Use: The Hamburg chicken is a dependable layer but shy of people. Hens will lay an abundance of small white eggs year-round. Their dark-colored bones make them undesirable market birds.
History: The origins of the Hamburg chicken breed are somewhat unclear. Some experts agree that they were originally bred in Holland and Hamburg during the 1840s, while others believe that they are a much older breed that started somewhere in the Mediterranean, most likely Turkey. The British and Dutch strongly influenced the Hamburg varieties we see today. The chickens have strong flying abilities and were once thought to be the result of a cross between common chickens and pheasants. Because of this likeness to pheasants, the Hamburg was once called pheasant or pheasant fowl. The breed was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874.
Conformation: The APA recognizes six Hamburg chicken breed varieties: Golden Penciled, Silver Penciled, Golden Spangled, Silver Spangled, Black and White. All varieties have standard plumage. A red rose comb and wattles and white earlobes are characteristic of the breed. Its shanks are grayish-blue, except in the Black variety, in which they are black. Standard Hamburg cocks weigh 5 pounds and hens weigh 4 pounds; bantam cocks weigh 26 ounces and bantam hens weigh 22 ounces.
Special Considerations/Notes: Hamburg chickens are quite flighty so a fence or large enclosure is required for keeping them out of the tall trees where they love to roost. Large coops and free-range environments are best for keeping them, as they do not do well in confined areas. They are not especially friendly and tend to prefer the company of other chickens to that of humans; however, they make up for this in their dependability as layers. The Hamburg chicken is listed in the Watch category of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.