An attractive, cold hardy chicken that is very rare in America. Even though their classed as a large bird, they are more often small to medium size. As an active foragers, they prefer to not be in confined quarters. Surprisingly, they lay medium to large white eggs, in good quantity, despite their size and show breed style.
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The Appenzeller is a breed of chicken originating in Appenzell region of Switzerland. The Appenzeller comes in two varieties. The Spitzhauben variety (our birds), meaning "lacy bonnet", has a V-comb and feather crests in males and females. The word 'spitzhauben' derives from a ceremonial hat worn by the women in the Appenzeller region in Switzerland. The breed was imported into America by a doctor. After World War II, a German POW who spent time in a military detention camp in Alabama returned to his native home and acquired some silver Spitzhauben. With the help of his friend, Dr. Albert McGraw, the German brought some hatching eggs to the United States upon his return to gain citizenship to the US. These eggs hatchlings were to become the base stock of Spitzhauben in the United States. The Barthuhner ("bearded hen") has a rose comb and no crest. Both types appear in either black, golden spangled and silver spangled plumage (our birds).
It is a light chicken, with hens weighing an average of 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg) and roosters 4.5 lbs (2 kg). Behaviorally, it is an active breed that doesn't do well in tight confinement, can forage well, and will roost in trees if given the opportunity. In North America, it is very rare and is recognized officially by neither the American Poultry Association or other breed registries. The silver spangled Spitzhauben is the most common variety found abroad.
Though there is no standard in North America, the UK does recognize the breed and accepts it as a standardized breed. There is, however, a push in the United States for the Spitzhauben to be recognized by the American Poultry Association.
Today Spitzhauben are very rare in the United States, and many members of the American gene pool have defects. In 2013, Greenfire Farms (where our stock is from) took an unusual step: they imported silver Spitzhauben even though this variety has been established in America for more than a half century. This effort was to help cure the defects in and fortify the limited gene pool of silver Spitzhauben in this country. They imported the offspring from a pair of silver Spitzhauben that took top honors at a national poultry show in Europe, and they meet the breed standard in a way that addresses many of the defects found in some American flocks.