The Redcap is an English chicken breed well suited for egg production. Its most distinguishing feature is the very large, rose shaped comb crowning its head from which it derives its name. The breed has red plumage tipped with a blue-black, half-moon shaped spangle and leaden blue colored legs. Despite their red ear lobes, they lay white shelled eggs – a unique characteristic as almost all breeds that lay white eggs have white ear lobes.
During the early to mid-1800s, Redcap chickens were considered one of the most profitable fowls a farmer could have, providing there was an egg market nearby. The breed lays good-sized eggs and has delicate flesh; meaning spent hens could be used to feed your family. However, it’s the high rate-of-lay combined with superior foraging and survival skills that earned the Redcap chicken a place on a farm or homestead. Ironically, it’s also the breed’s Achilles’ heel.
Redcaps were valued for their production value, meaning they hadn’t been refined for fancy points, had a somewhat “wild” temperament, and had a difficult color pattern in an unrefined state. Though very useful, the breed fell out of favor and became nearly extinct in its native England by 1900.
It’s unknown when the Redcap was brought to the United States. There’s reason to speculate that the so-called Red Dorkings at early American shows were actually Redcap chickens. The breed was widely distributed across America before 1870 and up through the 1890s, there were many large flocks of Redcap chickens being kept by farmers and poultry fanciers for egg production. Then, within a few years, the breed almost completely disappeared.
Redcap chicks hatch with a mahogany-colored down with a dark stripe. They’re easily raised and are very lively. When culling this breed, keep in mind that the adult color pattern is not fully revealed until the second or third year. Redcap chickens were recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed in 1888. There is only one variety. Males weigh 7.5 pounds and females 6 pounds.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.