Most historic breeds are considered dual purpose, meaning that they lay plenty of eggs and are also good on the table as meat. After all, that's what people were keeping them for. In the modern industrial age, breeds such as the Leghorn have been developed to lay eggs above all, and hybrid crosses to convert feed into meat. But an integrated farm needs birds that have more general utility.
This Kraienkoppe, for instance. It's a breed that isn't recognized by the American Poultry Association, www.amerpoultryassn.com, but has a long history along the Dutch-German border, being recognized in that area since the 19th century. Originally, breeders were seeking to develop an egg-laying breed. Those are code words for Not Broody. The issue with broodiness is that the hen stops laying eggs while she is broody. The up side of being broody is that she will hatch the next generation and perpetuate the flock.
Malay, Belgian Game chickens, Dutch landrace chickens and Leghorns went into the mix. The Kraienkoppe emerged as a definable breed by 1885, when it was first shown in Holland. Along the way, it became a good egg layer but never lost the broody characteristic. "This does mean that production, though good, can at times be uneven. We’ve taken to freezing excess eggs so we never lack during those times when the hens all want to be mommas," says George McLaughlin, an advocate for the breed. His young rooster is pictured above.
He finds they do well in cold weather, continuing to lay through the winter, and manage hot weather equally well. They are vigilant and will take to flight when startled. They are friendly,k but not cuddly. "Kraienkoppes become alarmed, when one so much as pauses to focus a camera on them," he says. "The Kraienkoppe is very rare yet a good practical bird for the small homestead."
This kind of useful, intelligent and resourceful bird carries a proud history of partnership with humans. Any farmer would be blessed by a flock of them.