The Ixworth Chicken isn’t the first choice for a high-production backyard flock, but they’re a unique breed revered by a few. They have decades of muddied history that encompass several modern events, and they’ve survived where other breeds faded out.
As a dual-purpose chicken breed, the Ixworth Chicken is a valuable member of society today. They have plenty of benefits, from their temperament to production, that may make them perfect for your flock.
The only way to find out is to learn everything you can about the breed, and we lay it all out in this article. Keep reading to learn more about where they come from, how they behave, and what care Ixworth Chickens need.
Ixworth Chicken Origin
Like many other breeds, the Ixworth Chicken gets its name from where it was first bred. In 1932, Reginald Appleyard began cross breeding certain chickens in the small English village of Ixworth in Suffolk.
His efforts focused on combining traits of:
The dual-purpose breed did well to meet the needs of the UK market. They maintained egg productivity well, and the males provided families with top-notch meat. It wasn’t until the United States began exporting its high-production hybrids that the Ixworth ran into issues.
Ixworth Chickens as an At-Risk Breed
While the United Kingdom focused on a dual-purpose bird, the United States’ response to increased demand after World War II was to create hens that were phenomenal egg producers, laying nearly every single day, regardless of the season.
In 1946, the Chicken of Tomorrow campaign urged farmers to develop a breed that would meet the current market needs for feed-to-meat conversion Eggs were submitted for evaluation, and the chicks were raised on a standard diet and tracked daily for weight gain, health, and appearance.
They selected 40 finalists from the original 720 eggs to compete for the national title. From these, the Arbor Acres White Rocks and Red Cornish crosses that eventually led to the Industrial Cornish Cross that gave every other breed a run for their money.
The Cornish Cross could put on more weight in a shorter amount of time, allowing it to balance out the breeds that were laying daily. By allowing separate breeds to tackle separate tasks, dual-purpose breeds like the Ixworth suddenly saw a sharp decline in their value.
By the 1970s, it became clear that the Ixworth Chicken was at risk of extinction. Even in 2008, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust listed them as “Endangered”, and in 2014, they were on the list of Native Poultry Breeds at Risk.
Today, the Rare Poultry Society includes them in their endeavors to protect the bred. While there is no known breed club outside of the UK, there are 4 exhibitors and 20 enthusiastic breeders they’re doing their part to keep the Ixworth Chicken around today.
Ixworth Chicken Appearance
Because the region they come out of is fairly cold, the Ixworth Chicken needs some cold-hardy features. A smaller pea comb allows them to hold on to warmth while the nearly non-existent wattles are just enough to get the job done.
Ixworth Chickens have pure white plumage that contrasts nicely with their red face, earlobes, and other ornamental flesh. Their beaks, shanks, and feet are white with the slightest pink tinge, and their eyes are dark with hints of red or orange.
While they’re smaller than American meat birds, the Ixworth Chicken holds itself alert and with prominence. They reach about 9 pounds as roosters and 7 pounds as hens, but their upright head and low-hanging tail make them seem much larger.
Ixworth Chicken Temperament
Being sweet doesn’t mean that they aren’t great foragers. Ixworth Chickens are active and hardy, two traits needed to roam freely with minimal risk. They enjoy having plenty of room to roam, and their health is often better for it.
While Ixworth Chickens adapt easily to any environment, they’re best suited for colder weather. They won’t do as well in hot climates, and they may require special attention and accommodations at higher temperatures.
Ixworth Chickens understand when it’s time to act sternly. Unlike assembly-line breeds, the hens are more inclined to sit on their own eggs. Their broodiness usually means you don’t need an incubator, although it can make it difficult to harvest any eggs they lay.
Roosters protect their territory with a fierce fervor, and they won’t back down against a predator or other intruder. Luckily, they’re easy to handle as chicks, and you can curb some of this behavior before adding them to your flock as adults.
Overall, the Ixworth Chicken is a well-balanced breed. They’re hardy and active, but hold humans dear in their hearts and mesh well with any operation.
Ixworth Chickens as Dual Purpose Birds
Ixworth Chickens are considered dual-purpose birds, but they approach this label differently than the commercial breeds popular today. They won’t gain weight as quickly as table-specific pure breeds or hybrids, but they will mature large enough for a few meals.
The Ixworth hens are also valuable egg layers, especially if you want a mild-mannered chicken to provide for your family. They aren’t the best for maximizing egg production, but laying 160 to 200 medium eggs per year is more than enough (especially if you have a few birds laying).
Ixworth Chickens are slow-growing birds, and it can take as long as 10 months before they provide any return on your investment. They live anywhere from 3 to 10 years after this, but the hens burn out around the middle of their life and lay less and less as time goes on.
While Ixworth Chickens will get the job done, they’re usually only kept by enthusiasts for the breed. They’re still considered rare today, and they couldn’t meet the demands of more popular breeds.
Caring for Ixworth Chickens
One of the major benefits of Ixworth Chickens is that they do not require any special care. Unlike other heritage breeds, the Ixworth Chicken is incredibly adaptive, and it can perform well in most environments.
Still, you must take care to:
- Offer them a nutritional diet
- Provide ample space and protective shelter
- Implement preventative health care
As long as all the basics are covered, Ixworth Chickens can lead long, healthy lives and provide years of companionship.
Feeding Ixworth Chickens
Ixworth Chickens love to forage, and they do well at finding their own food if given enough opportunity. Even so, you should provide a chicken mash, scratch, or crumble that provides complete nutrition.
There are several brands available and debates on whether you should only feed organic or non-GMO; this is all up to personal preference, and we suggest doing your research regarding the specific labels on the food.
Regardless of what you choose to feed, make sure it’s appropriate for your Ixworth Chicken’s current stage of life. This usually includes:
- Chick starter (which is higher in protein and provides growing babies with everything they need for proper development)
- Grower or maintenance feed (which works well once they hit puberty and start to put on weight)
- Layer feed (which is higher in calcium and prevents egg-related issues in hens)
The feed should account for 90 percent of their diet, and you can (and should) provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the remaining 10 percent. Diversity and fresh foods make Ixworth Chickens happier and healthier, especially if you throw in some live insects for enrichment.
Sheltering Ixworth Chickens
Ixworth Chickens need ample space to move around. As a rule, minimum requirements per bird are:
Ixworth Chickens will do better the more space you can offer, and they can handle themselves well if you give them freedom to roam. This doesn’t mean you can skimp on predator-proofing measures, but you can usually rely on their independence.
If you live in a warmer area, you need to provide them with plenty of shade and possibly even air-conditioned areas. Ixworth Chickens can’t handle heat as well as larger combed breeds, and they’ll appreciate the extra measures.
Health Care for Ixworth Chickens
Ixworth Chickens aren’t predisposed to any illnesses, but proper prevention is necessary to keep your flock healthy.
- Cleaning feeders and waterers
- Fresh bedding in the coop
- Quarantines before introducing new flock members
- Proper vaccinations and deworming
Ixworth Chicken owners should have a veterinarian familiar with poultry care who can direct them in case their birds contract illnesses like fowl pox or infectious coryza.
The Ixworth Chicken is a rare, stunning white feathered breed that has overcome the pressures of the human market. Luckily, there are measures in place today to preserve the well-mannered breed and keep them around for future flocks to enjoy.
They may not meet the factory needs to feed the public, but Ixworth Chickens are a valuable asset to any backyard farm. Comment with any unanswered questions you may still have about the breed.