds lighter on average.
For a breed that is not that popular around the world, Barbeziuex chickens have a lot of great qualities. We have already discussed two of those, meat production and taste, so it’s time to turn our attention to the third one – egg production.
These large chickens lay large white eggs which usually weigh around 75 grams. They produce between 150 and 200 on a yearly basis, and they do it throughout the whole year, which is another great thing that makes this breed enticing when it comes to poultry farming.
You can expect Barbezieux chickens to mature, i.e., start laying eggs when they are between 5 and 6 months old. They are most effective at this in their second year of life, with production peaking towards the end of that year.
You won’t have to worry about the Barbezieux hens going broody and reducing egg production, as their maternal instincts are not that high.
However, this also means replacing the older specimens will be harder as their egg production abilities decline. As a way to deal with this, you can always acquire new chicks or, even better, get a chicken incubator.
Barbezieux chicken breed is quite versatile when it comes to adaptability to different types of climates.
However, it is sensitive to really low temperatures and frostbite. If you notice your chickens’ combs or wattles getting black, they have been exposed to extreme cold and don’t have enough heat in the coop.
On the other hand, Barbezieux chickens are not affected by high temperatures. The large combs, wattles, and white ears are not there just for us to admire them – they help the chickens regulate their body temperature and deal with the heat.
Are you looking for an active, docile, curious, and pacifist breed of chicken? If your answer is affirmative, then you are in the right place.
Barbeziuex chickens not only get along easily with other members of their breed but also with members of other breeds, making them ideal for either single or mixed-breed flock farming.
However, if you want to keep them at their happiest, you will have to provide them with a large enough free-range area, as the adjective active we used to describe a part of their character refers to their proclivity to wander around and free roam.
Another reason why you should give them a lot of space is that they love to snoop around the yard, explore the terrain, and look for natural foods in the cracks.
And just in case you forgot about it – they’re big. So, yeah, lots and lots of space in the coop and the run!
What are the main health issues Barbezieux chickens encounter?
Yet another great thing Barbezieux chickens have going for them is that they are resistant to many health issues that bother other chickens. The only thing they are not good at dealing with is low temperatures, which we have already talked about.
How long do Barbezieux chickens live?
If you properly take care of your Barbezieux chickens, you can expect them to live at least 8 years. In some cases, they might even reach 10 years of age.
In this article, we have discussed Barbezieux chicken history, appearance, character, and egg production, amongst other things.
Add to this their mild personality and good resistance to health problems, and it’s easy to see why they’re making a comeback.
What do you think about them? Would you like to try your hand at raising them? Let us know in the comments! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out!