Saturday, February 6, 2010


There aren’t many Kraienkoppes around, but they could suit some small flock owners. They are a good practical bird for the small homestead.
They lay plentiful medium to small, white or tinted, eggs. They are an exception to the rule that earlobe color reflects egg color, white earlobes indicating white eggs. Kraienkoppes should have red earlobes. The hens excel in broodiness. So production can be uneven.

Historically, Kraienkoeppe (German spelling) come from the German/Dutch border region, in the East Dutch province of Twente in Enschede, Ahaus, and county of Bentheim. That area remains the center for them. They were first shown in Holland in 1885. They were shown in Germany at the 1925 German Poultry Youth Show in Hannover. This illustration is from the Bilder Atlas des Geflugels, 1954, in the SPPA collection.

The Kraienkoppe was derived from the Pheasant Malay, an Oriental Game. The German Association of Breeders of Kraienkoeppe and Bantam Kraienkoeppe also credits Belgian Game, Dutch landraces, and Leghorns in their background.

The Kraienkoppe was recognizable as a breed in Europe in the early 1800s. Here in the USA the Kraienkoppe is not recognized by the APA. Kraienkoppes were recognized in the German Standard in 1926. That Standard specifies:

Breeding Goal: An early maturing laying hen with 180-200 eggs in the first year of lay, 150-160 in the second year; non-broody; very rich in tender white meat; minimum weight for hatching eggs is 58-60 grams; shell colour: white to tinted.
General Impression: A sleek, powerful type of country chicken, giving the impression of a game bird; especially in the head, and then carriage, and thighs; the tail that is set wide and carried ‘attached’; tight feathering, which gives them protection from moisture; feathers on both sides of the quill are narrow; a trusting but very lively temperament.

In the German Standard Roosters weigh about 5 ½ - 6 1/2 lbs., hens 4 ½ - 5 ½ lbs. American birds are much smaller, roosters 4 – 4 ½ lbs, hens 3 – 3 ½ lbs. Although the German standard specifies that Kraienkoppes are non-broody, all the American ones are broody and good mothers.

George McLaughlin in Oklahoma, who has lost his heart to his Kraienkoppes, is experimenting with a Buckeye cross to increase their size.

George observes: “They don’t feather pick at all. They are extremely vigilant regarding predators, especially from above. They are friendly, from arm’s length, yet scandalous and flighty. This is not a 'cuddly breed.' Kraienkoppes become alarmed when one so much as pauses to focus a camera on them.”

Additional attributes: “They handle high temperatures extremely well. They can and do fly. They have a high level of vitality and disease resistance. The roosters are not aggressive towards each other. Fertility and hatchability are excellent.”

They are excellent foragers, and eagerly consume all kinds of insects, but they disdain small animals that other breeds relish, such as mice and lizards.

Several breeders I talked to have given up their Kraienkoppes in the last year. Their independence proved troublesome to their breeders, who replaced them with more docile and friendly breeds. Since they are not recognized by the Standard, they are not a popular exhibition breed. They exert a strong hold on those whose hearts, like George’s, they capture. They need attention and would be an unusual breeding project. If that’s your goal, Kraienkoppes could be your next flock.

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