The Black Spanish chicken can be described as the aristocrat of the poultry world. The chicks can be rather flighty, as all Mediterranean breeds can, but the adults hold themselves as benefits of a Spanish Don – head up, one foot forward, and a calm demeanor. No other breed of chicken can embody the word “aristocrat” in its posture as does the Spanish chicken.
In plumage, the Spanish chicken is a lustrous greenish-black with tight-fitting feathers and moderately flowing tails. What sets them apart is the tremendous white ear lobes and white on face – resembling something the artist Salvador Dali might have painted, in that their faces appear melted and extend downward. But this breed predates Dali and it would be more likely to have influenced his art.
Spanish chickens have been widely known and recognized for their ability to lay a very large number of very large white eggs – gaining recognition for this even before 1816 in England. The breed came to America from Holland and, from 1825 to about 1895, was one of the best-known poultry breeds. During the early 1860s, Spanish chickens were popular in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and as far west as Ohio. Farmers who specialized in market eggs kept large flocks of this breed as late as 1895. Eggs from Spanish chickens have record weights ranging from 2.75 ounces to 4.25 ounces in 1852.
Spanish chickens are of an ancient, unknown lineage. They were exhibited at the first poultry shows in both America and England. In England, it was the first breed for which classes were maintained at all the poultry shows. In America, the breed was exhibited as early as 1854 at the New York State Poultry Society show by J.P. Childs of Woonsocket, RI.
The downfall of the Spanish chicken came because of a combination of two attributes: the breed’s delicacy and its white face. As breeders paid more attention to increasing the size of the white faces in the Spanish chickens, a great loss of hardiness was observed. This combined with the delicate nature of the chicks soon led to a loss of popularity as hardier breeds soon arrived.
Spanish chickens were admitted to the American Poultry Association standard as a recognized under the name of White Faced Black Spanish in 1874. They are a non-sitting fowl with dark brown eyes, dark slate shanks and toes, white earlobes and faces, and lay chalk white eggs. Males weigh 8 pounds and females weigh 6.5 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.