Appenzeller Chickens – Breed Profile & Facts
Appenzeller chickens, also called Appenzeller Spitzhauben, are native to Appenzell, Switzerland. The egg-laying breed is the country’s national chicken and has a distinctive forward-pointing crest and a v-shaped comb.
These birds thrive in mountainous areas, are excellent climbers, and like roosting on trees. However, they don’t like living in confined spaces, so they should roam around your backyard.
History of Appenzeller Chickens
Like most European egg-laying breeds, Appenzeller Spitzhauben has a small body. Its origins go back to the 16th century, although nobody is sure. The species almost went extinct during the Second World War. It is yet to recover its pre-war population and remains one of the rarest birds.
Appenzeller Spitzhauben refers to the lace bonnets that Swiss ladies living in wore during celebratory events. The bird has a rich history and is now the national bird of Switzerland.
In the past, monks kept Appenzeller chickens in their monasteries, where they lived for many centuries. The breed flourished under the clergy members, eventually finding its way into homes.
At the onset of the 19th century, Appenzeller had spread to other countries in Europe. Kurt Fischer, a German businessman, started to import the bird for sale. It was through his efforts that other Germans learned of this species. The breed reached the United Kingdom in the late 1970d.
However, the American Poultry Association doesn’t recognize the Appenzeller, although it has been in the states since the mid-century.
Appenzeller chickens are available in two different breeds. The first, Appenzeller Spitzhauben, is the most common. It explains why the family name refers to it. The second and lesser-known variety is the Appenzeller Barthuhner, which loosely translates to ‘bearded hens.’ Many people who keep Appenzeller chickens consider them as show breeds.
Appenzeller Chickens Characteristics
There were only three recognized Appenzeller chicken colors – black, gold-spangled, and silver-spangled. However, there are many more colors today due to gene mutation, crossbreeding, and other factors.
Here are some of the unique characteristics of the Appenzeller breed of chickens.
– Size and Weight
The Appenzeller breed has a proportional body and a forward-pointing crest despite its diminutive physique. The crest is undoubtedly its most distinctive feature. Moreover, the bird has beautiful long wattles and unique, egg-shaped white earlobes.
The average weight of Appenzeller chickens ranges between 3.5 lbs. and 4.5 lbs. Hens are on the lower end, with roosters being heavier.
Appenzeller chickens are impressively alert and energetic for a small-sized species. It’s advisable to let the birds roam without restrictions, as they don’t like living in enclosed environments.
That said, Appenzeller chickens are excellent foragers. If you let them free, you won’t have to spend loads of money on feeds. Instead, they’ll eat whatever they find in the environment.
Because of their activeness, Appenzeller chickens aren’t broody. The hens also don’t take care of their chicks like other breeds.
Appenzeller chickens aren’t aggressive, but this doesn’t make them friendly. It takes time for the bird to gain comfort around strangers. Instead, the birds fly to avoid human interactions.
When mixed with other breeds, Appenzeller chickens socialize well. However, males become more aggressive in the mating season.
Lastly, Appenzeller chickens are intelligent and curious. You’ll never have a dull moment once they know you and other caretakers. They’ll keep you entertained with funny antics and skits.
Appenzeller chickens are resistant to adverse weather conditions and incredibly bleak winters. If you provide adequate food, clean water, timely vaccination, and a clean coop, they can live for eight years.
– Egg Production
Appenzeller Spitzhauben chickens lay three to four eggs weekly when giving them the right living conditions. A hen produces 150 to 180 eggs in a year, which is more than the average produced by other breeds.
The eggs of Appenzeller chickens are usually white and medium-sized. The size is reasonable, given that the breed itself is small.
The most exciting aspect about Appenzeller eggs is that the chicken lays them throughout the year, except when they’re molting. However, they don’t stop during winter.
As mentioned earlier, Appenzeller Spitzhauben hens are inconsistent brooders. You can’t tell if the hen will sit on the eggs until they hatch.
– Meat Production
Due to their small size, most people don’t keep Appenzeller chickens for meat. Instead, most people like this breed because it produces a decent number of eggs, and it’s beautiful to look at.
Appenzeller Chickens Care
You must take good care of your chicken to enjoy its benefits, regardless of breed. If it’s rare like Appenzeller, you must afford more care.
Read on to discover how to take care of your Appenzeller Spitzhauben.
– Feeding and Nutrition
Chickens need a balanced diet to maintain healthy lives. Ensure that your chicken gets the right amount of fresh foods daily to prevent malnutrition.
Please avoid feeding your rotten chicken food, as this causes health issues. For instance, aflatoxin weakens and can kill your birds.
Some uncooked foods are also harmful to your chickens. Beans and chocolate contain phytohemagglutinin and theobromine that kill your birds instantly when eaten.
Lastly, it’s essential to clear sharp objects from your chickens’ coop. Ingesting metals and other similar items causes lacerations in the gut. It increases the risk of sepsis, a condition where the body attacks its tissues to protect against a perceived infection.
Appenzeller chickens detest confined environments. Ideal, you should let them roam in your backyard. If that isn’t possible, keep them in a spacious room. The coop should have a high height because these birds love flying.
More importantly, the coop must be clean. A dirty living environment is the primary cause of poultry diseases. Even if your chickens are vaccinated, they are at risk of contracting infectious diseases if they’re too close together.
Appenzeller chickens are less susceptible to health complications than other species. However, if you want to keep them safe, it’s advisable to get them vaccinated.
Besides, it would be best to give high-quality poultry pellets rich in protein and other nutrients needed for optimal growth and development. Once the chickens mature, you need to provide special feeds to boost egg production.
How Much do Appenzeller Chickens Cost?
Appenzeller chickens cost more than most breeds for two reasons. First, they are rare and have excellent adaptability to cold conditions. Second, they are beautiful show birds.
How to Protect Appenzeller Chickens from Predators?
These chickens leverage their intelligence for protection against predators. Appenzeller chickens use their alertness, energy, and good flight to escape when faced with carnivores. They’re more likely to survive predatory attacks than other chicken breeds.
Moreover, Appenzeller chickens have excellent reflexes. If a predator strikes, the bird has a chance to let itself loose and escape if the grip isn’t firm enough. Also, silver-spangled variants camouflage in snowy conditions.
Concerning predators, size is the only factor that disadvantages Appenzeller chickens. Their tiny bodies make them more vulnerable to many predators than larger breeds. It isn’t uncommon to see hawks preying on your Appenzeller chickens.
Are Appenzeller Chickens Good for Beginners?
Appenzeller chickens aren’t the best choice for novice poultry farmers. Although they’re a low-maintenance breed, they don’t tend to be broody. It would be best to scour your coop to find all laid eggs.
Additionally, these birds like foraging. If you don’t have a large farm where they can roam freely, you’ll have difficulty keeping them in a confined space. Their tiny size means that the chicken can fly to your neighbor’s property to escape the fenced areas on yours.
As seen above, Appenzeller chickens have one too many requirements that most beginners can’t tackle. This breed is best left to experienced poultry farmers. However, if you want to keep the bird as a pet or for a show, you can try it. Ensure that you keep a small flock to make management easy.
Are Appenzeller Chickens Hardy?
Hardiness and exceptional ability to withstand cold weather are some of the best qualities of Appenzeller chickens. It’s understandable, given that they’re native to a mountainous region. The birds also have bodily features that make them more suitable for cold weather than other breeds. Their small combs protect against frostbite, while the crest keeps the comb warm.
Chicken keepers say this breed remains outside when it’s snowing, which is uncharacteristic of many chickens. The male birds perch on trees and roost while the hens continue laying eggs without fail.
However, Appenzeller chickens are not entirely immune to frostbite on their combs. If you live in an area that experiences extreme and long winters, adding a heater to your coop is advisable. Remember that frostbite is as painful to poultry as it is to humans, and you need to prevent it.
Most chickens fair well in mildly cold conditions but find it hard to cope with high temperatures. This isn’t the case with Appenzeller chickens. The breed is less susceptible to heat stress and related complications, even in hot and humid conditions.
Tips on Keeping Appenzeller Chickens
Appenzeller Spitzhauben chickens are friendly, excellent foragers with a decent number of eggs. If you don’t restrict them to confined spaces and give them the proper care, they can outlive many chicken breeds.
Here are a few tips on keeping Appenzeller chickens.
- Be tender on the chicks – young birds need tender love and care to grow into adults. Chicks are incapable of regulating their body temperature, so it’s best to provide warm conditions for the first three to six weeks after hatching, depending on the prevailing season. You must also separate them from older chickens to ensure that they get enough food and water.
- Provide nutrient-rich food – the type of food you give to your birds affects their health and egg production. If you want to maximize laying and reduce the risk of disease, give fresh food and clean water to your chickens. Ensure that you add electrolytes to the water in hot conditions to compensate for the ones lost during heat dissipation. Also, purchase certified feeds from your local poultry store to boost your chicks’ growth.
- Main high hygiene standards – besides food, your chicken coop must also be clean to lower the risk of diseases. Always clean after feeding your birds and ensure that the floor doesn’t have any scraps. You can also use disinfectants to fend off insects and other pathogens.
- Provide proper housing – Appenzeller chickens become restless when kept in confined spaces. It’s wise to construct a large coop if you intend to keep this breed. This allows them to roam freely while feeding. Also, put up high fences so that they can’t fly outside.
Alternative Crested Chicken Breeds
If you love crested birds, but the Appenzeller chickens seem too much to handle, here are some alternatives you can consider keeping.
Brabanters look like Appenzeller Spitzhauben. Like Appenzeller chickens, they’re a show breed with a conspicuous crest. The only difference is that Brabanters have beards and muffs. Regarding temperament, Brabanters are calm and can live in confined spaces.
Crévecoeurs is a crested breed that doesn’t mind living in confined spaces. The birds are calm and exhibit some hardiness in cold weather.
Unlike Appenzeller chickens, Crévecoeurs produce good meat. They’re a better fit for homesteaders who like poultry meat.
Poultry experts say that Houdans can lay as much as Leghorn chickens in warm and dry conditions. This is impressive, given that Leghorns are the ultimate breed of layers.
Although they aren’t as beautiful and hardy as Appenzeller chickens, Houdans make up for it in many ways. They’re gentle and docile and do well in confinement. Some people claim that they have tasty meat.
You might consider the Polish breed if you want a calm and docile crested chicken. These chickens are friendly and don’t mind living in confinement.
Appenzeller Spitzhauben chickens are excellent foragers and a flighty breed with exceptional ability to withstand cold weather. However, these birds become restless when confined in small spaces.
If you love tending to rare and beautiful show breeds, consider getting an Appenzeller Spitzhauben. Otherwise, it’d be better to go for a calmer breed that doesn’t mind confinement.