Pure breeds layers. This month: the Ancona
The Ancona exhibits a marked resemblance to another well-known layer of large quantities of white eggs, the Leghorn. It is, however, viewed as a breed in its own right with a dedicated following.
Debate surrounds the origins of the Ancona. It is no doubt an Italian breed and is named after the province of Ancona but came into being when sailors left the country with white leghorns on board their ship, and returned with other breeds from their trading activities. There are no records of what was mated with the original Leghorns to create the Ancona and it is fair to speculate that it is probably a now extinct breed.
The Ancona has black plumage with a white mottling on the tips of the feathers. The black should be a beetle-green and the white tip should be as V-shaped as possible. There are ‘diluted’ blue and white variants of the breed. However, these are infrequently seen and not recognised in the standards of perfection in all countries.
The Ancona is light breed and the hen weighs around 5lbs (2.25kg). The body is broad to the eye with a full tail carried high. The head is carried well back and the comb is either rose or single. In the latter case it should hang elegantly over the face without obstructing vision.
The Ancona cock is a very typical country fowl or light breed. He weighs around 6lb (2.7kg) and has an alert, active and gallant appearance. As with the hen he can have either a rose or single comb but in the case of the latter it should be upright, of a medium size and with five to seven serrations.
The egg of the Ancona is white and hens will lay a considerable number in a year. They competed in many laying trials during the early part of the last century, garnering a strong following with egg producers in some regions. They are not prone to broodiness.
As with all country fowl types the Ancona are busy constantly throughout daylight hours and as such it can take some effort to tame them. Given the correct treatment though, by a patient keeper, it is possible to gain their trust.
Developed for their egg laying capability and enhanced foraging skills it is easy to understand that Anconas are high capable of flight. They are best suited to free range environment and this husbandry technique will see them flourish. They are very tolerant and fit well within most climates needing little in terms of additional or special care.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE
Once quite commonplace, the Ancona can take a bit of finding as a breed these days. It is popular but tends to be owned and bred by people who firstly have the space to free range, and secondly recognise its egg laying ability. Like the Leghorn as a breed it is relatively easy to sex at young age so it is possible to purchase growing stock for you to rear on. A point of lay pullet from a good laying strain can cost around £20-£30.
A young Ancona breeding trio
An Ancona hen
Ancona growers, with males on the left