The Good Eggs

The Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup

Your Chickens - - Contents - By Andy Cawthray

OVERVIEW/SUM­MARY

The strik­ing Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup is the only breed of chicken with the but­ter­cup comb. It is a well-trav­elled breed whose name, just like last month’s Ham­burgh (Your Chick­ens, Septem­ber), isn’t en­tirely true to its roots. An at­trac­tive and rare breed, it never fails to im­press dur­ing a first en­counter.

ORI­GINS

De­spite its name and the his­tor­i­cal ac­counts of its pro­lific use on the is­land of Si­cily, the But­ter­cup, or the Flower­bird as it is also known, is be­lieved to have orig­i­nated in North Africa. Ac­cord­ing to doc­u­men­ta­tion, it ar­rived in the UK when im­ported into York­shire in 1912 by a Mrs Col­beck. It is a breed which oddly be­came well known for its sea legs as it was fre­quently used on cargo ships bound for Amer­ica where it served the crew well in terms of fresh eggs.

FEA­TURES

The Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup is a very dis­tinc­tive breed be­cause of the large saucer-shaped cup of a comb. It is clas­si­fied as a light breed de­spite be­ing at the heav­ier end of that scale and con­se­quently it is not as flighty as other coun­try fowl breeds. The But­ter­cup comes in two recog­nised plumage types of gold and sil­ver, with both colour types hav­ing wil­low green legs. It can be found in both large fowl and ban­tam va­ri­eties.

HEN

The Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup large fowl hen weighs 5.5lbs (2.5kg) and the ban­tam hen weighs 22oz (620g). She sports a smaller but­ter­cup comb which sits neatly upon her head and re­sem­bles a small crown. The hens are lay­ers of a good num­ber of eggs given their rel­a­tively fru­gal food con­sump­tion and they are not known for their brood­i­ness.

COCK

The Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup cock has a more up­right stance than the hen. As the large fowl weighs in at 6.5lbs (2.95kg), the males can be put to good use as a medium-sized ta­ble breed. Sport­ing a large saucer-shaped crown of a comb, the cock­erel cuts a jaunty out­line. The ban­tam weighs 26oz (737g).

EGGS

The eggs of the Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup are, like many of the good lay­ing breeds, white in colour. Egg lay­ing is a key fea­ture of the breed and is main­tained as an at­tribute within many of the strains be­ing bred from. This was re­flected in the fact that the breed was a con­tender in the lay­ing tri­als of the 1960s.

TEM­PER­A­MENT

Not overly flighty, the Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup is a con­fi­dent breed but one which has a more ‘wild’ char­ac­ter than other layer breeds. They are not easy to tame and are more of a work­ing bird than a pro­duc­tive pet.

CARE

Like other hardy coun­try fowl types, the Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup ben­e­fits best from a free-range life­style. They are ex­cel­lent for­agers and while they can be kept in a con­tained space, this doesn’t play to their strengths as a breed. The Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup re­quires no fur­ther spe­cial­ist care other than a keeper needs to take pre­cau­tions with a cock­erel’s comb dur­ing very icy weather.

AVAIL­ABIL­ITY AND PRICE

The But­ter­cup is now a very rare and in­fre­quently en­coun­tered breed de­spite its out­stand­ing qual­i­ties as a lay­ing hen. There are, how­ever, some ded­i­cated breed­ers who are main­tain­ing and de­vel­op­ing strains of the breed. Show bench qual­ity birds can be costly, so ex­pect to pay around £25 for a good qual­ity pul­let.

Next month: The dual-pur­pose breeds of chicken, which have the ca­pac­ity to pro­vide both meat and eggs and which are key to small farm­ers and small­hold­ers to­day. The Si­cil­ian But­ter­cup is a con­fi­dent breed that isn’t easy to tame

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