Best of Both
Andy Cawthray continues his new series on the pure breeds that have been developed for egg production and the table with a look at the Ixworth
THE LOW DOWN
The Ixworth was perhaps one of the last pure breeds of chicken developed to serve the egg and meat market. Developed before World War II, it was well regarded as an excellent dual purpose bird. However, its fame was short lived as post war demands for high volumes of eggs and meatier birds meant that its demise came quickly once the development of hybrids gathered pace.
IN THE BEGINNING…
The Ixworth was developed in England in the 1930s by Reginald Appleyard (of Appleyard duck fame). Designed to appeal to the UK smallholder, the aim was to create a good laying bird with excellent table qualities. It also needed to have white skin and flesh. Created from a vast variety of breeds, its success was cut short by the appearance of function specific hybrids within the commercial sector and it is now considered a rare breed. However, it does still have a small, dedicated following.
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE?
The Ixworth is a sturdy looking breed with a long but compact body. It has a muscular appearance that draws comparison with breeds such as the Indian Game. It has a full breast and wide stance that gives it a well-meated carcass. Quick to feather, with a close texture, the breed matures quite rapidly and it is also known for being an excellent egg producer.
The Ixworth hen weighs 7lb (3.2kg). She has a keen appearance with bright orange or red eyes and a small, neat pea comb. Quite heavy set in profile, the females of the breed were intended to carry quite a bit of meat, but they were primarily developed to lay sufficient eggs to be commercially viable.
… AND GENTLEMEN
The Ixworth cock is a powerfully built bird with a deep body that is well rounded. He is an alert and active looking creature, but he does have a slightly stocky appearance for his 9lb (4.1kg) frame. His wings are held close to his body and his tail is compact and carried fairly low, which gives the impression of quite a long bird.
EGG-CELLENT EGG PRODUCERS?
The eggs of the Ixworth are a tinted off-white colour and good examples of the breed will lay a considerable number of eggs. Unlike a number of breeds, the utility purpose of this breed is valued beyond appearance. Consequently, impressive show lines tend to be good utility examples as well.
DOCILE OR DOMINANT?
The Ixworth is a cautious breed by nature. They can be tamed, but do not make good pets. They almost approach their day with a purpose, making them an excellent ‘working’ bird. Good bloodlines can produce heavy laying hens. However, they rarely sit, but if they do go broody they make very good mothers.
DO THEY NEED COSSETING?
Designed to function well within the smallholding environment, the Ixworth makes a great forager and he/she is ideally suited to a free range situation, being capable of handling the British weather. Confinement can result in reduced laying ability and fatty birds. Despite its heavy size, the Ixworth has strong wings and is capable of getting off the ground. As such, good fencing or a roofed in run is a must.
Despite its early fame and fortune in the late 1930s, the Ixworth is now a very rare breed and good quality examples are hard to find. They are available, but they need careful tracking down and, as a consequence, a premium may be charged for a good breed trio. Expect to pay in the region of £35-£50 for good specimens. This applies to both the males and females.
The Ixworth is a cautious breed by nature. They can be tamed, but do not make good pets