A rare find

Pol­ish Green-legged Partridge chick­ens are lit­tle known but very pro­duc­tive birds and suit­able as back­yard pets. Breeder Amanda McCal­lion, from Glouces­ter­shire, de­scribes them

Your Chickens - - Contents -

A breeder’s story

There are lovely dark brown eggs, great blue and green ones and lots of colours in be­tween, but of all the chick­ens I keep my very favourites are the lit­tle known Green-legged Partridge chick­ens who are al­ways happy to fill the nest­box with great tast­ing free-range eggs. Their colours are quite bright and, of course, they look very like a Wel­sum­mer at first glance. They are a lit­tle smaller though – and just look at those legs!

This is the na­tional chicken of Poland: Zielononozka Kuropatwiana, and their eggs are pro­moted as health food there be­cause they have to be kept free range or they won’t lay. They are noth­ing at all to

do with Polands or Pol­ish chick­ens, the sort with the big crest more of­ten seen as ban­tams. They are the ideal chicken to keep in­for­mally, wan­der­ing around a farm­yard or in a back gar­den with shrubs and trees to make their lives more in­ter­est­ing. They went out of favour in Poland when fac­tory farm­ing of eggs came in and this hen wouldn’t co-op­er­ate.

I had a few eggs from eBay not long af­ter I started keep­ing chick­ens, and some years later, when suf­fer­ing an egg shortage, I re­mem­bered how re­li­able the two lit­tle Green-legged hens had been and tried to get more. It wasn’t easy, but af­ter a lengthy search, I found some hens and a cock for sale. A friend made a piece of land avail­able to me to keep them as a group along with an old pigscot which, mod­i­fied a lit­tle, is ideal for them. They have a dou­ble-glazed door with a win­dow in it, an au­to­matic opener on their house and I clean up their lit­ter daily so that their feet are as are clean as pos­si­ble by the time they get to their nest­box. It was hard work get­ting it ready but worth it and they helped to get this lit­tle piece of land into a more us­able state, cov­ered as it was in bram­bles and net­tles.

Not long af­ter this I dis­cov­ered a Pol­ish man who had birds with a dif­fer­ent blood­line so I was able to raise an­other group, swap the cock­erels over and, since then, I have brought in dif­fer­ent blood to keep the genes fresh each year. That breeder went back to Poland, but I then found a very friendly Pol­ish lady on face­book whose pro­file sug­gested she was in­ter­ested in the breed. She ar­ranged to have a few eggs sent to me from a cer­ti­fied farm.

They are pretty, friendly, cheap to keep and very pro­duc­tive. What’s not to like?

LIT­TLE IN­FOR­MA­TION

Search­ing for in­for­ma­tion on this breed, there is very lit­tle about them and it isn’t all cor­rect; I’ve found them to lay way more eggs than in­ter­net in­for­ma­tion sug­gests. Their eggs vary from pure white through to a dark cream colour and any­thing in be­tween is cor­rect. The hens them­selves are as alike as peas in a pod with very lit­tle vari­a­tion be­tween them and the cocks seem to vary only in size, though I could see a dif­fer­ence in leg length be­tween blood­lines that first year.

As long as they have good sur­round­ings they will be very pro­duc­tive, lay well in the win­ter and, af­ter their pul­let year, they will take a rel­a­tively short time off to moult be­fore get­ting back to the busi­ness of egg-lay­ing. This last win­ter my flock of nine hens moulted, but some­how I still got two eggs a day! I have only had one hen per year go broody, which helps, and she was fairly eas­ily dis­suaded. With the ex­cep­tion of one cock­erel, who was hor­ri­ble, they have been quite af­fa­ble and keep­ing them as a pure breed group I have been able to see the con­trast in feed con­sump­tion be­tween breeds. They con­sume very lit­tle and I have to pre­sume they for­age a lot, though they don’t seem to dig up the ground much ex­cept for dust-bathing so they are also less de­struc­tive than many breeds.

While still rel­a­tively rare here, I have got one or two oth­ers in­ter­ested in breed­ing them, which all helps to stir the gene pool. There has been some in­ter­est from the Rare Poul­try So­ci­ety I be­lieve (I’m not a mem­ber) and I was told they wanted to call them the Pol­ish Green-foot. That may be a good idea as it is a less mis­lead­ing ti­tle although I hope this won’t lead to a re­stric­tive breed stan­dard which could con­trib­ute to in­breed­ing – I be­lieve in healthy diver­sity and happy birds.

Why do I like them? Apart from be­ing very pro­duc­tive, they are pretty, bold and con­fi­dent, friendly with­out be­ing ag­gres­sive, eco­nom­i­cal and in the mixed flock I used to keep, they were ex­cep­tion­ally nice to the other chick­ens. Even the chicks are re­ally fun to raise – much more bold and in­quis­i­tive when I put my hand in the brooder. I’ve sold eggs through the post which have trav­elled a good dis­tance, been held up and mis­treated but al­most all have hatched a good pro­por­tion of them out. Even those I had from Poland, most of which were smashed and all of which had dam­aged air cells, I man­aged to hatch five. So ba­si­cally they are pretty, friendly, cheap to keep and very pro­duc­tive. What’s not to like?

FAR LEFT: Amanda McCal­lion with one of her birds ABOVE: Amanda’s Green-legged Partridge chick­ens

ABOVE: One of the roost­ers BE­LOW: Eggs can be sold through the post

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