Use: The Houdan chicken breed meets dual-purpose criteria as a great layer and table fowl. Hens are good layers of small white eggs, laying well into winter.
History: It’s unclear when exactly the Houdan chicken breed was first established, but it’s known to be a very old breed that originated in the village of Houdan, France. Houdan lies about 100 miles outside of Paris and has a long history of supplying both meat and eggs to the French capital. The breed is possibly a cross of the Polish or Dorking chicken breeds and Crevecoeur chicken breed along with native five-toed chickens. Houdan chickens arrived in England in 1850 and then were brought to North America around 1865. The breed was admitted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874.
Conformation: The APA recognizes two Houdan varieties: Mottled and White. Both have standard plumage. The crest, comb, beard and five toes characteristic of the breed make it easily identifiable, even as chicks. Its small, V-shaped comb is red and rests against the crest. The wattles are also red, and the white earlobes are hidden beneath the beard and crest. The shanks on Mottled Houdans are pinkish-white with black mottling, while the shanks of White Houdans are solid pinkish-white. Standard Houdan cocks weigh 8 pounds and hens weigh 6½ pounds; bantam cocks weigh 34 ounces and bantam hens weigh 30 ounces.
Special Considerations/Notes: The Houdan chicken breed has received the coveted French “Label Rouge” for excellence in production and taste. Hens are somewhat heavy and sometimes break eggs. This can be avoided by not allowing a clutch to gather. To avoid soiling their unique feathering, farmers should consider shallow water bowls and covered runs. The Houdan is known to be exceptionally gentle, an excellent choice for hobby and urban farmers as well as for children. It does well in confinement, but will also forage in yards and free range. The Houdan chicken is listed in the Watch category of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.