In the 1600s bantam chickens arrived in the Netherlands and Germany from South China and possibly Burma around the same time the Chabo (Japanese) bantams came to Europe. Early bantams are famously depicted in period artwork by the Dutch Golden Age painter, Adriaan van Utrecht around 1640. Today, the Belgian Bearded D’Uccles are among the oldest pedigreed bantams in the Benelux Union and closely linked to the Booted Bantam. The D’Uccle differs from the Booted Bantams by having
beards; they also tend to be a bit smaller. The early birds could appear with crests or beards until the breeds were refined to how they appear today.
According to the Zeldzame Oorspronkelijke Belgische Kriel Hoenderrassen (the Rare Original Belgian Bantam Fowl Breeds Club,) “At the end of the 19 th century booted bantams who looked very similar could be found in a number of West European countries. In the Netherlands, we had the Sablepoot booted bantams, Germany the ‘Federfüßiges Zwerghuhn’, and England the Booted Bantams. At the start of the 20th century Michel van Gelder, who lived in the small municipality (of) Uccle at the southeast border of Brussels, started his contribution to this collection of booted bantams. He wanted to breed a booted bantam with a lower posture and more compact body than the available booted bantams. The new breed also had to have a rather full beard. Most authors assume that Van Gelder started with the Dutch booted Sabelpoot and the Antwerp bearded bantam. We do not know this for sure. Aside from his large breeding facility, Van Gelder had enough time to visit many large English and German poultry shows. The chances are high that he bought his starting material here. How he did it still remains the question, but he managed to breed the Barbu d’Uccle.” The Belgian d'Uccle and Booted Bantam Club of the United States confirms this history. The Mille Fleur variety was admitted to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1914.
The Belgian Bearded D’Uccle is a true bantam with well-developed vulture hocks and extreme foot feathering. They have beards, muffs, and wide tails held at a high angle. Small to almost naturally absent wattles are preferred. The beard and muff should appear to form one continuous line from the tops of their eyes and over the earlobes. The most common and oldest variety is the Mille Fleur for which the breed is famous. Experienced breeders say the fullness of their color does not reach its peak until the birds are two years old. Males are 26 oz. (737 grams) and females are 22 oz. (624 grams). These chickens do little scratching or digging, so their impact on gardens or plantings will be minimal. However, they will peck occasionally so low-hanging vegetables or fruits may be impacted.
The optimal breeding ratio is one male to three females. The foot feathers of the males will need to be trimmed considerably for breeding success. Annual egg production ranges from 100-200 eggs per year, depending on whether the hen becomes broody. Females can be excellent brooders and mothers, but the profuse foot feathering can inadvertently kick eggs out of the nest.
To keep the leg and foot feathers in good condition, birds should be given access to a grassy run that is cut regularly and kept short. Alternatively, they can also be housed in three to four inches of soft sand. In the coop, they can be kept on loose straw. Prevent wet or muddy spots in the enclosure since Belgian Bearded D’Uccles are not very tolerant of humidity. Keeping these birds on hard ground or long grass will result in the destruction of feathers on their feet. They should have low perches they can simply step up on. Coop doors should be at least a foot wide to ensure their feathers are not ruined as they go in and out.
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